Category Archives: Electronics

Chromecast 2 review

I can remember that I watched dvd’s on portable dvd player in bed. After that I switched to my notebook when I got a bed table (one of those on wheels that stick out over the bed) and quickly bought a tv and media player. Over time I bought a set top box for digital tv with a hard drive (so I could record) and last year I bought a blu-ray player which could also be used to watch Netflix. Switching between them was a bit of a hassle (although it got easier when I got a HDMI switch) and the blu-ray player was really slow with loading Netflix.

Last week I bought the new Google Chromecast, hoping that it was quicker with Netflix and with the added bonus of being able to play YouTube videos. I had my doubts about practicality; wouldn’t the battery of my tablet or phone go down faster and I wasn’t sure how I would like not having a dedicated remote control. But since the little device was only €39 I thought it was worth the chance.

The first version of the Chromecast looked like a big USB stick, that you inserted in an HDMI port on your tv. From what I’ve read some people had problems with it when the HDMI port was awkwardly place and there wasn’t enough space for the Chromecast. This new version looks like a small hockey puck, it’s connected to the HDMI plug by a short cable. Like the previous version it also comes with a USB cable and a USB adapter for power. If your tv has a (free) USB port you can plug the cable into it, or you can use the adapter.

I got it on Saturday and in the evening I set it up, which only took minutes (looking up my wifi password took longest). And that night I happily switched between watching YouTube videos and Netflix. On Sunday morning I disconnected the blu-ray player, leaving it in case I ever want to watch a dvd or blu-ray.

On Sunday I also checked out various websites to see what the must-have apps are that you can’t do without when you’ve got a Chromecast. Most of them mention an app called Plex. It’s an app that you install on the device you use with your Chromecast, in my case my tablet, and then you install the app either on your computer or your NAS (if it’s powerful enough). You let it index the media files you want to be able to access (videos, music, photographs) and you can stream it from  your computer or NAS to your Chromecast.

This meant I could also unplug my media player. I bought a new USB 3 external hard drive, copied all my media files onto it and now I can play all my films and tv series on my Chromecast. I just have to make sure my computer doesn’t go to sleep. If you want to use a NAS to play your files you have to take into account that you’ll need a more powerful (and more expensive) one. The Chromecast can’t play a lot of video formats, if you play something that isn’t supported Plex will convert it. This isn’t a problem for a computer, but a simple NAS might not be powerful enough (on the Plex website is a list of which NAS are supported and which quality videos those are able to convert).

As an added bonus Plex looks very sleek and it makes it very easy to find the film or episode you want to watch. When loading your media library you have to choose which folders you have save your tv series in and which you use for films. It automatically downloads the film poster and a description. Tv series are automatically get subdivided into seasons. You can also use Plex to play your media on  your tablet and if you get the Plex Pass (subscription or a lifetime pass) you can even download media from your server/computer to your phone or tablet for offline viewing.

I was afraid for quick battery drainage, but that fear was unfounded. You use your phone or tablet to tell the Chromecast what to play and the Chromecast takes over whatever your streaming, it doesn’t go through your phone or tablet. I also don’t mind using my tablet as remote control. It’s easy and it offers a lot more options than a conventional remote control.

There are two downsides to Chromecast. First of all, it doesn’t work if you haven’t got an internet connection. So if you go somewhere, e.g. on vacation, and you haven’t got internet or if it’s very slow you’re out of luck. Also, even if you want to use it on a network which redirects you to a website to log in (like in hotels) your out of luck. Which is why I decided to put all my media files on an external HDD. When I go on vacation and I know the Chromecast won’t work I take my external HDD and my small media player with me. That way I can still watch offline.

Second, the Chromecast only remembers the last wifi network you logged into. Our home is big with several thick walls. I’m one story and two thick wall away from the nearest wifi repeater and I’m lucky to get a weak signal. I do have an ethernet connection and I created my own wifi network with the help of an access point. I did name my network differently than the wifi network downstairs. If I hook my Chromecast up to the tv in the livingroom or in the store I have to enter the wifi password for that network. When I take it upstairs with me I have to enter my own password again. I can understand why Google did this; they want to motivate people to buy more Chromecasts. However, it would have been nice if it was able to store a limited number of networks, 3 or 5, so you can more easily take it with you to friends, family or work.

Kindle Paperwhite 2: first impressions

I always loved the idea of having an ereader with build in light. When Amazon announced their first Paperwhite I was very excited and couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. Luckily, Amazon release their Kindle first in the US before the rest of the world because after reading the reviews I decided not to get one. There were a lot of problems with the screen; pinholes (holes in one of the layers, resulting in bright light shining out) and colour blobs (green, blue, yellow and pink patches on the screen). In 2013 Amazon released the second version of the Paperwhite (PW2), but again there were problems with the

In September Amazon announced the Kindle Voyage. Which didn’t only have a build in light, it also came with page turn sensors (which all the previous touch screen Kindle didn’t have) and some other nice options but it had a very hefty price;  €199. This time I decided to wait for the reviews. Again there seemed to be screen problems, this time the top is yellow whilst the bottom is blue-ish. But also there are a lot of reports of Kindle Voyages freezing and having to be exchanged. The reports on the updated PW2 were good. Amazon secretly upped the storage from 2gb to 4gb and the screen problems seem to be mostly in the past.

When Amazon opened their disappointing Dutch webstore it also resulted in us being able to order Kindles from Germany or the UK, a lot cheaper than having to order it from the US. That same week I was on vacation and the apartment didn’t have very good lighting. At night I had to move a floor lamp next to the sofa so I could read on my Kindle 4. After seeing that Amazon.de had the PW2 on offer for €99 I decided to get that one instead of a Voyage. Last week I ordered it and on Friday it arrived. And I love it.

Screen & lighting
One of the most important things on an ereader is the screen. You don’t want any pinholes, dust between the layers, uneven lighting or colour blobs that distract you from your reading. The text is very sharp and mine doesn’t have any colour blobs or pinholes. If I look very carefully I can see a bit of spotlighting at the bottom of the screen when I have the light on. You can see cones of light where the LEDs are at the bottom of the screen, resulting in slightly darker triangles between the LEDs. I had expected this and I only see if if I have the light at a certain level, turning it up or down helps reduce it. I can live with this.
The screen of my PW2 is also a lot whiter than that of my Kindle 4, which was more sepia toned. When the light is on at a level you can see it it has a cooler hue (this differs from Kindle to Kindle).

Font
Whereas my Kindle 4 only had three different fonts to choose from the PW2 has six options, but the same three settings for line spacing and margins and eight for font size. Although I love Kobo’s options when it comes to font settings after setting it up the first time I hardly ever changed it. I don’t want the text to fill the full screen, like many people do. I find it much more readable with margins (I use the widest margins) and a bit of space between the line (middle setting).

Touch screen
Although I haven’t used my Kobo Aura HD since May I still have to get used to the Kindle touch screen, where to touch to go back (on the left side of the screen, the area is narrower than on the Aura HD) and to pull up the menu. But everything is in a very logical place. It’s also a lot faster than the Aura HD, selecting a word to look it up in the dictionary is easy, as is selecting text to save it. It’s a lot more precise. The Aura HD had an IR touch screen, so it will respond to anything that touches the screen. The PW2 has a capacitive touch screen, which means that if you got some dust or crumbs on your screen you want to get rid off you can swipe it off with a bit of cloth without have a menu pop-up or a page turn. I also  love the feel of the screen, which is very paper-like and seems less sensitive to fingerprints than the screen of the Aura HD.

Software
So far my PW2 has been as stable as my other Kindles. No crashes, reboots or freezes. Besides the dictionary you can now also look up words in Wikipedia (wifi must be on) and if it’s enabled on the book you’re reading there is a feature called X-Ray. Where you can look up names, see how often this person is mentioned in the book. But also places and other things. With the latest update Wordwise is introduced. When switched on it gives short definitions of difficult words between the lines over the word. I have this switched off. Also new is the Family Library, where you can link different accounts and share your books. There is also GoodReads for those living in the US and Canada.
What I do use, often is Page Flip. You have to open the menu by tapping at the top of the screen, then on the bottom, above the chapter title is an arrow upwards. If you press that a new window pops up where you can scroll through the book without losing your place. It’s great to look up a map or drawing. I also discovered that when you choose the Go To option in the menu there are now page numbers next to the chapter titles. This makes it easy to check how many pages you have to read to finish your chapter.
At the bottom of the screen you can see how far you are in the book. By tapping the lower left corner you can select different views: page number, time left in chapter, time left in book, location and nothing. The first four options also display the percentage of pages read in the lower right corner.

Miscelaneous
Although the PW2 weighs more than the Kindle 4 it isn’t too heavy and feels like a good quality device. The Kobo Aura HD always felt a little too plasticy to me. The on and off button has a nice clicky feel to it. The one on my Kindle 4 never really clicked and is, at times, unresponsive. However, if you buy the right case you hardly ever need to use the power button because the PW2 can be switched on and off by the case if there’s a little magnet in it (like many tablets and other ereaders).
I bought the official Amazon case for the PW2, in black. It’s an okay case, but I would have like the front to be thicker to protect the screen better. I think I’ll end up ordering an Oberon case for it. Which is a lot heavier and bulkier than the official case but, in my opinion, offers more protection and is a lot prettier.

All in all I’m very happy with my PW2 and I’m glad I waited for so long to buy it. The lighting makes up for the absence of page turn buttons. Now, if only Amazon improves their Dutch webstore (wishlist, payment by iDeal, etc) I would happily switch my account to it.

New Kindle

After going backwards and forwards between getting a Kindle Voyage or a Kindle Paperwhite 2 since the announcement of the Voyage in September I’ve decided to get the Paperwhite 2 (PW2). Mostly because of the problems with the Voyage (screen problems and freezing). Hopefully next year’s Voyage will be better and if it is I might consider upgrading.

Last week Amazon.nl was finally opened, and it turned out to be a disappointment. They only sell ebooks, you can order a Kindle but are sent to the Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.de website to do so. Also you can’t put things you want on your wishlist. For now I’m staying with Amazon.com!

However, you can now also directly order a Kindle from Germany or the UK and the PW2 was on offer for €99, a €30 discount. I ordered it on Tuesday and with a bit of luck it should arrive tomorrow, on Friday.

I’m keeping all my finger crossed (in my mind, otherwise it would be hard to do anything) that I get one with a good screen. After last year’s problems with getting an acceptable Kobo Aura HD, I had to exchange it 3 times to get one without pinholes in the screen, I think I deserve a great PW2 :).

Amazon.nl is finally here

Amazon has finally opened their Dutch webstore. Other Dutch webstores were afraid of this, the current sale many webstore have at the moment is reportedly because of Amazon being about to open their Dutch webstore. This opening turns out to be a bit of a disappointment (in my opinion) and many webstores shouldn’t be afraid, yet.

Only Bol.com should be afraid because Amazon.nl is currently only selling Kindles and ebooks. And even then Bol has the advantage of accepting payment by iDeal (a Dutch online payment method for debit cards) and Amazon.nl only accepts credit cards. A lot of Dutch people don’t have a credit card and iDeal is the standard method of online payment in the Netherlands. Hopefully giftcards will be available soon so people can use that to pay for their purchases.

A big disappoint for me personally is that there is no option to put ebooks you want on a wishlist. On Amazon.com I have a long wishlist of ebooks I find interesting.

Also, they only sell Kindles and ebooks. Not even accessories for the Kindle, such as chargers and cases can be ordered.

Because I read only (e)books in English I’ll be staying with Amazon.com for now, if it’s possible. I will be ordering a new Kindle soon (I know I said it was going to be a Paperwhite but I’m now again leaning towards getting the Voyage), but I’ll be registering it at the US website.

No Voyage

Ever since the announcement of the new Kindle Voyage ereader I’ve been looking forward to it. I love the idea of a front lit ereader with both a touch screen but also page turn buttons. And it looking like Amazon was going to give us all that, be it at a premium price.

But just over a week after it’s release in the US (UK release will be on the 4th) I have decided I will go with the updated version of the Paperwhite 2.

User reviews report a two-toned screen, blueish on the bottom and yellow on the top of the screen. This ranges from “I really had to look carefully to see it” to “it looked like my cat peed on it”. This is very reminiscent of the release of the Paperwhite 1, which had problems with “colour blobs” and a lot of  pin holes in the screen. The latter doesn’t seem to be a big problem with the Voyage, though there are some reports that it happens occasionally. I’ve also read about problems with the Voyage freezing, hopefully this can be solved with a software update. What can’t be solved by new firmware are reports of the touch screen issues, where the screen doesn’t register touch properly and reports that the page turn sensors are places too low, even for people with smaller hands, to use comfortably when holding the Kindle Voyage in one had.

Because of these problems I’ve decided to buy the updated version of the Paperwhite 2. Amazon recently increased the disc space from 2gb to 4gb (which is not really that important to me since I usually keep less than 100 books on it) and people noticed that the screen is more even in colour and light than when the PW2 was first released.

Another reason to choose for the PW2 is because I want as little chance of getting a defective unit as possible. Living in the Netherlands I am currently still forced to buy Kindles from the US website. Returning a defective Kindle is a hassle, even if Amazon pays back the shipping costs.

I’m planning on ordering a PW2 plus case in a couple of weeks’ time.

Kindle Voyage

Amazon usually releases its new Kindle line-up in September or October. However, this year there were strong rumours there wouldn’t be a new Kindle, at least not an ereader. There were two reasons often cited for this. First, what was there to improve on last year’s Paperwhite? Colour eInk screens are still not that good (muddy colours) and Amazon wants their products to be as perfect as possible. Second, there haven’t been any rumours or leaks of any new features.

Everyone was very surprised that suddenly the Kindle Voyage turned up on one or two Amazon websites and were quickly pulled again last week. With the proverbial cat out of the bag Amazon released the new Kindle Voyage and the new basic Kindle (touch screen) for pre-order.

The previous basic Kindle, without a touch screen, seems to have been retired and a (possibly) update version of the Kindle Touch has taken its place for $79/$99 (with and without special offers). The Paperwhite is also still available for $119/$139. The new Kindle Voyage seems to be Amazon’s new premium model at $199/$219 for the wifi model or if you want the 3G version $269/$289.

The Voyage brings back the page turn buttons, although they aren’t mechanical buttons anymore but sensors. They work on pressure and have haptic feedback to let you know when you pressed hard enough. According to the manual you can turn the sensor on and off, you can select how much feedback is given or switch it off and you can set how much pressure should trigger a page turn.

I’m glad the page turn buttons/sensors made a come back. Last year I bought a Kobo Aura HD and really missed them. Many people wanted the buttons back because it takes less movement and effort to press your thumb down than to move it to the right part of the screen to swipe or tap. I missed it mainly because I hate a smudged screen.

Another change is that the screen is now flush with the bezel. Which means no more crumbs, dust and cat hairs getting caught in the little space between the screen and the bezel.

A new feature that is “coming soon” to the Kindle Voyage is Word Wise. Where short definitions automatically pop up over difficult words. I’m not so sure I like this. How does the Kindle determine if I find a word difficult or not. I hope, and expect, it’s possible to switch this feature off.

Also you can now let the Kindle decide how bright the lighting should be. Unlike a tablet, there won’t be sudden brightness changes, Amazon promises that the light will slowly decrease of the ambient lighting in the room becomes lower.

The new Kindle Voyage is released in the US on 21 October and in the UK on 4 November. However, if you haven’t already pre-ordered in the US and  you want one you won’t be getting it until the week of 14 December. Despite it’s steep price it seems its very popular.

After returning to my simple, non-touch Kindle a while ago I did miss some of the Aura HD’s features. The backlight, which makes it easier to read in darker rooms and the automatically switching on and off of the device when opening or closing the case. I somewhat missed the ease of tapping on the screen for looking up a word instead of having to move the cursor to the right place. I was already thinking of getting a Paperwhite, despite it not having page turn buttons. I’m glad I waited because I really like the look of the Voyage.

However, it isn’t available for international customers. Because I’m Dutch and there isn’t a Dutch Amazon store, yet, I have to order from the US and the only options I get when wanting to order a Kindle are the new Touch, the Paperwhite and the Paperwhite 3G. I hope Amazon will keep a batch of Voyages aside for the international customers and we won’t have to wait until they are in stock.

I’ve decided to not order the official case. I’m not sure I would like the flip style and I don’t think I would use the origami prop up feature much. It’s quite expensive and for a little bit more I can get a really nice Oberon case.

With the new Kindles release and having to order it in the US I’ve been looking if there are any rumours Amazon will open their Dutch stores soon. I’d already read that Amazon was talking to several Dutch publishers about making their books available in the Kindle store but there are now also rumours that Amazon wants to open their Dutch store soon, some even say it will happen this month (but with only a couple of days left I’m not holding my breath). However, those rumours have been going around off and on for several years now. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed it will happen soon and I’m keeping the fingers of my other hand crossed that the Kindle Voyage will be available for (pre)order right away.

Kobo Aura HD vs. Kindle non-touch

Ever since I’ve got my Kobo Aura HD I’ve been using it exclusively and let my Kindle non-touch gather dust. However, lately my Aura HD started acting up, the area where the home icon is on the screen became unresponsive. The first time I solved it by cleaning out the space between the bezel and the screen (it might be that crumbs were interfering with the IR) and rebooting. A month or so later that didn’t work and ended up doing a factory reset. But the problem came back, connecting it to my PC seems to solve the problem for a little while, until yesterday. I tried various things; logging out of my account and logging in again (clearing the database), cleaning, rebooting, removing all the books on it (in case one was causing it). But in the end I gave up, I did a factory reset, put it aside and charged my trusty old Kindle NT.

It took a while to get used to again. The screen is smaller, the font is thicker, there’s no touch screen and no build in light. On the other hand it’s quicker turning pages (loading a book takes a bit longer), I like the physical page turn buttons on the side (no smudges on the screen) and it’s very stable. The only thing I really miss is the light, which makes it easier to read when it’s darker. I slightly miss that there are little options to adjust font, white space around the text and line spacing, but I got over that quickly.

I’ve been looking at the Kindle Paperwhite 2.2 (Amazon recently upgrades the disc space from 2GB to 4GB). It doesn’t have the page turn buttons and the screen isn’t as good as the Kindle NT because of the extra touch and light layers and it’s quite expensive (around €200 if I would buy it in the UK in September, a bit more if I order it from Amazon US). Also, in September the new Kindle line-up is usually announced and who knows, maybe a Kindle NT with light  or a Paperwhite with physical page turn buttons will be announced.

Another thing that has me hesitating is that with a previous firmware upgrade of the Paperwhite the Kindle starts nagging about sideloaded books, that certain functions aren’t available for those books. I have a lot of books that I get from other sources than Amazon and convert to the Kindle format to read. Even Amazon books I usually run through Calibre to adjust things to my liking before putting them on my Kindle and those books are also considered non-Amazon books by the Kindle.

Considering I’m reasonably happy with my Kindle NT for now I will wait for the new Kindle releases. If there’s anything interesting I’ll wait for the reviews of users. If I’m still interested (reviews of bad Paperwhite 1 screens put me off of buying one) it might warrant a short trip to a nearby country where they do sell Kindles in stores.

My perfect ereader

I’ve had my Kobo Aura HD for just over a week now, before that I had a Sony PRS605, Kindle Keyboard and a Kindle 4 non-touch. Each had it’s pros and cons and it’s got me thinking about what my perfect ereader would be.

Screen
The size should be between 6 and 7 inches, the Sony and Kindles were around 6 inches and my new Kobo is 6.7 inches, any bigger and it would become too unwieldy and probably too heavy for easy portability. It also should be eInk as opposed to LCD, the battery lasts longer with eInk and my eyes prefer it over a backlit screen when reading for longer periods of time.

There shouldn’t be any possibility of dust becoming trapped between the screen layers. After a while some dust particles had worked its way between the layers of the Sony, my first ereader, after moving around for a while they became stuck almost in the middle of the screen. That was very distracting when reading.

The screen also should be lighted. I like the relatively even lighting of the Kobo Aura HD, only at the bottom there is a very, very faint darker shadow. I prefer a warm lighting over a cool, blueish or greenish light. Also, the lowest setting should be low enough to be able to read by in total dark.

Controls
The Sony had both a touch screen and buttons, though the page turn buttons weren’t in a very practical location. The Kindles had a page forward and page back buttons on both side of screen, which was ideal. The way I usually hold my ereader is with my thumb on the side of the screen, where the Kindles buttons were, I just had to press the button to go to the next page. Most ereaders with a touch screen nowadays seem to have no buttons at all. My ideal reader would have the page turn buttons of the Kindles but also a touch screen. The touch screen should be adjustable so you can decide which area to press to page forward, back and open the menu.

Library Management
Most importantly it should work with Calibre, which is so much better than any of the software developed by ereader manufacturers.

I wish it would be easier to manage shelves/collections. For the Kindles I used the Collection Manager plug-in, but found it bothersome and with the newer Kindles it won’t work at all. Both the Sony and my Kobo can create shelves automatically if you set up Calibre just right. I have it now set up to shelf books according to series, but you can also choose to set it up to make shelves for genres or authors.

My ideal method would be that I would be able to make shelves/collection manually on the reader when it’s connected to Calibre and I could drag books over it. It should also have the possibility to add books to multiple shelves.

Storage
A lot of people are upset that Amazon has chosen to reduce the storage space of newer Kindles from 4GB to 2GB. I personally didn’t care, I don’t keep my entire ebook library on my reader. However, 2GB would be my minimum. Many manufacturers have started working with a cloud, if you buy a book in their store it will be added to your cloud and you can easily download it to your reader. I wouldn’t like to be dependant on that system, I often buy books from stores other than that of current ereader I’m reading and convert it to the good format. I would never buy an ereader where I can’t sideload an ebook with Calibre.

I like it that the Kobo has got a slot for a micro SD card, I think the Sony also had the possibility to use a SD card. I probably won’t use it, but I love that I have the possibility to just copy all my books to an SD card and my reader being able to read it.

Format
My ideal reader would be able to read all formats, epubs, kepubs, mobi, azw3, etc. With and without DRM. No matter what format all options would be available; my current Kobo’s got nice features when using kepubs, but not when using epubs.

Flexibility
I love the flexibility of my Kobo, it’s got a lot more font than my Kindles or Sony plus I can load my own fonts. Like all readers you can change the font size, but also distance between lines (I prefer reading with a bit more space between the lines) and how much white space you want around the text. You can also set the weight of the text (how bold) and it’s sharpness.

Other
I love the Kindle’s option of emailing an ebook to your reader. So, my ideal ereader’s got to have wifi, also to receive updates. I would be able to shop at any ebook store and have them send my purchases to my reader.

I’m pretty happy about battery life. Most manufacturers promise 2 months when you read half an hour a day, for me that means I have to recharge ever week to two weeks. Longer battery life would, of course, be welcome.

Most important of all, something that really isn’t part of my ideal ereader is that all books would be available as ebooks and done well.

Kobo Aura HD first impressions

I really wanted an ereader with front-light (backlit ereaders don’t exist), because especially in winter I often read in low-light situations which make my eyes tire quickly. Plus, I love reading a scary book with all the lights off in bed at night. Last year the Kindle Paperwhite was released but it had a lot of problems, so I decided to wait. With the new Kindle, released earlier this month there are also problems. So I decided to look if another manufacturer had anything worth while.

Kobo has three lighted ereaders at the moment, the Glo, Aura HD and Aura (oldest to newest). I’ve read that the lowest light setting of the Glo is too bright to read in the dark, so that one I dismissed straight away. The Aura HD is a 6.8″ ereader and the Aura a 6″. I liked the look of the Aura, until I read that at the top of the screen a pattern is “etched” into it (I suspect for even lighting) which shows up when reading outside or with a lamp nearby, making the text look fuzzy. I loved that the Aura didn’t have a raised bezel and some extra options in it’s software, but I knew that I would be annoyed with the etchings. When I read that the Aura HD will be getting the same firmware as the Aura I decided to go for the HD.

It didn’t go smoothly. I first ordered one on the 15th and got it the next day. However, when turning on the light and setting it higher than 35% a bright “pinprick” appeared just left from centre of the screen. I called within half an hour of receiving the reader and was emailed a return label. On Friday, after they checked if it really had a pinprick, I got my replacement, which also had a pinprick, just above the centre of the screen. Again I called and got a return label. Yesterday I got my third Aura HD and this one has no defects.

After setting it up and charging it for a while I put some books on it. I don’t use Kobo’s software for that but Calibre, which is a great ebook library program, much more stable than any of the other programs released by ereader manufacturers, it has a lot more options, like plug-ins and can be tweaked to do almost anything. I had already set the KoboTouchExtended driver up so it would automatically make shelves for books part of a series. For my Kindle I had set it up that for books part of a series it would automatically add the number to the title, so when sending multiple books of the same series they would be in the right order. I had always set this “plugboard” to “any formats” and “any device”, figuring if I bought another ereader it would do the same. Strangely, I was wrong. It only added the number to one of the books I uploaded. Since I wanted to start reading straight away I just left it at that.

I really like how customizable the Kobo is; my Kindle had only 2 fonts plus a condensed one. You could set margins, but not to fill the entire screen, space between lines and space between words. The Aura HD’s got 10 fonts, plus you can add your own, change it’s size, you can choose space between lines and margins (to fill almost the full width of the screen). There is also an advanced setting where you can adjust the weight of the font (how thick the letters are) and the sharpness, although I think that is only available for kepubs (not epubs) and not for custom fonts. When reading epubs there is a footer of 1,5 cm where the page number is listed and with a kepub there is a 1,5 cm header where the title of the book is displayed. Some people find this a waste of space, I personally don’t care.

The lighting I love. Not only at night in bed but also when I’m reading in the livingroom during the evening (or when it’s grey outside), you can turn it on to avoid getting your eyes tired.

I’ve only encountered one bug so for, Kobo’s software is notorious for bugs. I have a case for it with a magnet, when I open it the Aura HD automatically turns on and when I close it it automatically turns off. However, when opening it the device will turn on as it should, but after a minute or so if I haven’t touched the screen it will turn off again. But it’s easily preventable by tapping the screen in time.

I do have to get used to not having page turn buttons, but I have to touch the screen to turn the page. My ideal reader would have both a touch screen and page turn buttons on both side of the screen.

After my first reading session I discovered that I found it annoying that kepubs (Kobo’s version of epubs, which offers extra things over epubs) showed the number of pages in a chapter at the bottom of the screen; page 2 of 7. I’d rather it showed the number of pages of the books; page 2 of 540. In my research I knew that it was possible to change that in the config file. After doing that I, again, wrestled with the plugboard, to get it to add book numbers. I thought I finally had it, but after uploading more books they didn’t have the number. I gave up for the night.

However, during the night I realised that the book which did get the book number added to the title was in epub format (I have set the driver to automatically convert to kepub when upload a book to my reader) and the other books were in azw3, Amazon Kindle’s format. After having a Kindle for a while I converted all my ebooks to the azw3 format and deleted the epubs, to save space. I thought that since I set the plugboard to “any format” it would work with any reader and any format. This morning I converted the books I wanted to upload first from azw3 to epub and after loading them to the Aura HD they now display the book number!

Kobo Aura (HD)

I eagerly awaited the user reviews of the new Kindle Paperwhite earlier this month, and again it has disappointed me. Although the “colour blob” problem which plagued the first Paperwhite seems to have mostly been solved there are still problems with “holes” in one of the layers (resulting in a dark or bright spot) and some Kindles are “more black” like Amazon’s promised but the letters are washed out.

However, I still want a lighted reader. I often read in darker environments, especially this time of year, and I notice my eyes are starting to appreciate good lighting when reading. So the question was if I wanted to risk ordering a Paperwhite 2, I know that Amazon has a great returns policy and they will pay back the costs of shipping it back, but it’s such a hassle. If I knew for certain Amazon would open their Dutch store within a couple of months I might wait but since there has been no official (or unofficial) word about it I’m not going to wait.

So I went to look for alternatives. I know Kobo has several lighted readers out; the Glo, Aura HD and Aura (old to new). I dismissed to Glo straight away because of reports that the lowest light setting is too bright for reading in total darkness (which I love to do, especially with scary novels). So that left the Aura HD and the Aura. The Aura HD was released earlier this year and features a high resolution, 6.7″ eink screen and lighting. The Aura, which has been released in September has a 6″ eink screen and lighting. Both have its pros and cons and I find it very hard to decide which to get, since the €20 price difference isn’t a big deal.

The pros of the Aura HD are the big screen, even lighting and it’s got a great contrast (dark letters). Cons are that it weighs more than the Aura, although not a real problem for me since it will be my at home reader, I’ll keep my Kindle 4 non-touch for when I’m out and about,  and the screen is recessed from the bezel, so it has “crumb catcher” (like most ereaders), because of the IR touchscreen.

The Aura’s screen is flush with the bezel and the lighting is warmer. It also has more/updated features (although features I probably won’t use much if ever). However, there are reports that there is a diamond shaped pattern etched in one of the screen’s layers (probably to make the lighting more even) which makes the text fuzzy, especially at the top of the screen and when reading in direct light or in the sun the pattern can be easily seen. Also, there seems to be a problem where either the paint of the bezel is damaged out of the box and light leaks through or the seem between the front and back of the bezel isn’t tights and light leaks through.

Like the Kindle Kobo seems to also have a screen problem where there are brighter spots on the screen when the light is on. However, this problem seems to occur less than on the Kindles and a lot of people don’t exchange their Kobo because the spots don’t bother them enough.

At the moment I’m tending towards getting the HD because there seems to be more quality control problems with the new Aura. My local MediaMarkt has them in stock (though not in the colour I want). Tomorrow I’ll go by with my Kindle 4 and hopefully they have one on display so I can compare them and check the HD out. If I like it I’ll order the brown one (I love that they have another colour than black, white or silver) with a cover.