back to article WHSmith Kobo Vox e-reader

So you’ve been tempted by an e-book reader but the brouhaha surrounding the Amazon Kindle Fire launch in the States has confused you. A colour screen must be better, right? But will it ever come to the UK? If you really can’t wait, rival e-book reader manufacturer has stolen a march on Amazon and released a gadget that looks …


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  1. Gordon 10

    Waits for the inevitable

    Comment from some who disputes the Amazon lockdown on the grounds you can get around it using a third party piece of software which introduces a major additional step to getting books on it.

    1. ThomH

      Or maybe they'll dispute it on the grounds of...

      ... PDF, plain text and Mobipocket drag and drop with no first- or third-party piece of software?

      The Amazon platform is less open but only in so much as the DRM technology is proprietary. So it's less locked down than, say, Apple's devices — to pick a bogeyman of the field — because there's no need for an iTunes equivalent, and anything unprotected you load onto the device can be unloaded from the same device.

      That Calibre allows ePub conversion is often raised but I've never been persuaded that it's a very convincing argument, because it's limited to unprotected books and the major unprotected book supplies, such as Project Gutenberg, will let you download a Mobipocket file directly from them.

      1. Sean Baggaley 1


        " So it's less locked down than, say, Apple's devices — to pick a bogeyman of the field — because there's no need for an iTunes equivalent,"

        Since iOS 5, none of the iDevices even require a _computer_, let alone iTunes.

        If you're going to spread FUD, at least have the decency to get your facts straight. The iDevices will all read ePub files natively. iBooks also supports reading PDFs. I can stream anything from AVIs to 720p MKVs to my iPad using Air Video from my NAS drive, with no problems whatsoever.

        Yes, commercial TV and movie download sales are still DRMed to the hilt, but that's true of any commercial service; Apple are hardly an exception here. I don't see Netflix, Microsoft, or Sony offering DRM-free movie streaming either, yet nobody seems to whine about that.

        Both Amazon and Apple also use DRM protection for books sold for their own stores, so neither is "better" there either. The same is true for most other major e-book suppliers.

        As long as a platform supports the _option_ of opening un-DRMed media, I don't see what the problem is.

        Apple do not have a monopoly over any market: as Android fans keep pointing out, Android's market share is larger than Apple's on the mobile device front. Similarly, Apple only care about the consumer part of the PC market, so their total market share (including all those PCs in office buildings) is about 10%. Hardly monopolistic.

        And yet, despite Google's "We constantly monitor your lives" philosophy, it's Apple who are apparently the "evil" ones. How does that even _begin_ to make any sense?

        1. ThomH

          @Sean Baggaley 1

          I meant the field of DRM content rather than the field of books. And you can check my post history to see that I'm the first to jump to Apple's defence when doing so is justified.

          iTunes is no longer needed to activate a device and iCloud acts as a backup solution for on-device content but, for example, if you want music then you still have to use iTunes. Sure, you can subscribe to iTunes Match and cut out the physical connection but there's still no way to put music onto an iPod without iTunes. As far as I'm aware, there's also no way whatsoever to recover music from an iPod onto another device.

          Conversely, I can drag and drop over USB un-DRMed books onto my Kindle from the Finder or the Explorer, in both directions. So I was comparing 'how Amazon treat the only media the Kindle supports' to 'how Apple treat the media most associated with the iPod'. I don't think it's an unfair comparison because in both cases it's a question of what the company allows you to do with content that is not otherwise protected.

          The Kindle comments are also primarily relevant to the allegation that you can't load content onto a Kindle without third-party software and the attempt to argue an Amazon lockdown. Nevertheless I don't think invoking Apple in a discussion about lockdown is inappropriate.

          1. Tom 38

   way to put music onto an iPod without iTunes

            Actually, there is, but it is a bit convoluted. If you are a spotify premium subscriber, you can sync music from your spotify desktop over wifi to an i{phone,pod,pad} running the spotify mobile app. All 'local music' (MP3, unprotected AAC etc) that is synced in this way appears in the stock ipod app.

        2. Eponymous Bastard


          Hey mate you've got a fault with whatever piece of shit hardware you use inside the walled garden; the freakin'_underscore_key_is_stuck_____________________________________

    2. Anonymous Coward

      This has the same (but not quite as bad) problem

      In it's not a official Google recognised device and therefore no Android Market.

      At least they offer GetJar, which is better than what Kindle offer, and of course I suspect you can load the Kindle e-reader app, which means you have the luxury of both EPUB and Amazon's locked in format (surprised that this "review" doesn't mention that rather important point).

      Personally, I think tablets are for tablet things, and e-readers should be for reading, so these kind of devices are poor at both. Get an e-ink reader like the Koko touch, Sony Reader, Nook, or even dare I say it, a Kindle for reading books, and get a recent tablet for everything else.

      1. LarsG

        WELL SAID....

        E-book for reading books, tablets for web browsing, laptops for working.

        It just another way to strain your eyes reading a book on a back lit screen.

  2. JDX Gold badge

    7 hours

    Come on, you're describing that as reasonable? In my book (!) that's atrocious. Don't bother taking it on holiday, it'll be flat by the time you get on the plane after hanging around the airport for half the day!

    I was expecting this to be a colour e-ink device, rather than a cheap tablet... correct me if I'm wrong but isn't that all this is... not an e-reader at all but a low-spec tablet? Are we ever going to _get_ colour e-ink?

    1. TheOtherJola

      Eventually, maybe

  3. John Robson Silver badge

    WiFi is fine...

    Surely most people who want one of these have a phone that'll provide a mobile WiFi hotspot for them...

    Why the obsession with everything having a direct 3G connection?

    1. Tim Walker


      As a Kindle owner, I'm not qualified to report on whether it's the case for Kobo devices, but perhaps my main gripe with my Kindle (the WiFi-only Keyboard/v3 model) is that it can only connect to WiFi if the hotspot is operating in infrastructure mode. This becomes a problem for me, as JoikuSpot on my Nokia N8 identifies as an ad-hoc access point (the app-makers say this is a hardware limitation), which the Kindle refuses to connect to.

      Some dedicated 3G hotspot devices (the MiFi is the one I have tested) CAN operate as infrastructure access points, which the Kindle will work with, but frankly I don't fancy the extra expense and general faffing-around with an additional device. (If someone donated me a MiFi, though, I wouldn't complain...)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Joikuspot premium will work in infrastructure mode

        See video here.

        1. Tim Walker

          I need to check that out, then. Granted, I was testing the "Light" version (the "Premium" JoikuSpot costs £8, so I'd have to be certain that it worked with the Kindle), but I had a Twitter exchange with the JS developers, who (IIUC) said the JoikuSpot/ad-hoc-only issue was down to the phone hardware.

          Still, if JS Premium *will* work in infrastructure mode, it's time I looked at it again - thanks for the head-up :-)

  4. Alan Gauton

    Android Market

    But is it running Android? Yes and no, cos if you look at the settings, about device, it claims to be running a derivative of Ubuntu.....

  5. JonJonzJnr

    Do your research please before writing an article

    Actually the Blackberry Playbook can be charged via USB as the charging port is a Micro USB port...

  6. tsdadam


    I can't say I've ever, not even once, accidentally turned my Kindle off. And I agree with the above comment on 7 hours of battery life, that's appalling for something marketed as an e-reader.

    The bit that got me most though is the comment that the biggest drawback is the sluggish processor. On a device that's essentially designed to show a page of text, and then flip to the next page after a minute or two, there's no way in the world that processor speed should *ever* be an issue.

    Companies should stick to making dedicated e-readers or tablet, not hybrid Frankenstein's monsters.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Read the article

      The processor is only an issue with apps not the page turning.

      1. tsdadam

        That was my point though, if it's an e-reader then a slow processor should never be a negative point in a review.

        Jack of all trades, master of none.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    still not an e-book reader, just a low quality tablet.

    I'm waiting for the colour e-ink paper that's come out in Korea to get over here.

    1. cosymart

      Colour Paper?

      It is either e-ink or paper, not both! Buy a pack of crayons if you want colour.

      1. King Jack

        There is a colour e-ink device. Using a 'marisol' or something like it display. It works like e-ink.

        1. Spiracle

          You mean Mirasol...

 (ignore annoying woman) or

  8. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    To me "Vox" sounds like it should be able to read books aloud, and do it well. Any sign of that?

  9. sandman

    Not really a "reader"

    I'm beginning to think that e-book readers needs some sort of standard definition to seperate them from low-end tablets. How about something like:

    e-ink screens or similar non-backlit technology (colour optional, if and when)

    light weight for long periods of use

    looong battery life

    really, really easy to use for non-techies

    and, most importantly, as little, obvious, geeky, technology stuff as possible.

    The idea is to have something as easy to read as a book, with as little as possible to distract you or get in the way. Anything else is a tablet.

  10. Silverburn


    Three immediate turn offs:

    1. the depth of the device itself

    2. The sheer size of the bezel

    3. Rubbish battery

    Better luck next time chaps...

  11. Chris Gray 1

    Yup: mini-tablet

    I've had a Kobo Vox here in Canada since the day they became available. I just wanted an Android tablet to play around with. The Vox works fine for that. Most of my time with it has been spent playing games, like Angry Birds and Doodle Fit. I have yet to finish a book on it - I've got the 3G Kindle keyboard for book-reading. Once games are started, they play fine (one exception so far is Word Twist, which doesn't register touch positions properly - it may be a dumbed down version). Movies play fine as well.

    On an upcoming holiday, I'll have WiFi available, so plan on taking the Vox along for web browsing, game playing, and watching some Star Trek episodes I've put on a micro-SD card.

    Having the battery dead happens a lot. The solution is to turn it completely off when you aren't using it, rather than just putting it in standby. Cold booting takes longer, but at least you can use it afterwords. I have seen touch glitches, and lack of response with it. One suggestion: don't create folders for stuff - I'm told that Android in general doesn't handle them well.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Review is fine

    Both the Kindle Fire the Nook Tablet are not available here, so my options are somewhat limited. I do, however, own an iPad 2 3G, RIM Playbook and a Kobo Vox. The Vox replaces my old Kobo eReader which, unfortunately, has firmware issues.

    The Vox meets most of my in-home needs as a tablet. Because of the built-in sideloading feature, in addition to Getjar, I use two other app stores and I have also downloaded apps directly from web sites. I have over a dozen games installed, including the ever popular Angry Birds, and another dozen or so utilities consisting of a file manager, video & audio players, a web browser and news readers. The Vox is a bit on the slow side but does, however, run very well as an eReader. It has also been very stable since the last firmware upgrade. Overdrive has also been installed to allow me to borrow library books.

    I am happy with the size and cost of the device and, over time, it has replaced my iPad as my main home use tablet for casual web browsing and reading. FWIW, dropping a $199 Vox is a lot easier on my nerves compared to the $700 iPad.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Cheaper and better can be had by far!

    This device has FAIL written all over it.

    It's a branded cheap, but not cheap, tablet masquerading as an e-book reader.

    It's locked down from the start, so your not getting a full android experience.

    Do yourselves a favour (altho most Register readers will already know), search on Amazon for android capacitive tablet, filter by price and rating.

    There's a number of them, one that comes to mind is the NATPC M009S for £100

    1.2Ghz, Stock Android 2.3 (so your not locked out anything), 512mb ram.

    For £70 less, it wipes the floor with the kobo.

    No-brainer if your in the market for a cheap tablet.

    Sure, it's not massively fast, hasn't got a great deal of RAM and your limited to 20gb storage space with an SD card, but for £100?

    Sadly, I would say a lot of people are going to fall for the kobo, as it's branded whsmith and will be pimped in their stores.

    Mod me down if you want, but from where I'm sitting, this device is a *massive* rip off at £170 = FAIL.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "FWIW, dropping a $199 Vox is a lot easier on my nerves compared to the $700 iPad."

    Don't drop either??

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These cheap tablets give people a bad 'experience' of tablets - can't imagine anyone who has used an iPad first would be happy going 'down' to one of these. Ugly, slow and clunky - may be cheaper but I would rather save a bit longer and get an iPad.

    If it came to it I would much rather a 2nd hand 1st gen. iPad which I bet you can probably pick up for a similar price now.

    1. lglethal Silver badge

      OK i get your point but...

      ... your comparison works for most things. For example, some older friends of mine recently took a business class flight for their honeymoon and got upgraded to first class (I wish i knew how they did this!). Since then they havent flown again, as how can they go back to cattle class after trying first class!

      Im sure Ferrari drivers would feel the same if offered a Fiat Punto to drive as a replacement vehicle.

      The point is not everyone can afford the high end kit, so these low cost tablets are there way of getting the experience. Its not as nice an experience and there's sure to be a few grizzles and cut corners but sometimes anything is better then nothing!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Surely most people who want one of these have a phone that'll provide a mobile WiFi hotspot for them..."

    Except NO they don't - firstly not everyone buying a tablet has an iPhone or recent Android that will do it and many handsets (especially supplied by mobile operators) have the 'hotspot' feature disabled unless you pay extra for it.

    Then if you assume you do - you may only have a fairly small data allowance (perhaps 250-500-1000Mb per month) which may be insufficient - data plans for iPads / tablets often come with 1-3-unlimited usage.

    Then of course it kills your phone battery while you are using it. Then it's less 'convenient' than having 3G on the device.

    Of course you could have a phone that does support it - do have a massive data plan on the phone and not mind your phone battery running flat - but that is not MOST people.

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