Kindle Review

August 15, 2012
  • Design
  • Display
  • Performance
  • Features
  • Value

Design

The new Kindle is Amazon’s smallest and cheapest Kindle to date. It is a full inch shorter and a third of an inch narrower than the Kindle Keyboard, but still houses the same 6″ E Ink Pearl screen. It is also comes in 30% lighter.

Most of the reduction in size and weight is due to the abandonment of the keyboard. Along both sides of the device are long skinny page buttons. Along the bottom you have a Back button, a Keyboard, a Menu and a Home button. In the middle of the row is a small toggle pad with 4 arrows and a centre button for selecting. The Power button is located on the bottom edge alongside the microUSB slot. The back of the device is rubberized to prevent slipping.

The lack of a keyboard is apparent until you start to type. Hitting the Keyboard button brings up a virtual QWERTY keyboard. To type you need to use the navingation pad at the button and cycle through the letters. This can be a bit of pain when searching for titles or surfing. Personally if you can afford it, it may be worth spending the extra $20 for the Kindle 3 with a real keyboard or the Kindle Touch which has a touch screen.

Like the Kindle 3, it doesn’t come with a protective case.
 

Display

The new Kindle houses the same screen that is found in the Kindle Keyboard. It is built around the E-ink Pearl screen and has the same 600 x 800 resolution and 16-level gray scale. The text really is very sharp and is still readable even in sunlight.

The page turn is also right up there with the Kindle Keyboard and Nook. There is still that slight photo negative look when turning pages, but that is present in all eReaders using this technology and isn’t that noticeable after a while. Again like the Kindle Keyboard, the screen isn’t backlit so if you wish to read in the dark or in low light you will need a reading light. You can get 3rd part bones as cheap as $19.99, but if you can stretch to $59.99 for the Amazon one it is well worth worth it. It is very neat, retractable and covers with a protective case as well.

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Features

The new Kindle comes in Wi-Fi only so there is no 3G option. In order to keep the price down some of the features that were on the previous Kindle 3 have been dropped. The main feature that is missing is audio. This means that you can’t play MP3s on it and the text-to-speech functionality has also been removed – so you won’t be able to download audio books or use any of the text-to-speech menus and functionality that you could on the Kindle 3.

Once you turn on the device you are taken to the homepage (unless you buy the Special Offers and Sponsored Screensavers version, in which case you are taken to an advertisement first). The homepage has a list of all the items purchased and a link to archived items. There’s a bar along the top that indicates battery life, strength of Wi-Fi signal, time and how much storage you have left. The search feature allows you to search the Kindle Store, Oxford-American Dictionary, Wikipedia and the Web. The browser is the same as that found on the Kindle 3. Again it is best to use the mobile web versions of websites rather than the full versions as the page can get a bit cluttered. Like the Kindle 3 if things do get a bit cluttered you can use the “Article Mode” to reformat the page into a more readable format. The lack of a keyboard or touch screen does make surfing less enjoyable however.

As with all Kindles the EPUB format isn’t supported, but the amount of books in the Kindle Store is so vast you shouldn’t really miss it. You can also read txt files and pdf files. Like the Nook you can also lend your books out to friends. Only with eligible books, only once and only for 14 days. Also like most other eReaders you can also check out digital books from public libraries. It also comes with 2 games: every Word and Number Slide.

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Battery & Memory

The battery used in this version of the Kindle isn’t as powerful as the one used in the Kindle Keyboard or Kindle Touch and lasts around half the time. That equates to 1 month with the Wi-Fi turned off and reading 30 minutes per day. In the real world I got around 2 weeks per charge using Wi-Fi and reading and a bit of surfing – still not bad. Charging is a bit quicker than the Kindle Keyboard and Touch taking around 3 hours. Talking of charging, charging is performed via a USB cable connected to a PC or laptop. A power adapter doesn’t come as standard and costs an extra $9.99

The Kindle comes with 2GB of internal memory, with 1.25GB of it being accessible. That’s enough space to store 1,400 books. Again like all Kindles the memory isn’t expandable. You do now have the new Free Cloud backup service with you can use to backup your books and then download them should you run out of space or just wish to back them up.
 

Connectivity

As mentioned earlier this version of the Kindle only comes with Wi-Fi. This includes free Wi-Fi access at all AT&T hotspots across the U.S. and anywhere else that offers free Wi-Fi access. In testing, books downloaded in around a minute where there was good Wi-Fi coverage. The Whispersync technology syncs the last page read. Kindle books can now also be accessed on other devices such as IPads, IPhones, Android Phones etc using the Kindle Cloud Reader. You can naturally also download books via the USB cable connected to your PC or laptop.
 

Pricing

The Kindle comes in 2 versions: the ad-free version costing $89.00 and the ad-version costing $69.00. Both versions come in a subtle brushed silver finish.

Again if have to decide if having ads on the machine is worth the $20 saving. The ads only appear when the device goes into screensaver mode or when you first download a book. There is also a banner on the homepage, but no ads appear when reading books and some of ads are actually Amazon Special Offers which are sometimes worthwhile taking. As I’ve said previously I didn’t find the ads that obtrusive.
 

Verdict

At a price point of $69.00 (ad version) it is the cheapest Kindle to date. Sure there had to be a few compromises to keep it this cheap such as no audio, no keyboard and less memory, but at this price there is no competition. Great design, screen and speed, the best eBook store on the market and all for just $69.00.

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