Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My Kindle 2 Review


I didn't tell anyone but I preordered the Kindle on the first day is was made available and received the device on Februrary 25th. All of those posts before about the kindle was my way of coping with buyer's remorse...or rather preorder remorse. I had to convince myself that my purchase of the device was justified. I have been using it every day since launch.

Here is my review.

Form Factor


There is an issue here. The keyboard layout is wrong. I don't care what anyone says because I'm right and you're fucking wrong. The Z needs to be under the S and all the other letters need to be moved to the right accordingly. The last row is fucked up. They displaced the bottom row to the left by one letter and made the whole thing annoying. WTF is wrong with you Amazon? Go take a look at Smartphone keyboards and get a clue.

Also, the home key on the right side should be another PREV PAGE button. Amazon claims that this thing can be read with both hands and yet the PREV PAGE button is only available on the left hand side. Lame. They should have symmetrical NEXT PAGE/PREV PAGE buttons on both sides and add a separate HOME button. I'm annoyed. FIX IT!

Other than that, I don't mind everything else. The 4 way navigation toggle that all of these fuckers are whining about is fine. It's not the best but I don't see a huge problem here. If your fingers are too fat for it, maybe you should either lose some weight or just kill yourself for having fat fingers. The problem lies with refresh and "processor" speed. It's just too damn slow. E-ink's refresh isn't great and moving the cursor can be a chore because there is a half of a second delay after every cursor movement. You can imagine how frustrating it can be when you're trying to move the cursor from near the top to near the bottom of the page. Because of this, highlighting a bunch of stuff on a page can be difficult at times.

I really like the way the NEXT/PREV buttons push inward. I think this is much better than what they had for Kindle 1.

Reading E-Books

It's like reading a book on Etch-a-sketch. Remember that toy? This is not necessarily bad though. The words are clear (for the most part) and I have no problems reading on the device for hours on end. However, if you look closer, you can sometimes find some "pixel" abnormalities. Someone mentioned that reading on the Kindle is like reading a dirty newspaper. I would describe it as a brand new newspaper printed on recycled paper.

So everyone is probably wondering, are E-Books the way to go? That's a tough question.

For novels with very few pictures, Kindle performs very well.

Example of something you can read

However, if you're reading a text book, it's definitely a hit or miss. I purchased this device so I don't have to carry huge text books while I'm on the road. I quickly found that depending on how the ebook was put together, the quality can be hit or miss when it comes to diagrams and pictures. I can provide an example:

Example of something you CANNOT read

As you can see, it's pretty fucking blurry. In fact, I cannot make out most of the stuff on this table. A few words are legible but this is completely unacceptable. My camera was focused. This book was purchased from Amazon Kindle store. What you see there is the completely zoomed picture of the table. I can't zoom in any more. Actually, Kindle can't zoom at all. It will attempt to fit the picture as best as it can on the screen like you see above.

See the difference between legible text and illegible table

File Support

Poor. Amazon has decided to go with the Sony bullshit route and utilize proprietary formats (although it is a version of Mobi). The reader natively supports very few file formats which is a HUGE bummer. So what does this mean for people who want to pirate books and then read it on the Kindle? It means that you should wait because it's not that great on the Kindle. PDF conversion can be a chore and some PDFs come out really badly. I've tried most of the suggestions on the web with regards to PDF files but none of them work perfectly.

Highlighting

It's okay. If you are a student going through a text book, you may want to highlight key facts, etc. It's not too bad but the navigation can be a problem when you have a lot of text and you want to highlight something at the bottom.

Taking notes

I tried to show how the cursor and letters always lag behind when typing but the picture didn't come out well.

Typing is sluggish because "refresh" is slow and sometimes the processor can't keep up with my mad typing skillz. I'll sum it up in one word: frustrating.

Battery Life

"Read on a single charge for up to 4 days with wireless on." -Amazon.com

This is really pushing it. With the wireless on and minimal web surfing, I was able to get 3 days out of the device (this is with ~4+ hours of reading every day). On a fully charged battery, I was able to get about 5 hours out of it when I was reading and surfing the web intermittently. I haven't tried the device with wireless off.

Ordering books

Although you can narrow the search by choosing various subcategories, sorting titles in the Kindle Online store is limited. I wish they would allow you to sort titles according to user reviews, price, popularity, etc after a search. They have "most popular" category on the main page but if i want to find the "most popular star wars books", I'm out of luck.

Kindle storefront

Also, the one click purchase option can be "dangerous". I have accidentally purchased books while navigating toward a different part of the screen. Because of the refresh delay, your cursor can end up in the wrong place and you may click the wrong option...if you're impatient like me. Fortunately, there is an option right after you purchase your product to negate the order.

The one thing I would like to see added is pricing information on the "Purchase now" page after you read through a sample chapter. One nice thing about the Kindle is that you can sample books. They send you a chapter or two and you can "try it out" before buying it. One the last page of the "sample", you have an option to purchase the entire book. However, the pricing is not listed. So the only way you can see what the fucking book costs, you have to navigate the Kindle Store and find the damn thing again. It's a chore.

Browser

Browser in advanced mode

Slow. It also displays websites like my cellphone. Navigation in a website can be painful. Amazon needs to update the browser or pay Google to have their Chrome modified for the Kindle. Where is the 3G speed? I'm definitely in a 3G area but the speeds are slower than my EDGE cellphone. There is no flash support. Javascript is "supported", although I must say it's like javascript on mediocre smartphones. The browser is under their "experimental" category so I guess we're supposed to give Amazon a break. Well, I won't. Amazon needs to makes this browser better. And I want it done NOW.

Browser in basic mode (same web page as the picture above)

Resolution

Problem. Properly formatted books (ie. commercial books purchased from Amazon) look great on the device. The text is clear and the pictures can look really nice. However, if you have non-Amazon-sactioned reading material, the text can be hit or miss. I was hoping for clearer text but then again, my standards are high.

For the most part, it feels like reading a paperback edition of a book printed on gray paper. Not terrible. Not amazing (although I'm not sure what AMAZING text would really look like...it's just fucking text). Converted PDFs are an issue. If the PDF has two columns like in many textbooks, it's a big issue. If the PDF was scanned in a subpar manner, conversion to Kindle accepted formats are a pain and the results are not great. I would say that the lack of good PDF support is the real negative aspect of this device and because of this, the device should receive less than stellar review.

Text to Speech

The publishers and writers that were pissed off about this feature should SHUT THE FUCK UP. If they had purchased a Kindle and checked out the feature, they would realize that they have nothing to fear. Listening to this damn thing is like listening to Stephen Hawking with a broken voice synthesizer. It's not that great. It's like having one of those AT&T text to voice bots or your text to voice GPS navigation device read to you. It's robotic and they pronounce words incorrectly. Stephen Fry will be able to keep his day job.

Weight

Heavier than I expected. As a supporter of ultralight backpacking, this kindle will not be accompanying me into the canyons.

Value

This is a tough one. At $360, I do not think an E-reader is worth this much money at this point for most people. As an E-reader + mediocre internet browser device, it barely makes the device worth the investment. However, as a student, this device might be worth it. If you have many text books like me and you want to read 1500 page text books while walking down the hallway, Kindle can be a great way to take that shit on the road. (Of course, you won't be able to see many pictures or read many of the charts/graphs/tables.)

Cover

One concern I have with the cover is shown in the picture. Although it's secure, the device lifts up. I'm afraid that my Kindle will break off at the attachments.




Conclusion

Kindle is interesting. Although this thing could have improved my life by lightening the load on my back, the device fell short. The reason is that the super thick books i need to read have pictures and diagrams that the kindle does not display very well. Even the commercial Amazon sanctioned books have really bad quality diagrams and many of the tables and charts that are important to me are completely illegible. It's like looking at a blur. This really pisses me off and I feel like I've been ripped off. I'll have to buy the paperback just to take a look again, which in the end doesn't save me any money.

Having said that, I still like the damn thing because it's a new toy. I'm hoping that my letters to the editors get through and they fix some of this stuff. I'm also hoping that amazon will fix some of these bugs and give us a OS upgrade. I think that if you enjoy electronic toys, this is a cool one to buy. Also, if you commute a lot, I think reading novels on the thing is pretty cool. But beyond that, I would wait for Kindle 3.0.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

You sent letters to the editors? *clap* *clap* Exercise that right to complain and annoy.

Are you going, or have you posted a version of this review on Amazon? I'm sure many would find it useful. It was quite thorough.

From the looks of things, if I had the money I would buy it. I mean why not. We throw money at far more inferior technology.

And being that I'd probably use it solely as a book reader for novels, none of the gripes that others may have would bother me. Except maybe the layout of the buttons. From the looks of things, they had room to stagger. Or make smaller buttons.

Ghonie said...

I dont think amazon will allow me to post cuss words

Holly said...

Thanks for the review! Jeff Y. directed me to it after my interest was, ahem, kindled by seeing Jeff Bezos interviewed. I believe that as a reader of novels and nonfiction I may be well-served by this device. Did you happen to read any newspapers on it or do you prefer to stick to other formats for periodicals? Thanks again!
-HAW