The e-book market has certainly forced itself in to the limelight in the past year or so. Apple released the iPad, along with the iBook store, Barnes & Noble has recently announced an e-reader / tablet hybrid, and Amazon has released the latest version of their Kindle.
Is the Amazon Kindle 3 enough to compete with these new entrants though, or does it risk falling behind against competition that sacrifices battery life in favour of additional features? Let’s find out…
The Kindle 3 has a far smaller footprint than the Amazon Kindle 2, with much less space being wasted around the display. The keyboard is void of number keys, which are now part of the software keyboard, although the actual size of the keys seem to be identical to the last generation, just shuffled around a little.
Some other minor changes have been made, which include the removal of the navigation rocker in favour of a sleek, d-pad style controller. This actually works better than the rocker and isn’t as susceptible to dirt, which is always a benefit; this was always a problem I found with the rocker on my Kindle 2, so I’m glad that it’s been addressed.
Unfortunately, not all of the changes made result in a better user experience. The next and previous page buttons have decreased in size significantly, but sacrifice usability as a result. When reading on the Kindle 2, I always find the next and previous page buttons comfortable to use, and easy to find.
On the new generation, I sometimes find myself searching for the next and previous page buttons and have to take my eye of the screen to do so, as they are so low profile. This shouldn’t be an issue, as there is actually ample room to make the buttons wider without impacting on the size of the device in anyway, but aesthetics clearly beat usability in this particular battle.
Like the second generation Kindle, the screen on the device is an e-ink display. Although there haven’t been any major advancements in the 3rd generation display, Amazon claims that it offers 50% better contrast and a faster refresh rate than the last generation, increasing readability.
Most importantly, though, you’ll find that the display is still 6″ in size, so although the device itself is 20% smaller, the reading area is completely unaffected.
Essentially, the Amazon Kindle software is mostly unchanged from the Kindle 2, despite jumping a version number thanks to the new hardware. Some minor changes have been made in the settings menu, to cater for new features such as the addition of Wi-fi. One thing that was strangely absent from the Kindle 3 was the social networks option, which I tend to use quite a bit on the Kindle 2.
The major revamp here is without a doubt in the browser department, as the Kindle 3 comes with a WebKit browser, which puts the browser on the 2nd generation to shame. Quite frankly, it’s as good a browser experience as you will have on an e-ink display. You can visit most websites without a problem, including our own home page, which renders perfectly on the device without any optimisation on our part.
Another addition of note is native support for PDF files, which is always awesome to have.
There’s no doubt that the vast majority of improvements – and drawbacks – come from the hardware improvements present in the new Kindle, but these hardware improvements really help the user experience when swiftly navigating through your books and menus in the software.
Although I can’t imagine using the browser full-time, it’s nice to have it there, and let’s face it, with the Amazon Kindle 3 prices starting at £109, this thing is an absolute steal.