Hands-on with the Kobo Arc (Video)

Ian Hardy

September 6, 2012 7:01pm

When Kobo first launched their 7-inch Android-powered tablet last year it was met with a great deal skepticism. The Vox was released with outdated specs, and was slow and unresponsive. However, the price point was correct. For $200 those loyal Kobo eBook readers could read and also experience some benefits of a slimmed down version of an Android 2.3 tablet. The Vox wasn’t certified by Google and therefore couldn’t carry apps like Gmail, and didn’t obtain access to Google Play until recently.

Kobo has returned to the tablet space and will take on other competitors in the 7-inch arena, such as Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire (not available in Canada). Coming to stores this November is the “Arc,” a 7-incher that boasts a display resolution of 1280×800, matching the current crop of similarly-sized tabs like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD.

I had some hands-on time with the Arc this morning and Kobo reps stated that “it’s a totally new product,” not at all based on the Vox.” That alone is refreshing. The design is similar to the Vox, but has a few noteworthy changes. Let’s talk about the software. The Arc runs Android OS 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich and will be upgradable to OS 4.1 Jelly Bean when it “becomes available” to them. They stated they have to ensure that the user experience is the same, but said it’s in the works. The Arc is thankfully Google-Certified so you’ll have access to the 600,000+ apps in the Play Store, plus all the Google you can handle (Gmail, Maps, YouTube, Google+).

The Arc UI is based on something Kobo created called “Tapestries.” This allows users to be “closer to their content” by giving them “more control. It collects and organizes content into various “spaces,” such as book, web, magazines, simply by pinning items that interest you onto your homescreen. This basically gives you quick access to your interests. What’s unique about the Arc is that they have embedded a “Discover” feature into Tapestries, which based on what’s in your Tapestries spaces learns your interests and “brings things to you” rather than you search Google to find info. I quickly checked out the eReader capabilities on the display and text was clear and sharp. Thanks to the 1.5GHz TI OMAP 4470 dual-core processor the scrolling was fluid and showed no sign of lagging (unlike the Vox).

As for the overall design. The Arc is thin at 12.4mm and weighs in at 364 grams. It felt sturdy and comfortable. It’s all plastic and there’s a few chrome accent corners that give it a bit more of a quality feel. On the top you’ll find the power button, followed by the 3.5mm headset jack and the volume rocker on the right hand side. The bottom holds the microUSB port, but on the front you’ll see the 1.3MP front-facing camera that has the ability to snap 720p HD videos (didn’t see what they look like). Kobo has also included dual stereo speakers with SLS on the front that is apparently “the best sound technology you can get on a tablet.” Finally, the backing. Kobo wanted to add some personalization to the mix and dreamed up what they call “SnapBacks.” This is simply interchangeable back cover plates, which are plastic but feel leathery, and will be available in black, white, blue and purple.

The price is right at $199.99 for the 8GB version, and $249.99 for the 16GB. However, the release date is set for November and by then we might see a price drop in the Nexus 7, or possibly see Apple’s iPad “mini” 7.85-inch tablet surface. There’s a quick video below, but we’ll give you a full review of the Arc when it gets closer to launch.

  • EvanKr

    Your video gave me motion sickness.

    • Doug

      He probably should have used Nokia’s Pureview camera 😛

  • Mike Hawk

    Post a hands on of the Kobo Glo!

  • Mike Hawk

    Is this BB10?

  • Doug

    Surprisingly nice…seems like it has good potential.

  • Paul

    WOW! This looks good! Love the faster processor, ram, android 4 (soon to be uped to jellybean) much higher res. etc now kobo has a real tablet. I don’t want a battery draining quad in a 7″ tab. They blew it on pricing though. Sell more of these at lower price… & u sell more books… Just ask Henry ford re model T

  • Sean

    I don’t understand why all these ebook companies feel the need to have their own tablet when you can just pick up a Nexus 7 and download their ebook app

    • Big Ang

      I can see why Amazon is coming out with their tablets, as it gets new and existing Amazon-fans into the Amazon eco-system (their own app store, music store, video store, in addition to books).

      The Kobo Tablet is basically an Android tablet for fans of the Kobo reader, or anyone that likes their tablets with a textured back. I understand why these ebook companies come out with a tablet. The only advantage this has over the Nexus tablet is the Kobo skin, and maybe a few other little things. The price is competitive, some people may choose this over a Nexus tablet (but I won’t be one of them).

    • migo

      It was probably in the making before the Nexus 7 was released. That said, it’s still almost impossible to find the Nexus 7 in stock. You’ll be able to walk into any Chapters in November and buy the Arc. Not to mention, the exposure that being in Chapters provides – people who would never be somewhere that sells the Nexus 7 would see the Arc available for sale. Spec wise, the Arc is also competitive with the N7 – everyone who knows anything knows the Tegra 3 isn’t anything special compared to dual core chips, so the Arc has feature parity.

  • Thomson

    I’ll get one an install Amazon Kindle’s Android app :p

  • Len

    hope it is easier to find then the 8gb nexus 7.

  • Kevin

    Well – no Fire HD coming to Canada so I guess it’s this or Nexus 7.

  • Dave

    Nexus 7 is King of 7-inch arena, the end of the story.

  • chupathingy

    Hold a Nexus 7 in your hands and then decide.

    Being lucky enough to handle an Arc at the demo, I can say build quality is quite impressive. There will be no comparison once consumers can handle the devices side by side. The design of the Arc is far more impressive.

  • The REAL Joe

    I’m getting a Blackberry Playbook 32gb on sale tomorrow for a hundred bucks less than the 16gb Arc and the 8gb Nexus. How anyone can call something with 8gb abd no MicroSD a “multimedia” tablet I have ni idea. Have fun with your storage filled up in a week.

    That plus the PB has a real GPU accelerator, runs Android apps natively, has 2 HD cameras (front and back), and has GPS, this is a no brainer. And did I mention it’s only $148 this week?

    • migo

      I have the PlayBook, and I like it, but the N7 and the Arc have GPUs as well, and prepare to be disappointed by Android apps on the PlayBook. They’re apparently updating the experience so it will eventually work better, but if anything in app world is a ported Android App I uninstall it and stop using it. The experience is that shitty (or maybe all Android apps are like that and the PB native ones are just that good?).

    • TP

      There is a reason people wow about the low price of Nexus 7, and Playbooks are still piled up in the inventory even with the massive price cut. If you have no idea about why, that’s fine, that means we have one less competitor to get Nexus 7. Good luck with your Playbook, I hope they have more contents (both in quantity and quality) in the future, I really do.

  • Dave

    @- The REAL Joe aka Moron: The PB does NOT runs Android apps natively nor any REAL useful apps don’t you get that? It takes 5min just to boost up the device. Did I already said that you’re a REAL MORON?

  • bigshynepo

    Now here’s hoping they nail the software…

    Nothing was worse than trying to sell the Vox last year when every unit needed a convoluted firmware upgrade right out of the box…

    Next to faulty Beats headphones, the Vox was the #1 return during winter ’11 at my store.

    • migo

      Given the specs of the Arc, I would say they learned at least one of their lessons, so it would be unsurprising if they learned the other one too.

  • j.

    I might get one and put Nova Launcher on it.

  • rimme

    Hey thanks kobo, now I can have a shitty tablet AND e-reader all rolled into one giant arc turdball. 50 percent tablet, 50 percent e-reader, 100 percent guaranteed to make you want to cry yourself to sleep. Pff, kobo arc, gimme a break…

  • Elguayo

    I bought the box last year,thinking that I had a great reader,that was last year But now that the iPad mini is comming why anyone should boser ith this new one…..I am trying to sell mine,hardly used it except to read a fre book in the sky train otherwise r the apps Sucks,BELiEVE ME when I said they suck, I wish they would take them back…..ahhhhhh

  • SpeedyGonzales

    This article looks like a commercial, pure advertising.
    Hope Kobo paid well.

  • bailey

    but this surely will be improvement on the vox – bought a vox 2 months ago – heavy, sluggish, hard to get out of sleep mode. Just got a nexus 16gb- really no comparison. Fast, smooth transition, so easy to use..vox is going up for sale

  • Eric Gisin

    Since we don’t get the Fire HD, it’s the Kobo Arc or Nexus 7. The same price for equal storage, but Nexus has more cores and BlueTooth. Will wait to see if Google drops price in response to Fire HD.

  • Jeff

    Why did they drop the sd card slot. If Kobo kept it the Arc would arguably be one of the best 7 inch tablets around. However now, there’s no reason to pick it up over the nexus 7.