Amazon (s amzn) unveiled its new Kindle lineup Wednesday, and the first one available, the basic, simply named “Kindle,” reached my doorstep Thursday morning. Here’s what I think about Amazon’s latest reader, and how it stacks up so far to previous Kindles and other similar devices.
This entry-level Kindle will cost you $79 with Amazon’s ad-supported pricing, or $109 without. It comes with Wi-Fi, but no 3G connection, has a 6-inch e-Ink display, and lacks a speaker or audio output of any kind. It comes with 2 GB of onboard storage, compared to 4 GB for all other Kindle e-ink models, and offers one month of battery life, vs. two months for the Kindle Touch and Kindle Keyboard.
This Kindle doesn’t support touch, and the hardware keyboard is gone, so for text input you have to use a virtual keyboard, and it only ships with a USB cable, not a plug-in power adapter. It’s a Kindle distilled to its most basic essence — an e-book reader — and that’s a big reason why it’s sure to become my Kindle of choice.
Amazon may have cut features to get the new Kindle down to that $79 starting price point, but it kept intact and even improved upon the things that are most important in a dedicated e-reader: The 6-inch display is big enough to be easily readable; it’s small enough to fit in a pocket; and it weighs nearly three ounces less than the previous generation Kindle, and almost two ounces less than the Touch edition. Plus, general speed is better than on the last-gen Kindle, as is display contrast and quality.
I’ve had a Kindle since the second-generation device, and have also owned the last-gen Kindle with 3G (now called the Kindle Keyboard) as well as a Kindle DX. I’ve also owned a 5-inch Sony Reader (PRS-300) (s sne) and used a Kobo Touch extensively. The quality of Amazon’s overall experience always keeps me coming back, and the new Kindle is a solid continuation of that legacy. It looks good, keeps the handy page turn buttons on either side of the device, and features a slightly rubberized back that helps you grip without picking up smudges, dust or dirt.
The size and weight immediately strike me as huge improvements over the last generation. Both are key factors for a successful e-reader, since you’ll be holding the device in various positions when you dig in for long reading sessions. And in case you’re concerned about rotation, it’s also present in the basic Kindle; there’s no accelerometer to auto-detect your orientation, but you can change it manually from the settings screen.
One tick against the Kindle: I’d rather Amazon had repositioned the power button from the bottom center to the top right corner of the device, but that might just be because I expect to find it there as an iPhone user. The lack of an included power adapter doesn’t bother me, because frankly, with iPhone(s aapl), iPads and previous Kindles, I’ve got too many to begin with. If you need one, Amazon will charge you $10 extra for one boxed individually.
This Kindle is light, feels durable, and performs better than previous generations. If you’re looking for frills, wait for the Kindle Touch or Kindle Fire, both of which arrive in November, but if what you want it pure e-reading pleasure for the lowest price around, this is a big, definite winner. And one that I’d say should have every Kindle competitor scrambling to come up with an adequate response strategy.