- Small and light
- Excellent and simple touchscreen navigation
- Text-to-speech, Audible support, and MP3 playback
- X-Ray feature is pure genius
- 3G wireless is limited to buying and downloading new Kindle books, not web browsing
- Some Active Content apps not compatible with the Kindle Touch
- USB charging only out of box, power adapter sold separately
Simply put, the Kindle Touch is the best eReader available for 2011 and early 2012.
The Amazon Kindle Touch is the top of the line eInk reader device currently available from Amazon.com. Starting at $99 for the Wi-Fi-only version and $149 for the 3G model (both with special offers and sponsored screensavers), the Kindle Touch adds touch navigation and X-Ray to the familiar suite of Kindle features, such as customizable font sizes, text-to-speech, and the ability to show popular highlights.
Though this review specifically covers the Kindle Touch 3G, the Wi-Fi Kindle Touch is essentially the same device, with the differences noted below.
BUILD & DESIGN
At 6.5-inches tall, 4.7-inches wide, and 0.40-inches thick, the Kindle Touch is just slightly larger than the regular Amazon Kindle. You likely wouldn’t notice the difference at all unless you compare the two devices side by side–the Kindle Touch has a slightly larger bezel around the screen, and lacks the buttons found on the front of the current generation low-end Kindle.
The Kindle Touch is of course dominated by the 6-inch eInk Pearl display; the rest of the device is a platinum gray color. Since the device is equipped with a touchscreen display, buttons are kept to a minimum. On the bottom edge of the device you’ll find the microUSB charge/sync port, the headphone jack, and the poewr button. Those are the only controls aside from the home button located on the front of the device. You’ll find the speakers on the lower portion of the back cover.
Depending on whether you choose the 3G model or not, the Kindle Touch weighs either 7.5 ounces or 7.8 ounces, almost two ounces heavier than the Kindle Keyboard. It doesn’t feel heavy in the hand at all, however, and is comfortable to hold during even the longest of reading sessions. Since it has a uniform thickness throughout, it doesn’t seem awkward to hold no matter how I place my fingers and thumb. The back of the Kindle is very slightly textured to improve your grip.
The build quality is quite high, which I’ve come to expect from the Kindle line of devices. The corners are evenly rounded, and the seams are tight and even. Both the power button and the home button work well. They aren’t loose or wiggly and don’t rattle at all. Though I tend to err on the side of caution as far as screen protectors and cases are concerned, the Kindle Touch seems sturdy enough that it would easily stand up to regular daily use even if it isn’t covered by any protective accessories.
One downside to the Kindle Touch as compared to Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Simple Touch is that the Kindle Touch doesn’t have a microSD card slot for memory expansion. If you get all of your content from Amazon that’s not a major issue, since you can always redownload your books.
Since the device has 4GB of onboard memory there should be plenty of memory for all of the books and magazines you get from Amazon, as well as for your personal content. As expected, the Kindle Touch plays nicely with Calibre, the indispensable eBook transfer and management application. When I connected the Kindle Touch to my laptop with the included USB cable, I was able to transfer my personal documents and eBooks to the Kindle without a hitch.
Screen and Speakers
The Kindle Touch is equipped with a 6-inch eInk display that has a resolution of 600 x 800 for 167 pixels per inch. It’s a grayscale screen, as all current generation eInk displays are, but it’s still gorgeous. Text is extremely sharp and clear, no matter whether you choose the tiniest font or the largest. The screen is viewable from all angles, so you don’t have to worry about getting it into a particular position for viewability; you can focus on your own comfort.
The screen is perfectly readable in sunlight, and does look best in bright light. If you like to read in bed, you’ll need a clip-on reading light or a lighted cover. Whether I used a reading light or the ambient light, I didn’t have any issues with glare or a washed out screen.
This is the first Kindle device to have a touchscreen, and I found it to be generally quite responsive. It takes some getting used to, especially if you’ve used either a previous Kindle or the B&N Nook Simple Touch Reader, because of Amazon’s EasyReach technology. Since the Kindle Touch doesn’t have any buttons at all beyond the Home button located underneath the display, you’ll be navigating entirely by touch — tap the top of the screen to bring up the menu, a narrow section on the left to go back, and a much larger section on the right to go forward. If you want to look up a particular word, you press and hold until the definition appears onscreen, and from that popup box, you can also add your own notes.
The stereo speakers are located on the back of the device, near the bottom edge. They are used for Audible books, the text-to-speech function that reads most Kindle books to you (some publishers prohibit it for certain titles) in your choice of male or female voice, or for playback of your favorite MP3 songs while reading a Kindle book. The sound quality they are able to provide is surprisingly good, as is the maximum volume level. They’re not concert quality by any means, but they’re not bad, and their placement isn’t an issue as I first thought. The bottom edge of the device is curved enough that the speakers don’t fully touch the surface underneath them, so that you can lay the Kindle Touch on the table and still be able to hear the music or audio book loud and clear.