Which Amazon Kindle Device Should I Buy?

June 14, 2012

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Note: this article originally ran on September 29, 2011

Yesterday, Amazon announced a new family of Kindle devices, including the Kindle Fire with an advanced web browser and full color screen, the Kindle Touch (obviously, with a touch screen), and a low cost $79 model. It’s mere coincidence that I happened to write about the Kindle for another article that appears on the site today. That article (What I like About My Kindle) was written prior to the Amazon announcements. Let’s take a moment to review the new models.

I listed the prices for the “With Special Offers” and without special offers. For example, the Kindle shows a price of $79 / $109. It’s $79 With Special Offers or $109 without. What are “special offers”? These are offers that appear on the screen saver and home screens of the devices (but not within the text of a book). The “with Special Offers” versions of the devices are $30-$50 less than the standard version. The general consensus seems to be that the deals that appears are good deals (I heard of one person getting a “20% off the purchase of a laptop” deal), so my thought is that most people will want this version. A friend of mine who owns a previous version complained that he couldn’t get Special Offers on his Kindle …

Device Thoughts
Kindle Fire$199 Here you go – a tablet for under $200 that isn’t being discontinued (a la the HP Touchpad). This might not be an iPadkiller, but if you were going to buy a Kindle anyway, it would be tempting to spend the extra money to get this model. Amazon touts their Silk browser as revolutionary and fast – and perhaps it is. They also mention thousands of apps in their App Store – including Angry Birds.The 7″ screen is small than the DX but larger than the other models. The Fire has 8GB of storage, compared to 4GB for the DX, Touch and Keyboard and 2GB for the base model. Any downside to the Fire? Well, it’s only available as a WiFi device. I doubt Amazon will make a 3G option in the near future. Why? Because the Silk browser is going to allow people to view much more rich content than the Experimental Browser on the other Kindle models. That means more bandwidth. With a Wi-Fi connection, this is being provided by your ISP, so Amazon doesn’t care. But if they had a Fire version with free 3G, they’d be footing the bill for the bandwidth. While they’ve been generous so far in allowing free web browsing with the Experimental Browser, I doubt they are anxious to multiply their bandwidth costs by giving free 3G access to Fire owners.Another drawback?? Battery life is much shorter. The Kindle has a listed battery life of 1 month, the Kindle Touch and Kindle Keyboard two months, the Kindle DX three weeks … and the Kindle Fire 8 hours for continuous reading or 7.5 hours for video playback. Realistically, you can probably stretch the battery life out for a few days, but there’s no escaping the point that the Fire will drain its battery faster than the other devices.Finally, the Fire doesn’t have e-Ink technology (thanks for pointing this out, Evan). e-Ink can display color and doesn’t have fast enough refresh rates for video. Amazon has long trumpeted the readability of e-Ink – will users see a noticeable degradation in readability when they sit down to read War And Peace?
Kindle$79 / $109 It’s the cheapest of the Kindles, weighs the least (5.98 ounces) and has the least storage (2 GB). Having said that, 2G of storage is still a ton if you’re just reading books. Most books are less than 1 MB. If space is an issue, you can always delete the content and re-download later (no additional charge). The cons: there’s no keyboard and no 3G. If you’re also planning to use the device as a portable web device, this could be a show stopper (however, you can probably get a good deal on a previous generation 3G model.For $79, it’s hard to find much fault with this.
Kindle TouchWi-Fi$99 / $1393G

$149 / $189

The Kindle Touch has twice the storage of the basic Kindle (4GB) and twice the battery life (2 months). Obviously, it also has a touch screen.Personally, I don’t really see the appeal of the touch screen if you’re just using the device for reading. The Kindle is a pretty easy device to use. I guess it does remove some mechanical pieces, so maybe these devices would be less subject to breakdown – although I haven’t heard of anyone wearing out the buttons on their Kindle.For $50 more, you can get a 3G model that has free access to Amazon’s Whispernet network. This allows you to download new content from anywhere – but the more important aspect is that it allows you to surf the net with the Kindle’s web browsers (which, admittedly, isn’t the greatest in the world, but gets the job done).The 3G model has both 3G and Wi-Fi.
Kindle KeyboardWi-Fi$99 / $1393G

$139 / $189

This is basically the old Kindle model. The keyboard has a fairly standard layout, and while you’re unlikely to type 100 words per minute on it, it’s serviceable. I’ve used it to leave comments on blogs that I read with the experimental browser. The physical size of the device is a bit larger to accommodate the keyboard.If you’re not planning to use the device for web browsing, then you might not need the keyboard.Once again, the 3G version is available at a higher cost.The 3G model has both 3G and Wi-Fi.
Kindle DX$379 The DX is the most expensive Kindle. The 9.7″ screen is much appreciably larger than the 6″ screen of the Kindle, Kindle Touch, and Kindle Keyboard. Do you want the largest Kindle screen possible, or will you accept (or even prefer) a smaller screen? That’s the big question. Personally, I like the easy portability of the 6″ Kindles but obviously you can display more content on the DX.The DX does have a keyboard. Note that it is 3G only – it does have have Wi-Fi. It always weighs in at a hefty 18.9 ounces.

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Squeaky
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 09:57:27

    For those of us that are Kindle stupid…thank you!
    I really like the idea of the Kindle Fire. It makes me think of an iPod Touch which I own and really like. The issue with the iPod touch is the memory of 16 gb is way to small for the music, games, videos that I’d like to use. The Kindle Fire with a mere 8 gb of storage is two steps beyond painful for those that will want to use multimedia on a plane or in the car. Wifi won’t happen on airlines or driving down I-80. For users at home or for those with an employer kind enough to offer free wifi for employee devices will find this great using the Amazon cloud.

    I think if Amazon could increase storage greatly they would have a very marketable product. It gets into multimedia and probably won’t be used like the traditional Kindle as much. For those that really will use it for reading books the storage would be ample. The shortened battery like will hurt them though.

    I belive this could be a good thing, but I would wait for a later generation of the Fire with more storage.


  2. kosmo
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 10:26:47

    I’m not sure how much a problem with storage will be, with unlimited cloud storage for Amazon content.

    In theory, Amazon could come out with a 3G plan for the Fire, but this would almost certainly have to be a paid plan to avoid taking a huge financial hit on the bandwidth – and I’m not sure they want to move away from the fuzzy feeling of free access. Free 3G access was one of the reasons I bought a Kindle.


  3. Lazy Man and Money
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:15:24

    One of the things that I haven’t seen mentioned is the privacy concerns with the new Silk browser. They are routing significant traffic through their cloud. In a world where Chrome, Firefox, and IE are adding private browsing, this is a move in the opposite direction. I wonder if consumers are going to be made aware of this – my guess is that they aren’t.

    The 3G plan Whispernet is powered by Sprint. There’s a business deal between Amazon and Sprint for a one time fee for Kindle books because it they use so little data to download a book. I’m surprised that they are even allowed to have an “experimental browser.”


  4. Squeaky
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:37:20

    The cloud is a great idea, but with wifi you are limited by the signal. I use the Amazon Cloud on my Bionic and it works great, but that’s 3G and 4G, not wifi. If my iPod touch went through a cloud it would be useless for me. If your Kindle had an 8 hour charge it would be useless to you (I’m making an assumption here).

    The Fire seems to be a Kindle crossed with an iPad. It’s great in theory but with limited storage and wifi only, it’s a strikeout for me. If they had 64GB it would meet my needs. I have a 16GB iPod Touch that I gave to my kids because the storage was no where near sufficient.

    If it had some 8 day battery it would probably be great for you. With the 8 hour battery, I’m (once again) assuming that this isn’t going to work for you.

    I bet most people will be waiting for the Kindle Fire G2 or later.


  5. Evan
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:54:52

    I use a tablet (i.e. my iPad) for light consumption tasks, such as Twitter, RSS, and the occassional movie. I’ll see what kind of reviews the Fire gets for those sorts of things. If it get good reviews, I could see myself getting a Fire if I ever buy a MiFi card. Otherwise, the lack of 3G would be a dealbreaker. As far as a book reader, I’d probably still prefer the form factor of my 3rd generation Kindle. The photos of the Fire made it look really thick, although the specs don’t suggest that. The screen also isn’t as good for plain reading as an e-ink screen.


  6. kosmo
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:59:57

    What I was meaning with the cloud was to move lesser used content to the cloud and re-download as needed. The dancing elves Christmas game can probably stay in the cloud 11 months of the year.

    WiFi tops out at 53 Mbps (~7MB ps), which seems reasonably fast for me. However, I’m not a huge bandwidth user, in general.

    Considering how cheap storage is, I’m a little surprised that this isn’t an upgrade option for tablets and related devices. Or, as Lazy Man suggested to me in a similar discussion yesterday, an SD card slot.

    Yeah, a Kindle with an 8 hour charge would be pretty useless to me. I want to be able to read immediately when I pick it up. I’m pretty stingy with my 3G use so that I can conserve batter.

    Too bad the Kindle doesn’t take the energy from the force of clicking the “next” button and use it to recharge the battery.


  7. kosmo
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 12:02:12

    @ Evan
    “The screen also isn’t as good for plain reading as an e-ink screen.”

    OK, THAT comment surprises me. I’m certainly not a screen expert, but taking a step back in readability seems odd, but was probably a necessary compromise.


  8. marie
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 10:48:00

    i like the kindle. i even brought the latest one last year and promptly returned it because it doesn’t support the epub format which is a deal breaker for me. so i figured i would check into the kindle fire and it still doesn’t support the epub format so i wont be getting this kindle version either.


  9. kosmo
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 13:31:09

    That’s a valid point, Marie. I don’t think is a technical problem for Amazon as much as it is a business decision to force people to buy books through the Amazon store.

    Depending on what you’re looking to convert, you might be able to convert them with something like Calibre or Stanza. I haven’t used either, but believe that they do NOT work for DRM-enabled files. You might try to convert a few things and then try one of the Kindle readers for computers (http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&ref_=amb_link_357628962_14&docId=1000493771&ie=UTF8&tag=thecasobs-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=390957) to see if it works.

    Personally, I’m just reading Kindle books and .mobi files from Project Gutenberg, so this hasn’t been a problem for me,


  10. Shane
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 13:12:53

    I pre-purchased a Kindle Fire and I’m really excited about it. Since I already use Amazaon services (Kindle, Audible, Amazon MP3, and video streaming) this was an easy choice to make. I’m betting that my long bouts of reading will still be done on my original Kindle, which still works great. However, other media consumption should be fantastic. I already have an Android phone for taking pictures, getting email, etc., so I don’t much care about those functions. I think of my Kindle as my reading device, my phone as my camera and e-mail communications device, and my new Fire as my media consumption device. Do I need all those functions in one gaget? Not really. This way I can choose what I need based on what I’m willing to carry (3.5 inch phone, 8 inch Kindle/Kindle Fire), what I plan on doing, and whether I expect wifi to be available. I have wifi at home, at work, and never stay at a hotel without it…. soooooooooooooooooo. Bring it on! I can’t wait to get it.


  11. Channy
    Nov 27, 2011 @ 21:23:13

    thank you! I was about to become kindlestupid! any way I just wondering!! In order to read a book or download an electronic bible, read an email or do some web browser…. which would be the best or fair option to buy… I don’t have too much money to spend and I’m not a big fan or electronic but I want to get update in life… I carefully read all your recommendation and experiences but it looks like everyone have its opinion… Like I said, I just need it for dose tree reasons… Thank you so much!!


  12. kosmo
    Nov 27, 2011 @ 21:33:27

    The only Kindle that’s going to let you run an email “app” is the Kindle fire … but if you want to access your email via a web site, all of the Kindles have a very basic web browser built it. It’s not ideal for heavy duty surfing, but it’s definitely functional.

    If you plan to use the Kindle for web access while mobile, you’ll want a 3G model, as that allows you to access Amazon’s 3G network free of charge (although they could, in theory, begin charging at some point in the future … but I don’t think they will). If you’ll mostly be using it around the house (and already have internet service), then WiFi will be fine.

    Then it gets into the decision of whether you need a keyboard or touch. Personally, I like QWERTY keyboards on my devices. The Kindle I own is basically an older version of the Kindle Keyboard 3G.


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