The Amazon Kindle has revolutionised the e-book reader category, but in a far cry from its humble beginnings there are now eight models to choose from.
When Amazon released the first generation Kindle in 2007 to a US-only market, no one thought it would become the leader in the field it is today.
If you've made the decision to buy a Kindle, you're not alone. Bowker Market Research showed that in 2012 Kindles had a 55% share of the US e-reader market.
Today there are now four e-book reader models and four tablets available, so you can be forgiven for being a bit lost when it comes to choice.
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Benefits of a Kindle
Using a Kindle rather than a real book has numerous advantages:
- It hold more books than a physical collection. The basic Kindle can store more than 1000 books. Try fitting that in your home.
- It's cheaper. Kindle book copies can be significantly cheaper than their print versions and with the introduction of Kindle Matchbook, if you have a printed version of a book you can get the Kindle version for less than $3 or even free.
- You can get books quicker. Buying a Kindle book means you can download it and read it instantly.
- It has an in-built dictionary. This way you can find out exactly what you're reading.
- You can change the text size. The Kindle lets you choose how big you need the text to suit your eyesight.
There are two Kindle ranges - the basic E-Reader range and the Fire tablet range. Using a Kindle E-Reader rather than a tablet has some distinct advantages.
- May cause less eye strain. A Kindle uses special e-ink technology where microcapsules the width of a human hair are negatively or positively charged depending on whether you want to use the screen or turn it off. Expert opinion is still undecided as to whether an e-book reader is actually better for your eyes, but many believe the e-ink technology, which makes the screen appear like paper, is easier on the eyes.
- Glare. Kindle screens don't use backlighting and have a matte screen, so they can be used in sunlight and will still be easy to read.
- High battery life. A Kindle is only used to read books, so the battery life is greatly improved. With one charge a month you can read for half an hour a day, provided the wireless receiver is turned off.
There are four models in this range. Here are the differences between them:
|Kindle||Kindle Paperwhite||Kindle Paperwhite 3G||Kindle DX|
|Screen size||6 inches||6 inches||6 inches||9.7 inches|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi and free 3G||Free 3G|
|Storage||2GB (1.25GB available for user content) - Holds up to 1400 books and will hold your Amazon content in cloud storage for free||2GB (1.25GB available for user content) - Holds over 1000 books and will hold your Amazon content in cloud storage for free||2GB (1.25GB available for user content) - Holds over 1000 books and will hold your Amazon content in cloud storage for free||4GB (3.3GB available for user content) - Holds over 3000 books and will hold your Amazon content in cloud storage for free|
|Resolution||167 ppi (800x600)||212 ppi (Approx. 1024x758)||212 ppi (Approx. 1024x758)||150 ppi (824x1200)|
|Battery (with wireless off)||4 weeks||8 weeks||8 weeks||3 weeks|
|Charging time||3 hours||4 hours||4 hours||4.5 hours|
RRP correct at time of publication - 28/11/2013
To summarise the differences between the Kindle and the Kindle Paperwhite, you get a better resolution, battery life and a built-in light with the Paperwhite model. This also comes at the cost of a bit of extra weight and slightly larger dimensions overall.
The light included in this model is unique when compared to regular backlit tablets in that light is guided from the side of the screen rather than behind it. This lights up the whole screen and supposedly works to reduce eye strain.
From the Paperwhite to the Paperwhite 3G, the obvious difference is that you'll get access to Amazon's free 'Whispernet' 3G service. This works in Australia and you can use the 3G to browse the web using the built-in browser. You can also send certain documents to your Kindle email address through this service at the cost of 0.99c (USD) per megabyte.
The DX comes with an in-built physical keyboard and expanded storage to allow for more e-books.
The Fire range
The latest addition to the Kindle lineup is the Fire range of tablets. These run a customised version of Android's Jelly Bean operating system called Mojito and are aimed more at those wanting a full multimedia experience rather than to simply read e-books.
There are four models currently available through Amazon, although the Kindle Fire HD 8.9" is being superseded by the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9".
Here are the specs for the various Fire tablets.
|Kindle Fire HD||Kindle Fire HDX|
|Screen size||7 inches||7 inches|
|Processor||Dual-core 1.5 GHz||Quad-core 2.2 GHz|
|Connectivity||Dual-band Wi-Fi||Dual-band, dual antenna Wi-Fi|
|Storage||8GB or 16GB options||16GB, 32GB or 64GB options|
|Resolution||216 ppi (1280x800)||323 ppi (1920x1200)|
|Weight||345g||303g (311g for 4G model)|
|Battery (with wireless off)||10 hours mixed use||11 hours mixed use (17 reading use)|
|Camera||None||Front-facing HD camera|
Kindle Fire HDX 8.9"
Kindle Fire HD 8.9"
|Screen size||8.9 inches||8.9 inches|
|Processor||Quad-core 2.2 GHz||Dual-core 1.5 GHz|
|Connectivity||Dual-band, dual antenna Wi-Fi||Dual-band, dual antenna Wi-Fi|
|Storage||16GB, 32GB or 64GB options||16GB or 32GB options for the Wi-Fi model|
32GB or 64GB for the 4G model
|Resolution||339 ppi (2560x1600)||254 ppi (1920x1200)|
|Weight||374g (384g for 4G model)||567g|
|Battery (with wireless off)||12 hours mixed use (18 hours reading use)||10 hours mixed use|
|Camera||Front-facing HD camera + 8MP rear camera||Front-facing HD camera|
RRP correct at time of publication - 28/11/2013
It's important to note that the 4G offered on these tablets isn't compatible with Australian LTE networks, so you may want to hold back on ordering one solely because of this.
As the table above shows, the higher up the Kindle Fire food chain you get, the better the resolution, battery life, camera options, processor and screen size get. The HDX models also get access to a built-in microphone and increased storage capacity.
Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi technology is another additional benefit and allows you to download or browse the web faster when using a Wi-Fi connection because you have two antennas rather than one.
When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed the latest Fire models he claimed the technology would allow you to download at speeds 41% faster than the iPad 3, although as some reviews around the net will show, the actual benefits of this technology on these tablets are debatable.
With a HDX tablet you'll get access to Amazon's instant 'Mayday' button, which allows you to chat with an Amazon support member who can see your screen and help you work out what your problem is.
The tablets allow you to download apps from the Amazon App Store, which was released in Australia in mid-2013. Amazon releases one free paid app every day through their store, which is a bonus, but as of yet Australians can't get access to the movies, TV shows and music that US users have access to.
The verdict: which Kindle is right for you?
The decision about which Kindle you buy really depends on what you want to do. If you're looking for a strict e-book reader then you'll want to ask yourself a few questions:
- How often do I have access to Wi-Fi? If you have regular access, you may not need to splash out on more expensive 3G models.
- How often do I read without external light? If you enjoy reading at night, the Paperwhite model may better suit you as it comes with a light.
- Do I plan to use my Kindle for web browsing? If so, you may wish to save yourself the frustration of the in-built keyboard and instead opt for the DX with a physical keyboard.
If you want to read books but also wish to spend a large chunk of your time surfing the net or playing games, you may be more interested in the Fire range.
To better decide which model to go for, ask yourself:
- Will I take many photos using my tablet? The HDX models have a rear-facing camera which may suit you better.
- Will I use my tablet for Skype or other applications where a microphone may be useful? The only models which pack an in-built microphone are again the HDX models.
- Will I be storing much on my tablet? If you don't plan on using your tablet much you may not need the expanded storage capacity of the HDX models.
- Will I use my tablet for viewing movies? The HDX 8.9" model may be better suited to this than the other models.
The choice is ultimately yours. Start a comparison of e-readers or tablets today and find the best model for you.