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Hands on ... Kobo Arc 10 HD

With the first generation of e-book readers it was important to choose the right platform.

Each device only connected to a single branded bookstore, so it was important to pick not only a good device, but also one that had access to a range of books at reasonable prices. For most people, Amazon's Kindle was the obvious choice.

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Now things are a little different. Many tablet manufacturers still have their own e-book store, but since readers are typically just one of many apps on the device, there's nothing to stop readers using, for example, the Amazon Kindle app on an Apple iPad.

Toronto-based Kobo Inc makes e-book readers, multi-purpose tablets and runs its own e-book store. Its latest device, the Arc 10 HD is a high-end, 10-inch tablet running Google's Android operating system. In addition to the standard Android 4.2.2 features, Kobo has added nice touches, most notably a reading mode that disables Wi-Fi and notifications for an interruption-free reading experience.

As a piece of engineering, the Kobo Arc has a lot going for it. Solid build quality and high-end materials makes a gadget that looks and feels expensive, if perhaps a touch too heavy.

As a book reading device the Kobo Arc is less impressive. Most books are displayed in a clear, easy-to-read layout but there are no physical buttons to navigate between pages. Instead, readers must swipe the screen or tap the right-hand edge to advance to the next page, something that's awkward to do when holding the device in the left hand.

Magazines appear with print-layout pages scaled to fit the screen. Most magazines can't be read at the default zoom level, requiring readers to pinch and zoom to read the text, which works well, albeit more slowly than on some rival devices.

Children's books behave differently again, with a magazine-like layout but no transitions between pages. More significantly, they suffered from sluggish performance that drove my iPad-native, four-year-old son to distraction.

Judged as a general-purpose tablet, the Arc 10 HD fares better. It undercuts the similarly equipped Google Nexus by £40 and the iPad Air by £100. The closest Amazon tablet, the Fire HDX is £30 more expensive despite having a screen that's a full inch smaller.

On value, the Kobo looks a good option, but it's difficult to recommend. As a reading device, the lighter Kindle HDX 8.9, or its half-price, 7-inch sibling are better options. For web browsing, games and video the Kobo makes more sense, but it's difficult to ignore the elephant in the room: the much lighter and more life-affirming iPad Air.

Positives: a well-built, attractive and good value tablet.

Negatives: frustrating reading experience made worse by excessive weight.

grant.gibson@heraldandtimes.co.uk

Twitter: @grant_gibson

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Consumer electronics

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