The Kobo H2O 2nd edition is very different from its ancestor, the Kobo H2O 1st edition. This new version is thinner, offers an adaptive backlighting system (a “natural light” option that uses yellow light rather than blue light) and uses new materials, which all set it apart from the previous model… But what is it worth? Our test, our opinion.
Hardware: Compact and well built.
As far as the hardware goes, we were surprised by the reader’s finesse when we got a hold of it. Its 6.8-inch screen is clearly larger than that of the 6-inch reader, which makes this e-reader better for those looking for something that can read PDF documents. The format is simple and easy to hold and convenient to carry with you. While the 8-inch Kobo Forma or Pocketbook Inkpad 3 can appear cumbersome compared to a 6-inch reader, we don’t get that same feeling with the H2O2.
This e-reader is light, thin, compact, and has a 6.8-inch Carta e-Ink screen (the most recent version available at the publication of this article) with a 1430×1080, 265 PPI resolution. While the Aura One and the Clara HD have a screen with 300PPI, you don’t notice the difference once you start using it. The reader isn’t missing any clarity or cleanliness, whether it’s a kepub document or a PDF with graphics, or even images. The screen uses an infrared touch screen rather than a capacitive. This causes a slightly more shaded tone when you use the lightless display, which the H2O first edition had as well.
The lighting is this e-readers strong point. While we did notice a little bit of color at the bottom of the screen on the Aura One (which many buyers noticed, and recent comments have led us to believe that the problem still hasn’t been fixed!), this is not an issue with the H2O 2nd edition. The screen is harmonious, whether it’s in “white light” or “comfort light” mode. The color varies between nice yellow and orange tones when reading in the evening or at night.
If the goal is to read during the day, the H2O 1st edition can appear to be like a better product: more autonomy, a whiter screen, 330PPI. But for a multipurpose e-reader, the H2O 2nd edition is much better: It’s lighter and has the option to adjust the lighting color to make it more yellow, which is a huge advantage when it comes to comfort and reading at night.
Software: It’s a Kobo!
There are no surprises when it comes to the software. The e-reader still uses Nickel, Kobo’s operating system. It’s relatively fluid and works well overall. However, we noticed two problems:
First off, reading PDFs is difficult. We can easily fix this by installing Koreader, which gives this e-reader an excellent value for money, for those who are willing to install extra software to read PDFs. For someone who reads PDFs often, it’s necessary to install koreader or another alternative reader, while the Kindle Oasis (the direct competition to the H2O2), which has a default program that’s way better for PDFs reading. That being said, Kobo’s program can open many different formats (epub, kepub, mobi, etc.) and can be considered a more versatile e-reader than Amazon e-readers, even though it’s less versatile than a PocketBook Touch HD, or a PocketBook Inkpad 3…
However, we now run into the second biggest problem with Kobo e-readers. While it can support a variety of formats, it works noticeably better with kepub formats, especially when it comes to footnotes. If that is important to you, this is something you should take into consideration, although it isn’t too hard to convert mobi and epub files into kepub (using “calibre”, for example). Those who are looking for an e-reader for students or who read a lot of essays should consider this: You will need to convert any works in which you want to read the footnotes into a kepub.
That aside, this e-reader is nice to use, the provided dictionaries work well, even if they are not quite as nice as those you find on Kindles.
Alternative readers and modifications
While you have to “jailbreak” a Kindle if you want to install alternative software, which is a complex process that can possibly mess up the e-reader, installing outside software is very simple on Kobo e-readers, whether you’re installing an alternative program, like Koreader, which is a very good PDF reader, or modules that allow you to organize your books according to the folders that they’re in. For those who want to tinker with their e-reader a little, this is a plus. This gives this e-reader a good value for money as a PDF reader, and this relative openness makes it very versatile.
Price/quality ratio: Its strong point!
The Kobo H2O2 costs about 180 euros, which is a great price for an e-reader with so many possible uses. Its screen size allows you to read most different file types comfortably. If you are focusing on PDF, this is a good device but probably not the best: we recommend to read our article about the best e-reader for PDF reading.