Review: Amazon Kindle

Amazon cuts down Kindle size and price tag (October 26th, 2011)

Although Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet stole the show last month at the company's launch event, the company also introduced an update to its traditional Kindle reader. The fourth-generation model brings a smaller housing and improved E Ink display, but without the hardware keyboard that was present on each of the earlier models. In our full review, we determine how the new Kindle stacks up against the earlier models and competing devices.

Electronista Rating:

ratingratingratingratingrating

Product Manufacturer: Amazon

Price: $79

The Good

  • Small
  • Lighter than previous generations
  • Excellent E Ink display
  • Long battery life
  • Inexpensive

The Bad

  • No easy way to type
  • Lacks touchscreen
  • Tiny page-turn buttons

Although Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet stole the show last month at the company's launch event, the company also introduced an update to its traditional Kindle reader. The fourth-generation model brings a smaller housing and improved E Ink display, but without the hardware keyboard that was present on each of the earlier models. In our full review, we determine how the new Kindle stacks up against the earlier models and competing devices.



Design

The new Kindle maintains the same six-inch display size and 600x800 resolution as its predecessor. Removing the keyboard shaved nearly 20 percent from the overall size, inspiring Amazon to claim the reader "fits in your pocket." We like the compact form, though the 6.5x4.5-inch housing is still a bit large for most pockets.

We did not have any complaints about the last Kindle's weight, which was been cut by 30 percent for the new model. The new design weighs in at a scant six ounces, considerably lighter than the print versions of most books that will fill its digital library. We found the reader to be extremely comfortable to hold during long reading sessions, usually with only one hand holding the device.

Our only minor complaint regarding the new design focuses on the buttons, which are small and placed directly on the edge of the housing. We were fans of the third-generation design, with slightly larger buttons, however the new layout is easy to get used to.





Display

The E Ink display has always been one of the Kindle's top features, and the fourth-generation model is claimed to bring modest improvements to the touchscreen performance. Page-turn speed is said to be shortened, however we did not notice any considerable difference between the fourth- and third-generation models. Both operate with enough haste for a pleasant reading experience.

We did notice slight "ghosting" when flipping between pages of text, which left faint images from the previous page. Amazon appears to have switched to a new strategy that only initiates a complete refresh after several pages, unless the content includes images. Ghosting was barely noticeable, but we were happy to see an option in the v4.0.1 firmware to force a full refresh after each page turn.

Like many E Ink displays, the Kindle screen offers an appearance that is close to a traditional print book. Contrast improves as light levels increase, unlike typical LCDs that become washed out when brought into direct sunlight. Many users also report less eye strain when reading on an E Ink display rather than backlit panels.





Software

The fourth-generation Kindle brings the latest version of the Kindle OS, however the user experience remains mostly unchanged. The interface is simple and straightforward, leaving little to distract from reading and content browsing. We found the OS to be well suited for a dedicated e-book reader, complete with options for font type and size, but cumbersome for other uses.

The lack of a hardware keyboard forces users to enter text via the virtual keyboard. As expected, using the directional pad to enter text takes much longer. Anyone who frequently uses the hardware keyboard on the previous-generation Kindles may find the omission to be frustrating. Without a touchscreen or hardware keyboard, the new Kindle is not the best choice for taking notes.

Users can take advantage of a WebKit-based browser, however the feature is appropriately listed as an "experimental" add-on. The browser is particularly difficult to manage on the new Kindle, due to the keyboard limitation, though it might find more use on the upcoming Kindle Touch.

To slide below $100, the $79 Kindle "with special offers" is sold as an ad-supported platform. We were curious to see if the banner ads detracted from the experience, but we found the ads to be easily ignored. The sponsored ads are only presented on the screensaver and home screen, rather than interrupting pages in books.

Final thoughts

Now that Amazon has split its Kindle lineup into three different categories, the basic model serves as a great entry-level reader and an excellent gift. Aside from its smaller size, however, it does not offer many reasons to switch from the third-generation model.

The Kindle currently competes with the Nook Simple Touch, however the latter device costs nearly twice as much. We haven't had a chance to try out the upcoming Kindle Touch, but it will likely serve as a strong rival to the Nook. The ad-supported Kindle Touch ships in November for $99, making it a better choice than the entry model for anyone who wants a high-end E Ink reader with easier text entry.







by Justin King


POST TOOLS:
toggle

Network Headlines

toggle

Most Popular

Sponsor

Recent Reviews

Razer Taipan mouse

The list of gaming devices is growing larger with each passing day. A large number of companies have entered the gaming input arena, a ...

Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS

Every computer with a microphone or headphone port has one -- a digital to analog converter (DAC). There are nearly as many chipsets a ...

D-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug

Home automation fans have been getting their fair share of gadgets and accessories in the last few years. Starting with light bulbs, a ...

Sponsor

toggle

Most Commented

 
toggle

Popular News