The second version of the Kindle, called the Kindle 2, was released in February of 2009. Now, only about four months later, Amazon surprised everyone with another Kindle – the Kindle DX. The DX is larger and has some new features, but is it really better? We set out to find out!
The Kindle DX, as shown in Figure 1, comes in a plain black Styrofoam/cardboard box that is molded to cradle it on the bottom and sides. This is covered with a thick black paper pouch that has the Amazon Kindle name in the center with alphabet letters strewn about.
Figure 1: The Kindle DX in its package
Inside the box is the Kindle DX, a small black 6-page getting started guide, a USB cable, and a plug that can be attached to the USB cable for charging from an electrical wall outlet.
The first thing that strikes you about the Kindle DX, as shown in Figure 3, is that it is big.
The Kindle DX has a 9.7” diagonal display and measures 10.4″ x 7.2″ x 0.38″ (26.4 x 18.3 x 0.96 cm). The chart below compares the size, display, storage, weight, and price of the Kindle DX and the Kindle 2.
|10.4″ x 7.2″ x 0.38″
|8″ x 5.3″ x 0.36″
|26.4 x 18.3 x 0.96 cm
|20.3 x 13.5 x 0.91 cm
|18.9 oz (536 g)
|10.2 oz (290 g)
[nextpage title=”The Hardware & Navigation”]
Like the Kindle 2, the Kindle DX is thin and svelte. As shown in Figure 4, most of the back is encased in brushed aluminum, making the whole device look and feel very sturdy.
The white surround contrasts nicely with the screen which is an E Ink electronic paper display with a 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi. Like the Kindle 2, the DX delivers a very crisp and clear screen with 16-levels of gray. The Kindle is not backlit so it is easier on the eyes than a typical computer screen. In fact, the reading experience is very similar to reading a book. If the room is dark, you will need a lamp or other room lighting to be able to read the screen.
As shown in Figure 5, right side of the device holds all of the navigation buttons. There is a Home button that takes you to your content. Under that are two page-turning buttons marked “Prev Page” and “Next Page.” Below that is Menu button that you can use to access major functions. The Back button takes you back to the previous point (Not necessarily a previous page.) Between the Menu and Back buttons is a 5-way controller or scroll button that moves the on-screen cursor up or down and side to side. It also selects an item or action when pressed. As with the Kindle 2, the scroll button is a little stiff, but workable.
Although we refer to these as buttons, none of them, except the 5-way controller are raised. They are flush with the face of the Kindle itself. The Kindle 2 has navigation buttons on both sides of the screen, making it easier to turn pages with either hand. On the DX, all the navigation is on the right side, which may be a little more cumbersome for left-handed people. This, however, does give the DX an unencumbered flat surface when it is turned in the landscape position (more on that later in this review).
The “getting started” guide that comes with the Kindle DX covers all of the important points like charging, navigating, and registering the device, as well as buying a book. The Kindle itself contains the Kindle DX User’s Guide which contains further information on using the Kindle.
On the bottom of the Kindle DX is the keyboard, as shown in Figure 6. The keyboard is used for annotations and web pages. It is also used for navigation as there are several keyboard shortcuts like Alt+Home to quickly access the Kindle Store. You can also use keyboard shortcuts like ALT plus the spacebar to start and stop the MP3 player.
The keyboard has a key marked “Aa” which controls the text size. You can chose from six different sizes. You can also control the words per line to give you larger white margins, which is a nice feature that was added to the DX.
The problem is that if your eyesight is poor and you need to make the text larger, you will need a magnifying glass to find the right key to press. In Figure 6, you can see it just to the right of the space bar.
In order to take advantage of the added width of the DX, Amazon rearranged the keys in longer rows. Instead of the five-row setup in the Kindle 2, the DX keys are arranged in four rows. The keys themselves are capsule-shaped rather than round. This is a QUERTY keyboard, so the top row is q-u-e-r-t-y-u-i-o-p, but this row of keys also functions as the 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-0 keys. The letters on the keys have been made smaller to accommodate dual labeling, so they are difficult to read. It’s a bad layout that some will find very aggravating.
Once you find the “Aa” key on the keyboard you can also use it to turn on the Text-to-Speech voice of the Kindle. As long as the author and publisher have approved it, books can be read to you. You can choose between a male and female voice and you can also slow down or speed up the speech. Although the voice is slightly stilted, this is still a very useful feature.
As seen in Figure 7, the top of the Kindle DX contains the power slider switch and the standard-sized headset jack. The Kindle DX can play MP3s through the speakers or through the headset jack. You simply copy the MP3 files from your computer to the Music folder on your Kindle.
The bottom of the Kindle, shown in Figure 8, has the USB port, a charge indicator light, and the speakers. This is a much better placement for the speakers. On the Kindle 2 the speakers are on the back and would be somewhat muted with the addition of a cover. As with the Kindle 2, a leather cover is optional.
The right side of the Kindle has a nicely-placed volume up/down key, as shown in Figure 9.
[nextpage title=”The Technology & Content”]
Like the Kindle 2, the DX is based on the excellent E Ink technology that is easy to read. The technology used to get books into the Kindle is spectacular. You can browse the offerings in the Kindle store right on your Kindle. Buying a book is as easy as clicking the 5-way controller. The book is downloaded to your Kindle immediately through Amazon’s Whispernet which employs Sprint’s EVDO cellular network. So you can download a book quickly and easily from almost anywhere. Whether you are sitting on the beach or in the backseat of a car, you can purchase a book and be reading within minutes. The Kindle Store now has over 300,000 books available. New York Times bestsellers are about USD 10 each and there are many books even cheaper. Our only gripe about the Kindle Store is that you cannot make the text in the store larger, which would be a nice feature for those who buy a Kindle to be able to read larger text.
The Whispernet technology works seamlessly and there are no monthly fees. You pay only for the books, newspapers, blogs, and periodicals that you purchase. If you have an iPhone you can download the free Kindle app and read your books on either the Kindle or the iPhone. Amazon even keeps track of how far you have read on each device, so your place in the book is always marked properly.
One of the big additions to the functionality of the DX is that it now natively supports PDF files. It also has an auto-rotate function so that you can read books or PDFs while holding the Kindle either vertically or horizontally. For the most part regular text is easier to read in the traditional vertical page layout. We have known for a long time that reading is more efficient when the columns are narrow which is why newspapers print their text in columns. However, reading PDFs and certain textbooks may be better in the horizontal position.
You can easily transfer PDFs from your computer to the Kindle with the USB cable and they immediately appear on the Kindle. Some PDFs work very well. Others that were created for computer viewing are more problematic. With many PDFs we found ourselves wishing for the ability to zoom in and out as you can on a computer. You can also have Amazon reformat documents for you and send them to your Kindle. While this originally cost 10 cents per document, Amazon is not charging 15 cents per megabyte, so the cost might be considerably higher.
Although a growing number of newspapers and magazines are available as subscriptions on the Kindle, they are not really formatted to take advantage of the Kindle’s capabilities. Each newspaper or magazine is different, but none seem to include the entire newspaper in the Kindle edition. Addition things like pictures, graphics, cartoons and crossword puzzles are missing. While some of the content is there, generally you are reading plain text that can be considerably more boring than reading the actual newspaper or magazine.
The increase in screen size of the Kindle makes it ideal for additional content. Amazon is aiming at the text book market but may have to compete with prices of used text books to make this workable. Amazon also has branched into selling sheet music for the Kindle. It is inexpensive and looks great. The only problem is in turning the pages while playing.
The auto-rotate on the Kindle DX is a nice feature that copies the iPhone and other smart phones. You can view the Kindle content in the vertical mode or you can turn the Kindle on its side and view the content in a wider horizontal window. Unfortunately, the auto-rotate built into the Kindle DX, needs some improvement. It is sluggish in its response. It will often rotate when turned only slightly to the side. So if you try to read while lounging in a chair or on a sofa and you turn the Kindle to one side or another, it often rotates when you don’t what it too. The joystick reorients itself when you rotate the device, which is a plus, but you are still left with a keyboard that will be sideways when reading horizontally.
There is another thing that we didn’t like about the Kindle DX. While it’s great to be able to see more on the larger screen and turn the page less frequently, we found it somewhat awkward to hold while reading. The added height and weight of this Kindle make it more difficult to handle. While the Kindle 2 can be held with one hand, the DX requires two hands to hold it. Also we found that the weight of the device can actually be tiring on the hands.
While you can surf the Web on the Kindle, doing so is not as easy as it is with most web browsers or smart phones. It’s good to look up an occasional fact, but you won’t want to use it as your main Internet browsing mechanism.
The DX comes with 4GB of internal memory with 3.3 GB usable for storage. According to Amazon that is enough memory to store 3,500 books.
Like its predecessors, the DX has a non-removable, rechargeable battery that will last a few weeks if you turn off the wireless when you don’t need it.
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
Amazon Kindle DX main specifications include:
- Display: 9.7″ diagonal E Ink electronic paper display, 1200 x 824 pixel resolution at 150 ppi, 16-level gray scale.
- Size: 0.4″ x 7.2″ x 0.38″
- Weight: 18.9 oz
- Storage: 4 GB internal (approximately 3.3 GB available for user content)
- Battery Life: A single charge lasts about 4 days with wireless on, two weeks with the wireless off
- Charge Time: Fully charges in approximately 4 hours and supports charging from your computer via the included USB 2.0 cable
- Connectivity: EVDO modem with fallback to 1xRTT; utilizes Amazon Whispernet to provide U.S wireless coverage via Sprint’s 3G high-speed data network
- USB Port: USB 2.0 (micro-USB connector) for connection to the Kindle DX power adapter or optionally to connect to a PC or Macintosh computer
- Audio: 3.5 mm stereo audio jack, built-in stereo speakers
- Content Formats Supported: Kindle (AZW), PDF, TXT, Audible (formats 4, Audible Enhanced (AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML, DOC, RTF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion
- More information: https://www.amazon.com
The DX sports many design improvements, including better placement of speakers and buttons. Unfortunately those improvements don’t extend to the keyboard which is much worse than previous Kindle keyboards. The added screen size means more to view at once and fewer pages to turn. The native PDF support is a big plus.
Amazon continues to create readers with a wonderfully sleek design and good view ability. The availability of over 300,000 titles and the slick way those books, newspapers, and magazines can be downloaded is still a big enticement for an avid reader. Although the technology is wonderful and the Kindle DX is an excellent reading device.
While our Pros may outnumber our Cons, the Kindle DX is not for everyone. Gadget freaks who must have the latest and the greatest, and those who need to view PDFs, should look at the DX. Most average readers who want to go digital, will find that the Kindle 2 is easier to handle and carry, and has a more acceptable price point.
- Excellent design
- Large screen
- Less page turning necessary
- Good battery life
- No monthly fees for wireless
- Excellent text quality
- Large library of content
- Good in bright light
- Easy to buy books, magazines and newspapers
- Speakers and headphone jack for audio
- Compatible with PCs and Macs
- Can be used without a computer
- Native support for PDFs
- Useful text-to-speech feature
- Very expensive
- Not as portable as the Kindle 2 with 6” screen
- Poor keyboard
- Grayscale only. No color.
- You cannot change the size of the type in the Kindle Store
- Stiff scroll button
- Somewhat heavy and slightly awkward for lengthy reading
- No zoom for PDFs