If you're thinking about getting a new eReader then you've got more models to pick from than you might realise. While Kindle and Kobo are really the only names in the frame, each brand offers several different devices to pick from, and here we're taking a look at the cheapest Kobo: the Kobo Nia.
It's the £89.99 price that's really the key selling point - you should judge everything else the Nia offers with that price in mind. While the cheapest Amazon Kindle is a little cheaper, the Kobo Nia has a sharper screen, and might suit you better.
We've put the Kobo Nia to the test in all the key categories that matter, from battery life to the overall reading experience. By the time you've worked your way through our review you should know if the Nia is the right eReader for you.
Kobo Nia review: design
The Kobo Nia is a simple slab of black plastic with a slightly recessed 6-inch e-ink display - it's not a particularly stylish or premium-looking eReader, but it's not an ugly device either. The corners are nicely rounded and the Kobo logo is on the bottom chin. Around the back the plastic has a dimpled texture to it, which gives it a bit of extra grip that we like. Along the bottom you've got the power button and a microUSB port.
Thanks to the symmetrical design, you can easily use the Kobo Nia in either hand – at 172 grams (or 6 ounces) it's definitely light enough to hold in one hand (which can be helpful everywhere from the subway to the sofa). It's worth noting that the more expensive Kobo Clara HD is around the same size and weight, and has a similar design, but comes with more backlight options.
Unlike some other eReaders we could mention – such as the Kindle Paperwhite, for example – the Kobo Nia only comes in one colour (black), though we doubt many people are going to take issue with that. If you want to add a splash of colour then you can pick up one of the £19.99 plastic SleepCovers, which come in blue, yellow or black.
There's not much else to say about the design of the Kobo Nia, which perhaps is to be expected from a budget eReader. It's neat and tidy and lightweight, without offering any of the sort of premium materials or stylings that you will find on more expensive models. You might complain that the bezels around the display are a little on the thick size, but then again they make the device easier to grip.
Kobo Nia review: specs
Thankfully there are fewer specs to sift through when it comes to eReaders compared with smartphones and laptops.
Kobo Nia review: reading
The reading experience on the Kobo Nia is not quite up to the level of the Kobo Forma or the Kindle Oasis – but it gets pretty close, and considering the price difference, that's good value. We've already talked about the display - text is perfectly clear and legible. Page turning and menu loading speed, is more or less standard for an eReader like this - it takes a few milliseconds.
The on-board Kobo software gives you plenty of customisation options to play around with: you can choose between 12 different fonts as well as plenty of different sizing and spacing settings. The screen has a brightness adjustment but there's no temperature setting (the 'warmth' of the display) as there is on the more expensive Kobo models. The usual eReader software tricks are here as well, so you can look up the definitions of words with a tap and check your reading progress through a book at a glance.
Besides the millions of titles that are available in the Kobo Store, the device is also very good at handling other formats (perhaps even better than the Kindle) – documents in EPUB, PDF, and HTML format, for example. Common digital comic book and graphic novel formats are supported too, so you've got plenty of reading options, even if the e-book store isn't quite as huge as the one run by Amazon.
Kobo says the Nia is good for weeks of battery life and that seemed to be the case during our testing. It depends how bright you have the screen of course, and how quickly you get through the pages, but in our experience even an hour of reading only knocked the battery level down by one or two percentage points. It's not a device you're going to have to worry about charging every night, or even every week.
Kobo Nia review: verdict
With four models on offer from Kobo alone before you even consider a Kindle, there's plenty of choice if you're thinking about picking up an eReader.
As the cheapest option in the Kobo line, the Nia does just about everything most people are going to need – so the question is, why would you want to pay any more?
A bigger screen might be one reason. But the 6-inch display you get here is perfectly fine (and easier to use in one hand). Waterproofing is something else that the Kobo Nia lacks, though again you might feel like you can do without it if it means saving some money. Screen temperature adjustment – reducing blue light late at night – is another feature that's nice to have without being absolutely essential, and you could say the same about audiobook support.
With a plain but solid design, and on-board software that does just about everything you're going to need – from tracking how far you are through each book to keeping tabs on your reading speed – we think the Kobo Nia offers plenty of value for your money. It's perfect for the casual e-book reader who doesn't want to spend too much on a device.
Just about every gadget purchase these days requires a careful balance of how much you're willing to spend versus how many features you want – bear in mind that there are no fewer than four iPhone 12 models, for example – and we think the Kobo Nia hits that balance perfectly.