The side buttons on both sides of the device have changed, too, and this is one update we're not that keen on. They feel a bit 'mushier' now, and if you're not looking (as we're often not when reading), it's easy to miss the keys. While the bottom forward arrowed buttons have been enlarged, the back arrows are now smaller -- a feature we agree with, but, as we said, overall, we're not a fan of how easily you can miss the buttons completely when trying to press them. Still, this is definitely the sleekest Kindle yet, and we seriously love the look graphite gray review unit we were provided with.
Other key changes Amazon's made to the Kindle include the doublling of storage up to 4GB from 2GB, and the company also claims to have doubled the battery life from two weeks to four (that's with the wireless off, of course). With the new capacity you can squeeze around 3,500 books onto one of these now, and while we did not test Amazon's battery life claim (because we haven't had it nearly long enough), trust us when we say the battery should rarely be an issue with one of these.
Performance and reading experience
What can we say? It reads just like a Kindle. Yes, the page refresh is slightly faster, but it's barely perceptible in comparison with the Kindle 2, and it's still a very E Ink experience... probably because of the E Ink screen. What is noticeably awesomer is the contrast ratio... this thing is incredibly sharp, and we suspect that it boasts the same quality E Ink screen that the newest DX packs, as that one also impressed us. Honestly, we still find E Ink to be rather frustrating to deal with at times -- mostly because of the refresh rate -- though this is the best Kindle reading experience yet.
There are a few other notable new features -- mostly that new, experimental Webkit browser. In our experience with it, it's called experimental for a reason, and we can't really imaging using it on a regular basis, but we do get a kick out of seeing the internet in glorious grayscale. The 3G browsing experience is (as expected) somewhat noticeably slower than the WiFi one, and while it's obviously in its infancy, we suspect Amazon will continue to improve the browser, and it far exceeds the previous one in terms of quality. Other additions include native support for PDF files, which some people will certainly be very happy about, though there is no support for the EPUB format.
Amazon obviously thinks that it's got a good thing going for itself, and has made very few other changes. The new Kindle is extremely iterative, though we can get behind most of the updates its made. What's clear, however, is that if you're looking for a standalone e-reader (i.e., a portable replacement for physical books), this is the go-to, standard-setting device. While Barnes and Noble's Nook
is probably its main competitor, Amazon's got the name in this category, and the new Kindle is lighter and thinner. Amazon's worked out enough of the kinks that its third gen device seems pulled together well enough to seriously start appealing to an even wider audience than previously. The two models -- a WiFi only version for $139 and a WiFi / 3G model for $189 -- are competitively priced for the high quality of the device. At the end of the day, there are two paths a consumer can go down when buying a new reading device: the standalone reader or the do-it-all unit which also reads books. In the standalone category, the Kindle is probably the one to beat, and its support for the platform with apps for many devices are certainly helping it to flourish. We are still, however, not at all assured that the standalone path is the one most consumers will ultimately traverse.