Having played with the Kindle 4 it’s time to write a proper review. This Kindle 4 Review will cover – Review Assumptions, A Detailed Kindle 4 Review, Kindle 4 Photos, Upgrade Recommendations (if you have Kindle 3 or Kindle 2).
For the Kindle 4 Photos (including Kindle 4 vs Kindle 3 Comparison Photos) please jump to the second half of the post.
Kindle 4 Review – Assumptions
This is a review of the Kindle 4. Review = Helping someone decide whether or not to buy it.
It’s not for you if you’ve already bought a Kindle 4 or have already decided to buy a Kindle 4. You will probably not like the fact that we point out a somewhat long list of mostly minor negatives.
We’ll start off with three assumptions -
- We are looking at whether Kindle 4 is a great eReader. The most important criteria being - ability to find and buy books easily, the reading experience, the value for money. Some other important criteria - battery life, ease of use, portability, the actual price, reading related features, resale value.
- We value ‘value for money’ over raw price. This Kindle 4 Review will focus on answering two questions - Is Kindle 4 good value for money? Is it the best value for money (especially since Kindle Touch and Kindle 3 are just $20 more)?
- We are in a very competitive environment and Kindle 4 co-exists with other options. Thanks to the Kindle vs Nook vs Kobo battle and the various Kindles on offer – we get to choose the very best option.
On with the Kindle 4 Review.
Detailed Kindle 4 Review – The 5 Best Things
- The very low $79 price. If your primary criteria is to buy the cheapest eReader possible – then Kindle 4 is the clear winner.
- Very good Value for Money. This also shows up on Top 5 Negatives list because it offers lower value for money than Kindle 3 and Kindle Touch. However, at $79 Kindle 4 is incredible value for money.
- Kindle Store and Kindle Infrastructure. You get a connection to the best eBook Store and get Amazon’s amazing infrastructure to support you.
- Great Reading Experience if you ignore the things that are at the periphery. The eInk Pearl screen makes for a great reading experience.
- Very light and compact. It’s just 6 ounces and it’s 18% smaller in size than Kindle 3.
Basically, if you look at the most important qualities an eReader should have i.e. easy to find and get books, good reading experience, value for money – Kindle 4 does very well on all three. The problems start when we look at the other qualities an eReader should have (the ones that aren’t deal breakers but will still have an impact on the overall experience).
In a nutshell – Kindle 4 is a good eReader but misses out on being a great eReader.
Kindle 4 Review – The 5 Worst Things
- The decision to have neither a touchscreen nor a keyboard is a big mistake. It makes everything awkward and/or adds additional steps everywhere - bookmarking pages, changing font settings, highlighting, entering a website address, doing a search, note-taking (more on that later), etc. There are lots and lots of things that are slower and/or painful on Kindle 4.
- Kindle 4 is far less value for money than a Kindle Touch or Kindle 3. My estimate would be – Kindle 4 is worth around $100 in value, Kindle Touch is worth around $160 to $180, Kindle 3 is worth around $160 to $170. It might be $20 cheaper than the other two options – However, it provides less bang for the buck.
- If you like taking notes then Kindle 4 is pretty much out of the question.
- Kindle 4 doesn’t have speakers so text to speech is impossible and you can’t play music on it.
- 50% less battery life than other Kindles and 50% less memory (actually 60% less than Kindle 3).
If this is your first Kindle then some of these things are things you’ll never realize – so it’s not as bad as it sounds.
In a nutshell - If the extra $20 is not an issue, then Kindle 4 just isn’t very compelling when compared with Kindle Touch and Kindle 3.
Kindle 4 Review – Core Reading Experience
Kindle 4 shines here. The eInk Pearl screen is the same as the Kindle 3′s and it’s great for reading. The background is now whiter and there is a black border around the screen that helps bring out the contrast better.
The screen is flashed only on every 6th page turn which makes page turns faster and less annoying (if the flash bothers you).
It’s easy to get books and you still have 60 second downloads.
One slight negative here is that the page turn buttons are now even smaller and harder to get to. Of course, this is a very personal thing and people’s opinions will vary wildly.
Overall, the Core Reading Experience is superb.
Kindle 4 Review – Things that prop up the Reading Experience
This is where the Kindle 4 runs into trouble.
Making a bookmark, adding a highlight, adding a note, changing the font, doing a search - everything is now slower or takes more steps. If you like making highlights and taking notes then Kindle 4 is ruled out.
Adding a highlight now involves – Pressing down on the 5-way, getting a menu and choosing ‘Start Highlight’ (usually the first option), moving the cursor, pressing 5-way again, getting a menu and choosing ‘End Highlight’ (always the first option).
It also involves two screen flashes.
If you’ve owned a Kindle 3 it might be rather annoying – especially when everything else also involves extra steps. If you’ve never owned a Kindle – then there’s no frame of reference and you might not mind it.
In Summary – Things that support the reading experience are now neither smooth nor intuitive. It takes away from the great core reading experience and turns the Kindle 4 from a great eReader to a merely good one. It’s still an absolute steal at $79.
Kindle 4 Review – Looking at the Product Page
Here are a few things worth discussing -
- The lightness and compactness are indeed very impressive. If possible, visit a Staples and check it out in person.
- The memory capacity is quite enough if you plan on reading just books from Amazon. If you plan on adding PDFs etc. then 1.2 GB of available memory might not be enough. Also, there is no SD Card so you can’t expand.
- eInk Pearl Screen – It was beautiful on the Kindle 3 and it’s slightly improved here (Not enough to warrant an upgrade).
- Kindle Library Book Support – Amazing Feature. Finally coming for all Kindles and Kindle 4 benefits from this.
- Read in Sunlight. One of the big selling points of eInk (along with the fact that it’s much easier on the eyes for approximately 50% of people).
- Battery Life – 1 month is quite enough for most people. If you want more, get the Kindle 3 or Kindle Touch.
- Simple to Use – Yes. However, Amazon has made a mess of things like highlighting and note-taking.
- WiFi. This is a great feature to have. Browse the Internet, Shop in the Kindle Store, etc.
- Faster Page Turns. Yes, and the screen flashes only on every 6th page turn.
- PDF Support. The screen is too small for PDFs. You can put the PDF in landscape mode – However, the 6″ screen is just too small.
- Kindle Store – An undeniable advantage. The widest range of new ebooks and the best prices.
- Access to Public Domain books – Available on all eReaders.
- Whispersync and Kindle Reading Apps – a Definite plus. You can start reading on Kindle 4 and finish on your Android Phone or iPad.
Kindle 4 is a very solid eReader. It’s not a very big leap from Kindle 3. More like a Kindle 3.25 rather than a Kindle 4. However, at $79, it’s certainly worth considering.
Kindle 4 – Should you Upgrade?
- Kindle 2 – Please look at Kindle Touch and Kindle 3 first.
- Kindle 3 – No. All you gain is a marginally better screen (and perhaps one or two other things). You give up a lot.
- Kindle 1 – Look at Kindle Touch and Kindle 3 first. The move from Kindle 1′s sturdy size and largish keyboard to Kindle 4 might be too much of jump.
With every new device there are some changes people love and there are some changes people don’t really care for. However, Kindle 4 is different in that Kindle 4 doesn’t seem like it’s meant for the people who bought Kindles and Kindle 2s and Kindle 3s.
It’s perhaps meant for people who want a really cheap reading device. Amazon has done a great job for them – $79 is a stunning price.
It is unlikely that Kindle 4 will satisfy existing Kindle owners. While Kindle 4 doesn’t compromise on the core reading experience (it’s superb), it compromises on so many of the supporting elements (note-taking, searching, highlighting, etc.) that it just isn’t worth an upgrade. Kindle 4 is a good, solid eReader and it’s not as good as Kindle 3.
That brings us to our Kindle 4 Photos.
Kindle 4 Review – Kindle 4 Photos
All the photos are after the jump i.e. Click on the read more link.
Please Note: Not a professional photographer and there hasn’t been enough sunshine. Hopefully the photos still give you a good idea of the Kindle 4 and of how it compares to Kindle 3.
You can click on any of these photos to go to full-size version.
Let’s start with a Kindle 4 photo.
It’s a pretty device. Very compact and light.
Here’s another Kindle 4 photo (this time with China Meiville’s The Scar).
The next photo shows the Kindle 4 and Kindle 3 screens side by side.
It’s pretty clear that it’s the same eInk Pearl screen. Kindle 4′s screen background seems whiter. The fonts seem the same to my untrained eye. Most of the software is identical too.
Here’s a Kindle 4 vs Kindle 3 comparison photo without flash.
To my untrained eyes there’s not much difference.
We do see a clear difference in size (and the Kindle 4 is also much lighter).
Next, let’s look at Kindle 4 in Landscape Mode showing a website.
If you’re wondering where the page turn buttons are – they are part of the black frame around the bezel. It looks good but isn’t the best design decision as the Page Turn buttons end up being rather thin and a bit hard to press.
Next, let’s look at the on-screen keyboard.
There is a dedicated button for the keyboard. After you get the keyboard you can use the 5-way to move around and can press on it to type a character. Not very elegant.
You’ll notice that there are lots of tabs for accented characters. Kindle seems to have better International support now. It also comes with the option to choose one out of various languages for the Menus (this is for international Kindle 4) – English (UK), English (US), Dutch, Spanish, French, Italian, and Brazilian Portuguese.
Here’s what you get in your Kindle 4 Box – the Kindle 4, a Kindle USB cable. There is no power charger – part of how Amazon manages to hit the ridiculously low price of $79.
Will be adding a post with more Kindle 4 photos later and also one with Kindle 4 vs Kindle 3 comparison photos.
Kindle 4 Review Conclusion – Kindle 4 is Good, $99 Kindles are Better
The Kindle 4 is definitely a very good eReader and its price of $79 is unreal. The core reading experience is great and if it weren’t for a few bad design decisions by Amazon this would be the most amazing Kindle released so far.
At the end of our Kindle 4 Review we are left with a quality problem. Kindle 4 is very good but the two $99 Kindles are better. My recommendation would be to throw in an extra $20 and get either Kindle 3 (keyboard, better buttons, better feel, speakers, better battery life, etc.) or Kindle Touch (Touch, speakers, better battery life, etc.).