Kindle books sales on the Amazon Kindle Store are surging. We recently reported that Kindle books now outsell the print copies, so we thought the timing would be perfect for us to unleash our review on the Amazon Kindle Touch.
The Kindle Touch sits in the middle of the UK Kindle Family, between the standard Kindle, and the Kindle Keyboard 3G. As e-ink skeptics we were eager to get our hands on the Kindle and see how it faired against its traditional LCD touting friends such as the iPad where e-book reading is concerned.
The Kindle Touch is lightweight, and the e-ink display does exactly what it is advertised to do. It provides a reading experience exactly like when reading paper. It is crisp, and perfectly legible even when outside. Bright sunlight causes no reflection and does not dampen the reading experience. The Amazon Kindle Store front end provides an easy to navigate system allowing books to be purchased and downloaded within a matter of seconds.
Read on to find out our full thoughts on the Kindle Touch, and why you should consider one as an e-book reading device.
The Kindle Touch is a lightweight e-reader weighing in at just 213 grams. It features a 6 inch e-ink multitouch display which can show up to 16 levels of grey. The model we have for review is the Kindle Touch Wi-Fi which features b/g/n compatibility.
6″ e-ink touchscreen with a 16-level grey scale, 600×800 pixel resolution
|Size||172 mm x 120 mm x 10.1 mm|
|Storage||4GB or up to 3000 books|
|Battery Life||With WiFi – Up to 3 WeeksWith WiFi Off – Up to 2 months* based upon 30 min read time per day|
|Charge Time||4.5 Hours|
|Supported Formats||Kindle (AZW), Kindle Format 8 (AZW3), TXT, PDF, Audible (Audible Enhanced(AA,AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.|
|In The Box Contents||Kindle Touch, USB 2.0 Cable & Quick Start Guide|
In the box alongside the Kindle you get a USB 2.0 cable, and a quick start guide. Note, that to charge the Kindle you have to plug it into a USB on a computer, however if you do want a mains adapter Amazon do sell these separately at £8.66 (price valid 24/08/12).
Using the Kindle Touch
It’s all good knowing the technical details, but I’m sure many of you just want to know how well it performs as an e-book reader. The Kindle Touch e-ink display is different to many traditional displays we see on phones and tablets. E-ink allows for easy reading with no glare due to its matte coating, meaning that you will be able to see the screen on the Kindle even in direct sunlight.
The Kindle performed exactly as advertised when placed in direct sunlight, and the reading experience is just like reading a paper printed book. Of course, due to the fact it does replicate a paper book, there is no backlight meaning that you will need a light of some kind if you wish to read at night time. This isn’t a huge factor though, as many readers will be used to that necessity anyway, and its a price worth paying for incredible battery life and overall screen legibility.
The Touchscreen itself is enjoyable to use, although the matte feel under the finger contrasts to that of smooth glass that covers touch screens on phones and tablets, it provides enough resistance to feel you are actually making an input rather than just gliding your finger across, and does a stellar job of reducing fingerprints on the display. Looking at the Kindle we first expected the touchscreen to work like some older resistive screens where you would need to put pressure onto the screen to make your selection – this is not the case however, and just a simple tap and swipe will do the job just fine. E-ink does sometimes have a “ghosting effect” where faded remnants of previous text are left on the screen and new text is placed on top. This does not present too much of an issue as the Kindle is set to do a full screen refresh after every 6 pages, but if you have the text size set rather small and condensed you may see more of this shadow effect than compared when using a larger text size.
Purchasing content on the Kindle Touch is a breeze. It is easy to connect to your home wireless network, and although the on screen keyboard can feel a little cramped the keys are well spaced and the screen is responsive – so typing in the wireless network key wasn’t too traumatic. Accessing the store is done with a quick tap of the shopping cart icon on the home screen. The home screen is where the list of loaded content will show and will be your main point of call when navigating between reading material.
Once in the store you are greeted with a selection of browsing methods by looking at different types of content such as books, magazines blogs and more. Moving down there is a “Featured” section which provides shortcuts to Kindle bestsellers as well as award winners and a £2.99 or less section. A little bit further down the screen is the “Editors’ Picks” section.
The Editors’ Picks section displays a selection of Kindle Titles recommended for readers – here we get cover art tiles of the books which can be tapped and selected. This cover view grid feature is available throughout the Kindle Store, as well as a list method which shows a small thumbnail of the cover art, as well as the title and author information. Even though the greyscale display lacks the punch of a colour one for book cover art, we like this display method and it made browsing the store enjoyable. It’s worth noting however that the cover art view is not available when browsing books you have purchased or loaded onto the Kindle – this is definitely something we found a little disappointing and would love this addition.
Once you have loaded up, or purchased the book you wish to read you have a multitude of options to play with including; Font Size, Style, as well as spacing options. Reading on the Kindle provides a very flexible experience, and tapping anywhere on the screen will take you to the next page with Amazon’s “EasyReach” technology – so it doesn’t matter if you are left or right handed, or which side of the screen you tap to navigate, tapping will simply flip the page. Swiping will allow you to flip back and forth between pages.
Tapping towards the top of the screen will bring up the menu options. Within the menu there are a multitude of choices between simply adding a bookmark, searching the book as well as turning on “Text-to-Speech” and Landscape mode.
Text-to-speech mode works well for an experimental feature, and although text is read with a computerised American accent it did not seem to have any troubles with the pronunciation of words that we encountered. Our flaw with “Text-to-Speech” is purely down to the lack of emotion within a computer generated voice, and this presents a very monotonic listening experience.
Landscape Mode allows you to view and read in Landscape. Simple enough. What was rather cumbersome however was having to bring up the menu and manually select “Landscape Mode”. We are so used to tilting our devices to the left and right and making use of their built in accelerometers that this felt very old fashioned. We would have much rather tilted the Kindle to the right to enable this mode rather than selecting a menu item. Then again, Landscape mode doesn’t improve the reading experience over portrait mode, and we believe most users will be using the more tradition portrait mode approach.
The Kindle Touch also comes loaded with some additional features under an “Experimental” menu. Described by Amazon as working prototypes they encourage users to give feedback on them via their website. As part of these Experimental features we have a Web Browser, MP3 Player and of course the previously mentioned Text-to-Speech.
In our tests the web browser performed okay. Albeit page load times were not that great which we could only put down to the rendering by the e-ink display when loading sites with a lot of images, but as expected text was very sharp. Browsing the web in monochrome feels very unusual and although functional we doubt many users could or would use this instead of a laptop or tablet with a colour screen. E-ink unfortunately makes browsing the web very drab, and the ghosting and shadowing of images and text on the e-ink display is much more prominent here than when simply reading.
The lightweight design of the Kindle makes it much easier to hold for long periods of time in comparison with a device such as the iPad. It feels very well made and has a somewhat grippy texture on the rear making it feel like it will not slide out of your hand during use. The home button on the bottom of the device features four raised bars – it is a very tactile button making finding it without looking directly at it very easy with your thumb. The bottom of the Kindle Touch is where you will find the power button, USB port and headphone jack. We had no qualms with the placement of any of these, and particularly liked the placement of the power button which some will disagree with. We feel that when holding it in the hand the power button placement is easy to reach with a thumb, and it is not in the way when holding the Kindle for reading – so you will not press it accidentally. The one button we did feel was missing from the Kindle however is a volume rocker button. When playing music, or using text-to-speech volume control has to be done via the screen, but we would rather a physical button on the device. Those two features are experimental, so we hope to see them come out of that title and be part of the Kindle’s advertised offering – alongside a volume rocker button.
|Build Quality||No accelerometer|
|E-Ink display with matte finish||No included Mains to USB adapter|
|WiFi connectivity||No Volume Rocker button|
|Amazon Kindle Store has a huge selection of titles|
|Experimental Web Browser, MP3 Player and Text-to-Speech|
|Incredible Battery Life|
The Kindle Touch provides a great reading experience which is supported by not only the device itself with its e-ink display and WiFi connectivity, unbelievably great battery life, but also its part in the Amazon ecosystem with access to the Kindle store, and WhisperSync which allows you to download the Kindle app on other devices and sync content, and bookmarks between them. When buying a Kindle you are not just buying an e-reader, but an e-reader with access to the greatest ebook store available, and from a popular company with a brand which is trusted worldwide.
Amazon have taken the e-reader to another level with the ability to not only read content, but provide a built in dictionary, search functions and text adjustment features as well as text-to-speech, the ability to purchase content, browse the web, and finally listen to music. The Kindle is a genuine replacement for printed books and provides a reading experience which is very comparable – and one we definitely prefer.
If you have any questions about the Kindle Touch put them in the comments below!
The Kindle Touch retails at just £109, and is available from Amazon UK.
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