eWritable > Blog > Kobo Libra Color: Unboxing & First Impressions

Kobo Libra Color: Unboxing & First Impressions

TL;DR: TOO LONG, DIDN’T READ: My first impressions are that the Kobo Libra Colour is a nice portable colour e-reader and offers good value for money in this regard. However, the act of writing is rather unpleasant and uncomfortable, and should not be the primary purpose for buying.

When Kobo announced the Kobo Libra Color last month, I was quite intrigued.

This is only the second 7″ Kaleido 3 colour e-ink writing tablet to hit the market (that I’m aware of) and I was really interested in seeing how it compared with its compatriot, the Bigme B751C. I was also eager to discover if Kobo’s note-taking software might have been dumbed-down a little (or even improved) for this release.

I was very tempted to pre-order it, however, I did have some reservations – my previous experience with Kobo customer service with my Elipsa 2E had made me a little wary.

In the end, I bit the bullet and placed my order for the Kobo Libra Color. I justified this by telling myself it was only 200 quid (one of the most affordable e-ink tablets available). I did buy a cover for it as well for the discounted price of £17.50 – the screen on my Elipsa 2E broke very easily so I was taking no chances. And I didn’t have to buy the Kobo Stylus because I already had one with the Elipsa.

The Libra Color arrived this morning and I’m looking forward to playing around with it over the next week or so before I write up my full review.

In the meantime, here is my unboxing and first impressions.

Unboxing

The package had two boxes inside; the Kobo Libra Color, and the sleep cover.

The packaging was sturdy, easy-to-open and presented the products colourfully. They are also made out of recycled materials and there is no superfluous waste packaging.

The main box opens up like a book to reveal the Kobo Libra Color:

Sleep Cover

When I first saw the sleep cover, I noticed that it had a small circular cut-out on the top-right corner of the rear. I fleetingly had the mad thought that the Libra Color had a rear-facing camera that I’d missed when reading the specs. Then, rationality returned, and I wondered what it was actually for – it is a hole for the power button, which is located on the rear of the tablet!

The sleep case has a deep yellow colouring (Kobo calls it Butter Yellow) and I must say it looks quite nice. If I’m honest, I prefer black and dark grey because they don’t show up the dirt as much but I must admit that it’s quite pleasing to the eye.

It feels nice to the touch, with a faux leather texture on the outside and a faux suede texture inside. There is a plastic tray that the tablet pushes into and it provides a firm and secure grip.

There are grooves on the cover which you can fold to create a stand for the tablet, keeping it at around a 30-degree angle. However, my attempts at folding it as per the instructions didn’t go very well – I managed to get it in position but it wasn’t very stable and slid across the table when I tapped the screen. Hopefully this is an issue with me rather than a design flaw, and is something I will spend a bit more time with prior to my full review.

There is a magnet within the sleep cover, but this only serves the purpose of the folding stand and to keep the front flap stuck to the back when fully open and folded back – to be clear, it does not hold the front cover in place when it is covering the front of screen.

Closing the cover causes the tablet to go into battery-saving mode, and opening it wakes it up again.

E-Ink Tablet

The tablet itself is made from recycled plastics and has three thin bezels, and a thicker bezel that houses the physical page-turn buttons. Because the Libra Color has a g-sensor, the screen will rotate depending on orientation, so it is possible to have the buttons either on the left or right depending on personal preference. It looks as though there is a very slight taper in the thickness of the tablet – it is ever-so-slightly thicker at the side with the page buttons and this edge curls up a little, presumably for ergonomics and to make it more comfortable to hold.

The screen is not flush with bezels, instead being sunk down a millimetre or two.

As mentioned before, the power (on/off) button is located on the rear panel. There is also a rougher texture on the rear to help with grip.

On the right edge (or left edge, depending on orientation), there is a USB-C socket for charging and file transfers. All the other edges are smooth.

Initial Setup

When the tablet first starts, you are asked to select your language, before configuring your wifi network.

After this, the tablet downloads and installs the latest Kobo firmware and reboots.

After the restart, you are asked to activate the tablet by connecting it to your Kobo account, and then Kobo tries to sell you their Kobo Plus subscription. This is essentially access to a vast library of variable-quality ebooks for a set monthly fee (basically Kindle Unlimited for Kobo).

Overall, the initial configuration is very simple and intuitive.

First Impressions

Now that my Libra Color is up and running, I had a quick play around to check it out in preparation for my full review.

The first thing I did was plug it in to charge because it arrived with about 60% battery. Then I downloaded a One Piece Comic Book (CBR) so that I could check out the colours.

As with all colour e-ink (Kaleido 3) panels, you’re never going to get the same brightness, vibrancy, density, or number of colours that you would from a regular LCD screen. However, I was rather impressed by the way the Libra rendered the colours and I experienced zero ghosting whatsoever.

Next, I turned to the note-taking capabilities.

Those familiar with my Kobo Elipsa 2E review will know that I was very unimpressed with the writing feel. They use their own proprietary stylus and writing technology (rather than the tried-and-tested Wacom EMR technology used by almost every other e-ink tablet manufacturer). Sadly, nothing has changed.

Whilst it does write okay(ish), the hard-nibbed stylus and smooth hard screen do not feel comfortable to me. There is also very very little friction the pen feels slippy as it glides across the screen. In addition, there is a small but noticeable latency between what you write and what appears on the screen and after you take the stylus off the screen, there is a flash as the screen refreshes, which is very off-putting.

I’ll be the first to admit that I do not have the best handwriting in the world, but the Kobo actually manages to make it look a lot worse than it really is.

To be perfectly honest, if I was doing a lot of writing, I would find it very frustrating. What’s more, there’s nowhere on the sleep cover to attach your stylus, so this has to be carried separately.

So, my first impressions are that the Kobo Libra Color should be considered as a small portable color e-reader that allows you to take the odd quick note. The reading experience is very pleasant but any kind of long-form note-taking will not (in my opinion) be a nice experience.

So if you plan to buy an e-ink tablet primarily for writing, I would give the Kobo Libra Color a miss. If you mainly plan to read colour e-books (e.g. Manga) and want the ability to make infrequent notes, then I think the Libra Color is great value for money. I think note-taking should be considered as an added bonus rather than the main purpose.

However, admittedly, these are my first impressions, and I reserve the right to change my opinions in my full review (coming soon) 🙂

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About the author

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Dan Dutton is passionate about E-ink writing tablets, which bring together the pleasure of writing on paper with the power of digital technology. When he bought his first tablet, he realised that there wasn't a lot of unbiased information available for people that were considering buying an E-ink tablet, and so he built eWritable.

3 thoughts on “Kobo Libra Color: Unboxing & First Impressions”

  1. Slight correction with regard to the stylus; it’s not proprietary to Kobo. It’s actually using MPP(microsoft pen protocol) 2.0, which is what is used on their surface tablets and many other PCs and Chromebooks. While i’d still prefer Wacom and not having to charge a pen, there are still cheaper aftermarket MPP 2.0 alternatives to buying Kobo’s way overpriced stylus.

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