Round Up: Kindle Voyage Reviews

Kindle-VoyageAmazon's latest and greatest ereader officially broke embargo today, a day ahead of the official shipdate, and the early reviews have already been posted. I just got my unit on Friday and am still working on the review, but other bloggers got their units earlier. So far I have 8 reviews to share, and they should offer plenty of detail for the discerning reader.

Actually, I have 7 reviews; I am not excerpting the review posted by Re/Code because I'm not sure it's worth reading.

Update: I now have 10 reviews, not counting the review in the NYTimes, which I again feel is not worth reading. Most of the reviewers love the device but aren't really convinced that it is worth buying.

Is the Voyage worth $199? That depends. For an avid reader or someone who refuses to go digital because it's not book-like enough, this device could change their minds.

If you're a casual reader, though, there are excellent and far more affordable options from Amazon (the $119, 4G Paperwhite), the 6.2 ounce Barnes & Noble Glowlight and Kobo. Just remember that none of them bring it all together quite like the Kindle Voyage.

As much as I like the Kindle Voyage, I can’t in good conscience recommend it when the perfectly capable Paperwhite is $80 less. They’re both easy to hold and include a built-in backlight. Amazon needs to deliver a lot more than a slightly slicker e-reader if it wants to justify a $200 price (and an even heftier $269 for the 3G-equipped version).

If anything, the Kindle Voyage feels like a last gasp for Amazon. Rather than making the case for the high-end e-reader market, the Kindle Voyage ends up reminding us of just how endangered the entire e-reader category is.

Also, Amazon likes to brag that its Kindle devices are made to last, so if you already have the Paperwhite, which came out in 2012, it should still be working well. The new device is thinner and lighter with a better screen and a more convenient way to turn pages, but, at the end of the day, none of those changes are so revolutionary that you should ditch your old model if it still works fine.

f you’re an every day reader and can’t really remember the last time you left the house without a book — electronic or otherwise — in tow, the overall improved reading experience may be well worth the price of admission. This is, without question, the best Kindle ebook reader yet. Heck, between the improved specs and Amazon’s industry-best reading ecosystem, it’s the best devoted e-reader you can buy.

Casual readers, on the other hand, are better off waiting for the inevitable price drops, first when sales slow a bit and then when the company gets ready for a follow up. The waterproof Kindle can’t be that far off, right?

The Kindle Voyage is the Chromebook Pixel of e-readers. It’s undeniably great hardware, the best in its class and far superior to its older, cheaper cousins. Its screen is good; its backlight works exactly as advertised. It’s just that it’s almost twice as expensive as pretty good hardware that does most of the same stuff. It’s for True Believers for whom price is an afterthought rather than a deciding factor.

If that describes you, you’ll really like the Voyage. It’s attractive and understated, and it retains and improves upon all of the good stuff from other Kindles. It’s just that a dedicated e-reader at this price is the king of a very small hill.

If you have enough money that you simply want the best and don't care what it costs, get the Voyage. If you don't mind the occasional splurge, or want to get a gift that says I sprung for the nice one, get the Voyage. It is the best, full stop. Just keep in mind that best doesn't perfect; in the next few years we'll almost certainly see a Voyage that's much cheaper, or waterproof, or both. PagePress could use some refinement, as could the light sensor. Someday we might haveMirasol displays, or something like them, offering the option of full color. But that's then! This is now. I'd just recommend going with the Wi-Fi only version to save yourself some cash.

The Kindle Voyage is undoubtedly the best ereader Amazon has produced. Its display is superb, its backlighting clean and smart, and it ticks the most important box of them all: being comfortable to hold and read for extended periods.

You’ll pay handsomely for that, of course. The existing Kindle Paperwhite may be a little bulkier, a little heavier, have a lower resolution (212 ppi) display, and rely on manual control for its screen lighting, but it’s also $80 less than the Voyage. That’s a fair amount of money to spend on ebooks to fill the two models’ 4GB of storage.

After living with the Kindle Voyage for a full week, two undeniable truths become apparent. First, it's the best e-reader you can buy right now. Second, it's also the most expensive, and therein lies the rub. Who exactly does Amazon expect will pay $199 for one of these things? As far as I can tell, the folks in Seattle are gunning for people like me: persnickety purists who want as little compromise as possible.

Who should buy the Voyage, then? I’m not convinced that even avid ebook readers need it. If your vision is bad AND you read a lot of ebooks, having a better screen and crisper text could make a big difference for you. I’d probably upgrade in that case. Otherwise, I’d probably pass.

If you already feel meh about e-readers, the Voyage won’t change your mind and there is no need to shell out $200 to prove it. If the e-reader is an essential part of your reading life, however, you certainly can’t go wrong with an upgrade here; you’ll just have to decide if you’d rather spend the money on books instead.

  • The Verge

Rating the Voyage at 9.1 out of 10, The Verge summed it up just so:

On the whole, Amazon accomplished its goal: it built a better platypus. This is the best E Ink e-reader I’ve used, and it’s unquestionably the best that Amazon has ever made. The thing is, it’s only marginally better than the fantastic Paperwhite in several ways, and significantly better in none. Amazon is also asking a lot of money for the Voyage — it starts at $199, while a 3G model without special offers runs $289. Not since the final days of the doomed Kindle DX has an Amazon e-reader brushed up against the $300 mark.

About Nate Hoffelder (11466 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."

17 Comments on Round Up: Kindle Voyage Reviews

  1. Funny, they all compare the Kindle Voyage to other Amazon products, and sometimes the Kobo Aura… HD. Never to the H20. Before, their main arguments was that the Kobo was pricier than the Kindle. Now, they don’t know what to say.

    I suspect that all these guys don’t really read or not that much. They prepare their review on the side, looking more at specs than anything else.

    We live in a world where true critics are way to few.

    • It’s not easy to get your hands on an Aura h2O. But everyone has a Paperwhite.

      And to be honest, I really think that a lot of people will first decide whether to get a Kindle or another brand, and then choose between certain models. They won’t choose between the Voyage and the Aura H2O.

      But I could be wrong.

      • If there was an easy way to buy thru Amazon and move books from my account (and my mom’s) on a regular basis, I’d consider the Kobo H20. But the Amazon ecosystem is too strong.

        • ” But the Amazon is too strong. ”

          Main reason why buy something else. The ebooks in my country are all the same price, even on Amazon. I prefer to buy from the independant and not fead the Monster. Also, my library does not support Amazon, but the ePub format, more open. But don’t get me wrong, the Kindle is a very nice ereader. If only it not Amazon centric. (And by the way, you probably could get rid of the Amazon DRM and convert your ebooks, search Google.)

  2. Last I looked, GM sells Chevys and Caddys, Ford still sells Fiestas and Lincolns. Bimmers come in 3-series and 7-series. Even Vizio has E-Series and M-series.

    Good–Better–Best marketting works. And the way it works is by drawing attention to the brand first and the product second. Kindle Voyage is the best ereader out there? Just too pricey when the PW2 is cheaper and almost as good? Hey, that’s a win for Amazon anyway you slice it.

    One. More. Time: Amazon makes its money when people use their devices. Their goal is to sell ebooks. But when everybody’s readers do the basics more or less equally, you need a hook to move the higher priced gadget. Water proofing. Camera+OCR. Open Android. Some work, some don’t. Better than not trying…

    As long as Amazon wasn’t delusional and planning to sell a zillion Voyages they’ll be fine. Me, I’ll wait until spring when it drops to $169 or so. (I’m well covered for now.)

  3. This roundup pretty well confirmed my decision to stick with my PW (2013) for now. It works and does everything I need. While the better resolution would be nice, I’m pretty happy with what I have. I’ll be curious, Nate, about your impressions of the auto-brightness. It works, after a fashion, on my phone, but it’s the Voyage feature I’m most leery of.

    I’ve almost decided that when it’s time to replace my PW (no time soon, I hope), I’ll go with an eInk device that runs Android. I like the idea of having the Kindle app (with the Georgia font) and Scribd on the same device. I could give up reading on my iPad, which is fine with me. As my eyes age, backlit screens are becoming more of a problem.

    @fjtorres: completely agree with your Good–Better–Best comment. The Voyager will be great for sales of the PW.

  4. I think the operative question is: how much do you use the device? If you pack it along now and then or only glance at it when you’re waiting for a ride then the paperwhite is probably good enough, assuming you don’t just use your tablet or phone. But if you read for significant parts of each day, who cares if it costs an extra $80? That $80 of goodness is quickly amortized over all of the hours you spend using it. Other sorts of recreational gear have high-end merchandise that puts the price of the voyage to shame. Go price bikes and see what I mean.

    • Good points, Dave. Take hiking gear, for example: Your casual hiker who only does a couple of easy miles a handful of times a year can get by okay with a Walmart Special brand of sneakers. Those of us who do difficult hikes of over ten miles w/thousands of feet of altitude gain, multiple times a month? It’s more than worth it to spend good money on excellent hiking footwear.

  5. Many thanks for rounding up all the reviews, much appreciate! Love your site.

  6. The interesting here is the price. The high price tag runs utterly counter to everything that Amazon has done before. They don’t do marginal or niche, they go after the big money in the center. Why the change? Maybe they plan to introduce these features in later basic models as the tech upgrades, and so can justify the development costs.

    And no other comments on the buttons. Maybe the reviewers didn’t actually use the device. Nothing unusual there. I routinely dismiss “pro” reviews.

  7. Received my Voyage order today and it ships back out tomorrow. I love both ereaders and tablets but immediately disliked the look and feel of the Voyage. The size feels wrong, the edges are too sharp and it is not worth the premium price. It would if they had added audio.

    As a Kindle fan this makes me sad but at least my still great K3 (Kindle Keyboard) works as well as the Kindle apps on my phone and tablets.

    Keep innovating Amazon. Ereaders still have a place. The awesome battery life of ereaders are a major plus. As anyone who has experienced prolonged power outages or long trips can attest.

  8. Another 6″ reader… if at least was waterproof so I could read while on the hot tub…
    No reason to replace my kindle keyboard, is there?
    I still haven’t found a single reason to replace my kindle keyboard and I have abused it for over 3 years…

  9. Nate, do you know anything about the case? The review I read mentioned that the “origami” case adds weight, but it doesn’t say much about any features it might have. I love the magnetic case on my Paperwhite because it turns the Kindle “awake” when I open it. It really feels like an electronic book because of that. Does the cover for the Voyage do that?

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