Amazon Kindle e-reader

Amazon's newest, cheapest, smallest, simplest Kindle is, we think, its best

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  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5

Pros

  • Thin, light and compact body
  • Excellent screen
  • Very cheap

Cons

  • Typing with the controller is a pain
  • Wi-Fi quietly drains the battery

Bottom Line

Amazon's newest, cheapest, smallest, simplest Kindle is, we think, its best. You'll have to be interested in buying books, of course -- just having the Kindle isn't really enough to inspire you to begin reading, and even though there are plenty of cheap books you still have to buy them -- but the Kindle makes it so easy as to be entirely painless. An occasional battery charge via USB (more often if you forget to turn off Wi-Fi when you're not using it) is all the Kindle really needs -- apart from that, it's a seamless and gratifyingly simple electronic book-reading device.

Would you buy this?

Amazon Kindle 4: Display

The display of the Amazon Kindle 4 is, in a word, excellent. If you haven’t seen an e-Ink screen before you’ll be impressed with the almost-paperlike nature of the display, and the contrast between the text and background is more than enough to be easily visible in low light.

The Kindle’s screen has a 600x800pixel resolution and can display 16 shades of grey, giving pictures a pleasantly comic-book-esque cel-shaded feel.

The screen isn’t backlit, which is a problem if you’re reading by anything dimmer than a desk lamp. You can buy add-on cases that have built-in reading lights (powered by the Kindle, courtesy of a pair of terminals on the device’s lower back panel), but if you’re going to be reading in the dark all the time an e-Ink screen isn’t for you.

Amazon Kindle 4: Interface

The on-screen interface for the Amazon Kindle is as refreshingly simple as the device’s design. It can err on the side of too stark on occasion — the home page is very basic, for example, and book titles in the store can occasionally run off the edges of the screen — but for the not-so-tech-savvy, the basic layout should be reassuring. It can take as little as four button-clicks to buy a new book, and even if you’re typing in a title the on-screen keyboard is reasonably quick to respond.

It has to be said that the on-screen keyboard is a stop-gap solution to the Kindle’s new-found input problem, though. Dealing with text input on a slow-to-update e-Ink screen would have been difficult no matter what, and the on-screen keyboard layout is clear and always responds to input, but it does mean that typing in a specific book title could take a minute rather than a few seconds. Accidentally select the wrong key and you’ve got to delete it, which is another dozen clicks of the five-way controller. Of course, this can all be avoided by using a computer to buy books from the Kindle Store, which are then downloaded to the device directly.

Amazon Kindle 4: Pricing

The Kindle comes with a few items pre-loaded — a couple of dictionaries, a user’s guide, a welcome note — but you’ll need to load it up with books if you’re keen to get the most out of it. We bought the new Steve Jobs biography and a collection of essays on the New York Times — both new releases, both available for $9.99 each. Store pricing generally seems perfectly reasonable, with many books for under $10 and newspapers for under $2.

The Kindle itself is also very reasonably priced. $109 with free shipping from Amazon is an impressive price, although Australian buyers don’t get the option of a further-$30-discounted advertising-supported device. You can also buy the new Kindle from Dick Smith stores around Australia for $139.

Amazon Kindle 4: Conclusion

The Kindle is an impressive product in almost every sense. If you’re willing to buy books — otherwise there’s no point buying an e-reader — then we can’t really find any serious faults with the new Amazon Kindle.

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