About a month ago the nice people from Amazon kindly sent me a Kindle DX to review. The Kindle DX is the latest in the Kindle range of eBook readers which offers a larger and higher resolution display.
I have to admit that I am not a big reader, it’s not something that I have a lot of time for these days but one the that did appeal to me was the ability to display PDF documents so as I have to read a lot of reports this was one feature that I was keen to test.
The Kindle, like other eBook readers out there, utilises a display technology called E Ink. If you’ve never seen this with your own eyes before then it’s very hard to explain in any way that can do it justice. When anything is displayed on the screen it really does look like ink on paper. This means that reading the display for extended periods of time does not lead to the kind of eye strain of fatigues that you would expect from an LCD screen.
To find out what I actually thought of the Amazon Kindle DX in practice then please read on…
What’s in the box?
- The Kindle DX eBook
- USB to MicroUSB cable
- USB mains charger
- Printed getting started guide
The box is fairly basic, plain brown with recycled paper inner packaging. Have a look at my Kindle DX unboxing for more.
Amazon Kindle DX Specification:
- Price: £299.00
- Connectivity: 3.5mm Output, USB 2.0
- Dimensions: 264 x 182 x 9mm
- Display Size: 9.7"
- Features: 824 x 1200 display resolution
- Connectivity: Amazon Whispernet using AnyDATA wireless modem, with fallback to 1xRTT
- Screen: 16-level greyscale Electronic paper
- Built in stereo speakers and MP3 playback
- Linux OS
- Lithium-Ion battery good for up to 2 weeks on one charge
- Weight (g): 540
- HDD Capacity (GB): 4 / 3.3GB available to the user
Taking a look around the Kindle DX hardware then.
The front of the Kindle DX is, unsurprisingly, dominated but the 9.7″ E Ink display. The display is 824 x 1200 pixels and can display 16 shade of grey. Below the display a QWERTY keyboard. You use the keyboard for entering text, searching for new book titles or for the web browser.
Kindle DX front view
On the bottom of the unit there are a couple of speaker grilles and in the middle a microUSB connector for charging the device and for accessing the internal memory in mass-storage mode.
Kindle DX bottom view
Round to the top of the Kindle you’ll find the power switch and a 3.2mm headphone connector as the Kindle can also play MP3’s while you read a book.
Kindle DX top view
On the right hand side of the Kindle you can see a simple volume control. Look at the picture below you can also get an appreciation of how thin the Kindle is.
Kindle DX right view
Also to the right of the screen are the main controls. From top to bottom; Home, Previous Page, Next Page, Menu, navigation joystick and Back button.
Kindle DX main controls
The back of the kindle is made of brushed metal and looks very neat in itself.
Kindle DX back view
- Fantastically clear display
- Plenty of memory
- PDF support
- Huge library of book titles, magazines and newspapers
- Expensive to buy
- Book titles are not cheap
- Web browser is slow and basic
- Web browser not supported in the UK
The Kindle DX was released back in May of 2009. Initially it was only available in the US, if you wanted to buy it here you had to make your own arrangements to import it. Now Amazon will let you buy it through the Amazon UK store but it is still shipped from the US.
First thing that surprised me about the Kindle DX when I unboxed it and turned it on was that it was already called Matt’s Kindle, it had been shipped pre-registered to me. It even appeared in my Amazon account and I was able to manage my Kindle from within my Amazon account.
The first 5 minutes were spent playing around in and out of menus, looking at the documents already on the device (a user guide and welcome letter) as well as ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the clarity of the E Ink screen.
If you consider the spec. the Kindle DX may seem large and fairly weighty but when you actually look at it the Kindle is about the same weight as a chunky paper-back and about the same size as an open book. Don’t forget though that you can fit hundreds of books on one Kindle!
I’ve mentioned the screen technology being E Ink a few times already, it is extremely impressive. Unlike LCD technology it does not require continuous power to display an image on the screen. The state of the screen is set and then the power can turn off. Also, again unlike LCD, there is no back light for E Ink which further improves the readability although does require external light to read, just like a normal book!
E Ink is a specific proprietary type of electronic paper manufactured by E Ink Corporation, founded in 1997 based on research started at the MIT Media Lab. Currently available commercially in greyscale only and commonly used in mobile devices such as e-Readers and to a lesser extent mobile phones and watches.
Unlike earlier Kindle versions the DX has the native ability to display PDF documents. Earlier version required documents be converted before they could displayed. Being able to read PDF documents is one thing that I really liked about the Kindle DX. I have to produce and read an awful lot of reports for business so being able to do this on an ebook in a nicely readable format, without having to either print them out or carry wads of papers with me was really useful.
The DX has a built in accelerometer which means that you can rotate the device and the display rotates to suit. Very handy if you want to turn the display landscape which makes the text larger on the screen.
The Kindle has a built in SIM-card for mobile network connectivity. In the UK this coverage is provided by Vodafone but in the US it’s AT&T. The connection is called Amazon Whispernet. There are lots of advantages for this, first of all you can browse the Amazon book catalogue wirelessly and when you pick a title you want, it is delivered to the Kindle wirelessly. Secondly, when you set up your Kindle account you are given an @Kindle email address. This is a feature that I really liked the idea of. It means that you can give that email address to friends or colleagues and they can email you reports in PDF format and these documents are, again, delivered to the Kindle over the Whispernet. The only drawback here is that if you are outside the US this is not free for the person receiving the email and you will be charged, through your Amazon account, per-megabyte for the email you receive.
The Kindle DX has a built-in web browser. Don’t expect this to give you a desktop like web experience though, pages are slow to load and are not rendered perfectly. Forget about anything like flash support or anything animated too. However, if you are on the go and really must check out a web site or you want to read the news headlines on your favourite site then you can do that. HOWEVER, another caveat. Web browsing is disabled in the UK. You can only use the web browser over Whispernet if you are in the US. There are ways around this which I wont go in to here but you really are not meant to do it. I enabled it just to test out the experience and it kinda works, albeit slowly.
The Kindle doesn’t just do books. You can also subscribe to magazines and newspapers. The beauty of subscribing on the Kindle is that a) Newspapers are pretty cheap to subscribe to each month and b) the daily newspaper is delivered directly to the Kindle over Whispernet on a daily basis so it’s always there and ready for you! You can also subscribe to a selection of blogs in the same way, you get a Kindle friendly condensed version of those blogs delivered direct.
At about the same time that I got the Kindle DX review unit from Amazon a little company called Apple (you may have heard of them?! :)) held a press conference announcing their new product; the iPad. What’s interesting about the iPad is that the basic version is about the same price as the kindle, is a similar size and will also have an eBook store and reader. Now, where the iPad has the advantage over the Kindle is that it’ll have tons of storage space for MP3’s, can play video, connect to the web, pick up email, access to 100,000 apps from the app store and has a colour screen. Again the iPad will be about the same cost as the Kindle DX AND you there is a Kindle app for the iPad!
So wont Amazon have a hard time selling the Kindle when the iPad comes out? Maybe. But hardcore readers might still prefer the E Ink technology of the kindle as it is so easy to read and wont strain your eyes like a TFT will. Few people have seen the iPad so I guess time will tell but my money would be on the iPad!
The Amazon Kindle DX is a cool gadget. Personally I don’t read that many books but as a PDF reader it’s very handy although I could not justify the price tag just for that feature. If you get through a lot of book then the Kindle might be a better proposition carry one Kindle that contains many books.
Don’t think that buying a Kindle is going to save you a whole lot of money though either. I’ve found that books are not any cheaper on Kindle than they paper-back equivalent, I think you would have to read in excess of 300 books to recover your purchase price.
However, the Kindle is convenient, you get the book you want delivered right to the device over the airwaves within about 60 seconds, no waiting!
If this was about £150 I would buy one but at almost £300 I cant justify it.
Posted by: Matt