Product Amazon Kindle 3 e-book reader
Specifications 6-inch screen, 800 x 600 resolution, WiFi, 3G (3G plus WiFi model only), text-to-speech, PDF support, one-month battery life (wireless off), 190 x 123 x 8.5mm, 241g (WiFi model) / 247g (3G plus WiFi model)
Price £109 (WiFi); £149 (3G plus WiFi)
HOT ON THE HEELS of Iriver’s WiFi Story, the Kindle 3 has finally arrived in the UK. Smaller than the previous US-only models, Amazon claims this is the fastest-selling model yet. Like previous versions, the screen is a 6-inch model, but the Kindle’s dimensions have been shrunk to just 190mm x 123mm x 8.5mm, and at just 241g or 247g, barely heavier than the typical paperback book, it’s highly-portable.
Although the technology has been around for a while, Amazon hasn’t opted for a touch-sensitive screen this time. The 800×600 e-ink display on the Kindle 3 has seen some improvements, though. The screen is whiter than before, though still pale grey, the fonts are blacker, and text is very easy on the eyes under all but very dim light.
There’s still only a choice of three fonts – normal and condensed serif, plus sans serif – but there’s a wide selection of font sizes, along with adjustable line spacing and margin width settings. Amazon claims the new screen’s page turns are 20 per cent faster too, which is to say that the full-screen flush required before a new page can be displayed is now not much of a distraction. The screen also supports a partial refresh, which means drop-down menus and moving cursors work almost as well as on an LCD display.
This faster screen refresh also suits the new and improved Webkit-based web browser. This does a bang-up job of rendering webpages accurately, but we found most are too small to read by default and the browser’s fit-to-width option is seldom successful. There are also four zoom levels, but these rarely fit a column of text across the full width of the screen, and the need to refresh the whole screen each time makes panning left and right to read lines of text a chore.
There is an Article mode that does a better job of reformatting long swathes of text, but in our tests this too was a bit hit and miss when it came to displaying part of a page you actually want. That said, the web browser is still accessed via the Kindle 3′s ‘Experimental’ menu, so Amazon clearly doesn’t think it’s ready for prime time just yet.
The launch of the Kindle 3 coincided with the opening of a UK-specific Kindle e-book store, which means book buyers no longer have to pay Amazon US prices at the prevailing exchange rate. As before, e-books can be bought from either the Amazon web site with a PC or on the Kindle itself and then wirelessly synced, but other documents can also be dragged to the Kindle when it’s plugged into a PC’s USB port.
The Kindle 3′s storage has been upped to 3.3GB too, which is enough for around 3,500 e-books, although this figure will obviously decrease with multi-megabyte PDFs. Typed annotations can be added to e-books and PDFs on the go, although the tiny keys of the Kindle 3′s Qwerty keyboard mean this is best done using the free Windows Kindle application. This only works with e-books purchased from Amazon and not, say, with your own PDFs, but annotations made here are automatically synchronised to the Kindle and vice versa.
The other big change for the Kindle 3 is the addition of WiFi, and two models are now available, the 3G plus WiFi for £149 and the standard WiFi-only model for £109. This latter price puts the Kindle 3 into impulse buying territory for many people, although £99 would no doubt be more tempting.
Battery life for both is still pegged at one month with wireless off, but the WiFi-only model has the edge with wireless enabled, lasting for three weeks, while the power-hungry 3G model lasts for only 10 days.
The Kindle 3 is an impressive effort from Amazon and, although it still needs some work, the capable Webkit-based web browser really adds to its appeal. Unless you need to buy e-books when you’re wandering far and wide, the £109 WiFi-only model is the better deal. µ
Crisp and clear screen, lasts for weeks between recharges, bargain price for WiFi-only model.
Small keyboard is fiddly.
Webkit browser still needs work.