Kindle 2 first hands-on! (updated with video and impressions)

The Kindle 2 is here folks -- it should look pretty familiar at this point! We played for the unit at the NYC launch, and it really does feel great in hand. The brushed metal back is smooth to the touch, the device is incredibly light and comfortable to hold, and the keyboard is fairly usable. We're not convinced the five-way joystick is the best they possible could've worked into this space -- a d-pad seems much more logical -- but it's responsive and comfortable enough to twiddle with for what it is. Here's some thoughts:

  • The five-way rocker is definitely a step up in terms of navigation -- it makes getting around pages way easier by allowing you to skip through individual words, and you can actually navigate simple web pages the way you're used to.

  • The new dictionary pop up (it brings up your definition on the bottom of the screen as you're scrolling through text) is a huge win. It was a pain before, but looking up words is now super easy. Unfortunately -- according to Ross Rubin -- footnotes are still handled in the slow, laborious way they've always been.

  • Text-to-speech is a nice touch, but it's still hard to get over that computer voice. We can see using this to hear a recipe or short news article, but we're not convinced it'll be enjoyable for a full novel.

  • Screen refresh is way, way faster than the old model (they say 20 percent). The difference is welcome and noticeable. Moving through documents and back and forth between pages is a snap now. If you've been frustrated with the slowness before, this will be a big relief.

  • The size difference is pretty remarkable. If you loved the crazy old design, you'll be disappointed, but the tradeoff in thickness is probably worth it. Furthermore, the new button placement is a big improvement, one which will likely make those accidental page turns a thing of the past.

Update: There's video after the break, and we've added more shots to the in-depth gallery, including some mega hot head-to-head with the original Kindle.

Update 2: We added another longer video after the break with a quick jaunt through the unit's interface and a bit of text-to-speech action.