Amazon Kindle 3

November 14, 2010

It's no secret that I'm a Kindle fanboy, and have owned nearly every model Amazon's released, including the original 6", second-gen 6", original DX, second-gen (Graphite) DX and now the latest Graphite 6" model. Wait a second, that's every model Amazon's released. (See the detailed piece I wrote when I first bought the original 6".) Even against the backdrop of my undeniable Kindle crush, I wasn't prepared for how much I was going to like the latest model, but before getting into that, let me provide some background on my 6"-->DX-->6" transition.

Some quick thoughts on the DX

I'll be honest, when I first heard about and saw pictures of the original Kindle DX, I kind of laughed (though not as much as when I first saw pictures of the original 6"—the "Pontiac Aztek" model). I just couldn't understand why anyone who reads nothing but non-fiction would want something so big. You may remember there was a large number of vocal Kindle 2 owners upset at Amazon for announcing the DX so soon after the release of the Kindle 2, and I couldn't fathom why they were so angry.

I can't remember exactly what convinced me to order the DX and give it a try, but even when I did I was certain I'd use it for just a few days and then return it. That didn't happen. I ended up liking it a lot, and preferring it in almost every way to the Kindle 2.

It felt like a thick, stiff piece of paper. It was great. The larger screen meant that I could increase the margins and font size, and still have to next-page much less frequently than on the 6" model. I often read laying down on the couch or in bed, with the device resting against my stomach, and the keyboard in these scenarios raised the screen to a comfortable height. (That said, I wouldn't object to Amazon getting rid of the physical keyboard entirely; I've used it less than 10 times since the original Kindle came out.)

I think we all can agree that the DX looked better than the Kindle 2, if only because the bezel/screen ratio was much more appealing. I thought the bezel on the Kindle 2 was out of control from jump, but after holding the DX in my hands I felt that the Kindle 2's bezel looked downright silly. (Amazon gets this right with the Kindle 3.)

The two things about the DX that bugged me though were its weight and the related inability to comfortably hold it with one hand (and the fact that the page nagivation buttons were only on the right side of the device). These obviously were issues with using the device, but they informed the case-buying calculus as well. I was quite happy with the Cole Haan case I had for the Kindle 2 (it looked great and folded back on itself with little effort), though I still can't believe I owned a case that made use of those tiny slits on the side of the Kindle; one wrong move and *snap*. That said, even if Cole Haan had made a case for the Kindle DX (they do now), I likely wouldn't have bought it given the DX's not insignificant naked weight (about twice that of the Kindle 2), and its somewhat cumbersome size. I ended up going with a PRO TEC case, which I quite liked, despite its appearance. (I currently am using this model from Built for my Kindle 3; it definitely won't win any beauty awards, but it's incredibly practical.)

The Graphite 6"

I bought the Graphite DX as soon as it was announced, and but for the new Pearl screen (that brought with it 50% better contrast and faster refresh rates) and the updated body color, it was the same as the original DX. In addition to the color change making the device look better (in my opinion), it actually greatly increases readability by setting the screen off a bit less from the body (thus making the screen appear more contrasty), and reflects far less direct sunlight. It's wonderful. (Why anyone would get the white 6" model at this point is beyond me. The DX now comes only in Graphite.)

The latest 6" Kindle received these same improvements, and it's made a huge difference. I can't imagine the size (.3 inches thick), weight (8.7 ounces) or overall feel being any better. It's a beautifully-balanced device that's small and light enough to be held comfortably in one hand for extended periods of time.

The back of the device is a single piece of soft-textured rubber, and it's fantastic; in fact, I wish more mobile devices would use this sort of material, because it feels great and offers excellent traction. (Oddly, the Graphite DX didn't get the same treatment and still has a slightly slippery metal back. Why?)

Overall, I think the Graphite Kindle 3 looks, dare I say, cool.

The new five-way directional pad is great. I always was disappointed with the "joystick" on the Kindle 2, which wasn't always consistent and even seemed a bit cheap, but this new flat, flush controller is solid.

The next-page and previous-page buttons have a nice, predictable action to them (even if they are a tad ‘mushy'), and I never seem to press them by accident (a definite problem with the first model). Also, their design allows them to be pressed with almost any part of your thumb without it being too much of a mental exercise. My only niggle here is that the next-page buttons may have been placed ~1/2-inch too low; I sometimes find myself having to bend my thumb a bit more than I think I should. (Obviously though, Amazon can't account for every size and shape of hand out there.)

One major gripe I've had with the previous Kindles, and which persists in this model, is the ever-present status bar at the bottom that shows you graphically how far along in the book you are, and gives you a percentage of same. If you're like me, you can't help but to see this number and subsequently determine how many page turns (at that particular font, font size, margin width and leading) it takes to increment the percentage. It's maddening. They don't show this crap to you on the iPhone app, or on the desktop (in full-screen mode). Grr.

WiFi is great, but not for the reasons you think

For the first time in the product's lifespan, it comes with WiFi (for $139; 3G+WiFi for $189), and for the most part, this feature really adds little functionality to the device. I haven't launched the web browser a single time (I use the Kindle to read books and long-form articles) and it is of no consequence to me if a newly-purchased book arrives in 15 seconds instead of 30.

That said, there is at least one real benefit to having WiFi, namely that sending certain things to the device now is completely free. From Amazon:

If you transfer personal documents to your Kindle via Wi-Fi there is no delivery fee. If you transfer personal documents to your Kindle via 3G while inside the United States, the fee is $ .15 per megabyte. […] The files will be sent to your Kindle over Wi-Fi if available. If Wi-Fi is not available, the files will be sent via 3G…

I use ReKindleIt constantly (see my write-up), and now there's no psychological barrier to my pressing its bookmarklet because I know I'm not being charged every time I use it (even though that cost always has been rather negligible).

It's just so usable

In my original Kindle review I opened with with a "five-second, 192-char review (inspired by Twitter)," which said:

I love the Kindle, and totally see myself using and enjoying it (and its progeny) for many years to come. I'm reading more because of it, and seriously doubt I'll ever read a paper book again.

This latest model so embodies that sentiment. As anyone who follows me on Twitter knows (because I always link to books when I finish reading them), I've been on a tear these last few months; I take this new 6" wonder with me everywhere, and am constantly trying to sneak away to get some alone time with her. I'm not sure I can give a more ringing endorsement than that.

It's still not an iPad

I scream out loud every time I see someone trying to make this tortured comparison. (The same goes for the iPad and the new MacBook Air, but I digress.) The Kindle is for long-form reading--nothing else--and I hope it stays that way forever. Amazon, are you listening? I want to read, not play Solitaire. Please make whatever tablet device you want, but I implore you to leave the Kindle alone. We all love this thing because it's a one-trick pony, not in spite of it.

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