Kobo is selling the Libra 2 for a mere £ more than the original Libra, but don’t be fooled: this is a huge upgrade. It brings a better E Ink Carta screen, 32GB of storage and Bluetooth connectivity for listening to audiobooks via wireless headphones. That puts the Libra 2 in direct competition with the Kindle Oasis while costing £ less.
Of all those updates, the addition of audiobook support is the headline feature. You can purchase books individually or subscribe to Kobo’s Audible-like service, where £ per month buys you one credit to spend on any audiobook. Sadly, the tempting Kobo Plus “all you can read” ebook/audiobook subscription service isn’t yet available in the UK.
However, you can only listen to audiobooks you’ve purchased from the Kobo Store. Most libraries’ audiobooks come in MP3 format, so they won’t play. Let’s hope Kobo makes it more inclusive in future.
The Libra 2 offers play/pause options and skipping 30 seconds back and forth. There’s a track list that corresponds to chapters, and you can select any of those if you wish to start in the middle. Audiobooks continue to play if you put the screen to “sleep”, and you can use your headphones controls to play and pause, too.
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Another significant improvement over older e-readers is the bigger battery (1,500mAh versus 1,200mAh for the Libra) and a USB-C port rather than micro-USB. Topping up the battery is remarkably quick: 0% to 92% in 50 minutes, but it took another hour to hit 100%. I squeezed out an average of 54 hours’ use per charge, which translates to around seven weeks of reading/listening for anyone who reads about an hour a day.
There are minor design changes to the Libra 2, but nothing to write a novel about. In the Libra H2O, there was a crease clearly visible on the thicker bezel, which is no longer there on the Libra 2. The little recess between the two page-turn buttons on the Libra H2O has also gone, giving the Libra 2 a cleaner look, despite the plastic chassis.
Speaking of bezels, the other three are slightly bigger, but only by a millimetre or so. It’s hardly noticeable, but that means the Libra 2 has its own range of covers. The rear is still textured, offering an excellent grip, while the power button is easier to find and press on the Libra 2 compared to the older model.
The screen is still the same 7in diagonal of the Libra H2O, but is 20% quicker and offers 15% better contrast thanks to the latest E Ink Carta technology. If you’ve been using an older Kobo, the Libra 2 is worth the upgrade just in terms of performance and access to a new dark mode, where white text appears on a black background.
“The screen is 20% quicker and offers 15% better contrast thanks to the latest E Ink Carta technology”
As before, brightness can be adjusted on the screen via a slider on the top menu bar or by sliding a finger along the left edge of the display. There are still no ambient light sensors on board, but the ability to set the light temperature to change from cool to warm (or vice versa) depending on the time of day is available – something that’s missing on the more expensive Kindle Oasis.
Amazon may have pioneered the asymmetric design now shared by several e-readers, but Kobo has embraced it completely. Of the six e-readers in its catalogue, three have the page-turn buttons that make single-handed use so easy – clearly Kobo means for that design to stay.
The e-reader can be submerged in up to 2m of water for up to 60 minutes, thanks to its IPX8 certification. If you ever have some bizarre need to read underwater then everything will work other than the touchscreen; the page-turn buttons will keep going.
All the other Kobo perks are on board. The screen renders copy in sharp lettering, with several font sizes to choose from. You can even change the font to any of the default options, or sideload your preferred ones without a hassle. It also offers a much wider file format support than Kindles, including PDF, JPEG, GIF, TXT, HTML and the two comic fonts of CBZ and CBR. While reading regular ebooks is an absolute pleasure on the Libra 2, comics and graphic novels can be challenging on a 7in screen as some frames or speech bubbles can get cut off. But no matter the file size, the device never lagged.
I also prefer Kobo’s streamlined user interface and, importantly, baked-in OverDrive, Pocket and Dropbox support. As with all Kobo e-readers, having OverDrive on the device means you can borrow ebooks from a local library that supports the platform.
Take all these individual ingredients, stir them into a single device and you’ve got a recipe for the best bang-for-buck e-reader yet. All we need now from Kobo is a colour display.
7in E Ink Carta screen • 300ppi • 1,264 x 1,680 resolution • 32GB storage • 802.11n Wi-Fi • Bluetooth • USB-C • IPX8 protection • supports EPUB, EPUB3, PDF and 12 more file formats • 145 x 9 x 162mm (WDH) • 215g • 1yr limited warranty