The Kindle Touch is the smallest Kindle to date and is very similar to the basic Kindle. The front of the device is grey and features just one physical button on the front which is the Home button. It’s quite a plain looking device, which I guess is fine. The back is silver and grey and has 2 speaker grills for sound (unlike the basic Kindle 4) and on the bottom is a Power button, 3.5mm headphone jack and a Micro USB port for charging and downloading from a PC. It doesn’t come with a Power Supply though.
There are no hardware Page turn buttons which is a bit disappointing. Everything is controlled via the touch screen.
The Kindle Touch uses the same eInk technology that’s pretty much standard in the eReader market now. Compared to the previous Kindle the background is slightly greyer, but the text is just as crisp as the Kindle Keyboard. The Sony PRS-T1 still has better contrast and a whiter background.
The one main advantage it has over the previous Kindle is that it only does a full refresh every 6 pages rather than every page. Page turning is fast and on par with the previous Kindle, not quite as fast as the Nook though. The screen is a lot more recessed than other eReaders. This doesn’t cause too much of a problem until you connect a reading light. If you don’t position it correctly it can cause shadows on the screen.
The first thing to note is that the new Kindle uses the same text based interface as that found on the previous Kindle Keyboard. If you choose the ad-version you’ll get an ad running across the bottom as well as one for your screensaver. The Home page features your most recent books, a guide and the dictionary with a menu button the upper right hand corner, Kindle Store icon and a Search facility.
Clicking on the Menu button brings up everything else including, Turn Off Wireless, View Archived Items, Create New Collection, Settings, Experimental. Experimental are where other features such as the web Browser, MP3 Player and Text-to-Speech functionality reside. The MP3 player is pretty basic and will only play MP3 files so no ITunes files or other formats. You can listen via the headphones or through the speaker. It sounds quite satisfactory through the on-board speaker. The Text-to-Speech is for audiobooks.
The Web browser is a basic webkit web browser. It does work a lot better on a touch screen than on the previous keyboard model especially if you have multiple pages open. One surprising omission is the dropping of a landscape mode on the web browser (it’s actually dropped altogether and isn’t available for books or pdfs or anything else).
One of Kindles strengths is it’s Store. While Barnes & Noble has more books and the Kindle still doesn’t support the popular EPUB format, I still rank the Kindle Store as the best out there. You have a Search function, the Browse section, Features and Recommended to you on the first page of the Store. Clicking on a book allows you to buy, try a sample, add to wish list, read reviews or see what other customers who bought this also bought. Anyone who has ever shopped on Amazon will immediately be right at home here. To search (or make notes) will bring up the on-screen keyboard. The keyboard is responsive and works well it also uses a partial refresh which is nice.
As mentioned earlier there are no physical page turn buttons, so you swipe or click on the right hand side for forwards and the left hand side for back. Tapping at the top brings on a menu where you can bring up the fonts, go to option (which brings up table of Contents, Page No and Go To Page) and the MP3 player. It comes with 2 dictionaries – The Oxford English and Oxford American dictionaries. Tapping and holding a word when reading will bring up the dictionary. You also have the Library option and Lend Me option for books. A new feature just for the Touch is called X-Ray. By tapping you can see where the book mentions fictional characters, historical characters, places or ideas and you can get detailed descriptions of them straight from Wikipedia and Shelfari.
Under Settings & Reading Options you have Annotation Backup (you can back these up to the Cloud), Popular Highlights, Public Notes (this is if people follow you on kindle.amazon.com, they can see your notes), Page Refresh and access to your Social Networks like Facebook and Twitter.
Battery & Memory
The Kindle Touch has a quoted battery life of 2 months. Again though this is with using the device for 30 minutes per day and with Wi-Fi turned off. This seems to be the way the industry is now measuring battery life for eBook Readers, so at least we now have a standard. I found I was getting around 3 weeks with using Wi-Fi now again and general reading. This is up there with the previous Kindle and the Nook Simple Touch.
Memory wise the Kindle Touch touch has a decent 4GB which is enough space to fit 3,000 books. This should be more than enough for most users. Although it is not upgradable like some of it’s competitors, you do free Cloud storage where you can store your books on the Amazon Cloud Servers.
The Kindle Touch comes in a 3G + Wi-Fi version and a Wi-Fi only version. The 3G access is completely free and means you can download books or use the internet in most areas in the US as well as globally. Where there isn’t 3G the connection will drop down to EDGE/GPRS.
The Wi-Fi version is free at all AT & T hotspots across the US. It means you will have to hunt down a hotspot and occasionally pay for access. Most shopping areas though have Wi-Fi hotspots and you can usually find a free one – coffee shops are usually good for this. Access to the internet and downloading books is quick with books downloading in well under a minute.
As mentioned above the Kindle comes in 2 models, a 3G + Wi-Fi version and a Wi-Fi only version. The 3G model is priced at $189 ($149 with special offers) and the Wi-Fi only model at $139 ($99 with special offers). The special offer versions of the device features adverts along the bottom of the device and also as a screensaver when the device goes into standby mode. It also features special (usually Amazon) offers as well. The adverts or special offers aren’t present when reading a book however. To be honest the ads and special offers really weren’t that intrusive and if you somehow find you really can’t live them Amazon will let you upgrade to the special offer free device for the difference in price.
This is a great eReader and in my opinion the best out there. The addition of a touchscreen is a great improvement over the previous model. The Sony and Nook touch devices have a more graphical interface, whereas the Kindle Touch is mainly text based. One strange omission is leaving off the landscape feature that was present in the keyboard version (hopefully this oversight will be corrected in the future via a firmware upgrade).
Saying all that, if you are after a touch model eReader it is just about the best out there. I’d personally go for the 3G version (with special offers) because I travel around a lot and there isn’t always a hotspot around. If you can do without the 3G then the Wi-Fi only (with special offers) is also a great device and very reasonable at $99.