Photo: Dylan Love
The Kindle Fire certainly captured everyone’s attention this week, but let’s not ignore the fact that Amazon introduced a line of three new Kindle e-readers alongside it.We got to test the flagship model, the Kindle Touch 3G, which retails for $149. This was my first experience spending any significant amount of time with a Kindle, so I came at this with pretty fresh eyes.
What makes it different?
This is the first touchscreen Kindle. There are only two tactile buttons on this device — the power button and the home button. Everything else happens on the infrared touchscreen. No more hard keyboard and page-turning buttons. Touch the right side of the screen to go to the next page, touch the left side to go back.
Everything else should be very familiar to Kindle fans.
Despite looking very plain, the form factor is fairly impressive. The grey tablet weighs next to nothing but still feels robust in your hands. I’d have very few concerns carrying it loose in a bag — you’d have to try pretty hard to break it.
The USB port, power button, and headphone jack run along the bottom of the device. Despite my initial scepticism about having the power button on the bottom, it ended up not being a big deal.
Because the hardware is so modest, the software does all the heavy lifting.
Without a hard keyboard on this device, you have to use a touchscreen keyboard. I wasn’t a fan. While the software has no problem keeping track of your typing at a reasonable rate, it animates each key as you type it and you feel like you have to wait for it to catch up. For someone used to typing on an iPad, this was quite a drawback for me.
The Kindle Touch comes with an experimental web browser. And Amazon is quick to remind you that it’s experimental — you access it from a tab in the menu labelled “Experimental” and have to read a disclaimer at the top before launching it. While it’s perfectly adept at basic browsing, anything beyond images and text will stump it, so don’t expect it to become your main mobile browser.
What I liked
The Kindle’s biggest strength will always be that it’s backed by Amazon’s e-book store. If you’re an avid reader, this is huge — pre-order a book and it will automatically download to your Kindle when it’s released (and often times even before it’s released!)
Getting rid of the hard keyboard means that Amazon was able to shrink the device while maintaining all the same functionality — the Kindle is more portable than ever now.
The screen maintains its readability even in direct sunlight, so it’s perfect for reading in any bright environment.
What I Didn’t Like
IT’S LAGGY! I realise that this is a necessary evil with e-ink — it has to wipe the screen each time you want to display new content. Page-turning speeds were generally acceptable, but when they were a little slower than usual, I noticed it in a big way.
Highlighting sections of a book is tricky for the same reason — e-ink can’t keep up with your finger as quickly as a more conventional display.
As far as the touchscreen capabilities go, it’s pretty nice to just tap the screen and advance to the next page — but for anything other than that, the e-ink makes it frustratingly slow.
When not in use, your Kindle Touch will display ads, and this bothered me. This is more a matter of personal preference, but I don’t need to be sold yoga and fitness accessories every time I want to start reading.
If you want an ad-free model of the Kindle, you’ll have to shell out an extra $40.
Should You Buy It?
If all you’re looking for is something that will be great for reading e-books, then you won’t go wrong with the Kindle Touch.
If you love highlighting and taking notes or if you plan on browsing the web extensively, you can do better than this. For an extra $50, you’d be way happier with the Kindle Fire. Then you have a device that supports video content too!