Sunday, April 24, 2011

Portable Convenience

I haven't mentioned my Kindle here yet, ignoring my blogging duties again. I've had it since right after Christmas and have had plenty of time to play with it, so now I think it's time to write about it.

Boring stuff first:

The Kindle I got is the current generation 3G/WiFi graphite colored model with a 6" pearl e ink display. Basically what that means is that with 3G and WiFi connections I can get on the internet from anywhere I wish. I'm currently in Germany and have no problems connecting to the Kindle store and purchasing books.

What do I think? I think the Kindle is a great idea that's in the process of becoming the best idea, but it's not there yet.

What I like about it:

The display is amazing. Pulling the Kindle out of the box for the first time there is a message on the screen. Usually, when you buy an electronic product with a display there is a sticker over top the display. But that wasn't the case. The E Ink pearl display is crystal clear and mimics the look of a page from a book extremely well. The type is very clear and easy to read (it is also adjustable to be able to see easier, something that those dead tree books can't do for you). The message itself just stated that the device needed to be plugged in and charged for a couple of minutes, then it could be used.

The cord used to charge the Kindle is a no-frills type cable. One end is a standard USB connection. The other end is a micro-USB. There is also an adapter that connects to the USB end that allows charging from a standard 120 volt wall outlet. The adapter can be used with 240 volt outlets as well-with the correct adapter plug, of course. Now that I was charging I was ready to go. I slide the on switch to the right, as per the on-screen instructions, and I was ready to read.

Turning on the display causes the screen to go black then white. The words or pictures show up after less than a second. Again, the screen is amazingly crisp, clear and very easy to read. I hate using my cellphone in bright sunlight. The colors on screen wash out and the display becomes hard to read, not so with the Kindle. In bright, direct sunlight the display is perfectly clear-even more so the brighter the light. Unlike LCD displays, there is little to no glare, so there in nothing preventing you from taking the Kindle outside to read.

One thing I wasn't sure about with the Kindle-and why I was looking at a competitors model of ereader-is the keyboard on the device. I wasn't sure I'd want or need the dedicated keyboard. I will say that it's not as obtrusive as I thought. I don't use it a lot, but I like it for when I do use it. There are a few buttons on the keyboard that are essential though. You have menu, home and back buttons that are required for navigating the Kindles menus. You also have the 5-way controller (basically a button with a 4-way button bordering it) for making menu selections. All the buttons are clearly marked and easy to use.

Getting books to read is simple and with the 3G/WiFi model there are a couple of ways to do it. First, you can connect the Kindle to a computer and manually transfer books to the device, just like you'd do with any external hard drive. Second, you can connect wirelessly to the Kindle store and download books directly from there. Navigating the store from the Kindle is easy as well. Book downloads from 3G/Wifi connections take a matter of seconds and happen automatically. The amount of on-board memory, at 3 gigabyte capacity, is sufficient to store a few thousand books on. Plenty of room even for the most serious book collector.

Selecting books on your Kindle to read and reading them are simple processes. Selections are made from the home screen using the 5-way controller. Opening a book will take you directly to the beginning, unless you have already started the book, in which case it will take you to the last page you were on. Turning the pages is accomplished by buttons on either side of the device. There are two on each side-the larger bottom button is page forward with the smaller upper button being page back. As I mentioned, paging through an ebook is quick, less than a second per page.

As no device is perfect, there will always be room for improvement. Attempting to navigate the menus quickly often leaves artifacts and can be slow at times. I also found the 5-way click button awkward to use under certain circumstances. Normally all you'll use are the up and down and select aspects of the controller, but when you want to say, search for a word in the built-in dictionary, navigating there can be a bit of a chore. Neither one of these concerns break the device and it works very well for what it was designed for. The quality of the device itself is also top notch, no complaints there.

There are more features and functions available on the Kindle, but since I'm not trying to write a book here, I'm going to cut this short. Final word? The Kindle is definitely a worthwhile light weight and easy to use portable ereader. I have no compunctions recommending this device to any book reader. All they have to do now is add a touchscreen and color and the Kindle will be perfect.

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