The DX is an evolutionary step in the right direction. (June 22nd, 2009)
Product Manufacturer: Amazon
- Big screen
- Easy to read
- Intuitive user controls
- Solid construction
- Text-to-speech needs improvement
- E-ink response times barely adequate
Amazon's Kindle DX was released just recently, hot on the heels of the Kindle 2, which came out in late February. The DX sports some improved functionality and a larger screen, making it an evolutionary step in the right direction in terms of its feature set and real-world usability.
The out-of-the-box experience with the Kindle DX is simple and straightforward. Inside the black packaging we found the reader, a USB cord, a USB-to-110V power adapter, and a short user guide. Setting up the DX for first-time use takes only a few moments, and involves little more than logging into your Amazon.com account and charging the reader itself.
Hardware, physical design and screen
The Kindle DX is about the size of a magazine: very slim, and quite easy to hold. It should readily fit in a briefcase, and maybe even in a large purse. From a usability standpoint though, the reader is a bit heavy. It doesn't weigh too much when gripping with both hands, but when holding it at an angle using one hand -- such as one would hold a regular book -- the DX begins to feel a bit hefty after a few moments. For size comparison, we took some close-up shots using a 14.1-inch Dell Latitude notebook.
The design of the DX is sleek, resembling something Apple might build. Indeed, with a white front and a shiny metal back, the device could be mistaken for a giant iPod with a keyboard attached. It's very durable, and well-built as a whole. The USB port is at the bottom of the unit, while the power switch and headphone jack are on the top.
The screen is generally easy on the eyes, with good contrast. Unfortunately the e-ink technology used requires a moment to refresh, and the entire screen seems to flash when content changes. The delay is comparable to the amount of time it takes to flip the page of a book, so from a reading standpoint, it should be acceptable. Otherwise, the delay is distracting and unexpected.
All of the operational keys are well-placed and intuitive. The keyboard uses oblong-shaped letters, and the spacing between them is less than ideal, but it's a welcome upgrade from the rounded buttons of the Kindle 2. The keyboard is similarly a bit awkward to type on when reading upright with one hand, but we made do. Almost all of the interaction on the unit is handled via a five-way controller, which itself at least is well-positioned for active use.
The software interface of the DX is very simple. On the home page, the reader displays an inventory of all content. Other than that, the only other menu is the one used while reading a book.
Browsing the Kindle Store via the DX's free Sprint 3G connection is typically uncomplicated, and content loads quickly enough. The store is laid out intuitively, and Amazon offers a wide variety of content from books and blogs to newspapers and magazines.
Docking to a PC is as simple as plugging the reader into a computer with the included USB cord. No software is necessary in the process, and files can be simply dragged and dropped as necessary. Up until now the Kindle hasn't supported PDF files, but our unit loaded everything from e-books to resumes in the format.
A new feature is the ability of the screen to rotate. Users can manually select which orientation they prefer, or the DX can auto-rotate using a built-in accelerometer.
The text-to-speech option on the device is a nice touch, but the implementation is a bit shoddy. We would rather listen to a voice on a GPS unit read a book, ultimately, than listen to the voices Amazon provides. Audio can be set to play via the headphone jack, or else an integrated speaker.
MP3 playback can be accessed via the Experimental options menu. The feature is extremely limited, only letting listeners pause and skip tracks. Just as with text-to-speech, files can be heard using headphones or the internal speaker. The same menu also, incidentally, lets users launch a primitive web browser.
Summing it all up
The Kindle DX retails for $489. It's an impressive piece of technology in many regards, and a great reading device. Real technophiles might be perturbed by the screen flashes, or shortcomings of the web browser and audio, but with an excellent build quality, healthy legibility and lots of storage space and potential content, the DX can be a bibliophile's dream come true.