Review: $79 Kindle (2014)

Kindle-2014[1]After 3 years of price cuts and waiting, Amazon has at last replaced their cheapest Kindle with a new model.The Kindle (2014) features a somewhat faster processor, touchscreen, and additional storage, but no frontlight or high resolution screen. It's running basically the same software as the Kindle Paperwhite was running last month, which means that the new Kindle is still lacking the many new features which Amazon promised to add in a firmware update this fall.

This is going to keep me from posting a complete review, but to be honest I am sufficiently ambivalent about this model that I would skip the review if I thought that were appropriate.

It's not that it is a bad ereader, or that I hate it;  I don't, really. My problem in writing this review is that aside from my initial distaste for the aesthetics of the shell and screen, the new Kindle has yet to make an impression.

Even after reading on it for a week, I can't muster up an opinion beyond saying that it is a Kindle. It's almost as if it disappeared into the background. For a reader that is in many ways a good thing (which is why I am noting it in the review), but it does make a reviewer's job more difficult.

So what do I think?

Opinion

When Amazon released their new basic Kindle, they replaced a 3 year old model with one that had a significantly simpler design which clearly cost less to build and was in many ways less appealing than its predecessor.

The new Kindle has a cheap plastic shell that eschews the smooth curves and rubberized rear shell found on earlier models in favor of bare plastic and a sharp angled rear shell. it's also noticeably thicker than other Kindle models. I find the changes unattractive, but I can also see that the hardware design was intended to make the budget model less attractive than the Kindle Paperwhite, which cost $40 more.

This also explains why Amazon did not upgrade the screen resolution or add a frontlight, but luckily Amazon didn't short change the Kindle when  comes to raw power.

I have found that the new Kindle is as fast as my Kindle Paperwhite (2013). It also has the same amount of storage as the latest iteration of the Paperwhite, and the option of using a smart cover.

I have been reading on it for a week, and while I am unimpressed that is not actually a bad thing. The reason I am not impressed is that I largely haven't noticed the Kindle when I wasn't specifically looking at it with a critical eye.

Amazon has been working on the Kindle software for the past 8 years, and in the new Kindle Amazon has achieved what Jeff Bezos has said was always their goal: to make the hardware disappear so that a reader only sees the words.

I can't say exactly how that happened, but I do wonder whether the included smartcover, and the way it engendered a faux paperback reading experience, may have helped. (I plan to test this with by getting a similar cover for my Paperwhite.)

That said, I don't plan to keep this Kindle, which was a loaner, nor would I buy one. I don't like the hardware, and I find myself spoiled by the frontlight found on more expensive models and would much rather use an ereader that had one.

Specs

  • CPU: 1GHz Freescale i.MX6SL CPU
  • RAM: 256MB
  • Storage: 4GB (about 3GB accessible)
  • Screen: 6" Pearl E-ink screen with 16-levels gray scale
  • Screen resolution: 600 x 800
  • Touchscreen: Neonode zForce IR touchscreen.
  • Wifi
  • Dimensions: 169 mm x 119 mm x 10.2 mm
  • Weight: 191 grams

About Nate Hoffelder (11598 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

7 Comments on Review: $79 Kindle (2014)

  1. Thanks for the review! I hope that you will also review the Kindle Voyage when it comes out.

  2. I can also see that the hardware design was intended to make the budget model less attractive than the Kindle Paperwhite, which cost $40 more.

    Do you think so? When I saw the new basic Kindle and the Voyage, I figured that the different shell designs were to bring the designs more in line with that of the Fire tablets, which seemed to have similar angles and wedge designs.

    Can you talk a bit more about how the cover simulated the paperback experience? Was it the origami one (again, another feature brought over from the Fire series and its covers)?

    • “bring the designs more in line with that of the Fire tablets”

      That’s something I hadn’t considered, but it doesn’t necessarily show I’m wrong. The images I have seen of the Voyage show that it has a back which suggests a design like that on the Fire tablets, only the angles aren’t nearly as sharp as on the new Kindle.

      The cover is just a standard single fold without any of that fancy origami nonsense. (I don’t like O-covers, obviously.)

      • It’s pretty much the same form design as the HDX. The difference is the coating on the back, which gives the HDX a more luxurious feel. Its absence on the new eink is what makes it feel cheap.

  3. AltheGreatandPowerful // 12 October, 2014 at 10:40 pm // Reply

    So you don’t like a bargain reader that doesn’t get in the way? It’s too good, is that the problem? Nate, you’re the guy who buys cheap crappy tablets (which to me is anything under $90) and raves when they barely work, how can you give the Kindle thumbs down when it just plain does its job? This is awfully close to Whale Reviewing… 😉

  4. AltheGreatandPowerful // 12 October, 2014 at 10:45 pm // Reply

    I do want one of those magnetic covers with no folds that works with my Nexus 7… I’d love to find one in any local source. For that matter, if anybody knows one I can get from amazon, PLEASE let me know here…

    I have already shelled out for a Koolpad wireless charger, because the thing that killed my old Nexus tablet was failure of the screen (fixable, though not cheap)followed by failure of the usb plug (which fried that tablet DEAD). With wireless and Calibre companion I can charge up and swap book on and off without ever using the plug…

  5. I share your views on this kindle, Nate. Ordered it and received it on the day of its release and it has already made an impression – very bland and disappointing. I hate the design and the feel and only wish that I could have the previous kindle with its physical buttons and the newer software. Who knows, maybe if I return this kindle and get the previous one, the software might get updated…

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