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First Impressions of the New Budget Kindle

Kindle_00F_USAmazon’s newest budget Kindle is shipping today, and since I managed to snag a review unit I thought I would post my first impressions.

With a touchscreen and twice the storage, the $79 Kindle is in some ways an improvement on the unit it replaces. It runs the latest software, and the touchscreen saves users from having to use a d-pad to type in one character at a time. This is great, but based on the time I have spent with it I would say that in some ways the new Kindle is inferior to the model it replaced.

To put it simply, the new Kindle feels cheap.

While the older model felt like a minimalist but solid design, the new Kindle feels cheap and junky. It has a simply black plastic shell which lacks the rubberized rear shell found on the Paperwhite and on the older basic Kindle. It also lacks the smooth curves of the older Kindles, opting instead for sharp angles.

new touch kindle

Holding the Paperwhite, older basic Kindle, and new Kindle in my hands, I think there is a perceptible difference in quality.  The newest device feels the cheapest, which is ironic because it actually costs $10 more than the model it replaced.

It does work well, though. In many ways it is a cut down version of a Kindle Paperwhite, and it runs the same software while costing a third less. So one should really expect that many finer details were left out either to encourage owners to upgrade or to reduce Amazon’s costs.

What’s more, it is just as responsive and quick to turn the page as my 2013 Kindle Paperwhite.

To be fair, how the new device feels will matter less to some users than what it can do, but  I can’t help but feel an intense dislike  when I look at the device and hold it. If I had bought this, I would be returning it as soon as I finished the review.

Did you buy one? What do you think?

P.S. I will (probably) be posting a review next weekend.

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Rob Siders October 2, 2014 um 4:16 pm

My test units should arrive today, but haven’t yet. I’ll give one a spin and let you know.

Jason October 2, 2014 um 4:24 pm

Have you noticed a difference in contrast between the Kindle 4 and the new basic touch with the built in light turned off?

Nate Hoffelder October 2, 2014 um 4:34 pm

The new model doesn’t have a frontlight. And my older Kindle is three years old, so I hesitate to compare the two screens.

Anne October 2, 2014 um 5:53 pm

Do you use a cover? Do you think a cover would help you with the cheap feel?

I’m not in the market for one of these (no page turn buttons!) but I couldn’t tell you what the back is like on my basic or if it had smooth curves or not. It came out of the box, went straight into a cover and all I do is read on it. Funny how we all have our different deal breakers.

Did you see that the delivery times have been moved up on the Voyage? Here’s a link to one post but there are others in the same thread-

Nate Hoffelder October 2, 2014 um 6:02 pm

Mine shipped with a stock blue smartcover. It’s not much to look at, either, but you’re right that I should consider 3rd-party covers.

Rob Siders October 2, 2014 um 6:35 pm

I’ve only had a few minutes—enough to get through the setup, really—and I agree it feels cheap. The absence of the coating on the back is some of it, but I also think it may also have something to do with weight. It just doesn’t feel as substantial as previous models. This isn’t to say that is flimsy or that the others were especially hearty, though. It’s just different. (Maybe the Unboxed Therapy guy could bend one!) I do think that none of this will matter much to first-time ereader users. I would like to see how well it stands up to a Square Trade drop testing, though.

On the plus side is that the IR bezel doesn’t seem as deep as previous IR-screen Kindles. I also like that it’s running the latest OS, but that opinion is driven more by my professional needs than my user needs. I’ve not yet tested it for its intended purpose.

DavidW October 2, 2014 um 6:41 pm

I was expecting a kindle touch that is more responsive, which yes this is it. But the screen is awful. While the pearl screen on the previous kindle basic was fantastic, this one has inferior contrast. Under strong light, the previous kindle looks like it has a white background. Not true of this one.

But the Touch was so sluggish that having the touch screen, UI but finally being fast might outweigh the cheap build and poor contrast. I say that now, i might change my mind later. I’m impressed with how lightning fast this basic Kindle is. It feels faster than the Paperwhite. Maybe that is in my mind.

Thanks for posting the review. I should have read it instead of pre-ordering!

Rob Siders October 2, 2014 um 6:46 pm

Yes. It’s fast. Faster than Paperwhite, even. It’s quite nice.

Nate Hoffelder October 2, 2014 um 10:14 pm

Faster that which KPW? I ask because the 2013 model has a faster CPU than the 2012 model.

I thought the new basic Kindle was about as fast as the 2013 model, not faster.

Rob Siders October 3, 2014 um 4:28 am

Granted, I didn’t do them side-by-side and I was just flipping through the Getting Started Guide, but it did appear to be faster than my KPW2.

Nate Hoffelder October 2, 2014 um 6:59 pm

I think the problem with the new Kindle is that it has a capacitive touchscreen. It can’t have an IR touchscreen, otherwise the screen qualities would be the same.

Rob Siders October 2, 2014 um 8:07 pm

That would explain why the bezel doesn’t seem as deep as previous models.

Nate Hoffelder October 2, 2014 um 10:44 pm

Actually, I am wrong. This device does have an IR touchscreen:

I can’t explain why the screen is worse. To be completely honest I think the new Kindle has a poorer screen than my 2012 KPW (a pearl to Pearl comparison). The newer device is noticeably browner than the older unit.

Rob Siders October 3, 2014 um 4:26 am

I agree. Sure doesn’t look like it’s the same screen as the KPW.

Tom Semple October 3, 2014 um 11:55 am

You may have gotten a bad screen. It should be as good, if not better, than the K4 screen. I’ve pre-ordered Kindles 4 times, and had to replace 3 of them for precisely this reason. The first production runs appear to be iffy, and I for one am not pre-ordering any more. I would request a replacement.

Nate Hoffelder October 3, 2014 um 11:58 am

There are a growing number of complaints about the screen. Here’s the first of several on MobileRead:

Michael W. Perry October 3, 2014 um 10:21 am

Naw, it still lacks the only feature that’d make me consider giving up my perfectly functional Kindle 3. It doesn’t support a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

I can’t understand why Amazon doesn’t add that. The last time I checked, the chip they use for WiFi also does Bluetooth, so the hardware cost would be zero. The advantages:

* A Bluetooth keyboard will beat the socks of any tiny or touch keyboard for entering notes. That’d attract the obsessive notetakers among us.

* A Bluetooth mouse would make a Kindle work far better for those with disabilities. Instead of reaching for a button or touching a screen, they could simply use one of the two buttons on a Bluetooth mouse place where it’s most convenient.

Sadly, the stereotypical pattern continues. If you think of Apple as being a major league baseball team when it comes to innovation, Amazon is just a bunch of little boys playing tether-ball. Having a back-lit screen was such a Big Deal for them, they’ll turn out two or three models with it before they decide it is time for something new.

One of the reasons why epaper readers continue to under-fulfill their potential it that Amazon drives the market. Unlike tablets, there are virtually no apps for readers. (A genuine Instapaper app would be fabulous.) Unlike tablets, they interface with no other device (i.e. Bluetooth) to make them work better. They sit in their own little world doing little more than let us read books. If PCs had taken that same path, they’d still be only used for Lotus 123 spreadsheets.

And now that the Kindle DX has gone to the great beyond, every reader I’m aware is the same suit-coat-pocket size. I can understand why the sales of a larger-screen model might not cover the design costs. I can’t understand why no one is making a rugged pant-pocket-sized version for active kids and adults who find that carrying a regular reader about is a bit too much.

Nate Hoffelder October 3, 2014 um 11:12 am

I’d like to see BT enabled, too, especially if the hardware is already present. Amazon wouldn’t even have to make it an official feature, either. They could bury it in the experimental section.

And I do agree that Amazon is not innovating in ereader hardware anymore; the last truly innovative designs debuted in 2011. The then new K4 and Kindle Touch supported external battery packs and cases with lights. The Paperwhite and later models dropped those features, but they were pretty awesome at the time.

It’s a shame Amazon didn’t also release a keyboard case at that time; I think it would have proven popular.

Tom Semple October 3, 2014 um 12:00 pm

This has more than 2.5 times the available storage of the model it replaces. And it is the only Kindle that doesn’t have an extra layer for capacitative touch and front-light distribution. That should give the screen more 'punch' as many people with K4’s reported (I also found this true of Kindle Touch, as compared to my Paperwhite).

I wish Amazon would offer the higher resolution screens without that layer so we can see what we’re missing. I don’t need the front light, reading in dark rooms is sub-optimal and I don’t spend much time doing it.

Tom Semple October 3, 2014 um 3:18 pm

Also it has more typefaces to choose from than K4.

Rob Siders October 3, 2014 um 5:33 pm

Those were introduced with K5 and KPW1.

New Kindle Getting Mixed Reviews on Screen Quality – The Digital Reader October 3, 2014 um 3:13 pm

[…] example, in the comment section of my first impressions post yesterday I noted […]

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