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Kobo Arc — is it an eReader or a full-blown tablet?

Is Kobo’s new touchscreen an e-reader or a full-blown tablet? Presented to us at a side-show at Berlin’s Grand Hyatt Hotel during the recent IFA exhibition, the successor to the last November’s Vox is a seven-inch, 364g colour touchscreen tablet running on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

Arc supports any of the 600,000 apps from Google Play inside a brand new user interface called the Tapestries Discovery Edition – and it’s this that gives the Arc a unique selling point.

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Inside a familiar, though clearly custom-made Android tablet interface, ‘tapestries’ – folders, essentially – can be created, named and fully personalised, such as ‘reading’, ‘cars’, ‘recipes’, etc. Inside each ‘tapestry’ you can ‘pin’ books, web pages, video from the web, magazines, widgets, and newspaper arcticles – a complete mix of media. Kobo calls the resulting thumbnails ‘visual bookmarks’.

Meanwhile, the Arc’s built-in browser is all about creating a distraction-free, ad-free reading experience with Kobo features like night-mode, and a full suite of extensive font/size adjustments.

In our demo some HD video looked very crisp, and swiping through the tapestries was a familiar, very Android-y experience.

Lowdown on the Arc’s interface is an area called ‘discovery’, which delivers bits ‘n’ pieces to you from around the internet based on what you pin to tapestries. It learns, too, a bit like a TiVo box, though Kobo was keen to point out that this ‘web concierge’ service is totally private and based solely on content from common websites Kobo keeps a cache of – and that most certainly does not include anything remotely rude. Should hope not!

Rather uniquely the tablet has front-firing stereo speakers at the bottom of front, which have a SRS TruMedia that rather effectively boosts the width of audio to something near acceptable. It certainly worked reasonably well with some video during our demo.

The Arc uses Kobo Everywhere to back-up books in the cloud, while it’s possible to keep tabs on your reading stats and post them to Twitter and Facebook. You big show-off.

The Kobo Arc will go on sale on ‘in time for Christmas’ for £159.99/£189.99 for the 8GB/16GB version.

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