Just under two years ago I reviewed the Kobo Forma, a flagship eReader designed to challenge Amazon’s Kindle Oasis as the top dog among premium eReaders. I felt that Kobo came out on top with its focus on catering to hardcore readers with features like a larger, 8-inch display and its temperature adjustable ComfortLight PRO lighting system. Amazon soon fired back, adding adjustable color lighting to the Kindle Oasis. Now it’s Kobo’s turn. The new Kobo Sage keeps the Forma’s form factor and 8-inch screen, but adds a slew of upgrades including E Ink’s new Carta 1200 touchscreen. It also addresses a Kindle advantage with the addition of Bluetooth and audiobook support. And the Kobo Sage ups the ante with stylus support.
Kobo’s all new flagship eReader, the Kobo Sage.
Here’s everything you need to know about the $259.99 Kobo Sage, the new must-have flagship eReader for people who really love to read.
Kobo didn’t mess much with the physical design of the Forma when it comes to the Sage. That’s a good thing.
Kobo Sage offers a premium, ergonomic design with physical buttons.
The new eReader keeps the large 8-inch display — which makes a world of difference when reading compared to smaller screens — and the asymmetrical form factor. One side has a wider bezel for easier holding, and two physical page turn buttons. Swiping pages is still available for those who prefer touch control. The front plastic is a little glossier this time for a more upscale look, but the back remains a rubberized, textured material to ensure a good grip on the device.
The Kobo Sage’s 8-inch display offers a superior reading experience to smaller eReaders.
Naturally, the Kobo Sage doesn’t just duplicate what was offered with the Forma, there are significant improvements as well as new features.
The display is a new HD Flush E Ink Carta 1200 touchscreen with active stylus support. Compared to the previous generation, it offers a faster response time and a 15% boost in contrast. It’s driven by a quad-core processor, which is much more powerful than the single-core CPUs previous Kobo eReaders have used. The display is crisp, looks fantastic, and it adds support for a new Dark Mode. That will be very useful. It reduces eyestrain in low light, but should also make life easier for those who read in bed at night and don’t want to disturb a partner.
Kobo Sage showing Dark Mode.
Other nice bumps include Wi-Fi that goes to dual band 802.11n, USB-C, and onboard storage that is now 32GB.
Kobo introduced two key new features with the Sage: Audiobook support and Stylus support.
Bluetooth and support for audiobooks is a great option for those who like to listen to their books on occasion. Kobo had already offered the feature with its Libra 2 eReader, but now the company’s flagship has caught up to the Amazon Oasis.
Stylus support is something that Kobo first introduced with its interesting Elipsa tablet-like eReader earlier this year. It allows you to make notes or highlight text in eBooks and PDFs. You can also use the Sage as a digital notebook, opening new pages and making notes or diagrams. With a tap, you can have the eReader translate your handwriting into typed text — it worked pretty well for me. In addition, the Sage has support for Dropbox, allowing you to share your notes as PDFs or import new shared documents. You can also export notebook files as a PDF directly to a PC using a USB connection. You can’t share EPUB eBooks that you’ve marked up or made notes on.
Kobo Sage lets you markup and make notes with the optional Kobo Stylus.
Stylus support is a feature that could turn out to be very useful and it’s a capability that you won’t find on a Kindle.
To take advantage of stylus support, you’ll need to buy the battery-powered Kobo Stylus, which is sold separately.
IPX8 water resistance means Kobo Sage is safe to use near a pool, in the tub, or on a beach.
Kobo sells a $49.99 SleepCover for the the Sage that offers basic protection and support for hands-free reading. The more interesting option is the PowerCover. This one provides protection, a built-in battery to keep the Sage charged (thus the charge contacts visible on the Sage’s edge), and it includes a slot to store the Kobo Stylus. Priced at $79.99, the Sage PowerCover is coming soon.
Kobo Sage with PowerCover.
And for those who might want to make notes, or use the Sage as a digital notepad, there’s the Kobo Stylus. The $39.99 stylus includes the AAA battery plus a replacement tip.
I’ll start with my standard disclaimer here. If you are already invested deeply in Amazon Kindle eBooks (or you’re shopping for someone who is), you’re probably better off sticking with a Kindle eReader. Without resorting to a third party file converter that also strips DRM, you’re not going to be able to read any of those Kindle eBooks on a Kobo eReader.
With the new Sage, Kobo once again make the best eReader you can buy.
However, if you’re not stuck on Amazon, Kobo makes a great choice as an eBook platform. Kobo’s eBookstore has over 5 million titles. You’re not likely to miss out on any books. It sells audiobooks as well, offers an all-you-can-read monthly subscription option, and awards reward points for purchases. Kobo’s on-device OverDrive integration makes borrowing eBooks from public libraries easy. And because Kobo eBooks are in the EPUB format — instead of Amazon’s proprietary AZW or KFX format — they can be read on other devices.
Kobo offers a full line of eReaders ranging starting at $99.99 for the Nia. But for anyone who is seriously into reading, nothing beats the premium experience and extra features that the Kobo Sage offers. It’s the new eReader to beat. At time of publication, the Kobo Sage was sold out, so you’ll have to keep checking to see when it’s back in stock.
Disclosure: Kobo provided a Sage eReader for evaluation but had no input into this review.
My primary mission is to help readers enjoy the best experience from their gadgets, consumer electronics, and accessories — through hands-on reviews, commentary and
My primary mission is to help readers enjoy the best experience from their gadgets, consumer electronics, and accessories — through hands-on reviews, commentary and guides. Expect to see lots about Apple gear from the latest iPhone to the newest Apple Watch, and a steady stream of content for all things music, including wireless speakers, headphones, and turntables. I began my career at the Richard Ivey Business School in Canada, transitioned to running the product management team at one of Canada’s largest fintech companies and finished out office life as a senior research analyst. Along the way I got my Apple certification and began amassing cool gear. For the past decade and a half I have been writing about technology-related subjects, contributing to outlets that include: Wired, InvestorPlace Media, MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Shaw Media, About.com, and Kiplinger. In addition I am the computing solution editor for Best Buy Canada’s Plug-in blog and one of the original writers for the award-winning GeekDad blog.