Kobo Mini 5in compact e-reader review
Pocket-friendly alternative to the mass-market paperback
If you think the Kindles and Nooks of this world are too large, Kobo has an alternative: the Mini, a pocket-sized e-ink e-reader with a 5in screen.
Kobo's Mini: pocket friendly for your e-paperbacks
Most e-readers out there have 6in panels, but the Mini’s is no less readable for the reduction in size. Kobo’s own 6in Glo reader, for example, is a typical 157 x 114 face on, a little shorter than a B-format paperback. The Mini is three-quarters of the size: 133 x 102mm, a little smaller than a mass-market A-format paperback.
Put the two devices alongside each other and the Mini doesn’t feel radically smaller than the Glo, but on its own it feels smaller than it is. It’s a centimetre thick, but that tapers to 5mm at the edge so it’s comfortable to hold one-handed. The bezel is just wide enough to give an adult male thumb a good grip without too much chance that it’ll accidentally tap the touch-sensitive screen. But it’s easy to just move your thumb over to tap the right side of the screen to move to the next page, or tap the centre to trigger the appearance of the header and footer areas, which contain status icons and links to page settings and such.
Smaller than a Nexus 7
If you hold your e-reader in one hand, the side in your palm, the base supported by your little finger, you won’t strain your thumb to reach to the left side to go back a page, though I had to use my other hand to reach up to icons in the top left of the screen.
The 600 x 800 panel actually comes the usual suspect, E Ink, though it's not the usual Pearl display. The V110 display in the Mini doesn’t have as good a contrast ratio as a Pearl screen, but there’s not a lot in it to my eyes. If there’s a flaw it’s in Kobo’s firmware, which defaults the display refresh - the way an e-ink screen blackens all its pixels before rendering the page image - to take place every six page turns. This leads to some speckled text and a fair bit of ghosting before the refresh, but it’s easy to disable it in the device’s comprehensive settings.
The 5in Vizplex V110 display is almost, but not quite, up there with E Ink's Pearl
Another flaw with the firmware: manually loaded books - as opposed to those downloaded from Kobo’s online shop - don’t take notice of margin settings, though font, character size and line spacing are applied correctly as you adjust the on-screen sliders. It’s a small issue, to be sure, but running text right from the left edge of the screen to the right makes it a little harder to read. Something to think about if you have a lot of DRM-free ePubs downloaded from the likes of Project Gutenberg.
Next page: A small read
I especially liked the low-quality jpeg showing how good text looks on the screen.
Format and margins
" ...manually loaded books - ... - don’t take notice of margin settings, ..."
I noticed this problem with many .epub books in my collection and .mobi books I converted for my recently acquired Kob Glo. They also did not allow you to adjust font, etc and the Glo often locked up if I tried manual adjustment.
The way to deal with this is to reconvert them in Calibre with the Look and Feel -> Filter Style Information -> Fonts checkbox and Margins checkbox ticked, after which they display properly with full control available to you.
It's currently £50 until the end of the month:
1) how does it handle a large quantity of books - four or five hundred? On the Touch, it can get silly slow moving from reading a book to selecting another, or while it gets it act together after recharging - a couple of minutes, sometimes.
2) is the Windows application for managing purchased books (no Linux application, naturally, even though this is Linux box) the same as for the Touch? If it is, you'll find that it displays only those books downloaded from Kobo and not anything you might have otherwise acquired - and my entire collection at present is epubs not acquired from Kobo... The excellent 'Calibre' handles things properly, which is a relief and a credit to its writer.
"The 600 x 800 panel actually comes from Vizplex not the usual suspect, E Ink"
Vizplex is an internal code-name at E-Ink, for all their electrophoretic displays.
The Kobo mini apparently uses a slightly older version (I'm not 100% sure how the 'VizPlex 110' relates to the 'Pearl' display that's used in all other current units.)