When it comes to eReaders, two companies dominate the market. The first, of course, is Amazon. Its Kindle eReaders outsell everything else by a wide margin. But Canada’s Kobo (now owned by Rakuten) continues to offer an alternative. As far as I’m concerned, the company produces the top contender in the premium eReader category in the Forma—with its 8-inch display. Kobo is now coming after the entry-level, undercutting Amazon with the $99.99 Nia.
The question is, can a $99.99 eReader be any good?
A Light, Compact eReader With Decent Specs
The Kobo Nia is a compact device, weighing just over 6 oz. Construction is plastic, with a textured back for easier gripping. Most people will be able to easily hold it in one hand for extended reading sessions. Although larger than a smartphone, it’s still small enough I could easily slip it into my shorts pockets.
The 6-inch Carta E Ink display has a resolution of 1024 x 768 for a density of 212 PPI (pixels per inch). That’s not on the same level as the company’s more expensive eReaders, but the text is still quite sharp. Page-turning is touch-activated, and the device is very responsive—no waiting at all for the new page to redraw. Naturally, the E Ink display looks fantastic in sunlight and doesn’t reflect interior lighting. The device is also equipped with Kobo’s ComfortLight adjustable side-lighting system. This allows for reading at night, without disturbing others and without having a backlight shining directly in the reader’s eyes.
8GB of built-in storage is sufficient to hold roughly 6,000 titles and battery life is measured in weeks. It’s equipped with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi that allows it to connect to Kobo’s eBookstore (with over 6 million titles), and it also has integrated OverDrive support. This means you can borrow books from public libraries directly from the device.
To answer the question, the Kobo Nia proves that, yes, a $99.99 eReader can indeed offer a good reading experience.
How Does the Nia Compare to the Entry-Level Amazon Kindle?
Naturally, if you’re shopping for an e-reader you’re going to want to compare the Nia to the Amazon equivalents.
Amazon’s most affordable Kindle model is priced at $109.99, however, you have the option of bringing that down to $89.99 if you go with an ad-supported version. The Kobo Nia also holds several important hardware advantages over the Kindle. Most importantly, its 212 PPI display is noticeably sharper than the Kindle’s, which is 167 PPI. This is enough to make a significant difference in how crisp text appears onscreen. The Nia also doubles the Kindle’s storage, at 8GB compared to 4GB. I also find that Kobo’s TypeGenius is superior when it comes to fine-tuning the display—it supports 12 fonts, 50 font styles, font-weight and sharpness settings, and even the ability to sideload additional fonts.
Kobo also offers a SleepCover for the Nia, in black or two bright colors. It’s made of artificial leather and protects the eReader while automatically waking it (or putting it to sleep) when the magnetic cover is opened or closed. I found on such a compact device, the cover adds noticeable bulk. However, it works as advertised.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive e-reader for yourself or a child, it doesn’t get much more affordable than the Kobo Nia—at least if you don’t want to be looking at ads every time the device goes to sleep. The superior screen resolution makes it more pleasant to use than Amazon’s entry-level Kindle, and it can store twice as many titles. Integrated OverDrive support for borrowing eBooks from the library is a nice bonus. So long as you haven’t invested in a library of Kindle eBooks, the Nia makes for a great choice.
Disclosure: Kobo provided a Nia eReader for evaluation but had no input into this review. As an Amazon Associate, I earn affiliate fees from qualifying purchases.