Which Kindle? Kindle Buying Guide

With Kindle Touch, Kindle Fire, and the new Kindle, Amazon now has a confusing number of Kindles to choose from.

This ‘Which Kindle?’ Kindle Buying Guide will help you pick the right Kindle for your needs.

Which Kindle – The Top 3 Choices

This section is the conclusion of the entire Kindle Buying Guide (so you don’t have to go through the entire Kindle Buying Guide if you don’t want to). The three best Kindles and the ones we recommend are –

  1. Kindle Fire (if you want a Tablet).
  2. Kindle Touch (best Kindle eReader with touch).
  3. Kindle Keyboard (best Kindle eReader with keyboard).

Please Note: Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch are not yet out. So the recommendation is with the Qualifier that these devices might not be as good as expected. With Kindle Touch it’s quite likely (given past Kindles) that it will be a very safe and solid bet. With Kindle Fire, we will only know when it’s actually released.

A little on why these were the winners.

Kindle Fire – A good choice if you are looking for a Tablet

Kindle Fire is a Kindle Tablet. It is optimized for consuming content (movies, books, TV shows, music), for surfing the web (with a fast browser), and for games (thousands of apps and games from Amazon’s Android App Store).

The combination of low price, good features, and multi-purposeness make it a good Tablet. It offers a lot of value for money and lets you both read books and also do lots of other things. It has a good-sized 7″LCD screen with IPS and color and two-finger touch.

Kindle Fire can be used as a reading tablet but does not have the eInk screen that is great for reading and is not focused on reading. It does have a reading light. It will not work in direct sunlight (you won’t be able to read off of it in direct sunlight).

It seems to be a very good choice (once it is out we’ll know for sure). If your budget is higher than $199 (the Kindle Fire’s price) then also consider iPad 2 (around $499) and Nook Color ($249, $170 for refurbished). Nook Color 2 is rumored to launch soon and iPad 3 and a 10″ Kindle Fire are rumored to launch in early 2012.

Touch Kindle – The best eReader choice if you don’t need a physical keyboard

Touch Kindle is just $99 for the version with ads and with WiFi only (ads are not in books, only in screensavers and on home page). It has a 6″ eInk Pearl that is great for reading. There is no color. There is touch. The touch is via IR so there is no layer over the eInk and no glare.

It is the 4th generation Kindle (though there aren’t very many advances over the 3rd generation Kindle) and thus offers the latest features. You get a focus on reading, the great eInk Pearl screen, and the convenience/appeal of touch. There is no backlight so you have to use a reading light. You can read it in sunlight. The eInk screen is great for reading and easy on the eyes.

The Kindle Touch and the Kindle Keyboard (Kindle 3) are the best choices if you are looking for a device for reading.

Kindle 3 aka Kindle Keyboard (WiFi only version)

Amazon has continued the Kindle 3 and it’s a good decision given the benefits of having a physical keyboard and the good, solid design and ease of use of Kindle 3.

Kindle 3 has a 6″ eInk Pearl screen (same as Kindle Touch) but doesn’t have a touch screen. Just like Kindle Touch, the Kindle 3 is great for reading and is readable in sunlight but doesn’t have a backlight for reading at night.

It has a physical keyboard which makes note-taking and highlighting and searching much easier. It also allows for lots of keyboard shortcuts (Alt+B to add a bookmark) and makes things convenient.

Kindle 3 is a good, solid choice.

Which Kindle – the Full List

Let’s look at every Kindle available and at what makes it unique and what situations and uses each is optimal for.

Please Note: There are sections later on that cover ‘Kindle WiFi or 3G’ and ‘Kindle with Ads or Kindle with No Ads’.

$79 New Kindle (Kindle 4 with Ads)

This is a very solid Kindle and incredible value for money. The downside is that there is no keyboard and no touchscreen – which makes things like taking notes very difficult and some other things awkward. There is also no text to speech and no music since it doesn’t have speakers. It has less storage space and less battery life than the $99 Kindles – However, it shouldn’t matter very much as there’s still space for 1,400 books and there is still 3 weeks battery life with WiFi on.

My recommendation: Add on $20 and get Touch Kindle or Kindle 3 Keyboard.

$79 Kindle 4 Review – Kindle 4 Review, Photos.

Thoughts on Ads: Not a problem. You get ads instead of screensavers and ads on the main page. No Ads in Books so it doesn’t hurt the book reading experience.

$109 New Kindle (Kindle 4 with no Ads)

Same as above. Just with no Ads. Don’t really see any reason to buy this instead of the $79 version.

$99 Kindle Touch (with WiFi only, with Ads)

Probably the best Kindle option.

For $99 you get – 6″ eInk Pearl screen that is great for reading, touch screen, ease of use and simplicity, access to Kindle Store (the best ebook store), text to speech, great battery life (2 months with WiFi off – assuming half an hour of reading per day). It is the latest generation Kindle (Kindle 4 Touch) so you get the benefit of all the lessons from the past 3 Kindle generations.

You don’t get – Color, Ability to do things other than read.

My recommendation: Best Kindle available (alongside Kindle Keyboard). If you prefer touch over a physical keyboard then this is the best choice.

$99 Kindle Touch Review – Kindle Touch Review.

Thought on Ads: Same as earlier, or please see Section later on ‘Kindle with Ads or Kindle with No Ads’.

$139 Kindle Touch (with WiFi only, no Ads)

Same Kindle Touch as Above. You pay $40 extra to be freed of ads in your screensaver and on your Home Page.

$139 Kindle Touch 3G (with 3G and WiFi, with Ads)

This is the same as the $99 Kindle Touch except $50 more expensive and with 3G.

WiFi and 3G are types of wireless technology. 3G means you can use AT&T’s cellphone towers and get wireless anywhere there is wireless coverage from AT&T. WiFi means you either have to have your own home wireless network or use a WiFi network at Starbucks or MacDonald’s or a Coffee Shop or at your work. Note: With any Kindle you get free WiFi access to all AT&T WiFi hotspots.

3G is more convenient. With 3G you get free Internet browsing and can browse the Kindle Store and buy and download books. It also extends (provided you are a US Kindle owner) to 100+ countries. You can be in England and still shop the Kindle Store and surf the Internet on your Kindle – as long as there is 3G coverage (from AT&T or a partner).

When do you need Wireless: You only need wireless when buying a book or downloading a book or surfing the Internet. You DO NOT need wireless when reading a book.

My Recommendation: Get this if you travel a lot OR don’t have a home wireless network OR will be reading on your commute or at work and won’t have WiFi access. Do get this is you travel internationally.

Quick Thought: If $50 isn’t a big deal to you, then always get Kindle Touch 3G instead of the WiFi-only Kindle Touch. The convenience more than makes up for it.

Thought on Ads: Same as earlier. Not a big deal.

$189 Kindle Touch 3G (with 3G and WiFi, no Ads)

This is the Kindle Touch 3G with no Ads. Same as above except no Ads.

$99 Kindle Keyboard (Kindle WiFi with WiFi only, Ads)

This is the Kindle 3. This is a really good Kindle and neck to neck with Kindle Touch.

For people who prefer a Keyboard this is the best choice. For people who prefer a touchscreen the Kindle Touch is the best choice.

For your $99 you get – 6″ eInk Pearl Screen, all the improvements learnt from Kindle 1 and Kindle 2, text to speech, very good usability, good operating system that’s easy to use, lots of options for font size, access to Kindle Store (the best ebook prices and the widest range of new ebooks), same 2 month battery life as on the Kindle Touch.

What you don’t get – the latest Kindle, touch screen, color, ability to do more than read.

My Recommendation – If you want a physical keyboard, then the Kindle 3 is the best choice.

Kindle Keyboard Review – Kindle 3 Review.

Quick Thought – A very safe choice. This is the third generation Kindle and third generation devices tend to be very solid.

Ads – Not a big deal. Saves you $40 if you are OK having Ads as screensavers. No ads when reading books.

$139 Kindle Keyboard (Kindle WiFi with WiFi only, no Ads)

Pay $40 extra and get the Kindle 3 without Ads.

$149 Kindle Keyboard 3G (Kindle 3 with WiFi and 3G, Ads).

This is identical to Kindle 3 except that you pay $50 extra to get 3G capability.

The exact same benefits as we discussed with Kindle Touch 3G – free 3G Kindle Store browsing, free 3G Internet, more convenient (works wherever there’s AT&T coverage), get free 3G in 100+ countries.

My Recommendation: If you travel often, or don’t get WiFi at home and work, or don’t want to bother with WiFi, then Kindle 3 with 3G is a great choice.

Convenience vs $50: If $50 isn’t much to you, then always get the 3G.

Wireless only needed for buying and surfing: You can read a book without wireless.

Ads: Not an annoyance.

$189 Kindle Keyboard 3G (Kindle 3 with WiFi and 3G, No Ads)

This is Kindle 3 with 3G and No Ads. Pay $40 extra and get back your screensaver and the bottom 20% of your home screen.

$199 Kindle Fire – The Kindle Tablet

A very good choice if you are looking for a low-priced Tablet that lets you do a lot more than just read.

The Kindle Fire is a 7″ Tablet. It has a color IPS LCD screen which makes it great for photos and movies and TV and games. It’s decent for reading and Amazon is doing some things like adding an anti-glare layer/treatment to make it a good reading tablet.

There is a gorilla glass display to make it tougher.

It’s a steal since the components alone cost $191. Add on manufacturing and software development and marketing and it’s probably costing more than the price Amazon is selling it for – perhaps as much as $50 more. Amazon is subsidizing it against the hope of future content sales.

That means you get a $250 to $300 Tablet for $199.

Kindle Fire vs Nook Color 2: Since Nook Color 2 is not out or announced, we don’t know what it will be. It is, however, a good idea to wait and see. You can still preorder a Kindle Fire to book your place. Then, if you find you like the Nook Color 2 more, just cancel the order.

Kindle Fire vs iPad 2: They are different devices. Can’t really compare a $199 Tablet with a $499 Tablet.

Kindle Fire Review: Not up yet. Here’s a post on Kindle Fire Specifications & Details.

My Recommendation: If you want a device for more than just reading, then Kindle Fire seems promising. Preorder one to book up a spot. If Nook Color 2 ends up being more tempting, you can always switch.

$379 Kindle DX 2 – The large-screen Kindle

Kindle DX 2 is the large screen Kindle. It has a 9.7″ eInk Pearl screen which is great for reading and offers all the benefits the smaller eInk Pearl screen offers – easy on the eyes, optimized for reading, readable in sunlight. It doesn’t have a backlight.

Kindle DX 2 is OK but not great for PDFs. The larger screen size is great and you can use landscape mode to get even better views. However, the PDF support is a bit limited – There is no text to speech for PDFs and highlights don’t always work.

In fact, something like the Kindle Fire or the Nook Color might be a better PDF reader due to color and touch and better PDF software.

Value for Money: When you can get a $79 Kindle 4 and a $99 Kindle Touch, the $379 price of the Kindle DX 2 becomes really unappealing.

My Recommendation: Wait for Kindle DX 3 or buy a Reading Tablet.

Kindle DX 2 Review: Here’s my Kindle DX 2 Review.

Thought on All the Kindle Choices

The introduction of the WiFi or 3G choice with Kindle 3 in 2010 made things confusing.

Now, with Ads or No Ads and 2 new models of Kindles, Amazon has made choosing a Kindle a royal mess. Hopefully this post (including the sections below) clears up the choice for you.

My recommendation would be –

  1. Kindle Tablet (Kindle Fire) – preorder one and then wait to see what Nook Color 2 is like.
  2. Kindle Touch – Best Choice if you’re looking for a touchscreen Kindle and want the latest model.
  3. Kindle 3 – Best Choice if you want a keyboard and the most stable, battle-tested Kindle.

Between Ads and No Ads – The Ads version is OK as Ads are not in the actual books.

Between 3G and no 3G – If you can afford it, or if you travel, or if you don’t have WiFi at places where you will want to buy books or surf the Net, then do get the 3G variant.

Which Kindle – eInk or LCD?

Kindle Fire is the only Kindle with a LCD screen. It is also a Tablet and not an eReader.

Kindle Fire Tablet with LCD screen – 7″ screen, usable for movies and TV shows and color games, two finger touch, IPS panel for great viewing angles, can be used for more than just reading, backlight so readable at night.

Kindle eReader with eInk screen – 6″ screen, eInk (with Touch if you get Kindle Touch), no color, no backlight, readable in sunlight, easier on the eyes, optimized for reading.

They really are two completely different devices.

If you read 2 or more books a month, or would like to read more

Then a Kindle eReader with an eInk screen is the best choice. Even if you get a Kindle Fire you should consider getting a $100 Kindle Touch or Kindle 3 for your reading.

Which Kindle – 3G or WiFi

Firstly, wireless is only needed when buying and downloading a book and when surfing the Internet. You don’t need wireless to read a book that’s already on your Kindle.

Secondly, if you can afford the extra $50 then it’s almost always a great idea to get the 3G version. It’s a lot more convenient, it works in 100+ countries (if you are a US Kindle owner), and it gets you free Internet browsing.

Thirdly, here’s the difference:

WiFi – A wireless technology where a router creates a wireless network in a particular spot (like a cafe or a house or a store). So your Kindle (both WiFi-only model and 3G model) can connect to this network and then connect to the internet through the router.

3G – A wireless technology where cellphone towers create a large wireless network over huge areas (like an entire city, or large areas of a city). So you Kindle (only the 3G model) can connect to this network and then connect to the Internet through the cellphone tower.

They are both ways to connect to a wireless network and then to the Internet. However, the latter (3G) is much more expansive as it works wherever an AT&T cellphone would work. It also works in 100+ countries where there is an AT&T partner 3G network.

WiFi will only work if there is an accessible WiFi network. You might have one at home. There are 10,000 AT&T hotspots in the US that your WiFi-only Kindle can access.

However, WiFi won’t work in a lot of cases like when driving around or when travelling. 3G will work much more often.

My Recommendation: It’s better to get the 3G Kindle but you can get by on the WiFi Kindle if you have WiFi at home or are OK downloading books to your PC and then transferring to Kindle via USB.

Which Kindle – Touch or Keyboard or Neither

This is usually a clear preference – If you like typing notes and prefer a physical keyboard then the Kindle 3 is the clear choice. If you fall into the camp of ‘touch is so cool and I can type faster/as fast on a touch keyboard as on a physical keyboard’ then the Touch Kindle is the clear choice.

Please keep in mind that the Touch Kindle isn’t here yet so we don’t know how well that on-screen keyboard works.

Which Kindle – 6″ eInk screen or 9.7″ eInk screen

At $379 the Kindle DX 2 is too expensive to consider. If Kindle Fire is just $199 and Kindle Touch is just $99 then the Kindle DX 2 at $379 becomes a puzzling choice. Just buy a Kindle Fire and a Kindle Touch instead and still have $80 left over.

Which Kindle – Should You get a Refurbished Kindle? What about a used Kindle?

Not a fan of all the refurbished Kindles and used Kindles.

Kindle Touch is $99. Kindle 4 is $79. Kindle 3 is $99.

There really isn’t a strong argument for buying a refurbished Kindle. The two exceptions would be:

A refurbished Kindle DX 2 if it is significantly cheaper than the $379 price of a new Kindle DX 2. My thought: Yes, as long as you don’t expect it to be a fantastic PDF reader.

A refurbished Kindle 3 with 3G and no Ads if it is in the $100 to $120 range. My thought: Yes, this is a good deal.

In nearly every other case it makes no sense to pick a refurbished Kindle over the latest generation, super-low-priced Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch.

Which Kindle – Reading Experience

One thing worth pointing out, especially if you are looking primarily for a reading device, is the core reading experience. My rough ranking would be:

Please Note: Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch are not out yet.

  1. Tie between Kindle 3 and Kindle Touch.
  2. All variants of Kindle 3 and Kindle Touch.
  3. Kindle 4 and variants. The lack of both keyboard and touch screen takes away from the reading experience.
  4. Kindle DX 2. The large size gets in the way.
  5. Kindle Fire. Equivalent to other reading tablets like Nook Color. Slightly better than general Tablets like iPad 2.

All Kindles have a very good core reading experience. Kindle 3 and Kindle DX 2 and Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch have the same identical eInk Pearl screens with very minor improvements in the latest generation Kindles.

Kindle Fire’s LCD screen is neither optimized for reading (apart from the anti-glare treatment) nor is it easy on the eyes. It will still be fine for reading – just not as good as dedicated reading devices like the eInk Kindles.

Which Kindle – Closing Thoughts

The answer to Which Kindle? is –

  • Kindle Fire (if you want a Tablet that can do more than just read). Do compare with Nook Color 2.
  • Kindle Touch (best Kindle eReader with touch). Can’t go wrong with the $99 WiFi-only model with Ads.
  • Kindle 3 (best Kindle eReader with keyboard). Again, the $99 WiFi-only model with Ads is something you can’t go wrong with.

If you want a device dedicated to reading, you are pretty safe if you go with the Kindle 3 or Kindle Touch. Based on what Kindle 4 is like, and assuming that Kindle Touch will basically be Kindle 4 with a touchscreen, I’m pretty comfortable giving it a strong recommendation in advance of actual release. A touchscreen really would address most of the shortcomings of the Kindle 4 (apart from the lack of a physical keyboard).

45 thoughts on “Which Kindle? Kindle Buying Guide”

  1. 3G is a miserable browsing experience. Slow, stalled, page loads are typical unless you are visiting pages designed for mobile users. Until 4G is built-in to theses devices, ubiquitous WiFi hot spots should meet most users needs … and no one has any idea about the Amazon proxy bandwidth performance.

  2. I have a Kindle DX2, in addition to a Kindle 3 WiFi/3G. The Kindle DX2 does not have WiFi, so if you don’t have good 3G coverage where you live, you’re out of luck… it won’t be a pleasant experience.

    Also for some reason, the DX2 never received the software that the Kindle 3G has, even though the devices were released just two or three months apart in the summer of 2010.

    Finally, in comparison to the Kindle 3G, the Kindle DX2 is slow… noticeably slower, irritatingly slow in my opinion.

    1. Mike, thanks a lot for your comment. don’t know how I forgot the lack of WiFi.

      The fact that PDF support on Kindle DX is weaker than on Kindle 3 is inexcusable. Part of its selling proposition was its bigger screen being better suited to newspapers and PDFs.

    2. The DXG is just a recoloured DX with a Pearl screen changed over, all the rest of the internals, buttons, and externals are exactly the same. Because of that it also runs on the software of the Kindle DX, which was a (the first, actually, I believe it was out before Kindle 2) second-generation device.

      Kindle 1 runs 1.x and is the first gen Kindle
      Kindle 2 and Kindle DX are the second gen Kindle, with second-gen eInk. Shipped with 2.0, is by now up to 2.5.
      Kindle DXG is a second-gen Kindle with a third-gen eInk screen (Pearl), and shipped with software 2.5. So calling it 2.5th gen Kindle is fair.
      Kindle 3 / Kindle Keyboard is a third-gen Kindle with third-gen eInk and software 3.0/3.1/3.2.

      Kindle 4 apparently uses software 4.x.

      One perhaps interesting thing — in the jailbreak community there is an allegedly successful project to run 3.x software on 2.x type devices. Which means you could get all the 3.x advances on DXG (as well as DX). I haven’t tried this myself, as I don’t have a 2.x device. Might be worth investigating.

    1. Kindle Touch is probably going to be better because of the Touch Screen.

      Since the 6″ screen is too small for PDFs (even in landscape mode for most PDFs) there is a lot of panning and moving around needed. Touch will easily outperform non-touch in this scenario.

  3. Also, Switch11, one more difference. I think K3 (at this time) provides adapter. For KT, one has to buy. Small difference but important in the current economy. I expect a Family may get all three Kindles: KF for the parent, K4 for the youngest with K3 or KT for an oldest child. Amazon should have an ad about how Kindles can be part of your family. No brainer. Apple would do that in a heartbeat.

    1. I bought my K3 in July, and it came with the power adapter. However, the getting started guide said, “Not all configurations ship with a power adapter,” though it doesn’t state exactly which configurations those are.

      If buyers don’t already have an adapter, they will probably end up buying one as I’ve never had my k3 reach full charge when plugged into the USB port.

      1. Only Americans get a free power adapter. International versions ship without, even though Amazon has UK, AU and Euro power bricks readily available on the website.

        PS: Look on sites like Dealextreme, find USB power adapter shipped to your door at well under $5.

  4. One more thing, Switch11. It seems in the Kindle strategy vs. iPad/Apple product, people have forgotten “Air” model. What if Apple comes with the iPad Air in the next iteration. I now believe it is 100% likely. Apple was not thinking that route. KF and KT just changed it. The iPad-Air will be smaller and lighter than the iPad 2. I just love the Amazon and Apple competition. It seems Jeff B. and Steve J. are the best CEOs in America.

    1. Way back in my teaching days, I told the students that the only dumb questions were the ones that they didn’t ask, so here goes….what is an Air model? I’m not up on all this stuff.

      1. I presume that’s a reference to the MacBook Air, which is smaller, lighter, slightly less powerful, and these days cheaper than the MacBook Pro — although it was introduced in 2006 as a premium ultraportable. Still less battery and less powerful, but enough lighter and smaller that it was 1.5x the price of the equivalent MBP of the time ($1600). These days there are 2 Airs (11 as well as 13″), starting at $999, and the rest of the industry is struggling to catch up — Intel dedicated $300 million to making other manufacturers build Ultrabooks — essentially MacBook Airs with Windows on.

        Written on my mid-2011 model 13″ MacBook Air (low-end), hooked to Apple bluetooth keyboard and trackpad and an external monitor.

      2. Irish, I meant to refer to “MacBook Air”. This is the BEST machine. I cannot believe that anyone is considering anything else. It is light, fast, and easy to move about. I used to travel with a heavy laptop – those days are gone. MAC is what real pros have these days. It is no brainer that Apple is going to introduce iPad Air. I had been thinking about this since the first iPad but did not realize that it will happen. Now, with KT and K4, it is going to happen. You better believe it.

      3. @eorse Thanks for the explanation. I had not heard of the MacBook before.

        @jasper You sound like me. When I had a laptop, I had it connected to an external hard drive, external monitor (backlight had quit on the notebook), and an external keyboard. Someone said, “it sounds as if you have created your own desktop computer.”

      4. Well, I’m testing this out. Seeing if I need to upgrade my desktop, or if I can just use this setup. I also use the Air on the road regularly, which is what it’s really for, but the sheer flexibility of having the same PC as both desktop and mobile base is tempting.

        So, incidentally, is Apple’s new Thunderbolt Display. It combines a 27″ IPS 2560×1440, LED backlit panel with a thunderbolt solution that essentially allows you to hook the single cable with two heads that comes out from it (Thunderbolt and Power — the display also includes a laptop power adapter exactly for that purpose), and then the display has a webcam, speakers, several USB ports, firewire, and a thunderbolt daisy chain port going out. So those two cable plugs give you a complete set of desktop ports, essentially.

        Right now I don’t have the budget for it, though, so I’ll have to make do with a USB hub and some things hooked up through that.

    2. Products don’t change on a dime. If such a product is introduced, it will have nothing to do with Amazon’s move (well, assuming Apple didn’t know about it six months beforehand, which is of course certainly a possibility).

      The iPad 3 (for March-April 2012) is likely to have a Retina (2048×1536) display, and it’s equally likely the iPad 2 will stick around at a lower price point. There is no real way to make the iPad significantly smaller and lighter — there is no technological room for it.

      In the MacBook Air, the shrinkage is due to leaving out the CD drive and the hard drive (and using other less power-hungry components and a smaller battery). There are no such legacy components in the iPad and the processor is already on the bleeding edge of computing power per watt.

      Apple does not generally want to own the low end market. Even the iPod Shuffle is a very high end version of a low end style of mp3 player. What Apple wants is to own the 10% of the market that spends 50% of the money, or even better the 20% of the market that spends 80% of the money. The 80% of the market that spends 20% of the money can buy HPs — which is why HP is selling off its consumer PC division, formerly known as Compaq, saying they’re not making any money off doing that.

      *After* they capture most or at least an awful lot of the high end market, they move into slightly cheaper products — iPod first, then iPod Mini/Nano, the iPod Shuffle. Similarly, MacBook Pro first, now MacBook Air, and in a few years there might be a cheaper one — or they could leave that to the iPad.

      Similarly, there are lots of rumors that tuesday’s iPhone announcement will include both a new iPhone at the current $600 price points, and a cheaper Nano version at the $300 or so. $300 is incredibly cheap for an iPhone — but do keep in mind it’s still much more expensive than low end touchscreen smartphones. You can buy three of those for the same money.

      PS: Jobs is no longer CEO. He stepped down, and has taken on the role of Chairman of the Board instead, following his arch-nemesis’ Bill Gates similar step down.

  5. We were out of power for a little over six days after Hurricane Irene. During that time, my Kindle 2–miserable browsing experience though it is–was the principal means by which I was able to keep in touch with the outside world. We have wifi at home, but wifi goes out with a power outage. And hotspots aren’t ubiquitous here in the suburbs, at least. There’s no question for me that free lifetime 3G is worth an extra $50.

  6. Just a couple of comments. My 2 year old KDXUS screen went wonky about a month ago. I called customer support and they sold me a refurbished KDXINTL for $99 (I had to send bad one back) — pretty good considering it was out of warranty. Good customer support experience, I had the new one in 2 days.

    About PDFs — I have a lot of experience with them. PDF is a non-reflowable format designed in part for professional prepress print output. A given PDF is targeted for a specific print page size. As long as the device you are viewing it on is equal to or larger than that target size, the PDF experience is good. The KDX screen is just about the same as ISO A5, which is close to the size that a lot of textbooks, and trade paperbacks are targeted for. Magazines are targeted at a larger size so they don’t render quite so well on the KDX.

    Be aware that these issues are endemic to the PDF format itself (it’s not reflowable) so no reader app no matter how sophisticated, is going to get beyond this. What most apps do when rendering a PDF on a small screen is convert the pages to images (PDF supports this), and then squeeze the image down to fit on the physical screen size. This results often in font sizes too small to read comfortably. A zoom function actually makes things worse because then a full page won’t fit on the screen necessitating panning — a horrible reading experience. Using landscape mode on KDX is not too good either because rendering requires a lot of processing so page turns are slow.

    If you are creating the PDF yourself with a print driver, setting the PDF printer page size to A5 will give you good results.

    I don’t expect things to be much better on the KFire because of the small screen size. Color may help. Also Amazon says they have a brand new PDF reader for the KFire — so maybe they’ve done something clever. Otherwise get an iPad or Galaxy Tab 10.1, or wait for the larger screened KFire coming in 1Q2012.

    1. In the future, smart people should develop a format that can easily switch between a non-reflowable and reflowable mode, with full pictures and text in other form. On that happy day, the PDF can be respectfully put to rest.

      In the meantimes, PDF’s could be made with bigger text as a compromise for people using e-readers and mobile devices. Scientific journals are terrible in this regard, using minuscule runes designed to induce early blindness.

    2. The fire is LCD and multitouch. That means it supports pinch-to-zoom and swipe-to-scroll, and redraws are instantaneous. And of course it has a dual-core 1+ GHz CPU instead of a 533 Mhz several-generations-back chip, so rendering will be close to instant.

      Those improvements mean it will do PDFs about as well as an iPad (modulo the smaller screen), and not remotely like the Kindles do it. And PDFs work just fine on iPads and other tablets.

  7. The iPad will indeed have the 2048×1536 display which means a stunning 265 ppi display. This will bring some new slants on whether emissive displays (like lcd’s) are harder to read on than reflective (like the kindle e-ink’s). Anything in color above about 250ppi is beyond the human visual system’s ability to see differences — anti-aliasing would make no difference here. Schedule proving to be a problem — rumor is they’re having trouble getting decent yields for the display.

    I personally see the personal mobile device market segmenting into 3 parts: that represented by the Macbook Air and the Samsung Series 9 (to which segment Intel is applying the moniker “ultrabooks”). Tablets like the iPad (and all its clones), and “content consumption devices” like the kindles, Nook color, and the KFire. Everyone seems focused on the competition between the latter two segments (is the KFire an “iPad killer”?). Bezos has been quite careful to say that he doesn’t want to directly compete with Apple — so he avoids their segments, or positions his products in the segment (like with the KFire) to carve out customers that Apple wouldn’t get anyway. I suspect that the large screened KFire coming in 1Q 2012 will also be positioned so as to not directly compete with the iPad.

    Personally, I think the real competition down the road is going to be between full-featured tablets (like the iPad) and even fuller-featured “ultrabooks” which also will start to rev-up in 1Q 2012 based on the new low power “Ivy Bridge” tri-gate processors that Intel will be delivering to its partners.

  8. Actually the performance on the latest macbook Airs (announced a few weeks ago) is very good as they now contain 2nd gen Intel core I5’s and I7’s with gobs of memory. Intel’s ultrabooks will ultimately be as good or better at slightly lower prices than the Air’s.

    1. The mid-2011 MacBook Airs have excellent CPUs, but do not have gobs of memory. There is only one thing missing for me on the MacBook Air, and that is 8 GB of RAM. I have to admit though that under OSX I have missed the extra 4 gigs less than I would have under windows or linux.

      I suspect the Ivy Bridge generation will have enough power/size left over to have 8G as an option, at least, and I will seriously want to consider selling my current mid-11 13″ and upgrading to the new one.

      Incidentally: Right now all the major OEMs are saying they require Intel to provide subsidies of $100 on each Ultrabook.com in order to match Apple’s pricing — that or reduce prices on the CPUs, but of course Intel’d have to give Apple the same prices, so that’s very short-term thinking.

  9. The problem on a small screen like the KFire is not with the ability to scale — its that when you scale to make the document larger the text doesn’t reflow it expands beyond the edge of the screen necessitating a pan to read a complete line. This is a problem built into the PDF itself and is not solvable easily with clever software or faster hardware. The only thing that helps is a larger physical screen (which the iPad has) bigger than the target page size built-in to the document when the PDF was created.

    Today, I was playing around with a Blackberry Playbook which has the same H/W (most notably display size) as the Kfire. Rendering of complex PDFs has the problems as described: text sizes are squeezed down so much (in order to fit the page on the screen) that large format material such as magazines or many textbooks are virtually unreadable.

    1. It’s true you still require scrolling — so does the iPad. 10″ is not *that* big, certainly not A4 sized, and that is what almost all PDFs use.

      Few documents have line lengths that actually stretch across the entire width of A4 combined with small font sizes.

      The point is that scrolling is much easier and less intrusive on a tablet than on an eInk reader without touch.

  10. did you read about the latest news
    amazon’s kindle touch 3g won’t have web browsing. You can only browse the web via wifi

  11. Kindle Touch 3G can’t touch most of Internet without WiFi
    By Casey Johnston

    Amazon has clarified that the next generation of its 3G Kindle, the Kindle Touch 3G, will not be able to browse the Internet without a WiFi connection. Users will still be able to use 3G to sync book and document purchases, but anything beyond Wikipedia will be off-limits.

    Browsing was (and still is) an experimental feature on the last iteration of the Kindle, now known as the Kindle Keyboard 3G. The experiment appears to have failed as far as Amazon is concerned, as it will restrict the 3G access of the Kindle Touch 3G to browsing Wikipedia and downloading books and periodicals. The Kindle Touch 3G’s webpage does not directly note this restriction, stating only that it has “free 3G wireless” that “works globally,” but a post in the official Amazon forums states that “experimental web browsing (outside of Wikipedia) on Kindle Touch 3G is only available over WiFi.”

    Since Amazon subsidizes all Kindle owners’ 3G use, the company may have determined the model isn’t cost-effective enough to support the use of the entire Internet. The 3G version of the Kindle Touch with special offers costs $149, 50 percent more than the $99 WiFi version, so this restriction may make the jump from WiFi to 3G much harder for customers to justify when both models become available November 21.

    The announcement doesn’t affect the new Kindle Fire announced last week and due for launch November 15, since it is WiFi-only. The Kindle Keyboard 3G, while it is still available, will continue to have unfettered Internet access through the experimental browser.

    We asked Amazon for confirmation of this policy, but have not received a response as of yet.


  12. This actually makes a lot of sense — give how clogged cellular networks have become. As mobile web stuff rockets into the stratosphere, there just isn’t going to be enough long distance wireless bandwidth in the galaxy to support the requirements of existing and contemplated apps.

    1. Here in .nl, all three carriers have moved from unlimited 3G for $10 a month to “unlimited” — generally 1 GB or less, and if you go over you either get blocked, go to 64 kbit, or (the really outrageous one) pay 2 euro per megabyte just like people without a data bundle. Some of the plans (especially prepaid ones) tend to give you only 100/150/250 for your $10, even.

      Given that it seems the cost of 3G bandwidth has rocketed here — and I’ve seen similar paradigm shifts elsewhere, starting with the US — It’s not that surprising the carriers wouldn’t play ball. Especially with a tablet that is actually much better at web browsing than the previous one.

      Presumably, if the Kindle Keyboard 3G *does* still have it, the 3G deals they had for K3 said something like “$n per K3 sold, for as long as we sell them, and those to get 3G connectivity for at least y years after we stop selling that model”.

      That would explain a lot about why they still sell the K3, actually, albeit under a different name.

      1. So, it is correct (when KF, KT, and K4 were announced) that K3 will be a classic. I was waiting for K4. But, now deciding what to buy K3 wifi or K3 3G. I have to make my decision before KT is announced. I like things that small, light, and thin. Thus, K3 dimensions are more appealing than KT’s.

  13. Given the real unavoidable underlying problem of bandwidth scarcity, I suspect that the “free” 3G in the keyboard kindles will be ephemeral at best. You can’t get blood out of a stone — so kindle users with free 3G are likely to see bandwidth “brownouts” where performance is slowed or temporarily unavailable. Free 3G users may find themselves shuttled to the back of the queue after those paying for bandwidth.

    We have a larger societal problem in how to provide access for the new usage patterns we all want, but where spectrum just isn’t available. @Jasper posits one approach: raise the price — but this doesn’t really help to foster new kinds of usage/application.

  14. Ok…just for the record:
    After reading this I am still a bit in the dark as to which Kindle I want.
    I want to get my wife one and all she really wants to do is read at night or during Sunday School. I imagine Bibles are available.
    Something which has an ability to change font size and shading(?).
    I think I read something about being able to find word definitions?
    Other than that I dont want to get anything which burps, farts or whistles.
    She actually likes to read and I think even the most basic Kindle has lots of books to choose from.
    I am not concerned about ads since apparently they dont interfere with the actual bookreading.
    Sooooo is there a definite best choice for me?
    Thanks ahead of time/

    1. If your wife likes to read at night then perhaps she should wait and see what Kindle Fire reviews are like.

      Kindle only works at night if you have a booklight and if she mostly reads at night she’ll have to get an additional reading light.

  15. I’m thinking about getting a kindle (not the fire since when I get into a book, I can read for hours on end) but I’m moving to Europe next year. How does that work? Can i get the WiFi or even one without for use overseas or will it not work that way? I don’t want to have to pay for 3G unless necessary.

    1. You have two options – 3G which works with free 3G for book downloads and Wikipedia and even browsing (though the last might get stopped) if your home country is the US. It’s what you set and not necessarily where you are physically. So if you’re moving to Europe for a few months you could just keep US as your home country.

      The 3G model also has WiFi which works everywhere.

      The WiFi model only has WiFi. It will access any WiFi network anywhere.

      With either 3G or WiFi – If you keep your home country as US, then you get US Kindle Book store. If you change to an European country, then you get the Kindle Store for that country.

      There is no Kindle without WiFi.

      3G is free and there’s no paid 3G option with Amazon – unless you meant pay $40 to $50 extra for 3G.

      It seems the WiFi will meet your needs.

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