Amazon Kindle 3G WiFi Ebook Reader Review

Tue, Oct 5th 2010, 21:34

Kindle "3"

Although Amazon have been adamant about calling the new Kindle revision just the 'Kindle' without any qualifiers or version numbers, the sake of simplicity begs for something to distinguish with between the old and the new version. For that reason it's going to be referred to as Kindle 3 or third generation from now on, and there is the need for that distinction, trust me.

In Your hand

Amazon Kindle 3 in your hand

Holding the device without prior knowledge about other manufacturers' products or the Kindle 2 will leave you with the right impression for the first time in e-book readers' short history. Not that there is anything wrong with the old model, but it left the user with a strong desire for more, and not in the good way.

The third generation of Kindle weighs only 8.7 oz(240 grams, give or take), 8.5 if you take out the 3G support, which we'll discuss later on. The body is about 20% smaller than its predecessor's and about 17% lighter. Not something to write home about, but somehow it all comes together better when you grab it for a few hours of reading.

Reading an Ebook

Reading an ebook on Amazon Kindle 3

The screen has remained the old 6" in size, but that's about the only similarity with the old solution. Amazon boasts a 50% better contrast, and while it's quite hard to measure scientifically, it does feel better to use. The sharpness and crispness of the image is astonishing, much better than anything you could've seen before. Without any backlight you'll have to get some light source in case you like to read at night, but considering how many different additional clip-on lamps are available already, it doesn't seem that big of an issue.

When you start reading in direct sunlight, on the other hand, E-Ink technology quickly reassures that it's been money well spent; it's clearly visible, the reading experience is outstanding and what's even better, the screen is matte with virtually no glaring. Amazon claims to have increased page turning speed by 20%, which looks nice on paper, but put next to the Kindle 2 it's hard to spot the difference. When you compare it to other readers, it gains a distinct edge. It's best not to compare the third generation to anything other than itself. Without prior experience you'll find the page turn speeds zippy. Not TFT quick, but faster than turning pages by hand.

Battery, WiFi, 3G

The new Amazon Kindle 3 wifi and 3g device

The battery is now claimed to power this device for a month without Wi-Fi, or two weeks with Wi-Fi. While the Wi-Fi only version is perfectly capable of grabbing any electronic book in a matter of seconds, the star of this review, the 3G wins in all aspects. Amazon took the leap with Kindle (not recently, all 3G kindles have been like that) and begun to give this service for free to those who choose to pay the extra £40. What's more, you not only get to download your ebooks over the cellular network in more than 100 countries around the world, free of charge, it also includes surfing through the experimental built-in browser. Under the 'Beta' badge there is a webkit heart beating, the same toolkit as in Chrome and Apple Safari.

Amazon insists that it's experimental, but it's a huge improvement over the piece of software found in Kindle 2. Most pages show properly, with images, banners, formatting and everything. Thanks to the crisp screen you will be able to read small fonts, but it also allows for zooming.

Use it for...

Amazon Kindle 3 white and graphite with ebook and pencil for size comparison

When it comes to using the Kindle 3G+Wi-Fi for its primary function, you'll find that it's a joy to have. Amazon's own ebook format is supported without saying, but it works with PDF, TXT, HTML and MOBI formats as well. As far as audio formats go, it plays audible downloaded from the Kindle store and mp3s. There is a basic music player, but chances are you'll use it to play audio books acquired from another source anyway.

The reading software part has undergone a face-lift surgery as well. Now you can resize fonts on the go, and it doesn't take a lifetime to redraw the page in your choice of font face and size. The oxford dictionary with more than a quarter million entries lets you quickly search for words you haven't encountered before. If that's not enough, there is Wikipedia through the browser. Using the built in 3G or Wi-Fi you can select passages, sentences or paragraphs and share them on Twitter or Facebook accompanied by your notes.

Get something to read

The new Amazon Kindle 3 white and graphite with ebook loaded

The ebook selection available through Kindle store is extensive, more than 400,000 titles. If that proves to be insufficient, you can always send your documents through Wi-Fi or an USB cable. Please note that some formats don't work that way, they have to be put through the web-conversion process, which costs a small fee. It's £0.2 per megabyte, and is rounded to the next megabyte, thus making the minimal fee £0.2 regardless the size of the document.

When connected to a PC or Mac the built in 4GB acts as an external hard drive, and can be used to store documents and files. Be aware that files sent on the cable will not be readable, if they're of the unsupported list. As a rule of thumb, anything without Digital Rights Management and on the natively supported list will work just well.


The Bottom Line

The new Kindle is nothing short of awesomeness, but there are shortcomings, such as the indirect format support for doc and jpg, or the inherent flickering when you turn a page. Luckily enough, these problems don't hinder the normal use of the device and can be considered minor nuisances compared to what this e-book reader gives for the money. Super crisp image in 16 grade grayscale, perfect readability under even the most extreme lighting conditions. Having the ability to tote around 3,500 ebooks in just 240 grams does worth reaching into the pocket, and you won't be parting with much money either.


Amazon has priced the third generation very competitively, £149 for the 3G enabled version and £109 for Wi-Fi only are a steal. As far as ebook prices go, they tend to be cheaper than a paperback, and once you have them, the Kindle app lets you read them on all the devices you own, let that be an iPhone, Pc, Mac or BlackBerry.