Amazon Kindle DX Ebook Reader Review

Tue, Oct 5th 2010, 21:44

What's wrong with the 10" displays?

It looks like everyone wants to discourage you from buying a netbook with a 10" screen. They say it's too small for work and even smaller for entertainment purposes, and yet there has been a distinct positive feedback to 6" ebook readers all over the Internet. What causes this discrepancy, why is a six inch diagonal-stretch screen good in an ebook reader while it's deemed to be uncomfortably tiny for a portable computer?

Recent improvements

Amazon Kindle DX ebook reader graphite

The Kindle DX is now available in grey - or as they say, graphite, and that's not the only improvement over the white edition. It still comes with the 9.7" E-ink display, but the technology behind has undergone some serious rethinking, resulting in faster page turning times and a claimed 50% increase in contrast. Amazon made sure they do everything in their power to make that 50% felt and seen; the darker bezel helps fooling your contrast perception making the background appear brighter than it really is.

Even though there is some clever marketing going on behind the scenes, the new screen is undeniably better than the one found in Kindle DX 2. Amazon isn't very talkative about exact specifics, but the resolution of the new e-paper is found to be 1200 by 824 pixels, not a conventional ratio but definitely one that works for ebooks. This high resolution compared to the 1024 by 600 found in netbooks is one part of the reason why the Kindle DX is recommended over having a small laptop, at least for reading ebooks.

The other part of the success story is the casing. It's very light relative to the number of words you can squeeze on the screen. The outer shell is 7.2" by 10.4", or about an inch shorter on both sides than an A4 sheet of paper. The whole unit weighs a little over 18 oz, or 510 grams. In comparison, even the most anorexic mini notebook will throw at least just as much on top of that half kilo; if I had to choose a device I'd like to use in the bed to read it'd be the Kindle for it's reasonable weight and superior thinness.

Free internet? Sure.

Another part where the Kindle pulls away is Whispernet. It's a system devised and implemented by Amazon and it could be described as a way to reach online content without having to pay for the data transfer. In other words, Amazon gives you free internet access, which is intended for downloading their ebooks, but is capable of much more. Wikipedia at your fingertips, your favorite blogs formatted to fit the screen perfectly, and with the experimental browser, everything else you may find interesting.

The 3G connection is zippy and costs you nothing to get the latest title from the selection of 600,000 electronic books online. The pricing is almost always competitive, letting you save on individual ebooks. Once you have the DX you've already paid for the difference anyway. Eventually, after a few dozen ebooks, you'll be saving money using the electronic book rather than paperbacks, not to mention that it's a sturdier solution as well. By no means is the Kindle shock or water resistant, but it's not as sensitive as laptops, either.

WiFi? Nope.

Amazon Kindle DX ebook reader white

Sadly there is no Wi-Fi connection in this edition, but this is a minor inconvenience given that you can tap 3G/GPRS/EDGE connections for free in 100 countries. As a rule of thumb, where you have reception on your phone, you'll be able to use the Kindle to get new ebooks, and there is always the possibility to use the USB cable included in the package. It's also the means to charge the device, but you won't have to do that all that often.

A full recharge takes about 5 hours and without wireless it's enough to power your collection of electronic books for about two weeks. With wireless it's back to a more humble seven days figure, but make no mistake, that's a lot of time to read an ebook or two. This battery is not user-replaceable, and it needs not to be. Experience shows that devices with built in batteries tend to squeeze more power out of the same size source, you can catch that in other ebook readers, like the Kindle 3 or latest Macbook Pros.

What to read

What to fill the epaper with? Whatever you very well please; the Kindle DX is just as good at wrapping latest bestsellers on the 9.7" E-ink goodness as it is at rendering PDF documents. You may see formatting issues here and there, but the algorithm has undergone significant changes in order to maximize compatibility. The bigger screen also works better with manuals and documentation stuffed with images and graphs. Even though the screen only shows those images in 16 grey shades, it's a much more pleasing experience to use than a mobile phone, or even the new little Kindle.

Value for your money

Why does it worth opting for the large Kindle DX rather than the new and improved third generation 6" variation? Obviously the screen size helps a lot with pages where images are significant part of the content. The weight is twice of the little brother, but it interestingly enough doesn't come with an uncomfortable grip. You'll be inclined to hold the thing with both hands, not unlike a big format magazine, and it won't feel heavy even after a few hours spent reading.

Page turning keys are the same nice quality, the screen is the same crisp pearl unit they use in new 6" models. You get to hold up to 3,500 ebooks on the device at all times and they're synchronized with your online account so if the device gets lost or stolen, you still have all the ebooks you ever bought. Not that it wouldd soothe the pain of parting with a device worth $389. It's not available in the UK momentarily, but you may have some luck finding one off eBay. The price is expected to fall between £250 and £280, and there is no information of a United Kingdom release date as of yet.