As excellent as the reMarkable’s writing experience is, the device is big, pricy, lacks an ebook store, and doesn’t have an illuminated screen. With its new $260 Sage, Kobo is introducing a smaller and cheaper e-note that’s still an excellent e-reader with access to the expansive Kobo ebook store and the added plus of being able to enjoy audiobooks with wireless headphones.
Earlier this year, Kobo introduced its 10.3-inch Elipsa, the company’s first e-note tablet. It was essentially a larger version of the Kobo Libra with the addition of stylus support, but without the smaller e-reader’s very useful page turn buttons, and a basic illuminated screen that lacked color temperature adjustments. Although priced the same as the reMarkable 2 at $400, the Elipsa didn’t offer as solid a writing experience, which made it a tough sell.
The new Kobo Sage is a more interesting alternative to both the Elipsa and the reMarkable. Priced at $260, plus another $40 for the Kobo Stylus that’s not included, the Sage will offer the same experience as the Elipsa does—note-taking, drawing, as well as the ability to markup ebooks and digital files like PDFs—but on a smaller and lighter device with an 8-inch E Ink display. Unlike most e-note devices currently available, the Sage looks like it will also double as a very good e-reader, with a pair of page turn buttons on the side next to a slight lip on the edge that should make the device easier to hold one-handed.
Its 8-inch E Ink Carta 1200 display boasts a resolution of 1440 x 1920 at 300 ppi which should be easy on the eyes (less jaggies and aliasing) and it includes Kobo’s “ComfortLight Pro” feature, which is what the company calls the front lighting’s ability to adjust between cool and warm color temperatures, depending on what time of day you’re using the device. You can’t expand the Kobo Sage’s 32GB of onboard storage with a microSD card, which is unfortunate, but it does feature a USB-C port for charging and syncing, and the tablet carries over the Kobo Libra’s IPX8 waterproofing, letting it survive up to an hour in two meters of water.
Also new for Kobo’s devices in general is the addition of Bluetooth, allowing audiobooks downloaded from the Kobo book store to be enjoyed using a pair of wireless headphones.
An optional $50 folio-style SleepCover case will be available in light green and black, but if you opt for the Kobo Stylus, an $80 PowerCover sounds like a more useful alternative. It functions similar to the SleepCover, protecting the screen and automatically waking/sleeping the Sage when the lid is opened/closed, but also includes a place to store the stylus, and an additional battery on the back that will extend how long the Sage’s 1,200 mAh internal battery can go between charges.
Alongside the Sage, today Kobo is also introducing a new version of its waterproof e-reader, the Libra 2. Kobo is promising faster performance from the e-reader’s 7-inch E Ink Carta 1200 touchscreen, but the resolution remains the same at 1,264 x 1,680, as does the ComfortLight Pro color temperature adjustments. The Kobo Libra 2 still boasts an IPX8 waterproof rating, the same as the Sage, as well as 32GB of non-expandable onboard storage, but with a slightly larger 1,500 mAh battery.
An optional $40 SleepCover case will be available in slightly different colors than were available for the original Libra, but the biggest reasons to upgrade to the new version are charging and syncing through USB-C instead of microUSB, as well as Bluetooth support so that, like with the new Sage, audiobooks downloaded from the Kobo book store can be listened to through a pair of wireless headphones. It’s not necessarily a must-have upgrade for existing Libra users who stick to ebooks, but for those looking for their first e-reader, the $180 Kobo Libra 2 sounds like a better alternative to all the new Kindles that were recently announced.