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- Rakuten’s Kobo Clara 2E is one of the most affordable waterproof e-readers available.
- It costs about the same as a Kindle Paperwhite but actually comes with more memory.
- The Clara 2E also features an eco-friendly design, but it’s a bit slower than Amazon’s e-readers.
The e-reader market is dominated by Amazon’s Kindles, but there are other worthy options out there, including Rakuten’s line of Kobo devices. Compared to Kindles, Kobo e-readers offer very similar features and some models even have a slight edge when it comes to price and storage.
The Kobo Clara 2E, which is similar to the Kindle Paperwhite, lands firmly in the middle range of e-readers — not the priciest, but not too basic either. It’s packed with an array of handy perks that make it well worth its $140 price tag, including a waterproof design, an eco-conscious build, Bluetooth compatibility, and a comfortable form factor.
Though the Paperwhite is a bit snappier, Kobo’s device is a strong competitor. After spending some hands-on time with the Clara 2E, here’s why we think it’s a worthy e-reader for anyone who wants a Kindle alternative.
One of the most affordable waterproof e-readers on the market
If you’re a fan of reading in the bathtub or near the pool, the Kobo Clara 2E is one of the cheapest waterproof e-readers you can get. You won’t need to worry about protecting it from splashes or droplets — it meets the requirements of an IPX8 rating. That means it can handle up to 60 minutes in up to two meters, or just over two yards, of water.
At this price point, the Kobo Clara 2E is rivaled only by the 8GB Kindle Paperwhite. In comparison, the two models share a lot of features, but the Kobo actually has an edge when it comes to storage space (16GB) and an ad-free interface that doesn’t cost extra.
It’s lightweight and made out of 85% recycled plastic
Another part of Clara 2E’s appeal is its eco-conscious design. With an exterior made of 85% recycled plastic and an entirely recyclable package, the Kobo Clara 2E is a purchase you can feel better about in a market of single-use materials.
It’s the only Kobo e-reader in the lineup made this way, and it even edges out the Kindle Paperwhite since Amazon’s e-reader uses 60% post-consumer recycled plastic.
The result is an extremely lightweight e-reader. Weighing in at only 171 grams, it’s lighter than the similar Kindle Paperwhite, which weighs 205 grams. However, if you prefer a heavier device that offers a bit more heft in hand, you’ll want to opt for a different model.
Ergonomically placed power button is comfortable to use, but it requires a specific case
Kobo e-readers stand out with their uniquely placed power buttons. Located on the top left corner of the device’s back, it’s easy to reach with your right index finger while reading.
In our experience, it’s a lot more comfortable to access than Kindle power buttons, which are often found on the bottom edge of the e-reader. However, this comes down to individual preference.
The only downside of this button placement is the case limitations it presents. Outside of shopping directly from Kobo, it’s a bit difficult to find protective cases that fit and keep the power button easy to access. The button also interferes with the seamless appearance of the device, but we consider its ergonomic placement a worthwhile tradeoff.
Adjustable lighting will have you reading anywhere, anytime
The Kobo Clara 2E makes a great companion for reading in different environments with its adjustable brightness and color temperature. That means you can crank it up higher when outdoors under the sun, or warm up the lighting for reading before bed. The device also offers dark mode, which can help reduce eye strain when in dimmer lighting.
The 2E offers a beautiful glare-free display with overall quality that matches the standard for most e-readers. The 6-inch screen uses the latest E Ink technology to bring faster page turns than previous Kobo generations, along with deep contrast. Its quality is comparable to that of a Kindle screen, with the same PPI (pixels per inch), sharp text, and intricate detail, even in images and book covers.
Slower performance than competitors, but you still get great battery life
When compared to the power of Amazon’s latest Kindles, the Kobo Clara 2E’s performance feels a bit sluggish. Book covers can sometimes take a second or two to load, pages take a little longer to refresh, some screens leave afterimages called ghosting, and rapid scrolling or page turning is difficult.
But while the Kobo’s slower speed is noticeable when directly stacked up against a Kindle, we found this difference to be negligible for casual reading styles. However, if you’re a rapid reader, or think you’ll spend a lot of time navigating your e-reader’s browser, you’ll be better off with the speed boost you get with a Kindle.
On the plus side, the Kobo Clara 2E boasts great battery life, and it lives up to the manufacturer’s promise. It offers weeks of usage on a single charge depending on how often you read. After two weeks of reading at about 30 minutes a day, we got the 2E down to 50% battery.
Listen to Kobo Audiobooks with a Bluetooth speaker or headphones
For fans of audiobooks, the Kobo Clara 2E has you covered. Just connect a pair of Bluetooth headphones or a Bluetooth speaker to the device to have it read to you. The only caveat is that you’re limited to audiobooks directly from Kobo, just like Kindles are locked into Audible files only.
Luckily, the Kobo store has a wide variety of titles and genres available for purchase — or you can opt to join Kobo Audiobooks for $10 a month. New subscribers can try the service out for free with its 30-day trial.
Kobo’s interface is solid, but it’s still hard to beat Amazon’s platform
If you’re thinking about buying the Kobo Clara 2E, chances are you’re also considering the Kindle Paperwhite. On paper, both are remarkably similar devices: they’re both waterproof e-readers with paper-like screens, adjustable brightness, and large storefronts for books and audiobooks.
However, the two brand’s interfaces, browsers, and larger ecosystems offer distinct experiences, and buyers may lean toward one over the other based on personal preference.
Kobo’s default interface feels different from a Kindle’s: menus have more lines of text, views feel more like lists than grids, and the font is styled more like a book than a digital device. Of course, features like text or image size can be tweaked in the settings.
Clara 2E users can tap into a vast library of ebook titles in the Kobo store, which is comparable to that of the Kindle store in terms of selection and price. Frequent readers can even consider signing up for a Kobo Plus subscription, the brand’s own version of Kindle Unlimited. As with all major e-readers, you can also get books on the Clara 2E by borrowing them from your public library.
But while it’s rare that a specific title isn’t available on the Kobo store, it does happen with some lesser-known books. This is a problem we haven’t experienced with the Kindle storefront.
Kindle also has one key perk in its favor that Kobo can’t compete with: Amazon Prime. Prime members are simply better off getting a Kindle over a Kobo. As a subscriber, you automatically gain access to a huge, rotating library of free titles to add to your e-reader or tablet and these books aren’t compatible with Kobo e-readers like the Clara 2E.
Kobo Clara 2E e-reader specs at a glance
Should you buy the Kobo Clara 2E?
As long as you’re not already locked into Amazon’s ecosystem of services, the Kobo Clara 2E is an excellent e-reader to consider at this price point. It offers twice the memory of the Kindle Paperwhite with many of the same features, including Bluetooth compatibility, a waterproof design, and adjustable lighting.
Though the Paperwhite offers a faster, more responsive interface, the 2E’s performance should still satisfy most casual reading needs. It’s a great midrange e-reader, especially if you don’t want to pay extra to unlock an ad-free experience.
However, if speed is paramount to your e-reader experience, there’s no denying that the Paperwhite will deliver a slightly smoother experience for nearly the same price. It’s also hard to recommend the Clara 2E if you’re a Prime member or former Kindle user thinking about switching over. Titles from the Kindle storefront aren’t compatible with any of Kobo’s e-readers, so you’d have to start your collection from scratch.