We tested out one of the latest Kobo e-readers just a few weeks ago, the Kobo Libra 2 and not long after we were sent their other recent release the Kobo Sage.  The Sage is the bigger, more expensive version of the Libra 2 with a few extra features.

Now the Kobo interface does not differ (much) from one Kobo e-reader to the other, so we are not going to rehash over that. Instead, we are going to discuss the differences between the two and in our experiences, which you should buy.  There are several differences, some of them quite significant, enough to make a difference when considering which e-reader from Kobo to buy.  If you are tossing up between a Kobo e-reader and a Kindle then we suggest you check out our review of the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition from just a week ago.

The similarities

  • Both Kobo devices (and the Kindle for that mind) house an E-Ink Carta 1200 touchscreen and although they are different sizes, they are the same clarity and resolution with a PPI of 300.  
  • Both devices have hardware page-turning buttons
  • Both have an IPX8 water resistant rating
  • Both offer Bluetooth support for headphones (for audiobooks)
  • Both have ComfortLight Pro for easing eye-strain
  • Both have 32GB of storage
  • Both offer OverDrive support for you to be able to read from your local library’s digital collection
  • Both offer support for Pocket to read your saved articles on your Kobo device

The differences

Obviously, Kobo has made the Sage into their more premium e-reader and as such you would expect some differences in not just hardware but software capabilities. There are a few for sure but it is often difficult to determine if those differences are enough to justify the price for you.

Let’s start with hardware. The Sage has an 8-inch display compared to the 7-inch display on the Libra 2, although they both have the PPI (300) and mostly the same technology. The larger display does allow you to see more of the book in less pages allowing for a more relaxing experience as you are not turning the page as often. I found the bigger display easier to read and to be honest I didn’t notice the added size of the book in any negative way.

One big advantage of the Sage is that the display sits flush with the bezel of the device (just as the Kindle Paperwhite does) whereas the Libra 2 has the display sitting beneath the bezels so there is a lip between the two. The display sitting flush with the bezels makes for a much more premium feeling experience and really does make a difference when reading the book.

The Sage display also has support for the Kobo Stylus (optional extra at $69) to allow you to make your own notes from scratch or to add notes to PDFs or ebooks etc. Kobo Sage’s built-in notebook feature also keeps all of your notes at hand and can convert your writing to clean text making your scrawl able to be read by anyone.

Given the bigger display the Sage is a bigger device than the Libra 2, 160.5 x 181.4 x 7.6 mm compared to 144.6 x 161.6 x 9 mm. It is also 25 grams heavier at 240 grams, still not making it a requirement to be a powerlifter to use it though so the added 25 grams is not an issue.

The final hardware difference is the faster processor. Instead of a 1GHz processor, the Sage is powered by a quad-core 1.8GHz chipset and the difference is very noticeable. The Sage has a faster operating system, although it is the same as the Libra 2. Pages turn faster, menus respond faster, and the interface just feels a lot more fluid compared to the Libra 2.

Aside from the support for notes discussed above the main software difference between the two Kobo e-readers is the Dropbox support. The Sage has support for Dropbox and it is easy to use. when you enable it on the e-reader and log in, it creates a Kobo folder within your Dropbox storage. Then all you need to do is drop books and other material into that Dropbox folder using your PC, smartphone etc and they appear on the Kobo list of books after a sync (performed manually yourself or automatically at a later time).

If you are someone who gets their books from sources other than the Kobo store or want to read a lot of PDFs on your Kobo then this Dropbox support is immensely useful. No more requirement to plug it into your PC and drag and drop books onto it whenever you wanted to read something. You can do it all from your smartphone even without having to turn a single PC on.

The differences listed above obviously lead to a difference in price. The Kobo Sage is priced at $440 whereas the Libra 2 is priced at $280 which is a massive difference for only a few relatively small upgrades. If you are unlikely to ever need stylus support or don’t mind plugging your reader into your PC to drop books onto it, it is difficult to justify that price difference.

Any negatives to the Sage?

Aside from the price, the SleepCover, which I highly recommend and suggest it should be in fact essential, is not ideally designed. The SleepCover for the Sage hides the power button so if the e-reader goes to sleep (or you do) while the SleepCover is open the only way to turn it back on is to cover the display again with the SleepCover and then open it again.  It would be nice if a double tap of the display or a similar gesture turned the display on.  Not a huge issue but a strange design decision considering the Libra 2 has a hole in the back of the SleepCover to allow the e-reader to be turned on after going to sleep. The lack of a hole also means that when you first get your Kobo Sage you will need to first turn it on before you put the SleepCover on it.

At this stage the battery life on the Sage is less than ideal, around a week or so but Kobo are aware of that and are apparently currently working on a fix, set to roll out as an update in the coming weeks. I will update this review if and when the update arrives. Until then you will need to charge your e-reader every week or so which is not a huge imposition but still more often than any other e-reader on the market.

So, which should you buy?

Although the Sage has Dropbox support which makes it super simple to add books to your Kobo, along with a bigger display, stylus support and a faster processor it’s a bit difficult to justify the $160 difference between the two. The bigger display is not particularly noticeable for most people, especially after you’ve been using it for a bit and the faster processor is not noticeable much while reading (slightly faster page turning).

The Kobo Libra 2 is a damn good e-reader and there is really nothing wrong with it.  Sure, the Sage is bigger and better, but it doesn’t really have much that you “need”.  Want versus need is the age-old question when it comes to buying tech.

If you “need” stylus support to be able to edit or make notes on documents, then of course you will need to purchase the Sage. If you plan on putting books from somewhere other than your public library or the Kobo store on your Kobo e-reader but don’t have access to a PC then the Sage is what you should be going for — the Dropbox integration makes it super simple and can be done from your smartphone.  If you have easy access to a PC and don’t mind using it then I would say go for the Libra 2.  

The Kobo Libra 2 is available at various locations including Booktopia, Kobo Australia and JB Hi-Fi and more for $279. The Kobo Sage is available at the same locations (1, 2, 3) for $440.