Kindle 4 Review!

After selling my Kindle Keyboard (3rd generation) on eBay to put the money down towards the Kindle Fire, I knew one day I would reacquaint myself with one of the most popular electronic eBook reading devices out there. While I use my Kindle Fire pretty much on a daily basis for heavy PDF reading, I sorely miss the E-Ink display of the Kindle. It’s true that reading PDF documents on the Kindle can be of a hassle but for reading regular eBooks themselves, no other device can compare. The backlit screen and the general weight of the Kindle Fire makes long reading sessions uncomfortable. At the time of this writing, Walmart stores are currently running a promotion for the new Kindle where the retail store would throw in a $30 gift card for every purchase of the device. Of course by the time you’re reading this the deal will be long gone. Once I heard about this deal, I immediately knew that this was a clear cut sign that there has never been a better time to purchase the Kindle then now.

The newest Kindle, while it doesn’t have a special name, is known publicly as the 4th generation of one of Amazon’s most popular and successful product. It has been out for some time already so chances are you’ve probably already seen a commercial of it on your television. With the newest Kindle lineup, Amazon is technically offering six different versions. You have the regular Kindle Wi-Fi which uses buttons for navigation that includes both a “with special offer” and “without special offer” version. The second Kindle model includes touch screen navigation with Wi-Fi (still E-Ink) and includes a special offers and without special offers version. The highest model is the same touch screen model but with both built-in Wi-Fi and free 3G with again, both a special offers and without special offers version model. The special offers model is a brilliant move from Amazon because by displaying advertisements on your Kindle device, you can actually purchase the device for a cheaper price! The cheapest model and the one I’m reviewing here, can be purchased for only $79! As we’ll see later, these advertisements on your Kindle are not obtrusive at all

Weight and Feel

One of the most shocking thing I noticed when I first picked up the Kindle is how surprisingly light weight it is! It’s only 5.98 ounces compared to the 7.8 ounces of the Kindle Keyboard. Trust me when I say this that those 2 ounces or so make a world of a difference. While I didn’t necessarily suffer from hand fatigue with my old Kindle Keyboard during long reading sessions, I still felt a little annoyed with holding it in my hands (not for long though). With the new Kindle, the weight of the device feels perfect. Although I’m sure some users will want it even lighter, I personally still want that feeling that I’m actually holding on to an electronic device. This is similar to why many users are still against using an electronic e-reading device because they genuinely feel that nothing beats that “feeling” they get when holding a good ol’ physical book in their hands. This lighter device is possible in my opinion due to the removal of a physical keyboard. This reduces the overall size of the Kindle yet you’ll still be getting the familiar 6″ E-Ink reading display as in the previous model.

The unboxing of the Kindle reveals that Amazon decided to omit the wall charger most likely due to bringing down the costs. They do include a basic USB charging cable which you can use to charge the device via the computer. If you find yourself needed an wall adapter, Amazon does offer it for sale.

Kindle 4 Unboxing

Physical Navigation

Due to the removal of the physical keyboard, typing in notes and URLs in the experimental web browser on the Kindle can take a while. I found this out immediately when I had to enter in my very secure randomly generated wireless password! If you tend to take a lot of notes, you’ll definitely want to spend the extra $20 and get the Kindle Touch (with special offers) instead. Personally, I’m fine with the removal of the keyboard because I hardly have a use for it. In fact, I barely touched the keyboard on my last Kindle.

Physical ButtonsAs for general navigation within the 4th generation Kindle itself, you’ll have a few physical buttons to mess with. Going from left to right, you first have the Back button, which is self-explanatory. Next you have the keyboard button, which brings up the keyboard on screen. This is not a QWERTY keyboard. Next you have the five-way navigational system (up, down, left, right and Enter). These buttons allow you to highlight text among other things and will be used the most. Next to this is the menu button where it displays the on screen menu in the top right corner of the display. From here, you can turn on/off your wireless access, configure device settings, display options and a host of other things. Finally, the last button is the Home Screen button where it will return you to your library home screen. Underneath the Kindle is your standard USB port and power button. With this Kindle version, there is no audio support and so therefore there is no 3.5mm headphone jack nor any external speakers. If you’re familiar with navigating around the Kindle previously, not much has changed here. Even if you are new to the Kindle device, I’m positively sure you’ll familiarize yourself with it in no time.

Page Turn ButtonsPage turning, which is something that Amazon or any other producer of E-Ink devices go for that matter, needs to get right. Once again, Amazon accommodates both right and left handed people by providing page turn buttons on either bezel of the Kindle. The one big difference you’ll notice immediately if you’re a previous Kindle owner is that the page turning buttons are now more “embedded” on the side of the device. Many users were complaining of accidental pages turns while holding the previous Kindle model and so Amazon now decided to make the button have less of a footprint while you are holding the device. This is hardly an issue to bring out the torches and pitch forks but some users obviously might reject to this design decision. I personally got use to it almost immediately. However, please bear in mind that if you have large hands, holding the new Kindle might be awkward at first depending on how you’ll be holding the Kindle personally. The side bezel holding area, where your thumb will rest, has been reduced so there less of a “resting” area. If you’re right handed, you could pinch the Kindle on the bottom corner of the device with your thumb (the device is light enough for this task) and then use your left hand/thumb to turn the page on the left bezel. Vice-versa if you are naturally left handed. If this continuously becomes a problem for you though, then you’ll want to look into the Kindle Keyboard.

Screen Display

With a newer version of the Kindle, it’s almost obvious that Amazon will have improve their E-Ink display technology. Texts are suppose to be crisp and sharp and most importantly, eliminate eye fatigue. I’ve read that some users find the screen display of the newest Kindle to be a little somewhat inferior (main complaint is less sharpness and dimmer screen) to that of the previous model. Although I don’t have my old Kindle anymore, I can’t do a side by side comparison. However, upon looking at some video reviews, it seems that the screen on the new Kindle does seem a bit dimmer thanbefore. As with all things, once you get used to reading on the new Kindle, you’ll hardly notice it and it will be a non issue. You could still email the Amazon stafff about this issue so that they at least address the issue in future models.

What is cool with the new Kindle is that previously, every page turn forces the screen to refresh which causes a very brief black flash. No matter how fast or brief this flash was, users complained that it was irritating and causes distraction even though that is how E-Ink displays actually work in general. I didn’t have one problem to this but apparently I’m the minority. Amazon now worked their magic on the new Kindle by only presenting that “page flash” once every 8-10 pages. For a lack of a more accurate term, it seems as if the Kindle can now “cache” the next couple of pages in memory so that the screen doesn’t have to refresh after every page turn. Again, I don’t really care about this because I don’t have an issue with it in the first place but I’m so glad Amazon is dong something to address it. This will surely give readers a more pleasant reading experience.

As of right now, it’s actually not Amazon but Barnes and Noble who are leading the innovation sector by including what they call “GlowLight” into their Nook readers. With the Kindle, there is no method of reading in the dark besides buying an additional flashlight clip-on. With the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight model, there is actually a built-in light hidden within the top of the screen that can be turned on which allows one to read with the lights off. I’m certain that future Kindle models will incorporate something similar to this.

Menu Navigation

There’s not much to go over in this area as it has largely remained unchanged from the last model. For basic readers such as myself, the only thing you’ll ever need to change from time to time is the font size and type to match your reading preference at that time. Sometimes I like to read with a small font and at other times a much larger one. Whatever the case may be, every setting that can be configured is found with push of the menu button. Everything is pretty self-explanatory and I doubt you’ll ever have any issues. A new feature is the ability to actually password protect your Kindle while not in use. This helps prevent a thief from purchasing digital books (yes I know, that sounds funny) on Amazon under your account.

Menu Options Font Options

Advertisements

For readers who want the most basic of a electronic reader, Amazon offers the special offers version. By displaying advertisements for companies which they have partnered up with, Amazon allows you to purchase the device at a fraction cheaper than a similar model but without the display of advertisements. Some people will immediately put this “advertisement” thing as unwanted and believe that it will just be to annoying to deal with when reading books. Surprisingly, these advertisement do not in any way obstruct the thing you will do with the Kindle most and that is your reading.

You see, there are only two places where you will see advertisements. The first is when you turn your Kindle into standby/off mode. Instead of the usual screensavers, you’ll be presented with a static ” advertisement screen saver” instead. The second place you’ll see them is when you are at your home screen (where you view and select the book you want to read). Here, the advertisement is a small banner located at the bottom of the screen. When you are actually interested in an offer, you can select it and you’ll be able to tell it to send an email to you for more information on that advertisement offer. The most awesome news is that you will not in any way view any advertisement banners when you are actually reading a book! Amazon clearly could have also placed an advertisement banner, similar to that shown in your home screen, while you are inside a book but they decided against this which of course many readers will applaud them for.

Screen Saver Adverts Home Screen Adverts

Misc. Notes

  • This basic Kindle model does not have any audio capabilities! Therefore, you will not be able to listen to your MP3 while enjoying your latest book. With no audio, you therefore also don’t have text-to-speech capability as well. This latter is not a big deal to me and I’m sure to a lot of other people as well but I really do miss not being to use the Kindle to listen to my Mp3s. This of course is required if Amazon is to cut down on costs and to minize the weight as much as possible. With more parts, the device will surely become more heavy. This is evident with the Kindle Touch, which weighs almost the same as the previous Kindle Keyboard model at around 7.5 ounces.
  • Most of the other features remain largely unchanged. For example, you can still email documents to your personal Kindle email address and/or have Amazon convert documents for you. The latter is especially useful for converting PDF documents.
  • Amazon can now even sync your personal documents across devices. For example if you upload an unprotected eBook (.mobi format) purchased elsewhere to your Kindle account, you can actually still sync your notes and bookmarks across devices even though the eBook was not purchased through Amazon themselves.
  • PDF reading again remains unchanged for the most part. You’ll be better off in most cases by switching to landscape mode but once you have multi-column reports to read, forget about it. You can use zoom features and whatnot but they are a huge inconvenience and makes reading long documents very tiring and cumbersome. This is one of the main reason why I got a Kindle Fire.

In the End…

I keep repeating myself that I am a strong advocate when it comes to getting people to read. I am so glad for the popularity of devices such as the Kindle and the Nook because it really does help everyone be able to get into the habit of reading more often and pretty much wherever they may be. Accessing and purchasing books is ridiculously simple. With the low price of the basic Kindle with special offers version, it’s cheap enough for the whole family to get in on the reading.

Below is a very detailed video review of the 4th generation Kindle (the one reviewed here):

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