When asked to review the new Amazon Kindle, I expected to find myself tearing it apart. Truth is, despite my love of gadgetry, I’ve always been skeptical of e-readers. I love books, for all the same reasons lovers of books tend to: the physical object, the smell of old pages, all that romanticised guff that’s been said before. And so in my previous encounters with e-readers I have mostly found myself unimpressed, turning my nose up at the dreary grey e-ink screens. Not this one though. No, no. Read on for the new Amazon Kindle review and find out why.
What’s it like to use the new Amazon Kindle? Its six inch eInk screen is sharper than the previous Kindle. It is sharp, and it also feels far less grey than other e-readers, closer to the creamy colour of the printed page. There’s something reassuringly analog about this Kindle, in a way that makes it feel closer to a book than to other digital devices. This could be because of the flatness of the unlit eInk page, or because of the nearly black, beiges and cream of Amazon’s design. It’s certainly far less bricky than Sony‘s equivalent Readers.
The size of the Amazon Kindle is certainly one of its most appealing features. The build is solid, and it’s so compact as to be hardly there at all when you’re carrying it around: as you may have been informed by the myriad advertising hoards, it is lighter and slimmer than many a paperback. As someone who commutes with a rucksack packed full of heavy gear, I can say this is a dream.
As before, the Amazon Kindle requires no contract for 3G, and indeed it was impressively nippy pulling books down over the air – I had a new virtual tome up in front of me in less than a minute. I could follow a whim, and be reading a four-chapter free sample of a book in no time at all. Then if you have your Amazon account synced (also equally easy to set up – all you need to do is log in to your account), it’s one click to buy the whole book. So while you can’t lend on a Kindle, you can act on a recommendation within a minute, which goes some way to easing that niggle.
The screen on the new Amazon Kindle is sharp, and readable (yes, even in bright sunlight). It’s also easy to navigate the simple menus, which are obvious and uncluttered. My Clippings holds all the bookmarks you’ve made, whether these are for future reference or just where you last stopped reading.
To e-reader newcomers, the page refresh is strange at first: the way it works is the eInk is pushed into microcapsules, and magnestism defines whether it is black or white. So a page change is pigment being de-magnestised and re-magnetised, and the process is slow enough to be visible. This is also the root of why the Kindle has such a lengthy battery life. On around 30 minutes of charge we got over four days of power out of it. The official estimate says that a full charge can last around a month, which seems very feasible.
The keyboard has a slightly rough texture, and the body is smooth. The buttons to turn the page are along both sides of the screen about half way up, although it feels like this isn’t the best place to put them, and they either need to be higher up or lower down to be in a sweet spot.
Amazon has added some “experimental” extras on this Kindle, one of these being a browser, and a player to listen to podcasts. This seems to be in an effort to make the Kindle a multifunction device, but as with other eInk rivals, in reality it’s a futile attempt. The eInk screen cannot deal with a web page, and the BBC website looks like it’s been reinterpreted by Picasso. In practice, this feature is useless, and unless the Kindle drops the easier-on-the-eyes eInk screens, it isn’t going to get much better. The audio is surprisingly rich and sharp, coming from such a dinky device, and puts up a stonking show against a laptop, and is better than most smartphones.
Some serious one on one time with the new Amazon Kindle has almost changed my mind. I say almost, because there are still two key niggles I have, that I want to be resolved. Firstly, I cannot digitise my existing book collection without buying it all again. This is different to other e-readers, like the unfussy Sony Reader series. I can digitise my existing music collections for example, whether it’s CD or vinyl. Secondly, sharing. Music can still be shared, by and large I can burn an MP3, but I cannot lend someone the book I’ve just read on a Kindle, they have to buy it again.
These problems have existed with the Kindle for years, and yet with the new Amazon Kindle being so cheap (£109-£149 for 3G as well as WiFi), and with the advertising push feeling like it’s having a second coming, they seem more pressing than ever.
So, after almost a week with the new Amazon Kindle, I can say I’m almost converted. It is easy, so easy, to buy and read a book on it, and as much as I love books, you don’t get less immersed in a novel on a Kindle than its physical equivalent. It indulges my whims at the click of a button, and yet is barely there. Whilst I’ve loved reading on a Kindle, the appeal is for those who travel a lot or for long periods of time, and those who don’t want to carry around any more weight than they have to – or don’t have an existing library of books, paper or digital, they’re already attached to.
The new Amazon Kindle has made our Top 5 lists of best eReaders, which is why we’ve given it our Recommended rosette. Check out more Top 5s here and find out more about how they work with our Top 5 guarantee.