Amazon Kindle 3: A Review

The new Kindle from Amazon is a very impressive device, well conceived and highly featured for the price. In the short time I’ve had it I’ve come to really like it. Glad I didn’t buy an iPad.

I had been toying with buying an iPad but they are very expensive and I’m not sure they represent good value for money, despite me generally being a bit of an Apple fanboi. Specifically when I looked at what I would do with a sub-laptop device it was mostly for reading. With a backlit screen the iPad isn’t ideally suited to long period of reading, so I decided to buy one of the new Kindles from Amazon. In the short time I’ve had it I am very impressed.

OOBE done right

The first thing to note is that the out-of-box experience (OOBE) for the Kindle is pretty impressive. In the box you get the device itself, a small ‘Getting Started’ guide (the full manual is on the device), charge lead (micro USB) and that’s it. No surplus ‘Health and Safety’ or warranty crap – a small forest of which you seem to find in every Apple box. The printed getting started guide was just in English, but I’m assuming you’d get that in whatever language matches the Amazon site you ordered on.

If you have the 3G version (I do) it automatically attaches to the network. Attaching it to a wi-fi network is also trouble free. Most impressive of all the device comes pre-registered to your Amazon account which means you’re all set up to buy books with a couple of clicks. Some care required there I’ll wager. It’s possibly a little too easy to make a purchase, bearing in mind these are books (c.£7/£6) and not a song on iTunes (c.70p/99p). But overall the purchase experience is seemless and certainly rivals iTunes for ease of use.

Reading Experience

The screen is very readable and I have been able to use it for extended period without feeling tired. The E Ink display does a magnificent job of replicating the real book experience. The only place I’ve seen where it falls short at the moment is in the rendering of images and diagrams. I’ve subscribed to the Kindle version of The Economist and some of the graphs as part of that can be a bit difficult to decipher. This is party because many of them were designed to be in colour, but I think the display also doesn’t lend itself that type of diagrammatic information as well as text.

Hardware

The physical device itself seems pretty robust, although I have to confess its I find the keyboard quite difficult to use with its small keys. Maybe that’s because I have fat fingers, but whatever I can’t see me wanting to use it terribly often. The keyboard looks like its been built with robustness in mind, rather than ease of use. That’s fine as I’m not expecting to use it for anything other than a reading device but if you wanted to expand its use to other applications (see below) then that might be a drawback. As mentioned the charger is now the fairly standard USB-plug device (for want of a better term) that used for iPods and iPhones that comes with a cable that terminates with a micro-USB which is also now the industry standard. Battery life appears good. This is largely related to the fact that in stand-by mode, despite the screen displaying an image, power consumption is minimal due to the way that the E Ink display works.

Bits and Bobs

Click on the ‘Experimental’ menu item from the home screen and you get three options for extras. There is a web browser that you can use that works with both the 3G and wi-fi connections. The limitiation of the b&w screen, my inability to use the keyboard and the limited ways you can navigate around means I don’t think I’ll use that very often. But I was able to logon to my GMail account, which considering the 3G access is worldwide might come in useful when travelling. There’s also an option to transfer MP3 files across to the device from a computer. Again I probably have better devices for that but nice to know its still there. Finally there’s a text-to-speech option which I have not tried yet.

Overall

Overall, a very impressive device and at just over £100 for an entry level model good value as well. Even the 3G version isn’t that much more, and its important to note that this comes without the need for a contract or any payment for data charges. I’ll be glad to leave the heavy books behind the next time I’m on a plane with some serious reading time ahead of me.

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