/>
X
Why you can trust ZDNet
Our recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We may earn a commission when you purchase a product through our links. This helps support our work but does not influence what we write about or the price you pay. Our editors thoroughly review and fact check every article. Our process

'ZDNet Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNet's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNet nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNet's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.

Close

Kobo Forma, First Take: Premium e-reader takes on Kindle Oasis

sandra-vogel.jpg
Written by Sandra Vogel on
kobo-formaheader.jpg

Kobo Forma

If you think Amazon's Kindle is the only e-reader brand in town, think again. Kobo has a range of e-readers and its own ebook store as well. The latest addition, the Kobo Forma, is a top-end model costing £239.99 (inc. VAT) with 8GB of internal storage or £289.99 with 32GB, and is intended to be a rival for the Kindle Oasis (see the specs and price comparison table at the end of this review).

Kobo has taken a key design cue from the Oasis, offering a grip area down one side that contains paging buttons. However, where the Kindle design is flat, the Kobo raises the grip slightly. This slight elevation makes the Forma much more comfortable to hold than the Oasis. Also affecting comfort is the rubbery finish to the grip area and the stippled back (the Oasis, by contrast, has a smooth, shiny finish throughout).

The main power switch and Micro-USB charge slot are on the same edge as the grip. The power switch can be used to sleep or wake the Forma, or to turn it off completely. In general, the device's ergonomics are good. The Forma is larger and heavier than the Oasis, but not by much, and can be held easily in either hand.

kobo-formahome.jpg

The Kobo Forma has a 8-inch E-Ink screen, measures 160mm by 177.7mm by 4.2-8.5mm and weighs 197g. It costs £239.99 (inc. VAT) with 8GB of internal storage or £289.99 with 32GB, and has wi-fi but no 3G option.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

For all that, the build quality could be better, given that this is a device with a premium price tag. Both the page turning and power buttons feel spongy and a little fragile, while the rubbery finish just doesn't have the panache that a top-end device arguably requires. Extending round the edge of the chassis as well as being on the back, it does provide protection against knocks and drops, though: the Forma has IPX8 water resistance, so it will survive immersion for up to 60 minutes in up to 2 metres of water.

kobo-formapage.jpg

The Kobo Forma has a grippy rubberised finish and can be comfortably held in either the right or the left hand.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

At 8 inches across the diagonal, the Forma's E-Ink screen is larger than the Oasis (and, indeed, larger than any other Kindle or Kobo e-reader), and its 300ppi resolution delivers a crisp reading experience even at very small type sizes. There's an adjustable front-light that can be tweaked by sweeping a finger up and down the edge of the screen. You can reduce blue light, and set a 'bedtime' when the least amount of blue light is required. With a bedtime set, the Forma will adjust light settings automatically and gradually. Manual adjustment is also available, but I found the automatic setting to be efficient.

I found using the touch screen a little irritating, because of its slow reactions. Accessing settings requires a little wait for the device to respond. Similarly, turning the Forma to rotate the screen requires a short wait for the screen to switch as desired. The screen can be set to do a full refresh for every new chapter of a book, which is handy as every pixel of the screen is then reset -- the screen does a full 'blink', but it's not annoying.

Top ZDNet Reviews

Raspberry Pi 4
raspberry-pi-4-model-b-header.jpg

Top ZDNet Reviews

Raspberry Pi 4

9
Motorola Moto G100
motorola-moto-g100-header.jpg

Top ZDNet Reviews

Motorola Moto G100

8
Raspberry Pi 400
raspberry-pi-400-header.jpg

Top ZDNet Reviews

Raspberry Pi 400

8.5
OnePlus Watch
oneplus-watch-3.jpg

Top ZDNet Reviews

OnePlus Watch

5.7

Apart from the slight lag, auto screen rotation works efficiently. The screen is not quite square, and landscape orientation might be preferable for those who want to read comics or who like particularly large text, as more words can be displayed per line in this mode.

SEE: How we learned to talk to computers, and how they learned to answer back (cover story PDF)

Amazon is non-committal about battery life, saying it will last 'weeks' based on half an hour of reading a day. Kobo doesn't go any further, also claiming the Forma will last 'weeks' depending on usage. During testing I had one sequence of about six hours reading spread over a few days with wi-fi switched on the whole time, and the battery dropped from full to 84 percent.

An e-reader is only as good as its content, and Kobo feeds its readers direct from its own store. I asked for books from a couple of specific authors on the review device, and these were provided for me. It's possible to use the store on the device or online, and prices seem competitive with rivals. There's a points-based rewards system for buying books, and points can be redeemed against purchases.

kobo-formamain.jpg

Unlike Amazon's Kindle, the Kobo Forma supports OverDrive public library services.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

Kobo e-readers support ePUB -- the format used by Project Gutenberg among others. This means thousands upon thousands of free titles are available, and can be loaded via a MicroUSB link to a computer. The Forma shows up as a drive, and books are readily dropped onto it. For those who use their public library it's worth exploring OverDrive too -- the system used by public library services in the UK (and elsewhere). If your library service participates, you can borrow books to the Forma. Kindle doesn't support OverDrive, and ePUB books are only accessible if converted first, through a somewhat convoluted system. Kobo definitely wins on both counts. On the other hand, the Kobo Forma doesn't support audio books, whereas the Oasis does.

Having spent some time referencing the Kindle Oasis in relation to the Forma, here are some key points of comparison:



Kobo FormaKindle Oasis (Wi-Fi)Kindle Oasis (Wi-Fi+3G)
Price (inc. VAT) £239.99 (8GB) / £289.99 (32GB) £229.99 (8GB) / £259.99 (32GB) £319.99 (32GB)
Dimensions 160mm x 177.7mm x 4.2 - 8.5mm 159mm x 141mm x 3.4 - 8.3mm 159mm x 141mm x 3.4 - 8.3mm
Weight 197g 194g 194g
Screen size 8-inch 7-inch 7-inch
Screen resolution 300ppi 300ppi 300ppi
Storage 8GB / 32GB 8GB / 32GB 32GB
Wi-Fi yes yes yes
3G no no yes
Battery life 'weeks' 'weeks' (based on half an hour of reading a day) 'weeks' (based on half an hour of reading a day)
Water resistance IPX8 IPX8 IPX8
OverDrive support yes no no
Audio book support no Audible Audible

Conclusions

The Kobo Forma is a compelling product. It doesn't have the 3G option for updating its library that's on offer from the top-end Kindle Oasis, but it does support the ePUB format and public library loans, and it should be possible to arm it with enough books to see you through until wi-fi is available. The on-device controls are intuitive, and the slightly angled bar for holding the device is cleverly designed. If you're considering a Kindle Oasis this Christmas, check out this worthy rival too.

RECENT AND RELATED CONTENT

Kobo Aura ONE, First Take: Large-screen e-reader with 8GB of storage
Kobo's Aura ONE is a functional and waterproof 7.8-inch e-reader with good font management and screen backlighting. However, its jarring screen refresh system could use some attention.

Kobo Aura H2O 2017, First Take: A waterproof e-reader that's easy on the eyes
Kobo's latest e-reader offers waterproofing and automatic blue-light exposure control, but misses a trick by omitting public library lending support.

2018 Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review: Read in comfort at the pool or beach
The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite was first introduced in 2012 and has been Amazon's most popular Kindle device. This year we get a thinner, lighter Kindle that can also be safely used by the pool, at the beach, and in the tub.

2017 Amazon Kindle Oasis review: Better than paper and waterproof too
The 2017 Amazon Kindle Oasis provides you with a worry-free premium reading and listening experience. It's the best ebook reader available and is priced for those who love to devour books.

Barnes & Noble hopes book lovers give Nook another look with new $50 tablet
The bookseller's latest challenger to Amazon's Kindle Fire 7 is a similarly dirt-cheap 7-inch Android tablet, though it offers twice the built-in storage at the same price.

Read more reviews

Related

Netgear Orbi Quad-Band Mesh WiFi 6E System (RBKE963): Fast but expensive wireless mesh networking
netgear-orbi-wifi-6e-rbke963-header.jpg

Netgear Orbi Quad-Band Mesh WiFi 6E System (RBKE963): Fast but expensive wireless mesh networking

Networking
NexDock 360 Touch review: Transform your Samsung smartphone into a capable laptop
nexdock-360-5.jpg

NexDock 360 Touch review: Transform your Samsung smartphone into a capable laptop

Mobility
Dell XPS 17 9710 (2021) review: A highly configurable premium 17-inch laptop
dell-xps-17-9710-header.jpg

Dell XPS 17 9710 (2021) review: A highly configurable premium 17-inch laptop

Laptops