After much hesitation I bought what is now known as the Kindle Keyboard 3G last year and quickly became a convert. After using it for several months I thought it was time to review my Kindle and discuss the many things I love – and the few that I don’t – about the world’s most popular e-reader.
More like a piece of paper than a computer display, the e-ink display on my Kindle is quite remarkable. Text is crisp and clear at any size and the non-reflective screen is easy on the eyes and at its best in direct sunlight. It is the only electronic device that I actually enjoy using at the beach.
The Size and Weight
Smaller and lighter than a typical paperback, it is easy to forget that my Kindle is in my backpack. Quite literally, in fact, as I once spent 20 minutes looking for it only to discover that it had been in the bag I took to work each day for a month.
Even in a protective case it is easy to hold the device in one hand for extended periods like a normal book.
The Battery Life
When I first saw the expected battery life figures of up to two months, I thought it was a typo. Apparently not. With wireless turned off the battery gauge barely seems to move even after reading for hours on a long bus ride. The Kindle takes a while to recharge again from a USB port, but when you’re only doing that every few weeks it barely matters.
The Free International 3G
Free mobile browser access around most of the world seemed too good to be true. Perhaps it was, as Amazon chose not to offer it on any other Kindle model – but it still works just fine on the Keyboard 3G.
I have avoided over priced airport wi-fi in Phuket, checked my email from a beach on Vancouver Island and double-checked directions to my hostel in Portland from my Kindle. Trying doing that with the latest John Grisham novel.
Send to Kindle
This little browser extension does one simple yet wonderful thing. With a single click you can reformat and send any web page to your Kindle via a free Amazon email address. Browse around sites like Brain Pickings or Long Reads and you have an almost limitless supply of high quality articles to be read anywhere.
Buying New Books
Every time I discover a book I would like to read, I add it to my Amazon ‘wishlist’. Whenever I run out of reading material I can simply turn on the wireless, browse to my wishlist and buy whatever suits my mood. I love it – and I’m sure Amazon does too.
Tucked away inside the leather case I use, my Kindle looks like a typical diary or notebook. It is simple and discrete, making it (and me) a far less attractive target for theft than something like a shiny new iPad.
I paid $189 for the international version of the Keyboard 3G, and there is now an advertising-supported version for $139 (US only) as well. Either way it represents excellent value, and with a continual downward pricing trend that is likely to only get better.
While I have been fortunate enough not to break my Kindle, someone I know has – five times. Don’t ask. Each time a new one has been sent to her home address with no questions asked and 90 days to return the broken one – well beyond the actual obligations listed on the Amazon web site.
You really can’t ask for more than that, especially with the rigours of travel on your electronics.
Not everything is perfect in Kindle world, however. A few things I really don’t love about it include:
The Input Methods
The Kindle Keyboard is so-named because of the inbuilt keyboard that runs along the bottom part of the device. It can be best described as ‘functional’ and more accurately described as ‘painful’.
It is all too easy to hit the wrong tiny button, and without dedicated keys, entering numbers or punctuation is particularly challenging. The 4-way directional pad used to scroll around the screen feels like a holdover from a 1980’s gaming console. Altogether not a fantastic experience.
The ARM CPU inside the Kindle is not going to set any speed records. There can be a noticeable lag when scrolling and entering text, and even with a fast Internet connection it takes complex web pages an age to load. These are excusable given that none are core tasks for an e-reader, but are annoying enough to mention.
As well as being slow, the ‘experimental’ web browser is noticeably limited, struggling with graphics-heavy web sites. Anything written in Flash is certainly out of the question, and in general the mobile versions of web sites give a much more enjoyable user experience. PDF files can also be a bit hit and miss — some display perfectly, others really don’t. Again, the simpler the better.
Overall however the benefits of the Kindle Keyboard 3G far outweigh the negatives, and it will certainly continue to form an important part of my travel technology arsenal for years to come.
Have you considered buying a Kindle for travel? If you already own one, what do you think of it?
Note: Technology marches ever-onwards, and we now recommend a Paperwhite for those in the market for a new Kindle.