Best Tablet for Reading By the Fire This Fall

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Stephen King once said, ‘books are a uniquely portable magic’. While he was undoubtedly talking about the kind with actual pages and ink, modern technology has made books more portable than ever. As a freelance writer, an English literature major, and the son of two educators, I’ve carried my fair share of magic. While there will always be a place in my heart (and God-willing a room in my home) for a wall of hardback First Editions, I’m also a man on the go. As such, there’s something to be said for the ability to transport thousands of books in the space typically reserved for a single paperback. In the spirit of fall, I’ve done a little research into the best tablet for reading by the fire this season.

Best Tablet for Reading (Overall Winner): Kobo Aura H20

Nine years ago, the Canadian bookstore chain Indigo Books and Music launched a relatively modest eBook line called ‘Shortcovers’. After catching the eye of Japanese e-commerce conglomerate Rakuten, Indigo renamed their eBook line Kobo (an anagram of Book) and eventually sold it to the much larger Japanese corporation.

It is with this winning combination of small bookstore charm and international tech savvy that Rakuten Kobo (or simply Kobo) offers my pick for best tablet for reading, the Kobo Aura H20.

User Functions

While processing and power are still important, when it comes to competition for the best tablet for reading, user functions top the list of considerations. If an e-reader isn’t easy and pleasant to use, no one is much interested in its storage or speed.

Screen Size & Resolution

The Carta E-Ink HD Touchscreen of the Kobo Aura H20 is 6.8 inches (diagonally). This makes the area taken up by actual text roughly the same as a small paperback. The impressive resolution of 1440 x 1080 pixels breaks down to 265 pixels per inch (ppi), which is higher than most tablets.

In combination with its other features, this screen gives the viewing area of the Kobo Aura H20 extremely page-like qualities.

Screen Lighting

Like most modern tablets for reading, the Kobo Aura H20 uses e-paper (sometimes called e-ink) technology. Unlike a conventional monitor that emits light, the screen of the Kobo Aura H20 reflects it, simulating the appearance of a physical paper book. This technology also reduces eye-strain.

The screen of the Kobo Aura H20 is sensitive to ambient light. Not only does it adjust brightness (like your phone or tablet), as the sun goes down, it adjusts the level of blue light with a patented control called ComfortLight Pro. This ‘warming’ of the screen minimizes disruption of the user’s sleep pattern.

Languages

The Kobo Aura H20 firms up its ranking as best tablet for reading with an impressive selection of languages, fonts, and sizes. Readers can easily switch between 8 languages and 2 language variants.

Battery, Weight, & Portability

The built-in battery is a 1500 mA and will run for literally weeks between charges, even with daily use. At approximately 5 inches x 7 inches and less than ½ inch thick the Kobo Aura H20 is the size of a small book. At only 7.3 ounces, it’s as light as one.

Other Functions

Since the Kobo Aura H20 is exclusively an e-Reader, it doesn’t have many extraneous features. But it does have some enhanced functions that allow you to highlight passages, write notes, and research in a built-in dictionary. Kobo also has an app that allows you access to your e-Books if you’re ever without the tablet itself.

Processing & Power

While less important in an e-Reader than a laptop, no consideration of the best tablet for reading would be complete without considering what’s under the hood. In terms of storage, memory, and speed, the Kobo Aura H20 stacks up quite well.

Operating System

The Kobo Aura H20 has a Freescale SoloLite iMx6 1Ghz Processor. In other words, it’s fast.

Storage

With 8 GB of Storage Space, the Kobo Aura H20 can hold up to 6,000 e-Books. This is more than twice the capacity of some of its competitors. With over 5 million titles to choose from in the Kobo library, you won’t be limited in your selection.

Durability

As you might have guessed, the ‘H20’ in the name of the product indicates that it’s waterproof. The Kobo Aura H20 has an IPX8 waterproof rating, which means that its rated to stay in water up to 2 meters deep for as long as one hour. In other words, don’t take it SCUBA diving, but if you happen to fall asleep reading when the tide comes in, it should be just fine.

Appearance

The Kobo Aura H20 is slick and discreet. Since it’s a touchscreen, it only has a single power/home button on the back to disrupt its chic façade. If you want to further customize your tablet, a variety of producers offer covers and caddies that both individualize and protect your device.

Flaws But Not Deal Breakers

As my pick for the best tablet for reading, the Kobo Aura H20 doesn’t suffer from many downsides. However, let’s look hard enough to point out one or two.

No Sim Card Slot

The newest version of the Kobo Aura H20 doesn’t have a sim card or a slot for one. With 8 GB of storage space, you shouldn’t need one to increase capacity. However, the lack of a sim card port eliminates the possibility of transferring a digital library this way.

Not Set Up When Shipped

If you’re thinking you can take the Kobo Aura H20 out of the box and use it, think again. You need to download software to get this e-Reader going the first time.

 

Best Tablet for Reading (Runner-Up): Amazon Fire HD 10

The producer of my runner-up for best tablet for reading doesn’t need the normal introduction. However, I should explain that I’m about to do something that I don’t usually like to do: introduce an orange in the comparison of a couple of apples. Unlike the Amazon Kindle series, the Amazon Fire HD 10 isn’t just an e-reader – it’s a full-fledged tablet, complete with all the functionality and the price tag.

That said, it’s a tablet that functions extremely well as an e-reader. Therefore, I decided to let the Amazon Fire HD 10 enter the fray. It’s fought its way to the distinction of the runner-up for best tablet for reading by the fire this fall.

User Functions

As you would expect, the Amazon Fire HD 10 has more robust functionality than either of our other competitors for the best tablet for reading. To focus on the topic , I’ve limited my review to  features that pertain to its use as an e-reader.

Screen Size & Resolution

The Amazon Fire HD 10 has a 10.1” screen, which is considerably larger than either of our other two e-readers. The screen is a 1080p (1920 x 1200) full HD display. However, since the screen is larger, the pixel density is 224 PPI, the poorest of the three tablets in this review.

The Amazon Fire HD 10 also has something called an IPS (in-pane switching) LCD display. This sensitive piece of autonomica automatically changes the settings of the tablet’s screen based on environmental factors. This increases the viewing angle and perceived brightness of the screen, all factors that contribute to it being a great tablet for reading.

Screen Lighting

The Amazon Fire HD 10 comes equipped with something Amazon calls ‘Blue Shade’ which is a similar proprietary technology to the Kobo’s ComfortLight Pro. It automatically adjusts at night to reduce the emission of blue light waves which can cause discomfort and negatively affect sleep patterns.

Languages

The Amazon Fire HD 10 gives you access to the same e-Reader functionality as the Amazon Kindle. This means that (in addition to the Kindle’s library) you can change the settings to one of 11 different languages.

Battery, Weight, and Portability

Because it has the full functionality of a tablet, the battery life of the Amazon Fire HD 10 only averages 10 hours with moderate use. While this is much shorter than our e-reader competitors, it is still relatively robust when compared to laptops or older tablets.

The Amazon Fire HD 10 is 17.7 oz. This weight is in proportion to its larger screen size yet still places this tablet in the ‘extremely portable’ category.

Other Functions

As I mentioned, this tablet has a wide range of other functions (e.g. Dolby audio and front & rear-facing cameras). This is a great tablet on which to view a variety of media, including streaming video.

One other feature of note is hands-free access to Amazon’s AI Assistant, Alexa.

Processing & Power

The Amazon Fire HD 10 has some butt-kicking processing power. Let’s run down the basics.

Operating System

This Amazon tablet is equipped with a Quad-core processor (two cores at 1.8 GHz and two at 1.4 GHz). This provides more than twice the RAM of previous versions of the Amazon Fire. It is plenty of juice to do a lot more than function as an e-Reader.

Storage

A whopping 32 GB of internal storage allows four times the capacity of the Kobo Aura H20. Keep in mind that this also needs to house a more robust operating system and is intended for functionality like offline movie viewing. In case you feel limited by that, the Amazon Fire HD 10 also comes in a 64 GB version.

Durability

The Amazon Fire HD 10 is NOT waterproof. Aside from that, it’s pretty tough. In tumble-tests, the Fire fared better than comparable iPads. If you’re concerned with protecting it, I always recommend a case.  A case with a built-in keyboard will quickly turn this tablet into a mini-laptop.

Appearance

Available in three colors (red, blue, black), the Amazon Fire HD 10 is hip and sleek. At only 0.4” thick, it definitely helps paint the picture of a tech and media-savvy consumer.

Flaws But Not Deal Breakers

Dare I point out some chinks in the armor of the mighty Amazon? Oh, I dare.

Tablet Blocks Competitor Apps

Since Amazon has its own version of pretty much everything (e.g. browser, audio, video, reader) the Amazon Fire HD 10 blocks the download of competitor apps from companies like Google and Microsoft.

Shorter Battery Life

Like I said, 10 hours of battery life is great. However, compared with a true e-Reader, you can only consider the Amazon Fire HD 10 as a competitor for best tablet for reading if you bring along a charging cable.

Best Tablet for Reading (Best Bargain): Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight 3

Unlike our other two companies, Barnes & Noble doesn’t do a whole lot of tech. However, this biblio-giant has pretty much mastered the book trade. Barnes & Noble is the largest bookseller in the United States.

With the rise of the digital media marketplace, the 1990s saw many mergers and bankruptcies in the American bookstore industry. Throughout, Barnes & Noble managed to sustain a considerable number of brick-and-mortar locations: over 600 as of 2017.

In addition to its huge reservoir of physical books, Barnes & Noble also maintains a sizable digital library. The latter is accessible by their own line of e-Readers, which includes my bargain pick for best tablet for reading: the Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight 3.

User Functions

The Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight 3 is the simplest of our competitors for best tablet for reading. But, it still has plenty of functionality to keep you turning those digital pages.

Screen Size & Resolution

With a 6” diagonal, the Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight 3 has the smallest screen we’ve discussed in this article. However, since it still packs 1440 x 1080 pixels (same as the Kobo), it is actually the highest resolution: a stunning 300 PPI.

Screen Lighting

Like its competitors, the Nook GlowLight 3 has e-Ink technology: a screen that makes digital ‘pages’ more closely resemble their paper counterparts. The GlowLight also boasts its eponymous tech: GlowLight illumination is a proprietary combination of screen lighting techniques that make the pages more enjoyable to read in a variety of lighting conditions, including extremely high and low-light situations. You can make this transition manually or set the Nook to do it automatically.

Languages

The user interface for the Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight 3 is in English only. The Nook has fonts that support literature in different languages, but only within the Latin letter set. For instance, you can’t read languages like Russian or Chinese which use drastically different characters.

Battery, Weight, and Portability

Like the Kobo, the Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight 3 has a battery (in this case Lithium Ion) that will run the device for weeks in between charges. At 6.7 oz, the Nook is the smallest and most portable tablet in our review.

Other Functions

Unlike the other two competitors for best tablet for reading, in addition to the touchscreen, the Nook GlowLight 3 has buttons on the side to manually turn the page.

The Nook also has several interesting perks that relate to the Barnes & Noble locations themselves. B&N offers free technical support for any Nook at any of its stores. Nook owners can also freely sample any Nook title for up to one hour per day while physically in a Barnes & Noble.

Processing & Power

While the inner workings of the Nook GlowLight 3 are less robust than either of our top two competitors, they will get the job done.

Operating System

The Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight 3 operates using a 1 GHz TI OMAP4 dual-core processor.

Storage

The Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight 3 has the same 8 GB of storage as the Kobo Aura H20. Like the Kobo, the Nook is also compatible with an app that allows you to continue reading purchased titles on other devices.

Durability

Unlike the Kobo, the Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight 3 isn’t waterproof. User reviews suggest a more delicate construction than either the Kobo or the Amazon Fire. It’s probably safer to handle the Nook more gently.

Appearance

Like the Kobo, the Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight 3 is matte black, slim, and elegant.

Flaws But Not Deal Breakers

As the ‘Bargain Buy’ of our review, there are some considerations to make the diligent buyer aware of before sending off for the Nook GlowLight 3.

Slow Loading

Due to the diminished processing capacity, the Nook is slower to load apps and titles than its competitors.

Can’t Turn Off Title ‘Recommendations’

As you’re browsing the selection of titles to purchase for your Nook, the bottom row is dedicated to Barnes & Noble ‘Recommendations’. While this may sound like a good thing, this row of covers takes up approximately 1/3 of your screen and there is no way to disable this function. On top of that, the constantly-loading suggestions exacerbate the previously mentioned issue with a sluggish operation.

All the Nitty Gritty

Kobo Aura H20 Amazon Fire HD 10 Nook GlowLight 3
Screen Size 6.8″ 10.1″ 6″
Screen Resolution 1440 x 1080 px 1920 x 1200 px 1440 x 1080 px
Pixel Density 265 ppi 224 ppi 300 ppi
Hard Disk 8 GB 32 GB 8 GB
Speakers No Dolby Stereo No
Battery Weeks 10 Hours Weeks
Weight 7.3 oz 17.7 oz 6.7 oz
Cameras No Two No
Waterproof Yes No No

The Bottom Line

If you love to read but want a convenient alternative to lugging around cumbersome tomes, an e-reader or another tablet for reading is a great solution.

If reading is just one of many functions you expect out of your tablet, I suggest the Amazon Fire HD 10. Great e-reader functionality is just one of the many ways this portable device can make your life easier or more fun.

If you want to keep things simple (and cheap), I suggest the Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight 3. It’s the least complicated of the devices in this review, has a robust library to choose from and is backed up by friendly in-person support at any Barnes & Noble location.

For the best of both worlds, I heartily submit to you my #1 pick for best tablet for reading: the Kobo Aura H20. It’s a solid solution for an ambitious reader with a technologically-situated mind and the heart of a true bibliophile.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I ‘check out’ titles from an online public library?

Yes, you can. Go to the website of your local library and check it out (no pun intended). Be aware that some publishers restrict this sort of information sharing. The librarian or media specialist at your library should be able to tell you more.

Why would I get an e-reader when I can buy a tablet that has this functionality and a whole lot more?

This is a fair question. Increasingly, tablets like the Amazon Fire HD 10 are bridging the gap between dedicated e-readers and devices with a broader array of functions (this is why I included the Fire in my review). The three dominant reasons why consumers still purchase e-readers like the Kobo and the Nook are specialization, simplicity, and price.

Has all this reading inspired you to give back to the literary world?  Check out my article on Best Laptop for Freelance Writers in 2018.

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