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The new Kindle: Hands-on and first impressions

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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.

11 Responses to “The new Kindle: Hands-on and first impressions”

  1. Tiffany Kennedy

    My bf got me a Kindle Fire for my birthday and I love it. It’s lightweight and easy to use straight out of the box. The first thing I recommend anyone with a new Kindle do is install the nook app. We got our instructions from through google.

    It basically unlocks all the Android marketplace apps and unlocks the device. Super happy!

  2. This entry-level Kindle will cost you $79 with Amazon’s ad-supported pricing, or $109 without.

    I don’t understand this. Are you saying when I use it I must watch ads etc?

  3. Nice review. I’m holding out to see some hands on reviews of the Touch. $20 for touch screen, audio, more memory, longer battery life and X-ray seems like a good deal. The down side is they appear to have removed the side buttons.

  4. pritchett4

    Am important function for me is the ability to highlight what I have read, as well as to take notes. Not sure how that works without touch – highlighting wouldn’t be difficult, but entering notes might be a challenge

  5. The battery and first of all the price is great but still I won’t change my iPad or buy Kindle as second device. I can wait a moment for iPad in cloud or something like Kindle with open source operating system.

    • you really need to try kindle, it’s very different device from iPad. When I get home after 9 hours of typing on the computer, kindle eInk screen is the only thing what does not kill my eyes

  6. Parvez Halim

    Thanks for the hands on but when you do a video next it’s probably better to put it on a table. Then the product will be in focus and the viewer won’t get motion sickness.