Review: Amazon Kindle Touch

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Amazon Kindle on a Desk

The Kindle Touch was announced back in September, and finally Australians can now get it through Amazon. However, is it a nice upgrade from the latest generation Amazon Kindle, and is the inclusion of the touchscreen a good or bad idea? Better yet, is the Kindle Touch worth the extra $30 compared to the Kindle?

Terence Huynh reviews the Amazon Kindle Touch.

  • Score:

    9.0 / 10

  • The Good:

    The touchscreen; design and size; easy to use interface; huge library of books on sale

  • The Bad:

    No 3G option (pushed to Kindle Keyboard); slight lag in touchscreen response

  • Bottom Line:

    The Kindle still is the king of the eBook readers; the touchscreen is simply a bonus

Amazon Kindle on the side

Design & Features

The only main difference… is that this model has a touchscreen

The Amazon Kindle Touch has the same thin shell as the latest-generation of the popular eBook reader (the one that has no keyboard whatsoever). It’s lightweight, sturdy and just perfect to hold when reading at night. As well, it’s pretty simple. You have a home button at the front, and at the bottom, you have an audio jack, microUSB port and the power switch. As well, the model still retains the 6-inch screen.

There are speakers, at the very bottom of the device. However, while there is an MP3 player on board, it is not designed for that. Actually, they are not really that good sounding, and are suitable for reading text aloud by the Kindle (Amazon has included its “Text-to-Speech” feature on this model). But adding the Text-to-Speech feature is brilliant for those who find it tough to read, but prefer it to be spoken to them.

If there was a gripe about the product, it would be the implementation of the touchscreen. Yes, they kept the E Ink screen, which I prefer on eBook readers because of its similarities with printed text, the speed between recognising the gesture and showing up on screen isn’t as fast as you would want it to be. As you can see, there isn’t the physical keyboard. It has been replaced with a virtual one. However, unlike the fourth-gen Kindle, you don’t have to use navigational keys to maneuver around. There isn’t a considerable amount of lag between key presses, so you’ll not be waiting long. The touchscreen is a good addition to the product, and while it isn’t perfect, it’s something that does not feel a bit gimmicky.

The bottom of the Amazon Kindle

The international model, however, does not have 3G support despite being featured in the US version. In fact, if you want 3G, the model that supports it is the third-generation Kindle (also known as the Kindle Keyboard). In addition, the International version does not have ads – unlike the Special Offers versions sold in the United States. That is understandable since Amazon does not have any plans to expand its deals service.

Like I said, this model does look the same as the latest-generation Kindle. The only main difference between this version and the fourth-generation Amazon Kindle is that this model has a touchscreen. As such, there is no buttons for the next page or previous page; all that is done by simply tapping on the screen. In addition, it has 4GB of storage rather than two; and up to two months of battery life (with wireless off) in comparison to one month.

But why get this than the others? One of the biggest reasons is the fact that Amazon has pretty much the largest catalogue of books for sale. In fact, you’ll find a wide range of publications – from newspapers and magazines, to even books no longer protected under copyright. That means you’ll be able to buy books such as Frankenstein for free via Project Gutenberg. If you do get the Kindle, you should read Frankenstein.

Amazon Kindle on the Table

Software

The interface is still simplistic and basic

As usual, the software is pretty easy to use. There is no major differences between the previous generation and this generation of Kindle readers. You still are presented with the books you have read, you still have a menu and you still have the “Experimental” section with its wacky tidbits like a web browser (why you need one is anybody’s guess, however) and a very basic MP3 player. The interface is still simplistic and basic. Black on white text, little progression bar on the bottom of each ‘page’, and no fancy graphics. If you have used the Kindle before, nothing has changed. If you are new, you’ll find it easy to use.

But this has a touchscreen. This means you’ll have to learn new gestures – but it isn’t a steep learning curve. Much of the screen has been given to move to the next page; while tapping closer to the left edge of the screen will take you back. Swiping up and down will move between chapters, while tapping closer to the top edge will activate the menu. If you need to zoom the text in or out, then you do a simple pinch-and-zoom.

Other features include, like others in the Kindle range, the New Oxford American Dictionary. Simply hold onto a word, which is then highlighted, and you are offered the definition. You can even add a note, or share it to Facebook or Twitter (again, don’t know why). The new Kindles – not the DX and Keyboard – have expanded this further with “X-Ray”, where you click on a city or character and it gives you lots of detail like its biography, and how often it appears. Good thing is that there is no Internet necessary to access these files, these are stored alongside with the book – but it would also mean that hopefully data is updated sometimes.

You can also read your PDFs and personal documents on the Kindle – but you cannot simply drag and drop them onto the device. You have to email it to them, and that is annoying because its a highly unnecessary step. But the main reason is because they have to convert it to a readable format on the Kindle. This could have been done on the software side and then transferred across, but Amazon wants to control it.

The Kindle Touch also supports Whispersync – which is used to keep track of your reading, bookmarks and annotations across any Kindle device, and reader on any mobile device or computer. So, if you were reading on the bus, found something interesting and annotated it, you can simply launch your computer and see it there as well.

Conclusions

If you have used the Kindle before, nothing has changed. If you are new, you’ll find it easy to use.

The Amazon Kindle Touch is a brilliant addition to the Kindle family. With or without the touchscreen, the Kindle is still the number one in its market – the touchscreen seems to be an added bonus. A big library of books and publications available, and the fact that its interface is simple to use and just focuses on the text, not on apps, is made it become the king.

However, the problem is whether to get the Kindle or Kindle Touch? Well, it really just depends on if you are willing to pay an extra $30 for a touchscreen, 2GB of more capacity and one month of more battery life. (the Keyboard is only if you want the 3G)

The product is currently available on Amazon, but will soon be offered in Woolworths outlets.

All images: Terence Huynh/TECHGEEK.com.au

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