Kindle 4 Review (Kindle 4 Review, Photos)

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 –

  1. 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.
  2. 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)?
  3. 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

  1. The very low $79 price. If your primary criteria is to buy the cheapest eReader possible – then Kindle 4 is the clear winner.
  2. 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.
  3. Kindle Store and Kindle Infrastructure. You get a connection to the best eBook Store and get Amazon’s amazing infrastructure to support you.
  4. Great Reading Experience if you ignore the things that are at the periphery. The eInk Pearl screen makes for a great reading experience.
  5. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. If you like taking notes then Kindle 4 is pretty much out of the question.
  4. Kindle 4 doesn’t have speakers so text to speech is impossible and you can’t play music on it.
  5. 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 –

  1. The lightness and compactness are indeed very impressive. If possible, visit a Staples and check it out in person.
  2. 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.
  3. eInk Pearl Screen – It was beautiful on the Kindle 3 and it’s slightly improved here (Not enough to warrant an upgrade).
  4. Kindle Library Book Support – Amazing Feature. Finally coming for all Kindles and Kindle 4 benefits from this.
  5. 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).
  6. Battery Life – 1 month is quite enough for most people. If you want more, get the Kindle 3 or Kindle Touch.
  7. Simple to Use – Yes. However, Amazon has made a mess of things like highlighting and note-taking.
  8. WiFi. This is a great feature to have. Browse the Internet, Shop in the Kindle Store, etc.
  9. Faster Page Turns. Yes, and the screen flashes only on every 6th page turn.
  10. 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.
  11. Kindle Store – An undeniable advantage. The widest range of new ebooks and the best prices.
  12. Access to Public Domain books – Available on all eReaders.
  13. 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?

Short Version

  1. Kindle 2 – Please look at Kindle Touch and Kindle 3 first.
  2. Kindle 3 – No. All you gain is a marginally better screen (and perhaps one or two other things). You give up a lot.
  3. 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.

Longer Version

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.

Kindle 4 Starting Up
Kindle 4 Starts Up for the first time

It’s a pretty device. Very compact and light.

Here’s another Kindle 4 photo (this time with China Meiville’s The Scar).

New Kindle Screen - Kindle 4 Screen Photo
New Kindle Screen - eInk Pearl

The next photo shows the Kindle 4 and Kindle 3 screens side by side.

Kindle 3 and Kindle 4 Screen Comparison
Kindle 3 vs Kindle 4 - eInk Pearl vs eInk Pearl

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.

Comparing Kindle 3 and Kindle 4
Kindle 4 and Kindle 3 comparison of text and font and screen

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).

perfect kindle size comparison
Kindle 4 is 18% smaller than Kindle 3

Next, let’s look at Kindle 4 in Landscape Mode showing a website.

Kindle 4 in landscape mode with browser
Kindle in Landscape Mode in Browser

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.

Kindle 4 on-screen keyboard
Kindle 4 Keyboard - Used via the 5-way

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.

What you get when you buy the Kindle
Kindle & USB Cable - $79 gets you this

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.).

23 thoughts on “Kindle 4 Review (Kindle 4 Review, Photos)”

  1. Wait a minute — there’s no adapter to connect to the full-size USB connector (as came with the Kindle 3) for plugging the Kindle 4 into the wall outlet for charging? Are you serious (or am I mistaken)? Wow — big mistake, Amazon. So this means that you have to plug your Kindle 4 device into another device just to charge it? Please say it ain’t so!

    1. Yes. No Computer needed – unless you want to recharge. 😉

      I think Amazon should make it clearer that – charger is not included, Ads are included.

      If it wasn’t for someone’s comment (thanks to the person, perhaps Irish) it would have escaped my attention too.

    2. Amazon may be thinking that many buyers will be schools with a central recharger(s) for everyone, or parents whose existing Kindle chargers can do double duty.

    3. Will there be an adapter for Kindle Touch? What if K3 is reduced in price during holidays and no adapter? Why is Amazon doing this sort of saving w/o adapter. For many rural readers, this is essential. Cut prices but not the essentials.

      1. Kindle Touch also has adapter separately. If you check the product page, there is a section under Technical Details called ‘Included in the Box’ and it only shows – Kindle wireless eReader, USB 2.0 cable, Quick Start Guide.

  2. Can you confirm/infirm what have been said in previous comments to another post:
    One said that you can’t turn the wifi off if you have special offers, so the battery life is then 3 weeks… Is this true?
    Thanks for the review anyways

    1. Victor, I can only confirm partially because I have the international Kindle 4 version.

      There is indeed an option in the Menu to ‘Turn Wireless Off’.

      my understanding is that one of the two things happens –

      1st possibility – Kindle with Special Offers turns on wireless itself to update screensavers. Then you have to switch off wireless yourself. In that case battery life would be between 3 and 4 weeks. Please keep in mind that Amazon has changed how it measures battery life – 3 weeks means 3 weeks with half an hour of reading a day.

      2nd possibility – Kindle with Special Offers does not turn on wireless to update screensavers. This seems unlikely given screensavers are subsidizing the Kindle.

      So … and I have to check with a US Kindle 4 owner and confirm this – You can indeed turn off wireless yourself. However, then Kindle 4 might turn it on automatically to update screensavers.

      1. Thanks a lot
        I will receive mine on wednesday, I will tell you how it works if I can figure it out.
        Continue with your work, I just discovered your website a few days ago and I like it very much. Thank you.

  3. There is an ever growing population of people desiring (or even needing) CHEAP. I think there’s at least two complete generations that hve grown up with “Wal-Mart values”. That plus the global monetary situation calls for more cheap! Amazon responded… Will people be happy afterwards? Too subjective to tell, but at the price point, most will probably keep it, use it and just bitch about it.

  4. I’ll just make one comment — about storage. I have a KDX w 4GB. It contains 250 mass market books and an equal number of professional computer and academic texts (mostly PDFs). That only consumes 1.2 GB — so if books are your thing, you are going to get quite a lot into the K4’s storage.

    Many have complained about the lack of external storage (like SD cards). Amazon is taking a different approach here. With the latest kindle software upgrades, and the new kindles, they will provide seamless backup/archiving for all your stuff on AWS — not just stuff bought from Amazon (they didn’t cover this well at the announcement, but others over at have done some code spelunking, and it appears that the new whispersync facilities will do this — look at the new “manage my kindle” page). So unless you are on an airplane for 8 hours with no net connectivity, and there are 20 movies you just gotta watch right now, this is not gonna be a problem. Local storage is for what I need right now — everything else is backed up and quickly available from Amazon’s AWS servers. Not all of this is completely turned on yet — it is being rolled out between now and the end of the year.

    1. Thanks – That’s very helpful information. This cloud backup for things other than Amazon purchases seems very promising. Would it be same as the general Cloud Storage plan? First 5 GB free and then you can pay for more.

  5. As I understand it, it’s similar to (and uses the infrastructure of) their cloud drive. The key difference is that it will back almost everything on your kindle device up automagically (if you configure it to), and (most importantly) it’s free 😀 i.e. there are no storage limitations. Not much of an issue because their largest device (the KFire) is only 8GB which isn’t that much more than the 5GB of cloud drive.

    At the press event, Bezos went to some trouble to indicate that all the stuff you own for your kindles will be archived, and available wirelessly via 3G and/or WIFI — he contrasted this with some of the sideloading antics of competitors.

    1. Sorry, I’m a little fuzzy-headed this pip emma – the size of your local device storage is irrelevant — I could have 100GB of movies out on AWS, but only 8GB downloaded locally (some Amazon VP said this was about 10 movies worth plus a ton of books). Data deduplication is all the rage in the cloud — so the storage impact might be manageable. If 10,000 people bought “Lawrence of Arabia” — maybe Amazon only has to store it once on AWS.

      1. Anything bought from Amazon doesn’t have to be stored separately by Amazon, obviously — they already have it on their servers for download for new purchasers, they just have to let you download it more than once — just as books have already done for ages, via “Archived Items”. This is essentially free, except in terms of bandwidth costs and server farm capacity.

        Incidentally, as of iOS5 and iCloud (presumably the rollout for those being announced on Tuesday and turned on in then next week or two), Apple does the same.

        The real question is about your own content, which is not necessarily de-dupable. Content bought from other places is also not necessarily dedupable — at least, not DRMed content. Pirated content might actually be better deduped — at least all copies of a given pirated movie from a given release and encoding are the same.

  6. Thanks! When you do the Kindle 4 vs. Kindle 3 again as well as Kindle 4, Kindle 3, and Kindle Touch again in pictures, can you take the pictures of thickness as well (from the side).

  7. @switch,

    Do I understand this correctly: You’re saying that some people might not need the bells and whistles of the Kindle Touch, but since it’s only $20 more it would be silly to get the Kindle 4 instead. Is that right?

    There’s one major flaw in your logic. Your math is assuming that people are choosing between the special offers/ad versions. If people consider advertisements to be a deal breaker, then they will be choosing between the ad-less Kindle 4 ($99) and the ad-less Kindle Touch ($139). That’s a $40 or 40% difference.

    I’d agrue that it’s silly to spend 40% more for features (audio, virtual keyboard) that a person would never or rarely use, just so they can have a “cooler” device.

    1. That’s a good point.

      If you are getting the Ads free version then I would agree that getting the $99 Kindle 4 is probably a better choice if you don’t care about speakers and keyboard.

    2. The adless Kindle 4 is $109, or at least it was a few days ago. Yup, still. So that’s $30 difference, not $40, and 27.5%. The ad version’s $20 is a difference of 25.3 percent.

      They’re actually pretty close percentage wise.

      I’d argue that spending 28 percent extra on a usable text entry method is worth it if you use it more than twice — and the first time you use it is while naming it, and the second time is when you input the WiFi password. The third time is when you input someone else’s WiFi password 🙂

      $30 is not nothing, but to the majority of people reading this blog –who presumably own one of the earlier and much more expensive e-readers — it’s unlikely to be the end of the world.

      And if it is, you should probably buy ad-supported anyway.

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