For years, when someone asked me which eReader to buy, I’d say unless they cared about Amazon stuff, the Kobo Clara HD. This recommendation wavered as I tested the compact Poke 3 and the ergonomic Libra 2, but the new version of the Clara puts it back in the running for the easiest to wear.
If you’re looking for big changes, look elsewhere: the Clara 2E looks a lot like the Clara of old, but with some notable updates.
First, there’s an improved screen — it’s not day and night, but the improvements over the past few years are noticeable, with darker, crisper text and brighter backgrounds ( or vice versa in dark mode). You might not notice it unless you put them side by side, but if you did (like me), you’d agree that this is a real if not transformative upgrade. Color adjustable lighting is pretty much the same as far as I know.
Second, the “E” in the name indicates Eco, as far as I can tell. Indeed, the back plate of each device is made from recycled plastic, which means that its exterior contains only 15% new elements. Of course, that doesn’t apply to the screen, the chips inside, etc., but it’s at least nice to know that a device you get is theoretically less expensive than the alternative.
Third, although the body is almost identical to the old Clara HD – and that’s not a bad thing – they’ve changed the confusing bottom power button to a nice recessed button on the back. Thank God! It also uses USB-C now, which should improve charging times and possibly reduce the number of cables you have to lug around when traveling.
Finally, it’s now waterproof – like in an hour six feet under. So don’t worry about dropping it in the pool.
Beyond these new features, it is very similar to its predecessor. Again, good! At $130 the Clara 2E fits nicely into the entry level but not at the device level where you get the most important parts of the more expensive readers (300 DPI screen, adjustable temperature light) but avoid unnecessary luxuries.
A bigger screen can be both a blessing and a curse, and I’ve found that taking notes on any screen smaller than 8 inches diagonally is harder than it’s worth. The only feature I would add is a screen flush with the bezels, and that’s a lot to ask for at this price.
As with Kobo’s other offerings, the Clara 2E supports many eBook and document formats from your favorite store or free provider, built-in Overdrive and Pocket for books and library items respectively, as well as audiobooks — still only from the Kobo store, alas.
I’ve also discovered over the last year that there’s a strong Kobo hacking community that puts together some really solid alternative interfaces, if you like tweaking things or don’t like the official UI (Koreader , Plato and NickelMenu are all worth trying). Plus, you can drag and drop new fonts into – I’ve added loads.
The Clara 2E comes with its own version of the brilliant sleep cover that made the Libra 2 for me – here’s that review:
The Sleep Cover is a protective plastic case with a soft leather sheath and magnets that tell the reader to sleep or wake up when you close or open it. But more importantly, it folds down into a small kickstand, supporting the device at a readable angle.
It works a treat, although it’s not as pleasant to grip as the Libra 2 when using it as a handle. It will also fold flat like a normal case if you prefer that.
Comparing this reader to Kobo’s other options, for me there’s no competition – the Clara 2E is the best deal by far. On the other hand, the Libra 2 adds buttons and a bit more screen real estate with a very comfortable asymmetrical style, but if it’s worth the jump to $180, only you can tell. The Sage was too big for regular reading and the Nia compromised on screen quality, which is really the most important thing.
In Kindle world, the Paperwhite costs $160 (if you don’t want lockscreen ads – ugh) and offers no real upgrades except access to the admittedly unreal Amazon ecosystem. important thing for some people. The new Kindle costs $120 and is fairly comparable in terms of hardware (I haven’t compared screens directly yet), but all things being equal, I’m still voting Kobo.
So for now, my official recommendation for anyone asking will be to get the Clara 2E, with its folding sleep cover if you can spare the extra $30.