Amazon Kindle 3 Review
The Kindle 3 is one of the most popular ebook readers out there right now. But how good is it really and how does it stack up against the competition?
Find out with ebookreader.org's Amazon Kindle 3 Review -- the most comprehensive review on the web.
Display - 6" eInk Pearl display, optimised with proprietary waveform and font technology, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 16-level grey scale.
The new technology used on the eInk pearl displays eliminates the use of a backlight, stopping any glare from the reader. Not only this but the Kindle3 uses 16 different shades of grey in order to create a clear and readable interface for the user.
- Size - 190 mm x 123 mm x 8.5 mm. The Kindle3 is very small and compact, as can be seen from the dimensions, allowing it to be carried along with the user at ease.
- Weight - 247 grams
- Storage - 4GB internal (approximately 3 GB available for user content).
- Battery Life – Quoted up to 2 months with Wi-Fi and 3G disabled, enabled, Amazon quote around 10 days. Charge Time - 4.5 hours via the included UK power adapter. Also supports charging from your computer via the included USB 2.0 cable.
- 3G Connectivity - HSDPA modem (3G) with a fallback to EDGE/GPRS; Wi-Fi Connectivity - Supports public and private Wi-Fi networks or hotspots.
- Audio - 3.5 mm stereo audio jack, rear-mounted stereo speakers. Allowing headphones to be used in order to listen to music in public places, alongside the inclusion of speakers, allowing the user to choose whether to listen through headphones or aloud.
- Supported Formats - Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, Audible (Audible Enhanced (AA, AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.
- Included Accessories - UK power adapter (supports 100V-240V), USB 2.0 cable, rechargeable battery.
As of July 2011, there are several Kindle 3 "version" you can purchase:
The difference between the Wi-Fi and the 3G + Wi-Fi is that the Kindle 3G + Wi-Fi allows global access to cellular networks (for free) to access the kindle store. If you are on the move and you intend to buy ebooks often from the Kindle store, the 3G option is better suited than the Wi-Fi.
However, if you don't need this extra connectivity and are perfectly happy finding a Wi-Fi network to connect to, then the Wi-Fi only Kindle 3 is perfectly fine. Keep in mind that if you are actually doing some hardcore travel backpacker style and won't have access to power outlets often, the Wi-Fi edition might actually be better for travel, despite having less connectivity.
The 3G + Wi-Fi edition has significantly less battery life (10 day of batter life with the 3G + Wi-Fi model as opposed to the 3 weeks of battery life with the Wi-Fi only model).
The Kindle Special Offers & Sponsored Screensaver is a new Kindle pricing option that basically knocks off $25 dollars but turns your Kindle into an advertizing device when you are not actually reading anything. The advertizing won't interfere when you actually read, just when you are not actively doing something with the Kindle. This offer/price only applies to the US.
What's in the Box?
The Amazon Kindle3 comes packaged in a very plain cardboard box, rectangular shaped, the box is constructed out of cardboard and has a black band around one end with ‘Amazon’ emblazoned on it. Not such a good start, it doesn’t really excite you about the product inside unfortunately, however the Kindle3 does have enough to hold its own despite this. Opening the box you will see, as with most readers, it is presented straightaway with the accessories stored underneath.
The Kindle3 comes with a complete user manual, very useful if you are not technically literate, and struggle with gadgets! It also comes with a mains adaptor, something that in my view, automatically makes the Kindle3 better, as many other readers on the market can only be charged by USB, unless you purchase an adaptor on top of the reader, and let’s face it, most of us aren’t on our computers 24/7 so charging it through this method can be a bit of a pain sometimes! The box also contains a USB 2.0 cable (as expected with any reader) enabling the device to be linked up to any computer. One major benefit of the Kindle3, is due to its Wi-Fi connectivity, the device can be used straight out of the box as it does not need to be synced to a computer as many other readers, such as the Sony PRS650, do.
The Kindle3 was released earlier this year alongside new versions of the Nook, the Kobo and the Sony PRS650. Not only this, but the Kindle3 is also under a lot of pressure to better its predecessor. Not surprisingly, the Kindle2.
Kindle 3 versus Sony PRS 650
Firstly, the Sony PRS650, there are many similarities between the PRS650 and the Kindle3 in terms of their display as they both feature a 6” eInk pearl display, therefore there is no difference in the way of performance in this area. There are however a lot of other differences between the Kindle3 and the PRS650. Firstly the Kindle3 is not touch screen and still uses a QWERTY keyboard. This holds both advantages and disadvantages for the user. One main issue here is personal preference, as some people enjoy a touchscreen interface, yet some people prefer the more solid QWERTY.
The Kindle3 quite clearly incorporates the use of a QWERTY keyboard, unlike the SonyPRS650 which operates solely on touch screen. I think Amazon have chosen the wiser of the two options here. Due to the concept and use of touch screens being fairly new, some people are still getting to grasps with them, not only this but the touch screen interface can be fairly come and go, and really, only apple have mastered the art of a highly responsive screen, however this has left apple products at a very premium price. Touch screen interfaces tend to be disliked by a fair portion of the technological world due to their unreliability. However, the QWERTY uses the same idea of buttons, which, let’s face it, have been around for years and are much more familiar to users. By including QWERTY rather than touch screen I feel they have made the smarter move.
To further this, a touch screen reader such as the PRS650 can become very grubby, very quickly, which may be annoying when actually trying to read a book, as it would obscure the display. The second variation between the Kindle3 and the Sony PRS650 is the fact that the Kindle3 has Wi-Fi connectivity, with the further option of a 3G connection also. The Sony PRS650 does not include this option at all, making the Kindle3 much more convenient for its users as, they can download books straight to the Kindle3 without the need of a computer, a feature Sony could really use due to its appalling software. This means great news everywhere for users who do not use a computer much, not only does the Kindle3 come with an adaptor so the reader can be charged from the mains (a luxury you would have to pay extra for with the SonyPRS650) due to the Wi-Fi feature it is ready to go straight from the box.
Lastly, I feel I need to mention the difference between the design of the Kindle3 in comparison to the SonyPRS650, as with the previous generations of the Kindle, the device is still plastic, a feature I think will stay with the Kindle due to its in expense and also the fact that it is fairly lightweight, an important factor when choosing a device which could be carried alongside the user all day every day. Nobody wants to be carrying a brick around in their bag. Which is the only way that I prefer the Kindle3’s plastic design as the PRS650 uses an aluminium body, which although much heavier, does give the PRS650 a sleek and sophisticated finish, which I’m afraid to say, Amazon still haven’t achieved with the introduction of the Kindle3.
Kindle 3 versus Kindle 2
So, how has the Kindle3 altered from its predecessor (Kindle2)? Well firstly, Amazon seems to have tackled the design fairly hard. The Kindle3 has more variance in grey shades on its display than the Kindle2, making it appear much clearer. Not only this but the Kindle3 is much smaller and slimmer than the Kindle2.
The Kindle3 is completely plastic, unlike its predecessor which had a metal back, a feature I think Amazon would have been better off to include within the Kindle3, however the Kindle3 is still sturdy and well made, and the lack of a metal back has made the newer version much lighter.
One difference made to the actual appearance and interaction of the Kindle3 compared to its earlier version is the five way track pad. The Kindle3 includes buttons rather than a joystick, one problem with this is that the buttons are fairly small and fiddly, and due to the home and menu buttons being moved on to the QWERTY keyboard, it is fairly easy to accidently make the mistake of pressing another button by accident, fairly annoying when you are trying to read a book.
The QWERTY keyboard has also been made much smaller on the Kindle3 compared to the Kindle2 to keep in with the much more compact size of the Kindle3, this can be an annoyance, even to the extent of a problem to users who have larger hands, however the Kindle3 is much more portable now and can easily be slipped into a handbag or even an average sized pocket, a major benefit, particularly to users who may not usually carry a bag and would previously have had to carry the reader. So, page turn speeds? The Kindle3 has a much faster turning speed than its predecessor, which is genuinely just a benefit for the user.
The main difference between the Kindle2 and Kindle3 was that the Kindle3 hosts Wi-Fi connectivity, unlike the Kindle2 which only catered for 3G, with this change came a new and updated web browser for the Kindle3, which has a much faster load rate of web pages than the Kindle2, even on the same connection. Therefore the new browser has provided a speed advantage over its older model. The most impressive thing about the new web browser on the Kindle3 is that you can overview a web page as it would be seen on a computer, whereas the earlier, Kindle2 presented web pages as you would expect on a mobile phone, just a series of links without the actual structure that the original website would have held.
However there is one almighty flaw in the Kindle3’s web browser as the article mode does not present the article as would be expected, and as was on the Kindle2. Viewing an item on a web page in article mode on the Kindle2 reflowed the text in order to fit it all on to one screen, making it easier to read, however on the Kindle3 browser, article mode does this to a certain extent, however it’s abilities are limited as it does not stop the text overflowing the screen width wise, therefore in order to see half of the text, the user must use the scroller in order to see the ends of each line, this meaning they must go back and forth in order to read the article, very annoying, and after the Kindle2 possessing a more advance article mode, a huge let down to the Kindle3.
Kindle 3 versus Nook
Another competitor of the Kindle3 is the ‘Nook’ by Barnes and Nobel, to compare I will use ‘the simple touch screen model’. This automatically highlights one of the biggest differences between the two readers.
Firstly, just like the SonyPRS650 the Nook incorporates a touch screen interface in preference to a QWERTY keyboard. I still feel that Amazon have made a better decision in going with the more solid QWERTY keyboard as this tends to be preferred over touch screen with everyday users. However the Kindle3 could do with having slightly larger keys as they are very fiddly due to the reduction of size from the previous models.
There are many areas of the Kindle3 that are very similar to the Nook, for instance the price, both being priced around $130-180 means that they really are close competitors, as users and potential buyers are looking for the Reader with better quality and value for money.
In some ways, the Kindle3 is just a QWERTY keyboard version of the Nook; they both have the same screen rotation, web browsers of a similar capacity and the ability to link several readers with the same account. However I do feel that Amazon have slipped just behind Barnes and Noble here with the Kindle3, due to the fact that the Kindle does not include any way of expanding the memory of the reader, whereas the Nook has up to 16GB of expandable memory, which compared to the Kindle3 makes the Nook a much more favourable book. After all 3GB of user accessible memory will get eaten extremely quickly, particularly if the user is planning on storing music on their Kindle3 too, as a fully functional mp3 is one of the features available on the Kindle.
Putting this aside, the Kindle3 does appear to have a slightly higher quality of screen than the Nook, and maybe this is money better spent due to the fact that the display is the most important feature on a reader as it improves ease of read. The Kindle3 uses the eInk pearl display, the newest version of eInk displays, without the use of a backlight and encompassing higher contrast, the Kindle3 has a much better clarity when it comes to display, being completely glare free, the user can use the reader in direct sunlight and still be able to see the text clearly, on the other hand the Nook uses a slightly earlier eInk display meaning it is not quite as sophisticated as the Kindle3, which I do feel is a big let-down due to the fact that the ease of use should really be the biggest factor in determining the best e-reader. Despite the lack of expandable memory in the Kindle3, there are a lot of areas where the Kindle does beat the Nook, whether this is due to the fact that the Kindle3 is a newer model cannot be decided until Barnes and Nobel come back with a newer version of the Nook in response to Amazon’s update.
Firstly the Kindle3 incorporates a text to speech function, which the Nook failed to include, although this may not seem so detrimental, a text to speech function opens up the Kindle3 to a whole new audience, for example it may allow visually impaired users to interact with the reader independently, however the Nook does not offer this service due to the exclusion of the text to speech function.
Another area where the Kindle3 really does prevail over the Nook is the battery life. With the Kindle3 lasting around 3x longer than the Nook does. This is a big feature to look out for within a reader as if the user plans on taking it abroad say, for a two week trip, the Kindle3 can easily be transported without a charger as it is sure to last the two weeks as long as the Wi-Fi feature is managed efficiently, only keeping it turned on when in use perhaps, on the other hand, the Nook would run out of charge either way, specifically on such occasion as use would probably be increased over a holiday period. Just an example of how the Kindle3 would prove a better fit for its purpose rather than the Nook. One other advantage of course is the fact that the Kindle3 not only has Wi-Fi connectivity but also a 3G connection, making it even more mobile than the Nook which only includes the option of Wi-Fi connectivity.
About the PC Software
The software associated with the Kindle3 is called ‘Kindle for PC’ and is freeware. There is not a copy of this within the box of the Kindle3 however it can be downloaded easily. The actual software is average, as with many readers, the developers seem to neglect the software side in preference for the actual hardware, a factor we cannot really fault them on as they device is the most important thing. In this case, it is not such a problem, due to the fact that the Kindle3 is not actually dependent on the use of a computer to add books and other files to the reader. Putting this aside the Software is not the worst, Sony made an appalling effort at software in comparison. It is nothing exceptional, but it is exactly what it needs to be.
Kindle for PC has a simple and user friendly interface, a major advantage as it does not need to be complex, after all it is only transferring files. If you already have the Kindle3 and/or own an Amazon account, obtaining the software is extremely easy, as is transferring your archive of files into the programme. In summary the Kindle for PC software does exactly what it needs to, allowing the user to buy new books and also manage the amount of readers that their purchases can be shared on, much better than some other software that has been developed for other readers by different brands.
Supported File Formats
The Kindle3 has a wide range of supported file formats, the actual spec list reading, Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, Audible (Audible Enhanced (AA, AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion. This is pretty much the same as any other reader on a par with the Amazon Kindle3, as we can see within the supported formats the Kindle3 can not only manage regular eBook formats but also music files and images. Not only this but the PDF reader for the Kindle3 has been developed further compared to its predecessor and no allows for highlighting and searching within a PDF file, surprisingly, this is a fair advance on the PDF readers previously used in readers, and is nice to see that developers are making a slow and steady progress.
I feel that the memory on the Kindle3 is Amazons biggest let down. The reader comes with 4GB internal memory, cut this to 3GB which is actually accessible to the reader; this is considerably larger than other devices, such as the SonyPRS650, which only has 1.4GB accessible memory to the user. However, unlike the Kindle3 the PRS650 has two card slots, allowing memory to expand up to 32GB. Amazon really missed out by not fitting the Kindle3 with any form of memory reader to help expand memory, and when music and imagery may also be stored on reader, the 3GB will fill up extremely quickly; causing a problem for the user as they will have to swap about which books they are storing on their reader.
The battery life on the Kindle3 is one of its strongest points in comparison to its competitors, for example this is where the Nook lost out. The Amazon Kindle3 can last up to a month with Wi-Fi disconnected and around 10 days if there is a constant Wi-Fi connection. In comparison to the Nook by Barnes and Noble, which holds 10 days battery life without the Wi-Fi connected, this is a great advantage for the Kindle3 as it means that users can rely on the device much more heavily than a user could with the nook. Another advantage is that the Kindle3 also comes with a mains adaptor making charging much easier than it has been with other readers. Not only this but the Kindle3 only takes 4 and a half hour to fully charge, a very short period of time, particularly in comparison to how long the reader will hold this charge.
The screen quality on the Kindle3 is very high, it uses the 6" eInk Pearl display, optimised with proprietary waveform and font technology, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi and a 16-level grey scale. These are the technical specs of the Kindle3 design, so what do they mean for the user?
Firstly, the eInk pearl display is the newest technology amongst readers, used in similar quality readers such as the PRS650. It does not use a backlight and works on contrast instead to show the visuals to the user. As a result of this the Kindle3 still has a clear display, even in direct sunlight due to the anti-glare. Another feature of the Kindle3 is that it has 16 shades of grey which produces a higher clarity for the user to look at, making text and images appear much clearer and more clarified than older versions of the Kindle and other competitors.
Another feature of the Kindle3 display is that the contrast can now be changed in order to suit individual reader styles, this is a great touch meaning the reader can be adjusted to suit any users particular preference, for the user this means that they can adjust the contrast in order to suit their eyes so as not to strain them when reading. On the whole, the Kindle3 is at the top of its game when it comes to its display, as it stands, it has not been bettered, all the other good quality readers that compare to the Kindle3 are also using this display technology, if not, the display is not as advanced.
Build Quality and Design
One main difference between the Kindle3 and its predecessor (Kindle2) is the build and design. The Kindle3 has much smaller dimensions and is now a lot more portable, to the extent that it has even been called pocket sized. To coincide with this the Kindle3 design is now uses plastic as the main material, unlike the Kindle2 which incorporated a metal back, this may seem a bit too cheap however, when holding the Kindle3 you can tell that it is still well built and sturdy. The absence of the metal makes the reader much lighter than its predecessor, and also others in the market such as the SonyPRS650, which uses aluminium for the body. This just builds on the fact that the Kindle3 is highly transportable. A positive for the Kindle3 in this area, as normally I would disagree with the use of plastic, however, due to the compact size of the Kindle3 it fits in with the ‘cute’ look it appears to emanate.
Amazons Kindle3 does have a lot going for it; firstly, the Kindle3’s battery life is currently the best amongst its competitors. With up to a month without Wi-Fi and 10 days with, it runs rings around other readers such as the Nook, only offering 10 days, with Wi-Fi. Secondly, the Kindle3 provides both Wi-Fi connectivity and 3G connectivity, making the reader extremely mobile as it can connect to Wi-Fi in general café’s and home connections, but it can also connect to Amazons 3G, meaning that books can be downloaded at anytime, anywhere. To go alongside the this idea of being a portable reader, the Kindle3 is now much smaller than before, the screen is still 6”, as is any of its competitors, however the actual device is much smaller, meaning the user gets the benefit of a smaller more transportable device, but does not have the downside of losing out on the amount of screen they are getting.
Although the Kindle3 has downsized and made their product lighter, I do feel that this has had repercussions on the actual product, and has unfortunately caused a few annoyances within the device. Firstly, by making the Kindle3 smaller than the Kindle2, the QWERTY keyboard has had its size reduced. This has made the buttons very small and may even cause problems for users with larger hands, not only this but by moving the home and menu buttons from the side of the device to the QWERTY, they can very easily be pressed by accident when trying to operate another function on the QWERTY. Amazon have also changed the joystick seen on the Kindle2 in preference for a five way track pad on the Kindle3, I think this is a negative for the new Kindle as the joystick made it a lot easier to navigate around a web page.
The bottom line is that the Kindle3 is an excellent reader due to its price. For $130 (for the cheapest model) you are getting a good quality reader. It has top of the range technology included in its display, not only does it include Wi-Fi connectivity, it can also support 3G connections. It is now extremely light and mobile, making it easy to be carried round in a pocket or a handbag without adding too much extra weight.
Furthermore, the Kindle3 has a good battery life, particularly in comparison with other readers that offer Wi-Fi and/or 3G. It offers up to one month without any connections enabled and up to 10 days if connectivity is kept enabled all the time. Very impressive, making the Kindle3 a reliable reader, not only this but the reader comes with a charger than can be used from the mains rather than a computer, so is more easily charged than some other readers.
All of this taken into consideration, the Kindle not only has the features to do its job extremely well, it also hosts the extra benefit of surfing the web and listening to music, almost providing the same sort of service you would expect from a tablet, for a fraction of the price. I would recommend the Kindle3 if you are looking for a good quality reader with a value for money price.
The Final Word
For most people looking for the cheap, the Kindle 3 will be the best ebook reader to buy. The features you get, the lovely screen, the ease in which you can buy ebooks make this the best ebook reader on the market. The major downside to the Kindle readers is the sheer lack of support for open formats like EPUB, .rtf, and .txt. You have to use 3rd party software to convert open formats to the kindle format or use Amazon's email conversion system (a pain). So while the Kindle 3 is the "best" ebook reader for the average person, there are some other great ebook reader options out there such as the Nook or the Sony Ereader 650 series (Read our Sony Ereader 650 Review) that fill in some of the missing holes and offer functionality the Kindle 3 lacks.
What Kindle 3 to Buy?
There are a number of different Kindle 3 models, each at a different price range. If you are set on buying a Kindle 3, then here's our recommendations on which of the 3 models to buy, based on your needs.
Kindle Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers ($114)
This model at $114 dollars gives you the Wi-Fi option at a $25 discount. The Kindle 3 will display special offers and sponsored screensavers display on the Kindle screensaver and on the bottom of the home screen. You will also get Amazon.com special offers (read sales SPAM from amazon).
Here is what the Advertisements Look Like -- they are only present on the screensaver and the home screen.
If MONEY is your biggest concern, get the Kindle 3 with Sponsor version (if you live in the US).
Kindle Wi-Fi ($139)
This is the "best" Kindle 3 model in our opinion. You don't get advertisements on the device and you get 3 weeks of battery life. You don't have 3G access, but so what? It's almost impossible to NOT find a Wi-Fi connection these days -- even when travelling.
Get the Kindle Wi-Fi model if you want maximum battery life, don't care about 3G connectivity for buying ebooks on the fly, and don't want to share your screen with advertisers.
Kindle 3G + Wi-Fi ($189)
The 3G option ads a bit more convenience (and you don't pay for the connection) for buying ebooks, but it's almost a non issue. We feel the loss of nearly 2 weeks of battery life for this option is not worth it.
Buy the Kindle 3G + Wi-Fi model only if you really are going to be buying a lot of ebooks and want maximum convenience of being able to do so instantly.