Kobo Nia Review: Basic is best

This time around Kobo is trying to give customers the best bang for their buck

The Pros

  • Super small and lightweight
  • Backlight gets comfortably dim for nighttime reading
  • Battery life is solid

The Cons

  • No orange backlight
  • Not waterproof
  • No USB-C

The newest e-reader from Japan-based Rakuten-owned Kobo feels instantly at home in your hand and begs to be read, but it’s going to be up to you if you want a basic e-reader like this, or something with a little more under the hood.

In my time with the Nia, I had no significant issues with the e-reader, but the more I compared it to last year’s Kobo Libra H20, the harder it was to justify its $130 CAD price tag.

That said, the Nia’s small size and elegant simplicity make me want to pick it up and travel with it more than the Libra.

What it offers

The Nia comes in at roughly 16cm tall, 12cm wide and a reasonable 1cm thick. This small footprint makes it tiny to hold in your hand, and it even fits in most of my pants’ pockets, which is a nice plus if you want to carry it around. It’s also super light, so it should be easy for small children to hold and read for hours.

That said, the Nia feels small to me, so I preferred using it with the Kobo SleepCover, which made it a bit more comfortable and only costs $19.99 CAD. That said, my girlfriend preferred the small size without the cover. However, the fact that you can make it a bit wider with a case means it’s adaptable to smaller and larger hands.

Other than that, it features an adjustable backlight that can dim quite low, making it easy to use in pitch black rooms, and the six-inch touchscreen has 212 pixels per inch (PPI), so it always looks super crisp when reading. As I mentioned, it’s a touchscreen like many of the other Kobos, but there are no physical buttons this time around to change pages, which isn’t a huge downside and helps keeps the e-reader’s footprint small.

Beyond all of that, it has a 1,000mAh battery that seemed to last for days. This was nice since knowing that I could take it camping without worrying about finding an outlet is reassuring. Kobo is also only selling the e-reader with 8GB of storage, which offers more than enough space and holds roughly 6,000 books.

There isn’t much else to say, really. It’s a very serviceable e-reader that I think many casual readers would be stoked to use.

Kobo Plus

Unsurprisingly, Kobo has seen an uptick in readers on its platform amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, so it seemed like a good time for the company to release its new reading subscription service Kobo Plus.

You can use the service on any Kobo e-reader or with the Kobo app, and it provides access to hundreds of thousands of books for the low monthly fee of $9.99 CAD. With the influx of readers around the world, this seems like it might be worth it for many people since it offers more books to choose from and the ability to try them out without having to make individual purchases.

Combining this with the ability to borrow e-books from your local library on Kobo gives readers even more choice regarding what they want to read.

I always find it tricky to find books to read when I’m using e-readers. I like using the library function since the Toronto Public Library has impressive curation. Kobo Plus also offers another section of curated books, so I can see myself at least testing it out for the 30-day free trial.

Is the Nia right for you?

When it comes to e-readers, there are quite a few across the market, but the Nia is Kobo's lowest cost option. Obviously, paying less for a device that works is good, but the Nia is missing two crucial features that I've come to love on the Libra.

First, the Nia only has a bluish/white backlight without the third orange light like on the Libra. That said, it can go very dim, so it's still comfortable to use in the dark. However, if you're someone who doesn't like using blue/white lights before bed, the Nia might not be what you're looking for.

Another Kobo feature that is worth mentioning is that all Kobos, including the Nia, support several file types including, EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, FlePub and MOBI for books. For images, it supports JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP and TIFF. In terms of text files, the Nia can display TXT, HTML and RTF files types. Finally, Kobo devices can also display comic books in either the CBZ and CBR files.

The other missing feature is the fact that it's not waterproof like the Libra or the Forma. If you read a lot while lounging in a pool or a bathtub, it might be worth springing the extra $70 to get the Libra for the peace of mind that it offers.

That said, I really don't have any issues with the Nia, and I think if I was buying an e-reader right now, it might be the one I'd go for. I'm a big fan of tech that I feel is a good value, and for the low-ish price of $130, you get a solid e-reader that's comfortable, light and works well. For anyone just starting out in the e-reader space, it's going to be hard not to recommend this device.

"I'm a big fan of tech that I feel is a good value, and for the low-ish price of $130, you get a solid e-reader that's comfortable, light and works well"