Kindle 3 Review – Detailed Kindle 3 Review

This Kindle 3 Review is based on 4 days with the new Kindle 3. Thanks to the Amazon team for sending out a Kindle 3 for me to review.

You can buy the Kindle 3 at Amazon for $189.

The 1-sentence review would be – If you love to read, or want to read more, then the Kindle 3 is absolutely perfect unless you need support for library books.

This is a pretty long review. For a shorter review please check out my Kindle 3 review. You might also want to look at my Kindle 3 Review Videos page or at my Kindle 3 Photos page for Kindle 3 videos and photos.  

Kindle 3 Review – The 8 big improvements

The Kindle Team has improved the Kindle 3 in almost every possible way. There are big improvements like the eInk Pearl screen and a WebKit browser and there are tiny improvements like being able to set the Kindle 3’s time.  

Here are the 8 Kindle 3 improvements that really stood out – 

  1. The eInk Pearl Screen is a thing of beauty. The combination of the 50% better contrast of the eInk Pearl screen, the graphite casing that helps highlight the improved contrast, and subtle software tweaks means that the Kindle 3 leaves every other eReader behind.  
  2. Much lighter weight and more compact size. The smaller size of the Kindle 3 makes it more portable while the lighter weight (8.7 ounces) is a huge difference-maker – Reading for long stretches is much, much easier now as is one-handed reading.
  3. More Text per Page. The top bar is gone, the location bar is moved to the very bottom of the page, and the gap between the last line of text and the location bar has been reduced. This combines to make a significant difference – At size 4 (or perhaps it was 3) the Kindle 3 fits in 4 more lines per page (19 compared to 15).
  4. WiFi support – WiFi support is important as now you can connect to WhisperNet anywhere there is either AT&T coverage or a WiFi hotspot. WiFi is much faster than 3G so you can browse faster, shop faster, and you get more time for reading.
  5. Improved PDF support – PDFs finally support notes and highlights and it makes a big difference for everyone using PDFs (students, academics, etc.). There are 6 contrast settings for PDFs which is useful and Kindle 3 also supports password protected PDFs.
  6. Accessibility – The combination of the Voice Guide and the Text to Speech feature gives low vision and blind readers their first usable, cheap Kindle.
  7. New WebKit Browser. The new browser handles complex websites, allows zoom options, and has an Article Mode that lets you read just the article (it strips away the ads and other extrinsics).  
  8. Kindle 3 is great for reading at night. The iPhone and iPad are no longer needed for reading in bed. Kindle 3’s lighted cover has a LED light powered by the Kindle itself and is very convenient though it’s expensive at $60. Since the LED light throws light only in the direction of the Kindle’s screen and since the page turn buttons on the Kindle 3 are very quiet you can now read in bed without waking your spouse. Press the page turn button in the middle section of its inner edge for the lowest noise – Also, it’ll be easier to not disturb your partner if they sleep on your right side.

These are all significant improvements and they make the Kindle 3 much, much better than Kindle 2.

11 More Improvements in Kindle 3

Given the sheer number and variety of improvements the theme for Kindle 3 seems to be ‘improve everywhere’ -

  1. Kindle 3 maintains the reduced $189 price the Kindle 2 had in the last few weeks before Kindle 3 was announced.
  2. Better Font Support – Kindle 3 has 3 font choices with a Condensed Typeface and a Sans Serif typeface added to the original Serif typeface (Caecilia).
  3. Double Memory – Kindle 3 has 4 GB memory.
  4. Battery Life is now up to a month with wireless off. With wireless on Kindle 3 battery life is 10 days while Kindle WiFi battery life is 3 weeks. 
  5. Button placement is much better – The on-off slider and volume controls are at the base of the Kindle 3. The 5-way and the Menu, Back, and Home buttons are next to the keyboard. The Previous Page and Next Page buttons are now on both sides.  
  6. There’s a new 5-way – It’ll take a little getting used to but it is easier to use and push and there are far fewer wrong pushes.  
  7. The Kindle team did some tweaking of waveforms (no idea what that means) to make the fonts on Kindle 3 sharper.  
  8. The back of the Kindle 3 has a better grip and the whole Kindle (front and back) is one smooth color.
  9. There’s a microphone in the Kindle 3 which leaves the door open for voice commands and hands free reading.
  10. The progress bar has been improved a little and the charging light is clearer and bigger.
  11. Page turns are 20% faster.

It’s just fun to see all the ways in which Amazon is improving the Kindle.  

Kindle 3 Review – 5 Big Kindle 2 Strengths that are carried over

There are 5 big existing Kindle 2 strengths that are carried over. These include -

  1. eInk Screen and Focus on Reading – An eReader should be focused on reading and should be optimized for reading and Kindle 3 definitely is. eInk is easy on the eyes, works in sunlight, and has great screen contrast.  
  2. Simplicity and Close to Zero Learning Curve – Kindle 3 is just as simple to use as Kindle 2. The learning curve remains close to zero. 
  3. Kindle Store – You get the best ebook store with 510,000 books at or under $9.99 and 630,000 total books.
  4. Free 3G and Free Global Wireless for US users – Any user can browse the Kindle Store for free in any of 100+ WhisperNet enabled countries. US owners can buy books and download them without any extra charges and can also surf the Internet for free in all these countries. Users in some other countries are beginning to get free Internet browsing. 
  5. Text to Speech – Kindle 2 was the only eReader that had text to speech and Kindle 3 keeps it. Please note that Publishers sometimes disable this feature (perhaps 40% of the time).

The Kindle 2 was a really good eReader to begin with. The Kindle 3 keeps nearly all of the Kindle 2’s strengths while adding on a long list of improvements.

Kindle 3 Review – The Weaknesses

Kindle 3 isn’t perfect and has some obvious weaknesses -

  1. There is no support for library books (since Kindle 3 doesn’t support ePub). That leaves Kindle 3 as the only eReader out of the Big 3 (Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader) that doesn’t support Library Books.
  2. Kindle 3 sees occasional crashes/freezing for some people. The factors that lead to the Kindle freezing or crashing seem to be complex websites and some PDFs. A few users have also seen crashes outside of the browser and PDF reader.
  3. Kindle 3 is not good for anything other than reading. The Kindle 3 is tailored for people who want a device dedicated to reading and that’s great if you love to read. However, its focus on reading rules Kindle 3 out if you want a device that can do 10 different things.
  4. Kindle 3’s eInk Pearl screen doesn’t support color. This makes it non-optimal for textbooks with lots of color diagrams, illustrated books, and comics.
  5. There is no touch screen – The Sony Reader 600’s touch screen allows easier usability i.e. tap any word on the screen, take down notes with a stylus, etc. Kindle 3 won’t have this since it doesn’t have a touch screen.
  6. Kindle does not support DRMed books and does not support ePub – Basically, the only DRMed books you can read are those from the Kindle Store. Most of the other large ebook stores use DRM and thus are ruled out. At the moment it’s not a big deal since the Kindle Store has the best range and the best prices. 
  7. The Kindle Lighted cover is a must have since it makes night-time reading very convenient – However, it’s very expensive at $59. It should have been $30 to $40. Also, Kindle 3 won’t fit Kindle 2 covers since the grooves for hinges on Kindle 3 are further apart than on Kindle 2.
  8. There is no feature like Nook’s LendMe feature to let users lend books to each other.
  9. The Kindle 3 battery is not user replaceable.
  10. There is no SD card slot. Though the Kindle 3 has double the memory (at 4GB) it’s still possible that some people want the flexibility of more storage.
  11. There is no option to turn off 3G and stick with just WiFi.
  12. There are no language translation dictionaries.
  13. PDF Support is still missing a few features.
  14. Page Turn buttons are improved but are a bit thin. The Back button and Menu button are placed too close to the 5-way and it’s easy to mistakenly press them (especially Back).
  15. The keyboard is missing the row for number keys which makes taking notes and using numbers difficult.
  16. There’s no longer a shiny aluminium back.
  17. The number of options in the Font menu is a little overwhelming. The default font settings aren’t as good as on the Kindle 2 though that may be a personal preference. Also, there are now just 3 line spacing options instead of the Kindle 2’s 10 and the wide and small line spacing options don’t correspond to the earlier maximum and minimum settings (the line spacing is lesser now).
  18. Kindle 3 feels fragile. The lower weight and more compact size are great and they also make you wonder about stability and durability.

That’s a pretty long list because we want to make sure we cover all the aspects. One strange thing is the disappearance of the note on the Kindle 3 product page which mentioned CJK font support and Cyrillic font support (thanks to the commenter who mentioned this). This would be a strength if it were present and a weakness if it weren’t.

The Kindle 3 weaknesses that Amazon really ought to fix are – freezing, library books, touch (if it can be added without affecting readability), a cheaper lighted cover, an SD card slot, Nook’s LendMe feature, option to turn off 3G, more space between 5-way and other buttons, number keys, and an unbreakable screen.

Adding support for Library Books would probably have the most impact. An unbreakable screen would probably have the 2nd most impact as then parents could let their kids use Kindles freely.

Kindle 3 Review – Strongly Recommended if it’s what you’re looking for

At $189 the Kindle 3 is very tempting. It’s also the best eReader released in the 2.5 years this blog has been around.

Your decision to get a Kindle 3 should, however, depend on what features you value the most and on whether the Kindle 3 is the eReader/device that best meets your reading needs.

Here are the main reasons to stay away – it’s not a multi-purpose device, there is sporadic freezing, it’s probably not going to bestow an aura of coolness on you (although it might make intelligent people view you more favorably), the $139 Kindle WiFi is even better (if you don’t need 3G), there is no support for library books, Kindle 3 doesn’t support ePub, it does nothing other than read, no SD card slot and no replaceable battery, it’s not open, there’s no color, there’s no touchscreen.

Here are the main reasons to buy it – you love to read, you like to read and can afford $189 for an eReader, you want to read more, you get tired reading from LCD screens, you want to read in sunlight, you want a device built for reading from the ground up, you want to be able to buy books anywhere, you want to be able to read books anywhere and anytime, you want lots of free public domain books, you want your books read out to you, you want access to the best ebook store, you want access to the best eReader infrastructure.

The Kindle 3 has set a very high bar for the Nook 2 and Sony Reader 650. Kindle 3 will easily become your first choice for reading and if you get the Lighted Cover it’ll be your first choice for reading regardless of the time of day.

If the Kindle 3 meets your needs and you don’t need library books or ePub support or ‘a device that does more than just read’ then my strong recommendation would be to get the Kindle 3.

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