- Great display contrast
- Free 3G
- Perfect size
- Price tag for Kindle 2 owners
- "Experimental" browser
- eInk still slightly sluggish
The Amazon Kindle’s widespread popularity has heaved it up and out of the ranks of novelty gadgets and made it a bona fide household item. Look around. These days, you’re just as likely to see Granny Smith reading from her Kindle on her rocker as you would her grandson Jim, the tech geek.
The eReader has come of age, and the improvements offered up by Amazon with the latest generation Kindle 3G/WiFi might just pack enough of a punch to win over even the stubborn holdouts who’d still rather risk carpal tunnel under the weight of a brand new hardback than go paperless.
Its price tag, ranging from $139 for no-frills WiFi, to $189 for WiFi and free 3G, is about right to entice newbies. But is it worth the cost if you’re 6 months into your ownership of a Kindle 2? There’s only one way to find out without paying. Read on.
BUILD & DESIGN
First, aesthetics. One of the things I noticed straight away about the slightly revamped design of the Kindle 3 (apart from its diminished size, which, in this case, is a good thing — no “Kindle 2 envy” here) are the improvements the great minds at Amazon have made with regard to the device’s five-way controller. Whereas the previous Kindle’s controller had the bulky look and feel of a joystick, the new design offers four slim buttons that navigate you up, down, left or right, with the fifth “enter” button residing squarely in the center.
The Kindle’s hard-rubber backing is also a vast improvement over the slick (and extremely droppable) backing of previous versions. It offers a better grip and minimizes the chance that you’ll send your device on an impromptu flight mission to test the durability of its casing.
I had that happen a few times with my Kindle 2. Take my word for it, the sound of a Kindle striking solid ground is just as sickening as you might imagine it to be.
Apart from making Kindle safer for the clumsy, Amazon’s also made great strides in making the world a friendlier place for the lefties of the world (and even those that can lay prideful claim to being ambidextrous). This time, the Previous Page and Next Page navigation buttons are on both the left and right sides of the device. Its predecessor only offered both on the left hand side of device, with the lone presence of the Page Down button on the right situated just below a clumsily placed Home button.
For the vision to relocate the Home button to its rightful place with the other keyboard commands, I commend Jeff Bezos and all his cohorts. Unless you’ve ever experienced it, you’ll never know just how jarring it is to throw yourself out of a rapturous reading moment and into the face of an unwelcome Menu screen with an accidental click of the wrong button. This enhancement ensures you’ll never have to find out for yourself.
The Kindle 3 is a handsome device, and it looks even better when scaled down in size. Anytime that happens with a device, you expect a few concessions for the sake of convenience. On the new Kindle, that means the removal of the Kindle’s top numbers row on the keyboard. This doesn’t seem like much of a concession to me as I didn’t even notice they were missing until I held the two devices side by side.
If you positively, absolutely have to type numbers (searching for the novelization of “Jaws 2” perhaps?) they’re easily accessible by pressing the “SYM” key. This is a similar function to that which you’ll see on many smart phones, so it makes the change more of a no-brainer move.
My only real complaint is the placement of the on/off slider on the Kindle’s bottom spine. It operates in the same manner as the slider on previous Kindle incarnations, except that what was formerly located on the upper left edge and well out of the way is now situated precisely where my thumb — and maybe yours — normally rests when reading. The first time I accidentally set off “sleep” mode I thought my Kindle was malfunctioning.
The Kindle 3’s 6-inch eInk screen remains unchanged in size, which is a good thing for those of us who don’t fancy the idea of having to compromise page length and width for a sleeker package.
Amazon’s bold claim that the latest generation Kindle is equipped with a much faster page refresh rate isn’t balderdash, and neither is the equally daring assertion of a new and improved contrast ratio. If this is your first Kindle, you’ll never know the difference. But those who have cut their teeth on previous generations and have decided to plunk down a few extra bucks for a state-of-the art experience will likely see a drastic improvement. The difference is like going from DVD to Blu-ray. In comparison, the old Kindle’s resolution looks washed out.