The $100 Kobo Nia is one of the cheapest ad-free e-readers for digitizing your reading library, but it lacks many features that can greatly improve your reading experience. For just $30 more, the new Kobo Clara 2E brings better screen lighting that’s easier on the eyes, plus two important upgrades that should put a dent in the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 5‘s dominance.
Although the $120 Kobo Clara HD offers more screen resolution with crisper text than the $100 Kobo Nia, as well as the ability to shift its screen lighting to warmer tones that’s easier on the eyes and supposedly more conducive to falling asleep at night, the Clara HD was released back in 2018 and is four years old at this point. Feature for feature, it’s now well behind the Kindle Paperwhite 5 that Amazon released last October. With the new Clara 2E, Kobo is finally playing catchup, and more or less matching the Kindle Paperwhite 5’s best features, especially now that Amazon has restricted ebook downloads to a wifi connection only.
The Clara 2E is Kobo’s first six-inch e-reader to be completely waterproof, allowing it to be used at the beach, next to the pool, or in the bathtub without the risk of a tumble into the water causing any serious damage. Kobo claims the Clara 2E can survive up to 60 minutes submerged to a depth of up to two meters, so while reading underwater in the pool is totally plausible (if you get bored while practicing your snorkeling, I guess), you still won’t want to bring it along on a deep sea dive.
The other major upgrade for the Kobo Clara 2E is the addition of Bluetooth, allowing wireless headphones, a wireless speaker, or a wireless connection to a car’s stereo to be used for enjoying audiobook content, which can be downloaded right to the e-reader itself from Kobo’s online store.
One reason to still opt for the Kindle Paperwhite 5 is that Amazon’s squeezed a larger 6.8-inch 300 PPI display into it by shrinking the e-reader’s bezels, whereas the new Kobo Clara 2E sticks with a 6-inch HD E Ink Carta 1200 display instead. It’s not a huge difference, and the Kobo arguably makes up for it by including 16GB of onboard storage instead of the Kindle’s 8GB. That’s more than enough storage for a lifetime of e-books, but for those using audiobooks, that storage bump will be welcome.
Kobo also points out that the new Clara 2E’s housing is made from more than 85 percent recycled plastic; 10% of which is (was?) ocean-bound plastic. Devices like this still don’t have user-serviceable rechargeable batteries, though, which limits their lifespans and means they might just find themselves getting tossed back into the used plastic pile again later. If companies like Kobo really wanted to do something useful to help the environment, they’d start designing products that can take advantage of new features and functionality through upgraded components, instead of encouraging us to completely replace devices that already work just fine but are a little outdated.
The Kobo Clara 2E is available for pre-order now for $130, with official availability starting on September 22. Also available is a $30 SleepCover made from 97% recycled plastic. That one can transform into a stand, but there’s also a $20 Basic SleepCover if you just want to hold your book while you read it.