Kobo Forma vs Kobo Libra H2O: which Kindle alternative is better?

There’s no arguing that the Amazon Kindles are the most popular ereaders worldwide, but Kobo has some great alternatives. In fact, for Australians, all Kobo ereaders have an advantage over the Kindles – you can borrow library ebooks via the built-in OverDrive app. That’s a money-saver right there – no need to spend on physical hard copies or buy ebooks from the Kobo Store.

The Kobos have other advantages over the Kindles as well – they all have wider file format support and you can sideload fonts as well. Moreover, Kobo rolls out firmware updates a lot more regularly than Amazon does, and that’s made the user interface on all Kobo ereaders more streamlined than on the Kindles.

There are also five different Kobo ereaders to choose from, all varying in prices, but the two more popular options are the Kobo Forma and the Libra H2O. They both share similar design aesthetics that take a page out of the Kindle Oasis playbook, but there’s a significant price difference between the two premium Kobos. So, if money is no object, which one should you opt for?

Forma vs Libra H2O: what’s similar?

  1. They share the same design aesthetic with page-turn buttons on one bezel for one-handed use.
  2. They both have Kobo’s proprietary Comfortight Pro screen technology that includes blue-light filters. If set up on the device, this works automatically – depending on your time zone – by making white light warmer at ‘bedtime’, and does so gradually as opposed to a sudden change.
  3. Both are water resistant, with IPX8 rating, meaning they’ll survive in 2m of fresh water for up to 60 minutes.
  4. Both have gyroscopic sensors that automatically reorient screens if you switch hands. They display both vertically (portrait) and horizontally (landscape) and can be set to one or the other, or allowed to change automatically as you move.
  5. All Kobo ereaders (with the only exception of the Kobo Elipsa) come with 8GB of internal storage with no microSD port to expand that. This should store thousands of books in any case.
  6. Both share the same screen resolution of 300ppi.
  7. All Kobos come with baked-in OverDrive support so you can borrow ebooks from your local public library.
  8. There’s also Pocket and Dropbox integration on all Kobos, so you can access ebooks stored in the cloud or read web articles you’ve saved for later. And there’s access to the Kobo Store to purchase digital books directly.

Considering the Kobo Forma and the Libra H2O have a lot of commonalities, what’s different about them?

Forma vs Libra H2O: design and display

Both these Kobo ereaders have taken the same tack that Amazon has done with the Kindle Oasis – they’re all designed to be used with one hand. Both the Forma and the Libra H2O have an asymmetric design with one thick bezel to house the page-turn buttons, below which is the ridge that provides a grip. 

The difference between the two Kobos and the Amazon Kindle Oasis is that the latter has a very premium-looking metal body while the Kobos are both black plastic. There’s a difference in the plastic used though – the Forma (which is the older model) becomes scruffy-looking and picks up oily fingerprints really quickly, while the Libra H2O has better grade plastic that looks a lot better even after months or years of use.

The other difference between the two Kobos is the screen size. The Forma is the bigger brother with an 8-inch display, while the Libra H2O matches the Oasis with a 7-inch screen.

Forma vs Libra H2O: performance

When it comes to software and user interface, the Kobo Forma and the Libra H2O are absolutely identical. Any software update usually gets rolled out to all Kobo ereaders, unless it’s specific to a single model, which is pretty rare.

Despite that, the Libra H2O is a bit more responsive than the Forma. It was launched a year after the Forma, coming with whatever new enhancements E Ink made to the screen tech used in the ereader. Page refreshes are smoother on the Libra H2O, and the touch functions are also more responsive as compared to the Forma. The Libra H2O is also a tad faster than its bigger brother, noticeable when turning pages. That’s not to say the Forma is a slouch, but we think the Libra H2O is a slightly better performer.

Forma vs Libra H2O: price

This is where the two siblings are poles apart. The Forma, because of its larger screen size – bigger even than the Kindle Oasis – is far more expensive than the Libra H2O at AU$429.

On the other hand, the Libra H2O will set you back AU$269 if you buy directly from Kobo. That’s cheaper than the AU$399 Kindle Oasis as well.

While still costly for some, the Libra H2O thus offers a lot more bang for buck compared to the competition.

Forma vs Libra H2O: which is better?

The Kobo Forma is rare in that it’s the only big-brand ereader that comes with an 8-inch screen. That’s great for anyone more into comics and graphic novels as they render really well on those bigger screens. That said, the 7-inch Libra H2O hits the sweet spot in terms of screen size, portability and usability.

Moreover, the smaller Kobo is also the more responsive one between the two and comes encased in better plastic than the Forma. No matter how much you use the Libra H2O, it continues looking good, while the Forma collects dust in crevices and shows off every fingerprint.

Then there’s the value-for-money aspect where the Libra H2O wins hands down. Being cheaper than its Amazon competitor also makes it a much more enticing alternative. To cut a long story short: the Kobo Libra H2O is our favourite Kobo ereader yet.