Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Likebook Mars Vs. Kobo Aura One: Which one is best?

I'll write a review of the Boyue Likebook Mars soon. In this post, due to the same screen size, I want to compare the Likebook Mars to the Kobo Aura One. Below is a brief bullet point comparison between both devices followed by an answer to the question on which e-reader is best:
  • Screen: Both the Aura One and Likebook Mars have a 300 PPI E-Ink Carta screen. However, the Kobo Aura One's screen colour is lighter, and the text has better clarity. This is not to say the Likebook Mars's screen is bad, but the Kobo Aura One has one of the best screens I've seen on an e-reader. In my view, the Likebook Mars's screen is comparable to the Kobo Aura H20 Edition 2. One Likebook feature that I particularly like is the ability to change text and image contrast. This feature enhances the reading experience as text and image black levels can be altered. Kindle e-readers, in comparison, only support font bolding for AZW3 e-books.
  • Battery Life: It is too early to give an opinion on Likebook Mars's battery life. However, it is clear that the Likebook Mars should not be used as an E-Ink tablet. For example, keeping the WiFi on, running Android applications and browsing the internet taxes the battery. The Likebook Mars doesn't even reach the average tablet level battery life when used as something other than an e-reader. So far, based on initial impressions that can change, when used as an e-reader the battery lasts roughly two days of heavy usage. The Kobo Aura One, relative to other e-readers, has a small battery capacity but it still outlasts the Likebook Mars. 
  • Versatility: The Likebook Mars, running Android 6, is a more versatile device. The native e-reading software is not bad after you get used to its idiosyncrasies. If the native software doesn't render a PDF document to meet your needs, then there are other applications. You can install KOReader and Cool Reader on a Kobo e-reader, but you need to exit Nickel (Kobo's operating system) to access these applications.  
  • Performance: The Likebook Mars's performance is better than the Kobo Aura One. The Aura One also performs worse in comparison to the Kindle e-readers. The Likebook Mars's 2GB RAM and octa-core processor makes the device the most powerful e-reader I've used - the performance boost makes a big difference when reading and navigating PDF documents.  
  • Software: Boyue's firmware is underdeveloped and buggy. In comparison, Kobo's software is more polished, intuitive and stable. However, there are features in Boyue's native e-book reading software that Kobo neglects, e.g. the ability to export annotations, the option to change both text and image contrast in e-books and more font size options. Needless to say, Mars's PDF support is far superior to Kobo's basic PDF viewer.  
  • Front light: The Aura One's front light is better. It is warmer, more even and brighter. The Aura One's comfort light also changes colour intensity (at the maximum intensity it is an orange/red mix). The Likebook Mars night light, in comparison, has no gradation. The light is either on or off but with a similar colour tone to the Aura One's orange tint at 70% intensity. It should be noted that front lights can vary between units. Front light comparison pictures can be seen below.
  • Expandable storage: The Likebook Mars has 16GB internal storage but, unlike the Aura One, storage is also expandable via an SD Card slot. The Aura One only supports 8GB internal storage (there is a 32GB Aura One limited edition that is not widely available).
  • E-book formats: The Aura One native e-book format is KEPUB - a variation of the EPUB format. On paper, the Aura One supports EPUB and MOBI e-books, but I found it renders both poorly. The Likebook Mars supports both formats with no issues.
    Which one is best?

    The answer depends on the user's needs. If the intention is to read e-books only on a user-friendly device, then the Kobo Aura One is the better option. The software is more polished and the battery life lasts longer due to Kobo's integration of hardware and software. If, on the other hand, the user wants an e-reader that supports e-books and also handle all sorts of PDF documents then the Likebook Mars is the better option. The Likebook Mars can handle large PDF documents easily and with no slow down. If you don't like Boyue's native PDF software, then there is the option to install KOReader and EBookDroid. Similarly, if you don't like the native e-book reading software there is the option to install, for example, Moon+ Reader, KOReader, Bookari Reader and AIReader. KOReader supports Kobo devices but you need to relatively proficient to install the software and then exit Nickel to access the application. Further, KOReader, due to Aura One's hardware, struggles to handle large PDF documents.

    Front light comparison between Likebook Mars and Kobo Aura One. The Aura One's front light is warmer and evener. (click on the image to enlarge).

    Kobo Aura One's comfort light at maximum intensity. The Likebook Mars, in comparison, doesn't support the altering of light intensity (click on the image to enlarge).

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