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Review: Kobo Elipsa 2E

The e-reader is expensive, but it has a big plus over Amazon’s Kindle Scribe.
Kobo Eclipsa 2E ereader tablet
Photograph: Kobo
Kobo Elipsa 2E
Multiple Buying Options Available

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Large screen for easy note-taking. Can write directly on ebooks. Several notebook options. Long battery life. Pocket integration.
Expensive. Writing and drawing aren't as nice as on the Kindle Scribe.

For me, there is absolutely nothing that beats putting real pen to real paper. There's also nothing that beats folding a paperback book, smelling the pages—and if you're Team Jess from Gilmore Girls, maybe also writing in the margins. But sometimes, and I say this as someone who held out on using an e-reader until it became my job, digital comes in handy.

It's nice to bring a single lightweight device to the beach or on the train—no need to pack several different books or plan ahead what you want to read. More e-readers are adding the ability to jot down notes, too, which makes them even more alluring. I can take notes and organize them digitally without having to rip out and waste paper. This second-generation Kobo Elipsa 2E does all of that with a large screen and an included stylus. The downside? It's pricier than much of the competition.

Margin of Error
Photograph: Kobo

Start up the Elipsa 2E and you'll be greeted with two types of notebooks. There's a basic notebook with 20 different background styles—suited for drawing, daily planners, and simple note-taking on a college-ruled page. Then there are Advanced notebooks that don't have multiple background styles but can convert handwriting to text, with the ability to insert drawings, diagrams, and equations on one page. These also have quick-edit functions like crossing out a word to automatically erase it. Both types of notebooks are easy to use, and I like that you can search for words or phrases to find content quickly.

Kobo's first-generation stylus was battery-powered, but the new model is rechargeable, which is a nice upgrade. It sticks to the top of the Elipsa magnetically, so you don't need to worry about losing it. The other end of the stylus is a dedicated eraser, which is something you have to pay extra for on the Elipsa's nearest competitor, the Kindle Scribe.

Screenshot: Medea Giordano via Kobo

Speaking of, it's worth noting that the Scribe's stylus doesn't require charging at all. It also has a finer tip, and I generally preferred note-taking with Amazon's hardware, as it looked just like my handwriting. The Kobo's results looked more obviously like a digital rendition of my handwriting. The refresh rate on the Elipsa 2E is also more noticeable, as it flashes more often, especially when you switch tools.

The advantage of the Elipsa over the Kindle Scribe is its ability to write directly on ebooks. Take notes, doodle, or highlight text to your heart's desire right on any ebook's pages (there's a button on the side of the stylus to highlight quickly). The Scribe, confusingly, only allows you to use sticky notes. This has advantages, like if you're writing long paragraphs often, but the Elipsa offers up a more natural experience if you typically write in the margins of books. Both let you write directly on PDFs, and the Kobo also has Pocket integration if you like to save articles to read later (you can't mark these ones up).

Mileage varies on battery life. If you read a little every day, you'll likely get several weeks out of a single charge. It's less if you're in class taking notes for a few hours per day, but both the e-reader and the stylus charge up quickly via USB-C.

Reading Room
Photograph: Kobo

Reading on the Elipsa 2E's 10.3-inch screen is nothing out of the ordinary. Page turns are fast, however, there's more screen flashing than you might be used to on a modern Kindle. This is how E Ink screens work—the screen flashes to rearrange the particles when there's new content on the page—but I noticed it way more often on the Elipsa than on the past few Kindle models I've tried.

The screen can go all the way from a bright white to a bright orange, and then to an almost imperceptible dim backlight. It's a really nice range that lets you precisely dial in the preferred amount of backlighting. You can set a bedtime for the screen to auto-adjust to warm lighting at a certain time every day too.

Kobo has some beta features available on the Elipsa 2E, like a web browser for searching things up in a pinch, and games like Sudoku, word scrambles, and Solitare. The versions of these games on your smartphone are much better, just like the web browser, so I didn't find much use for them. They're simply not quick enough.

If you're looking for a simple ebook reader, the Elipsa 2E isn't the model to buy. We have several cheaper recommendations that will do the job just fine. However, if you want to be able to take notes on an E Ink screen, like a notebook minus the physical paper, then I think this Kobo is a fine alternative to Amazon's Kindle Scribe. It's particularly great if you really want to be able to write on any ebook.