Review of Kobo Sage e-reader

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Kobo recently released two new e-readers in their existing product lineup of e-readers. These are Kobo Sage and Kobo Libra 2. In this article, we will focus on Kobo Sage only which has more new features in comparison with Libra 2.

The key highlights common to both of these models are:

  • Audiobooks support via Bluetooth.
  • Inclusion of USB-C.
  • E-Carta 1200 display for good contrast.

In addition, Sage gets note-taking support as well with Stylus support. The stylus is not included with the package though and is a separate purchase. However, the good news is that it supports non-Kobo Stylus as well and is not limited to its own brand. Do note that all 3rd party stylus does not work. For e.g. Microsoft Surface Pen works but Samsung S-Pen does not work. The S-Pen that I tested was from Galaxy Note 10 and not from any of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab series. So test out whatever you have before jumping on to the purchase of Kobo Stylus should you choose to buy Sage.

Specifications

  • Screen Size: 8 Inch
  • Type: E-Ink Carta 1200 Touch
  • Resolution: 1440 x 1920 (300 PPI)
  • Processor: 1.8 GHz Quad Core
  • Memory: 1 GB
  • Storage: 32 GB ( 28 GB usable storage)
  • Bluetooth: Yes (version 4.0)
  • IPX8 Waterproof
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11 B/G/N/AC — Dual Band (2.4 GHz & 5 GHz)

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Kobo Sage Specifications

The USB-C cable is a welcome change from the legacy micro-USB. It helps in faster charging and quicker data transfer. Based on my own tests, a full charge from 8% to 100% took approximately 45 mins. The battery drain issue on Sage is another thing that is discussed later in the article. This also enables you to carry one less cable if you already have another device (smartphone) that has a USB-C cable for charging. But if you are an owner of an iPhone then you need to carry this in addition to your great Apple lightning cable.

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USB-C Cable for charging and data transfer.

Design & Build

If you are familiar with the build quality of Kobo e-readers like Libra H2O or Forma then you will not notice anything new in the build quality. They are built similar way but there are subtle differences in elements like button placement, round edges, and textures at the back of the device. The back texture is nice to hold, but most likely you will use a cover, So it will get hidden but otherwise, it looks really good and nice to hold.

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Kobo Sage packaging

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Kobo Sage Front view

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Kobo Sage Back View

Since Sage supports stylus it has a flush screen as opposed to a sunken screen found in Libra 2 and other models that do not support note-taking features. The contrast offered by the new E-Ink Carta 1200 is best observed with Libra 2 as opposed to Sage. However, on paper E-Ink technology says it offers 20% enhancement on how crisp the text would look. Most people with their weak eyes will hardly notice it. So don’t get sold on the screen claim and that alone should not be the feature for you to decide for this device. There are other things that you would value more as the benefits are more realistic as opposed to checking if the new screen technology is better than the ones found in the existing Kobo e-readers.

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Kobo Sage HD Carta screen

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Kobo Sage HD carta screen

The buttons are now placed a little bit far from each other which is a hit or miss based on personal preference, especially to people who have large palms seem to dislike it. So, create your own opinion and don’t take my word for it on the button placement of Sage. The button actions are responsive regardless of where you click (corners or middle). Some Libra 2 users have reported that on that device if you click on center then page turn actions do not occur. This however is not the case with Sage.

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Kobo Sage Button travel

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Kobo Sage Button travel

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Kobo Sage Button travel

Sage supports two types of cover:

To support the power cover, there are 4 copper pins on one side of the device. This serves two purposes. First, when the power cover is equipped then it will charge the power cover once the device is fully charged, provided the power cable is still connected. Second, the cover will then charge the device when the power source is disconnected. This is due to fact that the power cover cannot be charged independently of the device. The power cover however cannot charge the Kobo Stylus.

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Kobo Sage Copper Pogo Pins for Smart cover

The weight of Sage is just right and it’s perfectly suited for one-hand operation. The button placement area however is a fingerprint magnet and requires frequent cleaning. You can easily hold it without straining your hands. And the fact that it’s waterproof you can take it to bathtub or swimming pool if you are the type of person who cannot keep yourself away from reading a book. For me this use case is not there, so the device is waterproof or not, it does not matter to me.

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Kobo Sage one hand operation

UI Interface

The operating system (OS) interface has not changed and once the device boots, then the look and feel of the UI is the same. However you will notice some additional options such as Dropbox and Bluetooth under the main menu option.

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Kobo Sage OS UI

Audiobooks & Bluetooth

First, let’s check out the Bluetooth setting which allows you to listen to audiobooks, A feature that was missing in Kobo and Sage along with Libra 2 are the only devices in the entire Kobo e-reader product lineup to have this feature. The connection pairing is faster and strong enough however the Bluetooth is version 4 and not 5, So that is something that needs to be kept in mind and also the downside of this is that the battery now drains at a much faster rate when Bluetooth is ON. So the best practice is to enable this only when you want to listen to audiobooks. Other times, just keep it disabled. Also, the devices that are already paired do not connect automatically. You have to go to the saved settings and click on connect.

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Kobo Sage Bluetooth Support

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Kobo Sage Bluetooth Device Pairing

Kobo store does not have any free audiobooks to test the feature. Also, they allow only audiobooks purchased from the Kobo store. There is no approved method to sideload the audiobooks purchased outside of the Kobo store. However, there is a hack with which you can listen to audiobooks purchased elsewhere provided it’s in MP3 format. To know more about how to sideload your MP3 format audiobooks you can refer to the following video tutorial on my YouTube channel. Please note that the UI when the audiobook plays is a bit different than that you normally get with store audiobooks. You can subscribe to the Kobo audiobooks store for US$ 9 (per month).

Dropbox Support

Sage also has a Dropbox feature that allows you to sync with it. This is particularly helpful if you want to save your annotations outside the device and refer to them without having a dependency on your e-reader. I will cover a dedicated article on note-taking. The integration is pretty simple. If you have a Dropbox account then you need one more device either a phone or computer to pair it with your account and then you will get a dedicated “Kobo” folder in your Dropbox account which will be the main folder for all of your syncs.

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Kobo Sage Dropbox Integration

Another notable new feature is the inclusion of Dark Mode. This allows you to prevent eye strain and you can turn it ON/OFF for EPUB and KEPUB format books. It does not work on PDF and Manga (comics) books. For Manga it does not matter what format it is, this feature is not supported on that as Kobo delivers manga books in image format, unlike Kindle e-readers.

As such the previous options of the warm setting are available that is widely used to read during bedtime.

Dark Mode

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Kobo Sage Dark Mode

Beta Features

The existing browser feature does not see any improvements or enhancements. The presence of a quad-core processor does not affect the browsing speed. As such it is a big ask for an e-reading device to load HTML pages because it takes into account the speed of the storage and RAM and just a fast processor is not enough. Also considering that it’s a monochrome device, the web pages will not look appealing anyways. It still exists under Beta features, so I don’t think Kobo will make it a mainstream feature. Also, the e-reading device should not try to become a tablet. It exists for a very specific reason and the e-reader community is not even asking for that feature as they have their smart devices which is very well capable of doing other tasks including e-reading.

But just in case if you are wondering, how it looks then you can judge yourself from the following images.

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Kobo Sage Integrated Web Browser

Conclusion

Pros:

  • Slim & Lightweight which offers both reading & note-taking capabilities.
  • Dropbox integration is very helpful.
  • Faster processor similar to Kobo Elipsa but at a reduced price which is comparable to Elipsa.
  • Audiobooks support.
  • The dark mode is also a very good feature for those who care about their eyes. The dark.
  • USB-C is a welcome addition.

Cons:

  • Poor battery life
  • Does not support OTG devices for audiobooks.
  • Does not allow sideloading audiobooks.
  • PDF performance is still not better.


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Digital Interest

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