Kobo Clara HD review

Neck-and-neck with the competition.
Kobo Clara HD ereader
Overall Rating 4 out of 5

Whether you’re new to the ereader game or simply need an upgrade, the Kobo Clara HD is a solid choice with its beautiful display and lightweight design.

Our verdict

Whether you’re new to the ereader game or simply need an upgrade, the Kobo Clara HD is a solid choice. Its beautiful display and light, compact form factor make it perfect for reading any time, anywhere. The only things we aren’t sold on is its lack of waterproofing and cheaper build, but for its price range, it’s still good value for money.

What we like

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Adjustable warm light
  • .epub compatibility
  • Excellent battery life

What we don’t like

  • Not waterproof
  • Looks and feels cheaper
Recent Updates: 2 weeks ago
Editor's Pick: The Kobo Clara HD has been added to Reviews.org's guide to the best ereaders in Australia.

Kobo Clara HD review

For its current lineup, Kobo has bucked Kindle’s trend of a three-model ereader lineup and thrown another in the mix. The Kobo Clara HD is the manufacturer’s second-cheapest model behind the $149.95 Nia, but for the extra $40 bucks, you do get quite a bit for your money.

Even so, is it worth the asking price, or should you pay an extra $10 and go with the popular (not to mention waterproof) Kindle Paperwhite? We put the Clara HD to the test to see just how it compares to the competition.

Kobo Clara HD ereader

Kobo Clara HD price

Good value for money, with a few caveats.

Unlike Amazon Kindles, which offer fewer models but more choice in terms of storage and connectivity, Kobo has kept things simple with four models and no variable storage or connectivity. This may sound like a bad thing, but 8GB (standard across all Kobo models) is more than enough to store your growing ebook collection, and 4G connectivity is only necessary if you regularly find yourself needing to download a book away from Wi-Fi.

Priced at $189.95 (cheaper at some retailers), the Kobo Clara HD is the second cheapest Kobo model, and as such comes with a few sacrifices. It’s got more features than its cheaper sibling, but no waterproofing or page-turn buttons like its more expensive sisters.

In terms of value for money, the Kobo Clara HD is about neck-and-neck with the Kindle Paperwhite. While it doesn’t have the flush screen and waterproof body of the Paperwhite, it’s $10 cheaper, features adjustable warm light and is compatible with .epub and Adobe DRM-protected content, meaning your book choices are far more plentiful. But we’ll get into all this a little bit later.

Kobo Clara HD design

Super lightweight, but a little cheap looking.

On design alone, we wouldn’t recommend getting the Kobo Clara HD over the similarly priced Kindle Paperwhite. Measuring in at 159.6mm long, 110mm wide, 8.35mm thick and just 166g heavy, the Clara HD is smaller and considerably lighter, but there are big differences between the two when it comes to material.

While the Paperwhite sports a grippy, rubberised plastic backing and generally has a more premium feel to it, the Clara HD has a hard plastic body with a dotted grip pattern around the back which, though reasonably comfortable to hold, tends to feel a bit cheaper.

Likewise, where the Paperwhite’s screen is flush with its bezels, creating a sleek, minimal aesthetic, the Clara HD’s is recessed slightly, attracting more dust and dirt. That said, the Clara HD’s bezels are quite thinner than the Paperwhite’s as a result.

Kobo Clara HD display

Practically perfect.

Recessed or not, the Kobo Clara HD’s 6-inch display is a pretty beautiful one. It looks great in both bright daylight and dark rooms, shares the same high-definition 300ppi display as its more expensive siblings, plus, it has one major win over the Paperwhite: ComfortLight Pro.

ComfortLight Pro is Kobo’s adjustable warm light, which reduces blue light exposure and thus eye strain. It’s a godsend for those of us who like to stay up to the wee hours of the morning devouring that unputdownable book. The Paperwhite has no such feature, so if you’re a night owl, you may find the Clara HD your best option.

Kobo Clara HD content

So. Much. Choice.

In the battle between Kobo and Kindle, there’s one thing Kobo definitely has over Amazon’s ereader lineup, and that’s content. Sure, Amazon has Kindle Unlimited and Prime Reading, but in terms of their ebook stores, the Kindle Store and the Kobo Store are pretty similar in terms of catalogue and price.

The reason we’ve tended to prefer Kobos over Kindles in the past, however, is its greater compatibility with more popular file formats like .epub. Since Kindles don’t support .epubs or Adobe DRM-protected ebooks, you’re pretty much stuck with handing your money over to Bezos any time you need a new read. Kobo, on the other hand, does support .epub files, so you can download them from online stores like Booktopia, library ebook borrowing site Overdrive and anywhere else you can find .epub files. The only file type you can’t read on Kobos is (unsurprisingly) Amazon’s proprietary .azw and .azw3 files.

Kobo Clara HD features

You win some, you lose some.

When you’re paying less than $200 for an ereader, there are certain compromises to expect. If you’re deciding between the Kobo Clara HD and Kindle Paperwhite, it really comes down to what compromises you’re willing to make. Love reading in the dark? The Clara HD’s adjustable warm light is a total necessity. Like to read in the bath or at the beach? You should probably get the waterproof Paperwhite. Don’t want to line Bezos’ pockets? Get the Clara HD. Already sucked into the Amazon ecosystem? Get a Paperwhite.

To get the full picture of the differences between the two, check out the table below.

ModelKobo Clara HDKindle Paperwhite
Price$158 at Booktopia$169 at Kogan
Screen size6-inch6-inch
Screen resolution300ppi300ppi
Storage8GB8GB
BacklightYesYes
WaterproofNoYes
Page turn buttonsNoNo
Adjustable warm lightYesNo
Auto brightnessNoNo

Aside from that, if you compare the base 8GB Wi-Fi Paperwhite and the Kobo Clara HD (also 8GB with Wi-Fi connectivity), there’s not much between them. Both have a backlight, are reasonably similar in size, have the same weeks-long battery life and charge via micro USB.

As you can see, there’s not really much in it between the Kobo Libra H2O, the Forma and the Kindle Oasis. Really the only reason to go for the Forma over the Libra is if you want a larger (non-recessed) screen and are happy to pay an extra $140 for the privilege.

Is it worth it?

Yes.

At $189.95, the Kobo Clara HD is a pretty good deal. It’s perfect for those who want an upgrade from older, cheaper models and don’t care about fancy features like waterproofing and page-turn buttons. It’s not the most premium looking (or feeling) device in the world, but it’s a great ereader that will suit everyone from ebook noobs to veterans and offers so much more choice when it comes to finding your next read.