Kobo Sage -Introduction
- 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 than 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 in the package and is a separate purchase. However, the good news is that it supports non-Kobo Stylus and is not limited to its brand. Do note that all 3rd party stylus does not work. 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 purchasing Kobo Stylus should you choose to buy Sage.
- 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)
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 tests, a full charge from 8% to 100% took approximately 45 mins. The battery drain issue on Sage is another discussed later in the article. This also enables you to carry one less cable if you already have another device (smartphone) with 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.
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 similarly, 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 that it will get hidden otherwise, it looks really good and pleasant to hold.
Since Sage supports a 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 a 20% enhancement on how crisp the text would look. Most people with 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.
The buttons are now placed a little bit far from each other which is a hit or miss based on personal preference, especially for people with large palms who 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.
Sage supports two types of cover:
To support the power cover, there are four 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 charge the device when the power source is disconnected. This is due to the fact that the power cover cannot be charged independently of the device. The power cover however cannot charge the Kobo Stylus.
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 the 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 whether the device is waterproof or not, it does not matter to me.
The operating system (OS) interface has not changed and once the device boots, then the look and feel of the UI are the same. However, you will notice some additional options such as Dropbox and Bluetooth under the main menu option.
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 is the only device 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 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.
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 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 usually get with store audiobooks. You can subscribe to the Kobo audiobook store for US$ 9 (per month).
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 depending on your e-reader. I will cover a dedicated article on note-taking. The integration is pretty simple. If you have a Dropbox account, 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.
Another notable new feature is the inclusion of Dark Mode. This allows you to prevent eye strain and 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 as Kobo delivers manga books in image format, unlike Kindle e-readers.
As such the previous options of the warm setting are available that are widely used to read during bedtime.
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. 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 are very well capable of doing other tasks including e-reading.
But just in case you are wondering, how it looks then you can judge yourself from the following images.
Following are the Pros and Cons of Kobo sage that will help you in your purchase decision.
- 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.
- Poor battery life
- Does not support OTG devices for audiobooks.
- Does not allow sideloading audiobooks.
- PDF performance is still not better.