Kobo Arc Review

Japanese manufacturer Kobo is known predominantly for e-Readers and their eBook store. Recently, the company entered also in tablet market. Their latest product in this category is the Kobo Arc 7″ tablet.

Though it isn’t perfect, comparing tablets suggests that the company may just earn a new reputation for creating high-quality tablets of its own.

Hands-On Impressions

At 7.4-by-4.7-by-0.5 inches, the 12.8-ounce Kobo Arc is a little bit bulky for its seven-inch form factor. It’s slightly thicker than the Kindle Fire, Nook HD or Nexus 7, and it weighs a bit more than the latter two.

The device itself feels solidly built, and the company claims it can withstand a five-foot drop. There is a hint of plastic, but overall the device feels good and is comfortable to hold. Its appearance certainly isn’t likely to command any attention, but the quilted pattern on the back is a nice touch.

Tablet Tour

The Kobo Arc seems strangely bereft of buttons and ports. Atop the device is a power button, and along the right edge are the volume rocker and a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack. It’s a strange placement, but the Kobo isn’t likely to become a primary music device anyway.

As compared to tablets such as the iPad Mini, the Kobo Arc offers one subtle but important advantage. Rather than an expensive proprietary charging plug, the Arc utilizes a standard micro-USB plug. It won’t make or break the deal, but it’s a welcome inclusion.

There’s a 720p front-facing camera on the top front and a pair of stereo speakers in the bottom bezel.

Resolving the Details

The Arc features a seven-inch display running at 1280-by-800 pixels. The most immediate impression is the sheer brightness of the IPS display. It’s excellent in almost any viewing conditions, and there should be no trouble even in direct sunlight.

Colors and contrast are both superb as well, and a side-by-side tablet comparison with the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD illustrates just how well-done this display is. Compared to the iPad Mini, the Arc’s display offers a considerably higher resolution.

Under the Hood

If the exterior is rather pedestrian, under the hood is anything but. The Arc is powered by a 1.5-gigahertz, dual-core OMAP 4470 processor with one gigabyte of RAM. Storage options include 16, 32 and 64 gigabytes, though the 64-gigabyte version can be difficult to find in stores.

There’s no option to expand storage, unfortunately, so the 64-gig Arc may be best for those who need extra space. Another of the advantages offered by the Arc is the full, open Android Ice Cream Sandwich and unfettered access to the Google Play store.

The device also ships with Kobo’s Tapestries user interface, which provides an interesting solution for sorting and accessing content. After an initial adjustment period, managing everything from videos to books is a breeze.

Tablet Roundup

There is no shortage of tablets to compare in the seven-inch category, but the closest competitors to the Arc are probably the Kindle Fire HD, Nexus 7, iPad mini and Nook HD. Access to Kobo’s extensive bookstore and unrestricted access to the Google Play store is arguably one of the most appealing advantages for the Kobo Arc.

Another Arc’s forte is its display, which is arguably more impressive than that available on many other tablets.

The Arc can’t quite stack up to the impressive quad-core innards of the Nexus 7, nor is it likely to chip away at the market share gained by the Apple-backed, feature-laden iPad Mini, but it certainly offers an enticing alternative to both Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD and Barnes & Noble’s Nook HD.