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.