The Kindle Keyboard (AKA Kindle 3) is the thinnest reader on the market today measuring a mere 0.335 inches thick. It is 21% smaller than previous Kindle, 15% lighter. Despite being smaller and more compact it still comes with the same 6 inch e-ink display.
As well as shrinking the Kindle Keyboard, Amazon has also made some worthy changes to the button design. The page turn buttons which are on each side of the device are now smaller and only make a very slight clicking sound when depressed.
The main navigation button has been moved lower and is now integrated into the keyboard where the Enter Key would normally be found on a computer keyboard. This makes it much more intuitive. One slight niggle is that although the four-way navigation button is fine, the menu and back buttons are a bit too close to the up/down parts of the navigation buttons. Fine if you have small fingers, but those with larger fingers will need to take a little extra care.
You may want to factor in a protective case as the Kindle doesn’t ship with one. It is likely to crack if dropped especially if you are walking in the street and it drops onto the pavement. Amazon sells for for around $34.95 and other 3rd companies also make covers.
The Kindle uses the same e-ink technology that was found in the previous Kindle, but has made it even better. It was good before, but now the fonts are even sharper and the letters appear slightly darker. The result is that it is just like looking at printed page and you don’t get any of eye strain you sometimes get from sitting too long in from of your computer monitor. The pages “turn” faster than before, but you still get that kind of photo negative look every page when it does a full refresh.
You can also read in brightly lit environments and even in direct sunlight and there is no glare. Making it ideal to take on holiday and to the beach. One downside is that the screen isn’t backlit meaning you won’t won’t be able to see screen in the dark or without adequate lighting. Amazon has got a very nifty optional protective cover that comes with a very well designed retracting LED light. It works really well, but is a little expensive at $59.99.
The text-to-speech capabilities have been upgraded and sounds better than I thought it would – less robotic. You can choose between male and female voices and you can speed up or speed down the speech. Just click on the button to the right of the keyboard to access this feature. Although it sounds fine, it isn’t as good as an audio book and it isn’t available on some books. The text-to-speech facility can also be used as a voice guide for all menu options
You can also download MP3 tracks and listen to them as you read via rear-mounted stereo speakers. You also have a 3.5mm stereo audio jack to plug in headphones. A USB 2.0 socket for connecting to your PC for downloading and charging and power socket are also on the device. It comes with a power adapter and an USB cable as standard.
The web browser has also been improved and uses the same engine as Safari. It is best to go for the mobile version of the website rather than the standard one as you don’t have to zoom/pan. There’s a bookmarking feature, so it isn’t hard to save websites. A great feature is something called “Article Mode”. This is similar to the “Reader” button in Safari. If you surf to a website that is cluttered with ads or images or isn’t laid out that well, click “Article Mode” and the page will instantly be re-formatted in an easy to read text column. You can also manually rotate the display from Portrait to Landscape, not just for web pages, but also maps, graphs, tables etc.
One drawback of the Kindle is that it doesn’t support the popular eBook format of EPUB. This means that you won’t be able to download books from other eBook stores such as Waterstones, WHSmith, Barnes & Noble etc. The flip side is that the Kindle store is one of the biggest ebook stores in the world, holding over 1 million books and several thousand free ones. It also supports other formats such as DOC, TXT and PDF. The PDF reader isn’t quite as good as that found on a PC or even the IPAD, but still gets the job done.
Also featured on the Kindle 3 are 2 games: Mineweeper and Gomoku which is a strategy game similar to Five in a Row. Although you didn’t buy the Kindle to play games right?
Battery & Memory
The Kindle uses a new Li-Polymer 1750mAh battery which according to Amazon lasts 2 months. That’s not the full story though. Amazon quotes this figure if you turn off Wi-Fi and only use the device 30 minutes a day. I got around 2 – 3 weeks of charge reading around 1 – 2 hours a day and having Wi-Fi on now and again, which still isn’t bad. It can be charged via the USB cable connected to your PC or via the included power adapter. It takes around 4 hours to fully charge. Unfortunately, the battery is sealed into the device and isn’t removeable.
The Kindle comes with 4GB of internal memory, although only 3.3GB of it is accessible. Saying that, it is still enough space to store 3,500 books on it. Putting that into perspective if you read 1 book per week for 67 years you’d still have space left. The memory can’t be expanded though.
As with previous models you get the choice of a 3G & Wi-Fi model and a Wi-Fi only model. The 3G is very quick and easy to use and most importantly FREE. If you are on the go a lot or travel a lot (coverage in over 100 countries) then this is the model you should go for.
If however you find that you download most of your books at home and only occasionally on the move then the cheaper Wi-Fi only model will be fine. You can still enjoy free Wi-Fi access at AT&T hotspots, but you may find that some areas haven’t got Wi-Fi hotspots or that they may charge you for access. 3G is generally quicker, but if you get connected to a decent Wi-Fi hotspot you should be able to download a book in around a minute. Amazon’s recently launched Cloud service allows you to backup your entire Library to the Cloud to which is very useful.
The Kindle Keyboard comes in 6 flavours and 4 price points, stay with me here. Top of the range is the Kindle with 3G & Wi-Fi available in Graphite and White. The cheapest price I found not unexpectantly is from Amazon at $189.00 for either color. Next comes the same models, but this time $50 cheaper. There has to be a catch right? And there is. These 2 versions (graphite and white) are what Amazon labels as Special Offers & Sponsored Screensaver versions. Basically you are getting an identical machine to the 3G & Wi-Fi models but you have to put up with advertising. This means that when you download a file, leave the machine to go into screensaver mode or are on the front page you’ll see an advertisement. They aren’t really that intrusive and aren’t there when you are reading a book.
The next model is the Wi-Fi only version which is just available in graphite for $139.00 and again the same model with advertising. Some of the advertising features some special deals from Amazon, so if you shop a lot there, you may find some decent special deals. Like I say I didn’t find the advertising that intrusive and you can at a later date remove the advertising and go back to the original ad free versions, but you will have the difference between the 2 models.
UPDATE: Only the 3G version is now available for $139 (with special offers) and $159 (without special offers).
Although there is now a new version of the Kindle with a touch screen (see Kindle Touch Review on this website) and there is increased competition from the Nook and Sony, this is still a great eReader. While it may not have color or a touch screen, if you are using it as it was designed for i.e. reading books it’s a great device. Great screen, nice design, long battery life, free 3G and a range of different models.