Amazon Kindle DX review

Thanks to the friendly people at Amazon, I was able to spend about 2 weeks with the Amazon Kindle DX, and it was an interesting experience. Here are my thoughts.

The Kindle DX addresses most of my complaints about the original Kindle, namely the horrible industrial design and the small display size. It also improves upon its sibling, the Kindle 2, by adding PDF support and screen auto-rotation (which can be disabled).

Let’s be honest – I absolutely hated the look and feel of original Kindle! I realize this is a matter of personal taste, but it turned me off the device completely. Amazon remedied this – first with the Kindle 2, and now with the Kindle DX, which is well proportioned, clean, and cohesive. The industrial design is further enhanced by the small (compared to the original Kindle and Kindle 2) screen bezel…

The Kindle DX is thin, with a tasteful brushed metal back, a power switch & a standard 3.5 mm audio connector on the top edge, and speakers & a standard micro-USB connector (for charging and transferring data) on the bottom edge. It’s reasonably light, although it can be uncomfortable to hold for longer periods of time.

The E-ink display dominates the front of the Kindle DX, with a QWERTY keyboard at the bottom, and all other controls on the right edge, including a 5-way joystick for navigation. The larger screen makes a lot more sense for an E-book than the smaller one used in the original Kindle and Kindle 2 – none of these devices are pocketable, so why not maximize display size?

I think a smartphone or Internet tablet are better suited for mobile E-book consumption, and apparently Amazon agrees, since there’s a Kindle application for the Apple iPhone.

I’m a bit torn about the E-Ink display. It’s certainly easy to read in daylight and renders nice text, while being highly power efficient, but in my opinion, it’s no more readable than a good modern LCD or OLED screen. I’m not sure that the lack of backlight, color, and the extremely slow refresh are worth it, especially when browsing the web. Maybe I’ve been using computers for too long?

Yes, browsing the web – that’s the first thing I tried doing with the Kindle DX. See, the device incorporates a wireless modem (EVDO) on Sprint’s network (CDMA) – the service, called Whispernet, is free (subsidized by E-Book purchases) and allows browsing the web & purchasing content. Battery life is excellent, especially when wireless is turned off.

As an aside, after taking the Kindle DX apart, I temporarily removed the mini-PCIe modem (Novatel Wireless E727NV WN2), placed it in a computer, and successfully connected to Sprint’s network after installing the right software. But I was unable to access the Internet – presumably because the all data on Whispernet is proxied via Amazon’s servers.

The second thing I tried doing with the Kindle DX was to tap the screen to open a link on a web page – out of habit :) Of course, there’s no touch screen, but the user interface is relatively intuitive. The device also features a basic MP3 player which is (unfortunately) somewhat disappointing for the price point.

But let’s keep things in perspective – the Kindle DX is first and foremost a connected E-book reader, not an MP3 player, and not about browsing the web! PDF files (and other data) are easily transferred to the device via USB (it appears as a 4 GB mass storage device on any computer), and Amazon makes it dangerously trivial to purchase content…

There’s a catch, however. You don’t own the E-Books you buy, you just acquire a license to read them. Because the Kindle DX is a connected reader, Amazon can revoke that license, refund your money, and remotely delete the content from your device. In fact, that’s exactly what recently happened with George Orwell’s Animal Farm and (ironically) 1984, although Amazon issued an apology.

With DRM, there’s no way to lend, give or sell your E-Books like you do with paper, and most importantly, there’s no way to ever migrate your content to another platform. Want to read your E-Books on your computer? Can’t do. Want to convert the content into another format? Nope. To me, this is a problem.

I like the Kindle DX as a device – it’s a worthy E-Book reader, and I’m sure Amazon will continue to improve the display, the user interface (touch screen perhaps?), and the other features (Web and MP3). But I don’t like the Kindle as a platform, and will not invest in content I can’t “own”, especially when Amazon already supports DRM-free digital media distribution with its MP3 store.

After using the Kindle DX, I’m longing for a device like the CrunchPad, but then again, I’m not an avid reader. Your mileage may vary.

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6 Responses to Amazon Kindle DX review

  1. Gib says:

    I think you miss the point with electronic ink. The fair comparison is to paper ink. If you read books and magazines in print, an eReader gives similar quality with greater portability.

    I read a lot on both paper and backlit screens. I’ve found that after hours of reading on a backlit screen, my eyes can tire out and I can actually relax my eyes by using the Kindle.

    Backlight screens are bad in the sunlight. Try reading on an iPhone at the beach. It’s not going to happen if you’re in the light. A Kindle or Sony eReader, however, will.

    Whether electronic ink would ever work for you probably hinges on the question of do your eyes ever suffer from backlighting fatigue? Do you ever read in the sunlight?

    Backlight is bad for both, so that’s when paper books and periodicals and Kindles win out over the iPhone.

    • tnkgrl says:

      I found the E-Ink contrast to be significantly worse than paper. I don’t get any eye fatigue from reading modern backlit LCD/OLED displays.

      You are right that LCD/OLED displays can wash out in direct sunlight, and that’s one of the advantages of E-Ink (together with the lack of glare).

      However, the iPhone’s touch screen is transflective, and perfectly readable in direct sunlight.

  2. sv says:

    Well, apparently there’s no eInk reader on the market I would like to buy. Suitable for my needs would be a reader which is large so it can display my research papers, has a annotation function and which I can freely fill with *my* content. Additionally a bright contrast and a not-too-high price would be best.

    It’s a pity that Amazon restricts its users with this shitty DRM. First the Kindle DX looked good to me, but… you all read it. And it won’t come to Germany anyway.

  3. GeoffreyM says:

    While I like the idea of an ebook reader, I’m really not willing to do a single-purpose item yet for this purpose.

    I first started reading ebooks on my Palm Pilot 1000 (yes, folks, that’s the original one). I have been using eReader and buying content from them and FictionWise for years. I love that I have the ability to install readers on multiple platforms, allowing me to use the correct device for the situation, although the lack of syncing between them is a nuisance. I am hoping they will have a sync feature sometime soon, like Amazon has with the Kindle and the Kindle software for iPhone, which is actually a nice piece of software.

  4. rochman says:

    You can switch back and forth between reading and listening, and your spot is automatically saved. Pages automatically turn while the content is being read, so you can listen hands-free. You can choose from both male and female voices which can be sped up or slowed down to suit your preference. In the middle of a great book or article but have to jump in the car? Simply turn on Text-to-Speech and listen on the go.

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