Kobo Libra H2O review

An almost flawless ereader experience.
Kobo Libra H2O in black
Overall Rating 4.75 out of 5

The Kobo Libra H2O punches well above its mid-range price tag, perfectly incorporating premium features into an affordable and well-designed package.

Our verdict

The Kobo Libra H2O punches well above its mid-range price tag, perfectly incorporating premium features into an affordable and well-designed package. We struggled to find any major downsides to this budget-friendly ebook beast, aside from its recessed screen. Other than that small sticking point, the Libra H2O is pretty much perfect.

What we like

  • Waterproof
  • Page-turn buttons
  • Comfortable to hold
  • Beautiful display

What we don’t like

  • Recessed screen
Recent Updates: 2 weeks ago
Editor's Pick: The Kobo Libra H2O has been added to Reviews.org's guide to the best ereaders in Australia.

Kobo Libra H2O review

We’ve tested a lot of ereaders over the years (particularly recently), and honestly, none of them are bad. They all do essentially the same thing, which is allowing you to read ebooks. Really, the only thing setting them apart is price, screen size and a few key features like page-turn buttons, waterproofing and adjustable warm light.

So, if you’re confused by what to look for in an ereader and you’re only here for the TL;DR, this is it: Buy the Kobo Libra H2O. If you want to find out why you should, read on.

Kobo Libra H2O in black

Kobo Libra H2O price

The best value ereader money can buy.

With an RRP of $269.95, the Kobo Libra H2O is pretty much smack-bang in the middle of the ereader pricing spectrum, which goes from as little as $139 up to $429.95. It’s only $80 more than its next cheapest sibling, the Kobo Clara HD, but feature-wise, it’s closer to the big kahuna of the Kobo family, the $429.95 Forma.

While it’s not the cheapest waterproof ereader (that honour goes to the $199 Kindle Paperwhite), it’s certainly the cheapest ereader with page-turn buttons. After the Libra H2O, there’s a pretty massive price jump to the Kindle Oasis ($399) and the Forma.

This, in combination with the Libra H2O’s adjustable warm light, makes it easily the best value ereader currently available.

Kobo Libra H2O design

Just one tiny flaw.

The Libra H2O uses the same hard plastic and soft, rubberised backing found on its exxy big brother, the Forma. It’s super comfortable to hold, and the dotted pattern on the back is grippy enough that it won’t feel like it’s about to slip through your hands. But even if it does, and this bad boy lands in the pool or bathtub, its IPX8 waterproof rating should keep it working like a dream.

It measures 159mm in length and 144mm in width, and at its thinnest is just 5mm thick, increasing to 7.8mm at the grip edge, where you’ll find the two page-turn buttons (one to go forward, one to go back). It weighs in at 192 grams, so makes a neat little companion for your commute or travels.

Because of its ergonomic design and page-turn buttons, the Libra H2O can be used just as comfortably with one hand as it can with both. And, since the power button is located out of the way at the back of the device, there’ll be no accidental sleep mode in the middle of your reading sesh.

There’s plenty to love about the Libra H2O’s design, but there is one thing dragging it down – even if only slightly. Whereas two out of three Kindle models have screens that are flush with the device’s bezels, only the most expensive Kobo offers the same. The Libra’s recessed screen isn’t too bad, but without a cover, it may attract dust and dirt.

Kobo Libra H2O in landscape mode

Kobo Libra H2O display

Crisp, clear, and friendly to night owls.

If you like big, beautiful displays, the Kobo Libra H2O will not disappoint. At 7 inches in size, it’s bigger than the cheaper Kobos and Kindles, the same size as the top-of-the-range Kindle Oasis and one inch smaller than the gigantic Kobo Forma. With a screen resolution of 300ppi, the Libra is super crisp and clear, whether you’re reading tiny text or looking at complex diagrams.

The backlight’s brightness can be turned off completely (for easy, glare-free reading in bright daylight) or set anywhere between one and 100%. The Libra also features Kobo’s ComfortLight Pro, which can automatically adjust the backlight to increase warmth the later it gets, reducing eye strain and blue light exposure.

Another thing I loved about the Libra was its ability to switch orientation. Whether you want to hold it in your left hand, your right hand or put it into landscape mode, this thing can do it all.

Kobo Libra H2O content

The luxury of choice.

Kobo’s trump card over the Kindle has always been its file format compatibility. While Kindle users are pretty much forced to shop through the Kindle Store or sign up to Kindle Unlimited, Kobo owners get the luxury of choice. Why? Because of the two, Kobo is the only manufacturer that supports .epub files, which are incredibly popular and easy to access.

Kobo has its own store, and it’s a good one, but it’s not your only option. Because Kobo supports the more ubiquitous .epub file format (as opposed to Kindle’s preference for .azw and .mobi), you can buy ebooks through a variety of online retailers, including Booktopia, Dymocks and anywhere else that sells Adobe DRM-protected ebooks. You can even borrow books from your local library, as these are generally also Adobe DRM-protected.

Kobo Libra H2O features

All the bells and whistles for less.

If you want all the features that come with premium ereaders without paying that premium price tag, the Kobo Libra H2O is a very happy medium. Those features include waterproofing, a 7-inch screen, adjustable warm light, and the same weeks-long battery life and Wi-Fi connectivity you’ll find on all modern ereaders.

For comparison’s sake, here’s an overview of all the current Kobo models:

ModelKobo NiaKobo Clara HDKobo Libra H2OKobo Forma
Price$149 at Booktopia$178 at Booktopia$268 at Booktopia$428 at Booktopia
Screen size6-inch6-inch7-inch8-inch
Screen resolution212ppi300ppi300ppi300dpi
Storage8GB8GB8GB8GB
BacklightYesYesYesYes
WaterproofNoNoYesYes
Page turn buttonsNoNoYesYes
Adjustable warm lightNoYesYesYes
Auto brightnessNoNoNoNo

And here’s a snapshot of all the current Kindle models:

ModelKindleKindle PaperwhiteKindle Oasis
Price$139 at Amazon$199 at Amazon$399 at Amazon
Screen size6-inch6-inch7-inch
Screen resolution167ppi300ppi300ppi
Storage8GB8GB or 32GB8GB or 32GB
BacklightYes, 4 LEDsYes, 5 LEDsYes, 25 LEDs
WaterproofNoYesYes
Page turn buttonsNoNoYes
Adjustable warm lightNoNoYes
Auto brightnessNoNoYes

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.

I’m calling it. The Kobo Libra H2O is the best value ereader you can get right now. It may not have the mammoth display of the Kobo Forma or the premium feel of the aluminium-cased Kindle Oasis, but in the end, it doesn’t even matter. The Libra H2O takes all the best features from the two and packs them into a perfectly-sized and perfectly-priced little unit.