Amazon’s Kindle 2: First Impressions

amazon-kindleThe second iteration of Amazon’s Kindle arrived here earlier today. Right after the obligatory hug to the UPS man, I tore open the package and got right down to business. Once Amazon announced and then delivered a Kindle application on the iPhone, I was pretty sure I’d be ordering the device.

To me the Whispersync technology has the biggest impact over any of the hardware improvements from Kindle’s predecessor. And it’s an awesome bonus for owners of the first Kindle to gain the sync functionality as well. The ability to read the same content on multiple devices is a huge draw, in my mind. Having that content synchronized to the furthest page read is icing on the cake. Anyway, enough of why I bought it. Now that it’s here, what do I think after a very short amount of play-time?

  • The device is far slimmer and sleeker than I expected. It’s one thing to read and compare dimensions between the two models, but the difference is huge when you’ve seen them both in person.
  • I like the new display. There’s a noticeable improvement in the clarity of both text and images. Since I’m going to be staring the screen for hours on end, that’s a big plus.
  • I still dislike how the entire screen flashes for a refresh, but that’s currently a necessary evil of this display technology. Amazon says the refreshes are up to 20% faster. Looks like only 18.645% faster, but maybe it’s me. OK, I’m joking. It does appear faster to me.
  • The navigation button placement and sizes are vastly improved. When I hold the device naturally (something that will vary for each person, of course) I see no way to accidentally cause a page turn or three. That happened far too often for me on the older model.
  • I’m not overly thrilled with the new 5-way controller. It works as advertised, but I find it very stubby. It reminds me of a poor implementation of an IBM trackstick. Now I wouldn’t want to ruin the sleekness of the device by placing a controller stick that extends out a half-inch or anything, but there’s very little to push around here. Perhaps a wider directional-pad approach would have worked here. I do like how the magical sparkly indicator is gone, gone, gone.
  • The text-to-speech function isn’t something I originally thought I’d use, but after trying it, I might have changed my mind. The male voice isn’t quite as “computerized” as I figured it would be. I didn’t try the female voice; Barb works from home, too, and I don’t want her to get the wrong idea. Then again, she saw me hug the UPS man, so who knows what she’s thinking? The two stereo speakers placed at the bottom of the device’s backside sound pretty good from a text-to-speech perspective; although I don’t expect to listen to music on this device, I’d expect them to provide passable sound for tunes. Of course, there’s a 3.5mm jack for headphones as well.
  • I really like the power cord. It obviously works with AC outlets, but you can pull the cord out from the AC adapter and expose a standard USB port. This supports standard charging from either a PC or Mac. I believe the original Kindle supported a trickle charge with USB, but I’m not 100% sure on that; I know one of you will chime in here.
  • The Kindle still isn’t going to be used as a primary web browsing device. I spent about 15 minutes using the browser and it’s just not an optimal experience. Given that I’m not thrilled with the 5-way controller to begin with, I find navigating a web page with it to be a chore. I turned on JavaScript and tried to use Google Reader but it’s painful.
  • I like the redesign of the keyboard, but the keys are a bit small. In terms of area, each key doesn’t much bigger than the keys on a T-Mobile G1. They’re spaced a little farther apart, but the Kindle keys looks similar in terms of size. They don’t press in very much either. Not a big deal to me as I don’t expect to use the keyboard all that much.
  • I don’t understand the back of the device. The majority is a thin metal, perhaps brushed aluminum. Across the top is a stripe of rubber that offers a slightly better grip than the metal. I would have liked to seen some “grippiness” where I’m holding the device.

Since it was a nice day outside here, I took the Kindle 2 out on the deck for some sun. Here’s a gallery of pics, some of which describe my first impressions above. Note: To give you the best possible look, all of the gallery pics are clickable for a ginormous, full-sized view.


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