I received the Aura HD in "Espresso", which is the dark brown colour. I love that you can choose between Ivory (white), Onyx (black), and Espresso. The typical white and black are nice, but the brown has a certain richness to it; it's nice to have that different option available.
For the purposes of discussing the Aura HD and all its feature I think it's best to break my review into different categories...
The screen is described by Kobo as "the most advanced, highest resolution, extra-large screen", and I have to say that I'm impressed. I was used to my Kobo Touch, and I automatically noticed how much crisper the text is on the Aura HD. It's incredibly clear, actually; I'm pretty amazed by it. The Touch was good, but this? Way better. It's even closer to looking like it's a physical printed book that you're reading off of. You can also tell that the screen is sturdier and more responsive. You don't have to be as exact with tapping it for page turns, selection, etc.
When I heard that the Aura HD had a light built in I was skeptical, and I was glad it was a feature that I could turn off. I didn't see myself using it that much. I read books on my iPhone sometimes, though it's not my preferred method, because of the tiny screen, but also because it's back-lit. I had never seen a front-lit device, and while I was curious, I just couldn't imagine it being lit in a way that it wouldn't hurt my eyes. Call me a convert, because this is a FABULOUS feature. It honestly doesn't look at all like a back-lit device... it's hard to describe, but the light really is distributed across the page from the front. I also love how you can adjust how dim or how bright the light is (I keep mine set around 10%). I don't use this feature all the time, but it's perfect for if you're in a dim corner of a room or traveling at night.
The Aura HD has a 1 GHZ processor, which is a "25% faster processor than other leading eReaders". So much love for this feature! It was another thing that I noticed immediately. There's a quicker response for everything: loading books, turning pages (practically no hesitation at all; none of that "flashing" you got with the older Kobos), and even with typing words. I read a lot of PDF egalleys on my Kobo, and on the Aura HD there is much smoother scrolling if you have to magnify the document and move around the screen to turn pages. Basically? It's just so much faster!
The Aura HD is supposed to have a "book-inspired design that feels natural and comfortable to hold", and while I wouldn't wholly dispute that claim, I'm also not sold on it. The body design is the one part of the device that I'm iffy about. I'm used to the flat quilted back of the Kobo Touch, and I liked it. I like the fact that the Aura HD has a larger screen (6.8" versus 6" on the Touch), but that also means larger dimensions overall. What I really dislike is the weight of the device. The Kobo Touch is 185g while the Kobo Aura HD weighs in at 240g. You'd be surprised at how much heavier the Aura HD feels. I've been using the device for close to 3 weeks now, and I've definitely gotten used to it, but I still think that the Aura HD is more cumbersome to hold. I like how thin the Touch is, whereas the sculpted back of the Aura HD means that the sides are thicker. For me, a person who has issues with pain in her hands, the thicker sides of the Aura HD combined with the heavier weight do not make for something that is "natural and comfortable to hold". You could also prop up the Touch at an angle (e.g. on a pillow or on your leg) and it would stay in place; the sleek back of the Aura HD tends to make it slide off places. All this being said, I don't think the design of the Aura HD is bad per se, but it's not my ideal either.
I feel like the Kobo interface is fairly self-guiding. Once you set up the device it shows you a 10 page intro to the device, pointing out main features and how to work everything. There are lots of ways you can customize your reading experience, from type of font, to font size, to how many pages you flip before the screen completely refreshes itself, etc. What I completely adore is the newly designed home screen (see picture above). The previous Kobo design was to show the last few books opened or added and that was it. With the home screen of the Aura HD you get those last few books added, plus you get the book you're currently reading along with what percent of the book you've read. It also shows which shelves you've accessed lately, what book you finished last, and a summary of your reading stats (how many books finished, how many hours read). This new home screen is definitely one of my favourite things about the Aura HD; it allows you to access the books you want way more quickly and easily.
Kobo eBook store:
The prices of books in the Kobo store are generally comparable to the Kindle store, but they can sometimes be more expensive. Kobo is also less likely to have sale prices, so when you hear your favourite author or publisher talking about eBook deals you're more likely to find that deal on Kindle than you are on Kobo. However what I do love about Kobo is the ability to add coupon codes for percentages or dollar amounts off the eBook price. This only works with smaller publishers and self-published books, but it's still a great feature.
I'm pretty thrilled with the Aura HD. I do prefer the design of the Touch, but the features and performance of the Aura HD make it tough to beat. If you're looking for a new eReader I would highly recommend the Aura HD.
The Kobo Aura HD retails for $169.99 -- Americans can buy the device on the Kobo site, while those in Canada or elsewhere can check out all of the purchase options.
All quotes and specs about the Aura HD are taken from the Kobo Aura HD page on the Kobo site.
I am also required to state that my opinions are honest and that I received a free sample of this product.