This Kindle DX Review is based on approximately 2 months of use of the International Kindle DX. This includes reading 3 to 6 books and a few short stories on it (Dragon Keeper, City at World’s End, Iron Council, perhaps Scar, perhaps 33 AD, perhaps Brood of the Witch Queen, Overtime) and also playing around a lot with it.
Using the Kindle DX alongside the Kindle 2, the iPad, the Nook, the iPhone, and (rarely) Sony Reader helped paint a very good picture of the Kindle DX’s strengths and weaknesses as an eReader. This Kindle DX review will use all this experience, use the What makes a good eReader? post as a skeleton, and try out some new things.
Well, let’s jump in.
Kindle DX Review – the indispensable eReader functions
Given that the Kindle DX comes with the screen technology, design philosophy (simple and easy), platform, and store of the Kindle 2 it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it does exceptionally well when it comes to the indispensable eReader functions.
Being able to get books on the Kindle DX
There’s a rich range of content courtesy the Kindle Store (over 500,000 books) and free book sources like Gutenberg and the Internet Archive. Combine that with –
- Free, quick wireless downloads anywhere in the world. Supposedly now available even if your home country isn’t USA (only confirmed for UK and some other countries – please check details for your country at the Kindle DX product page).
- 3G access which means not having to search for a WiFi network – although you must get decent cell reception in your home/office for it to work.
- The Kindle Store being open 24/7 with easy returns (in the Kindle DX there’s a return option on the purchase confirmation page).
And you have a winning formula.
The Kindle Store still has the largest number of new books and the Kindle DX’s larger 9.7″ screen makes browsing the Kindle Store easier.
A solid 9 stars out of 10.
The book reading experience on the Kindle DX
The Kindle DX shines when it comes to reading books –
- The eInk screen works marvellously for reading – the eInk is sharp, it works in sunlight, and there’s no eye-strain.
- The larger screen makes it easier to read – you can choose between getting more text per page or reading in a larger font.
- The battery life is very long. 1 week with wireless on and 2 weeks with wireless off.
- Good solid features – changeable font sizes, accelerometer based screen rotation, and good reference features.
- It’s completely focused on reading.
It was a lot of fun reading on the Kindle DX after a few weeks spent mostly with the iPad. Kindle DX vs iPad is one of those comparisons where you know what’s better for you and what’s more fun to read on – However, if you’re not careful you’re going to invent a non-reading related reason to pick the iPad. Which is perfectly OK if reading isn’t your top priority.
Another solid 9 stars out of 10.
It’s more fun to read on the Kindle DX
Perhaps it’s an individual thing – a combination of which books were read, having just switched from the iPad, and liking the larger screen more. However, the Kindle DX is a lot of fun to read on.
One of my favorite things is driving and in some ways reading on a Kindle DX (or for that matter on a good, dedicated reading device like Kindle or Nook) is like driving a very good car. There’s no substitute for a car that’s built with the sheer pleasure of driving in mind and that’s exactly what the Kindle DX is – it’s built for reading. There are things it could and should do to improve – However, it gets most of the features right.
Perhaps fun is the third indispensable eReader function – Is it fun to read on a particular eReader?
Well, it most definitely is fun to read on the DX – more fun than reading on the iPad. Also, while the Kindle 2 is more convenient and better value for money, the Kindle DX is a tiny bit more fun to read on. Makes you wonder whether the ideal screen size for eReaders is perhaps 8″ or 9″.
Yet another solid 9 stars out of 10.
Kindle DX Review – the hugely important eReader functions
Let’s start with a new criteria that is missing from previous eReader reviews.
Value for Money – Is the Kindle DX worth $489?
There’s an easy answer to this – If you compare it with the $259 Kindle 2 or the $499 iPad it doesn’t match up.
The Kindle 2’s only drawback (if you can call it that) is the smaller screen size. It compensates by being smaller, more portable, lighter, well suited to one-handed reading, and $230 cheaper.
The iPad is not meant for reading and its primary selling points are the excellent screen (though not optimal for reading) and variety of functionalities. It’s hard to compare something that can do 100 or more things well with a device that does one or two things exceptionally well.
Yet the Kindle DX provides a far better reading experience than the iPad and people who want that will pay the $489. Amazon would make things much easier if it dropped the price by $150 to $189.
The answer to the question is Yes and No. Yes, the Kindle DX is worth $489. No, it’s not because by now Amazon ought to have figured out a way to reduce its price drastically.
A poor 5 stars out of 10.
Screen Quality and Size
The Kindle DX has an excellent eInk screen – it’s very readable and has good, solid contrast. It’s 9.7″ with 1200 by 824 pixels at 150 pixels per inch and has 16 shades of grey.
We’ll handle the negative impact of the Kindle DX’s screen size on portability in the Portability section. As far as reading goes the 9.7″ screen is great – it lets you get a lot on every page, go with very large fonts without making the number of words per page a joke, and has about as much space for words per page as a hardcover.
Kindle DX reviews very well on screen quality and size – 8 stars out of 10.
Kindle DX – Review of Ease of Use
The Kindle DX is very, very easy to use. It would get a very high score if it weren’t for the tiny keyboard with the qwerty keys doubling up to serve as number keys. The other pain point is the lack of page turns buttons on the left side.
7 stars out of 10.
Kindle DX Portability
This is almost a trick question – Compare it with the iPad and it’s lighter and around the same size. Compare it with the Kindle 2 and it’s hardly portable at all.
Here are the upsides – It’s quite thin at 0.38″, the weight is a low 18.9 ounces (given the size), you can hold it in one hand for short stretches, you can fit it into larger bags and it doesn’t add much weight, and it’s easy to hold and carry in your hand. There’s also the great battery life and the large memory (3.3 GB of available memory).
Here are the downsides – At 10.4″ by 7.2″ it’s quite big, you can’t hold it for long using one hand, left-handed reading is ruled out due to the lack of buttons on the left side, and it won’t fit in smaller purses.
6 stars out of 10. Harsh but you’re comparing against some really portable options like Kindle and Nook.
Reference features on the Kindle DX
Kindle DX shines here as not only does it have the built-in dictionary, a good search function, Wikipedia access, and free Internet browsing, it has a large screen which makes everything easier – see more of the website or Wikipedia page on the screen, see more text corresponding to search results on the screen, and so forth.
9 out of 10 stars. At times the Kindle DX misses out because handing out 9.5 or 10 would indicate things are close to perfect and they’re not. A lot of the 9s are more like 9.2s and 9.3s.
The Kindle DX displays as many search results per page as the Kindle – However, it displays much more text which makes it much easier to figure out which search result you want. It’s quite an important change.
Some readers (like Sony Reader) highlight the results in the book itself which means that you can see much more of the text and figure out if it’s the result you want. However, it means that usually only 1 result is shown per page. The Kindle, on the other hand, shows you 6 results per page with 2 lines of text (not sentences, lines) so you have more results per page but less context. The iPad uses a similar model with 6 search results with 2 or so lines per result.
The Kindle DX combines the best things about each to show you 6 results per page with 5 lines per search result. It makes the Kindle DX’s search function arguably the best.
9 stars out of 10.
Kindle DX Review – Content Rights and Content Portability
A lot has changed with this over the last year – The Kindle is not ‘open’ and yet you can access your Kindle books on other devices thanks to various Kindle Apps.
- You have Kindle for PC, Kindle for Mac, Kindle for iPhone, Kindle for iPad, Kindle for Blackberry, and soon Kindle for Android. That means your content is readable on a lot of devices.
- You can download a book as many times as you like and now for free all over the world (please check details for your country on the Kindle DX product page).
- You can share the same book across 5 to 6 devices (Publishers set the number and it’s almost always 5 or 6).
- There is still no support for ePub.
- Kindle books still don’t work on other dedicated reading devices – not on the Nook, not on the Sony Reader.
PDF support has always been present on the Kindle DX and its larger screen size and landscape orientation both help make reading PDFs much easier. Kindle 2.5 update promises to add support for zooming and panning PDFs.
Kindle DX gets 7 out of 10 on content rights and portability. 9 if you are OK with using Kindle Apps, 5 if you’re anti-DRM.
Kindle DX Review – Annotations
Kindle DX doesn’t have touch, has a Lilliputian keyboard, and has one row of keys serving two purposes (qwerty and numbers) – It makes for a rather unpleasant note-taking experience.
Adding highlights and bookmarks is easy. It’s easy to look at all your highlights and notes in the My Clippings File, transfer them to your PC, or to look at them on kindle.amazon.com. You will also be able to see Most Popular Highlights once Kindle 2.5 is released.
All the great features are limited by the terrible keyboard.
5 out of 10 stars.
Kindle DX Review – Changeable Font Sizes
There are currently 6 font sizes on the Kindle DX and the Kindle 2.5 update promises two more, super sized fonts. Given the larger screen size of the Kindle DX and the accelerometer (which means automatic switching to landscape mode) the variety in font sizes really shines on the Kindle DX.
9 out of 10 stars. This assumes Kindle 2.5 is factored in.
There are a good set of controls, Amazon owns Audible and supports Audible audiobooks, there are sources for free audiobooks (Librivox), and the stereo speakers work well. You’ll probably have to find someone who listens to audiobooks more (which shouldn’t be difficult) for a better opinion.
Perhaps 7 out of 10 stars.
Kindle DX Review – Does it have an Easy to Use Store?
Yes, very much so.
You get all the benefits of the Kindle Store – wide range, easy navigation, good recommendation engine, lots of reviews from Amazon customers and Kindle owners, nice categorization of books, a good search function. You get all of this on a larger, 9.7″ screen.
It’s a very solid 9 stars out of 10.
One Handed Use
The Kindle DX stumbles here since it is heavier and holding it in one hand for longer than 5-10 minutes is very tiring. It’s also not possible to read using your left hand as there are no page turn buttons on the left side and the reverse the screen suggestion is asinine – Who wants to read with a keyboard above the screen?
Very un-Amazon like to make things complicated for readers and hopefully they change the design back to buttons on both sides for Kindle DX 2.
5 stars for One Handed Reading.
Time and Date on the Kindle DX
Press the Menu button on any screen to see the time. The Kindle’s ‘type in @t on the home screen’ secret doesn’t work here to figure out the date.
6 out of 10 stars since having the time handy is useful.
There has been some progress with the Kindle Store now allowing books in French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese in addition to English. There still isn’t support for languages not based on the English alphabet. There are font hacks – However, they aren’t official and they prevent you from updating the Kindle until you uninstall them.
2 stars out of 10.
Kindle DX Review – Folders and Book Organization
This is a big, big feature arriving in the Kindle 2.5 update. All signs (and the help text) indicate it is done intelligently and in a way that isn’t confusing or overwhelming.
The addition of Folders/Collections will make at least 50% of Kindle owners happier with their Kindles. It’ll also give the Kindle DX and Kindle 2 an advantage over the Nook and negate the Sony Reader’s advantage (it’s had collections for a while). iPhone and iPad get Folders of their own in iOS4 although they are a bit limited and apply to apps and not books.
9 out of 10 stars. This factors in the Kindle 2.5 update.
Kindle DX Review – the nice to have eReader features
The Kindle DX has had some very good scores and only a few poor ones so far. Now we start running into some of the Kindle DX’s obvious disadvantages.
Kindle DX Review – Looks
The Kindle DX shares some of the Kindle 2’s design (white border around an eInk screen, brushed aluminium back, 5-way and similar buttons on the right side) and yet is decidedly different looking. The screen takes up much more space, the keyboard and lower panel take up much less space, and it makes the side and upper panel seem smaller (though they’re not) and gives the screen a lot more prominence.
It’s surprising how much of an effect having a larger screen has on looks.
6 stars out of 10.
Free Internet Access
This is a big feature despite the slow speed of the Internet connection. Combine it with the recently added worldwide free wireless downloads and Amazon are really getting mileage out of WhisperNet and AT&T.
The best way to think of the Free Internet Access is –
- There’s no wireless plan. You pay absolutely nothing.
- Browsing the store is reasonably OK.
- Kindle Store Books download in just 60 seconds.
- You can check some basic sites and nearly all mobile versions of sites. Not bad for what you pay.
- Speeds are slow – However, lots of mobile sites are optimized so they work fine. Expect to wait 10 or more seconds for mobile versions of sites and 30 or more seconds for non-mobile versions. A lot of the latter will not work – even in the Advanced Mode of the browser.
The browser works pretty well for reading sites that are mostly text and for sites that have good mobile versions. The larger screen of the Kindle DX also helps make using the Internet more enjoyable.
8 stars out of 10.
eInk doesn’t support color and according to Mr. Bezos we shouldn’t be expecting this anytime soon.
Kindle DX Review – Text to Speech Feature
While some Publishers disable this feature a lot don’t. For the books that have this enabled it’s an extremely valuable feature – despie the fact that the voice doesn’t sound very human and it mispronounces some words. Valuable enough that Apple are pretending their accessibility feature is a Text to Speech feature.
You also have it available on all public domain books and all your personal documents. It’s not available on PDFs.
8 out of 10 stars.
Kindle DX does not have a journal feature. You do have to think that when the Kindle App Store arrives someone will add one. Having a device with a keyboard and a crisp paper like screen just begs for the addition of a Diary or Journal App.
Extensions and Utilities
This is another area that the Kindle App Store ought to serve – daily planners, weekly planners, vocabulary games, word games, and other apps that would go well with an eReader.
0 out of 10 stars.
Kindle DX Review – Games & Diversions
There’s minesweeper – Press Alt+Shift+M on the home page. There’s also GoMoKu which is sort of like Tic Tac Toe crossed with a chessboard.
This is yet another category that would be well served by apps. You do have to wonder how much of a distraction it will be – just figured out that GoMoKu isn’t half bad and there may very well be games and apps that are quite a diversion from reading.
3 out of 10 stars. Not sure whether a high rating here would be good for eReaders (and reading) or bad.
Kindle DX has pretty much the same background music support as a Kindle 2. It allows playing music, pausing the current song, and jumping to the next track.
5 stars out of 10.
Device Lock, Lost and Found options
The addition of a password lock feature in the Kindle 2.5 update (detect a theme ;) ) will be a valuable addition. There is still no option to lock purchases (as opposed to the whole Kindle).
4 out of 10 stars. Yet again we’re factoring in the Kindle 2.5 update.
Kindle DX, like the Kindle 2, does not provide any customization options – not even custom screensavers. Your only option is to get 3rd party skins, covers, and cases, or to add-on your own stickers or whatever else you might like – glitter, unicorn horns, shrunken heads.
5 out of 10 stars.
Kindle DX Review – Overall 7.75 Stars Rating, Recommended with reservations
The Kindle DX gets straight 9s on ease of getting books, the book reading experience, and being fun to own and read on. There’s little doubt it’s an excellent eReader and it aces the indispensable eReader functions.
The first downsides begin to appear when we look at hugely important eReader functions. It only scores 7 out of 10 despite a bunch of 9s (screen quality and size, search, reference, folders, easy to use store) because it does badly on Value for Money and really badly in areas like annotations, one-handed use, and language support.
It scores only 5 stars out of 10 in the ‘Nice to Have eReader features’ category though an eventual Kindle App Store would improve that to a 7 or perhaps even higher.
We end up with an overall rating of approximately 7.75 since the first two categories of features hold a lot more weight than the nice to have category. It’s hard not to think of the crucial importance of three factors –
- The Kindle 2.5 Update. This is arriving soon and is already factored in – without it the Kindle DX wouldn’t remain competitive.
- The price Amazon decides to sell Kindle DX and Kindle DX 2 at. Value for Money is perhaps the biggest weakness of the Kindle DX at the moment.
- When the Kindle App Store will open and what apps it will provide. This could be a game changer – at best it could add a couple of killer features that other dedicated eReaders don’t have and at worst it would give the Kindle DX a better score in the ‘Nice to Have eReader features’ category.
The Reservations have to do almost entirely with these three things. If Amazon addresses two out of these three well the Kindle DX is a strong buy. If it addresses all three then the decision is a no-brainer.
The final caveat is that this entire Kindle DX review supposes that reading books and reading are your main priorities. If you are looking for something that ‘also can be used to read books’ you would be better served with a netbook or an iPad.