I’m sure that very few of you remember the Vox, Kobo’s first tablet effort from last year. While it was made available at a rather decent price, the 7-incher had nothing special, disappointing in basically every aspect and being unable to even compete in the same league with the Amazon Kindle Fire.
Now Canadian-based Kobo is at it again, and, while the Vox’s successor clearly looks better than its predecessor, the timing of the new gadget’s unveiling is far from ideal. Amazon is taking the wraps off the Kindle Fire 2 in just a couple of hours, not to mention the booming popularity of the Nexus 7 and the expected success of other cool 7-inchers like the iPad Mini or the Nook Tablet 2.
The Kobo Arc therefore seems doomed for failure even before its actual launch, which is unfortunate considering its not-too-bad specs sheet. The Arc is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4470 processor and also comes with 1GB of RAM, so the Vox’s slouchiness should not be a problem anymore.
The 7-inch IPS display is itself much more competitive than last year's panel, coming with a 1280 x 800 pixels resolution. The icing on the specs cake might be the battery, said to have up to ten hours of “juice” to go between charges.
Other features include Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, micro USB, a couple of stereo speakers, 8 or 16 GB of internal storage, as well as a 720p 1.3MP front-facing camera. In terms of software, things are a bit unclear at the moment, with Kobo announcing that the new tab has “open access to Android 4.0”, but also the Tapestries “exclusive interface for easy content discovery”.
We’re guessing the “open access to Android 4.0” actually refers to Google Play access and not to running stock ICS, so the Arc probably runs on a heavily forked and customized version of Ice Cream Sandwich.
Although it’s a full-fledged tablet, Kobo is insisting on the Arc’s e-reading skills, filling it up with a bunch of pre-loaded software like “Reading Life”. In terms of design, we can’t say that the 7-incher is not a looker, only weighing in at 364 grams and measuring 0.45 inches in thickness. Then again, one of Vox’s biggest problems was its flimsy build, so we’ll have to wait and hold this new tab in our hands before praising or criticizing its looks.
The pricing is unfortunately not very inspired, with Kobo being ready to ask $199.99 for the 8 GB version, and $249.99 for the 16 GB model come this November. That’s on-par with what Google is currently charging Nexus 7 buyers, and I don’t think I have to tell you how much better is that tab.
Would Kobo have a better chance of selling some Arc tablets if they'll start at $150? Or is the Arc a doomed project no matter its price?