The new Libra 2 and Sage have several features never seen before in the 7-8 inch Kobo e-book reader category, including USB-C connectivity, audiobook playback support, E Ink Carta 1200 screen technology as well as the Libra 2 with 4x memory previous Kobo Libra H2O and Sage with drawing function on the screen.
Both have been hugely popular since they went on sale in Australia in late 2021, leading to many retailers running out of stock for devices and accessories such as cases.
Unpack and set up
In the box for Libra 2 and Kobo Sage you will find the same things, paperwork, USB-C cables and the e-reader itself.
Setup is easy after you charge the device. First you select your language, connect to Wi-Fi (both devices can access either 2.4GHz or 5GHz Wi-Fi networks), set the date and time, download all updates automatically and Sign in to your Kobo/local bookstore account.
That’s right, Kobo works in partnership with leading bookstores in every country where it operates. It’s a win-win because the bookstore sells Kobo e-readers and accessories, while Kobo allows e-reader buyers to download e-books and other document types from the Kobo Store. Partners of local bookstores, local libraries, Project Gutenberg from copyrighted books and many other sources.
The front design of both is asymmetrical with the screen on the left and the page-turn buttons on the right, so you can grab them when you want without accidentally turning a page.
Page-turn buttons are a big advantage of base- and mid-range Kobo models over competing Kindle e-readers, which have thin bezels and require you to swipe your finger for each page turn. Of course, Kobo also lets you swipe to navigate, best of both worlds.
Sage’s fully flush display with the bezels is easier to wipe than the Libra 2, which has a recessed screen. However, the set-back screen copes a little better with glare. Both have auto-rotation, so you can read them using the left, right, down, or up control buttons, which is suitable for left- or right-handed people.
Note that the previous Libra H2O model’s buttons are further away from the hand-holding edge, which is quite sloping. Libra 2 buttons are closer to the edge and the hand grip area is flatter, which I personally prefer. The Sage and Libra 2 are very similar on the back, with a recessed power button in the top-right corner, the Rakuten Kobo logo on the bottom-right, and most of the rest of the surface covered in a dotted pattern for grip facilitated.
Both feature E Ink Carta 1200 screen technology, which means 15% better contrast and 20% faster refresh than previous generation E Ink technology. This feels sharper when viewing the same book side-by-side on an older e-reader. Only the Kobo Elipsa and the Kindle Paperwhite 5 have the same screen quality.
While neither have H2O in their name, both the Libra 2 and Sage are IPX8 waterproof, which is enough for you to safely read in the bath. I don’t understand why this is popular but hey everyone is different!
These new models finally have USB-C ports for charging and data transfer, Kobos released before 2021 had Micro-USB ports. The Sage and Libra 2 both have Bluetooth support to connect output devices: we tested them both connected to Sony headphones, Jabra earbuds, and an Echo Show 8 smart display.
Audio book playback is new on both models. Bluetooth pairing with my Sony headphones was easy, when playing Neal Stephenson’s Seven Eyes audiobook I was able to change the playback speed from 0.75x to 2.75x in 0.25 increments. Other menus and controls include progress bar, volume control, skip forward and backward 30 seconds, playback and navigation between different chapters, etc. You can start playback and then put the Sage back to sleep mode while you’re still listening.
The addition of Bluetooth connectivity has caught up with Kobo with Kindle, but the question remains whether any of them should have this feature, as listening to audiobooks on an e-book reader drains the battery very quickly. Unofficial sideloading and extremely easy MP3 audiobook playback may currently be present on both models, but could be blocked with a future update.
The Sage and Libra 2 both have a Dark Mode option under Settings -> Reading Settings if you’d prefer to read with a black background and white text. You’re unlikely to run out of storage space even after loading thousands of e-books as both models have 32GB of internal storage. However, if you do this, you won’t be able to use a microSD card to increase storage space.
Both have ComfortLight PRO adjustable brightness and temperature controls that you can manually set or change to get warmer closer to the time you go to sleep. For reference, 0% is essentially blue and 100% is fairly yellow.
If you want to save long-read articles for later, integrated pocket functionality you can save articles to your phone or tablet and read them later on your Sage or Libra 2.
Screen size and weight are the biggest differences between the 7-inch Libra 2 and the 8-inch Sage. An inch might not seem like a lot, but you end up with a lot more words on the screen. The Libra H2O I bought last year weighs 192 grams, the Libra 2 weighs 215 grams and the Sage weighs a whopping 240.8 grams. That’s without covers. While I like the design of Kobo’s cases, I only keep an e-reader in it when it’s in my backpack, kept on a bookshelf, or used as a stand such as a notebook. B. the origami sleepcover.
The Libra 2 H2O is easy to hold with one hand, e.g. B: Hold a pull handle with the other hand to avoid falling over, the Libra 2 is a little less comfortable and the Sage is too big for most to hold with one hand and I say this as a tall guy with above average big hands. Unexpectedly, despite being the heavier of the two, the Sage feels more balanced and comfortable than the Libra 2 when reading with two hands.
When it comes to battery life, the Sage is physically larger and heavier than the Libra 2, but has a smaller built-in battery of 1200mAh versus 1500mAh. The Sage battery drains about 10% per hour when reading, which is disappointing and may be caused by the quad-core processor. Some buyers say that factory resetting, draining the battery completely, and charging it increases battery life.
In comparison, the battery on the single-core Libra 2 processor only dropped 4% per hour for me while reading. When playing audiobooks in sleep mode (screen off), the Sage’s performance dropped by 20% per hour, while the Libra 2’s performance dropped by 12%. Either way, you won’t get many hours of listening before needing a charge. I’m not convinced by e-readers that need audiobook playback capabilities unless battery drain can be greatly reduced. Downloading an audio book used 4-6% of battery life. So if you use either model for audiobooks, download them while charging and over Wi-Fi.
Dropbox support on the Sage means you can sideload books, PDFs, etc. without having to connect a cable between your e-reader and your computer. Unfortunately, Kobo withheld this software feature from the Libra 2. The Sage, as I mentioned earlier, supports handwriting with the additional Kobo Stylus accessory, which I reviewed separately along with the writing experience.
buy ebooks and audiobooks
E-books can be purchased directly from Kobo or from their Australian and overseas bookstore partners such as Bayopia and Angus & Robertson. However, remember that if you have a membership and subscribe to your local library, you can access many popular e-books for free through your Kobo eReader Overdrive/Libby e-book service.
Audiobooks can only be purchased officially from the Kobo Store. This is disappointing as Kobo is compatible with libraries that subscribe to Overdrive/Libby for eBooks, but does not allow you to check out Overdrive/Libby audiobooks in the library collection to listen to on your Sage or Libra 2. An additional content source option for Kobo users in Australia is the new Kobo Plus subscription service, which is advertised at the end of the setup process. With the new Kobo Plus subscription service, you can pay a flat monthly fee of $13.99 to access over 580,000 titles. A separate review of this service will follow shortly.
Covers are available for Sage and Libra 2. Both have an optional purchase Origami folding sleepcover, while the Sage also has the option of a PowerCover, which roughly doubles battery life
Which ones should you buy?
At $439, the Sage is approaching base-model iPad territory, and that’s without the added expense of the stylus or power cover. It’s best for high-volume eBook readers who can afford to spend big bucks for a premium e-reader, and even more so to get the power cover that extends the overall battery life.
The $279 Libra 2 is a much better value for most medium or occasional volume ebook readers, as it has a long-lasting battery and many of the new features of the Sage, such as B.: E Ink Carta 1200 screen, 32 GB memory, Bluetooth support, audio book playback and USB-C connection.