Kindle 4 eReader Review

Design - Weight and Dimensions

Dimensions: 6.5 in x 4.5 in x 0.34 in
Weight: 5.98 ounces
Color: Available in black/graphite

Amazon's Kindle eReaders have always been thin and light, but the all new Kindle 4 take those adjectives to a new level. The latest Kindle, considered the entry-level eReader in its new lineup, weighs just under 6 ounces and that makes it once of the lightest eReaders on the market. And it's certainly an impressive number for a device with a 6-inch screen. Additionally, because its low-end Kindle 4 removes the company's traditional physical QWERTY keyboard, It is the most compact eReader the company has yet produced. It is exceedingly thin, just half an inch, and measures just a half-inch wider than the diagonal length of its screen. That's some real engineering magic.

Display - Resolution and Reflectiveness

Display Type: 6 inch monochrome eInk display
Resolution: 800 x 600
Color Depth: 16-bit monochrome with 16 levels of gray

While the Kindle 4 has a revolutionized form factor, its screen is basically the exact same screen that was seen on its predecessor, the Kindle 3. It comes with an eInk display in monochrome, which display four levels of gray. That makes for good reading, and somewhat decent picture display, but it's nothing like a black and white television and it won't be adequate for sharing images with friends. It's 800 x 600 resolution is also unchanged from the earlier Kindle model, but that is probably because the earlier device's display was so stellar.

Text is easily readable on the Kindle 4's screen, and because the display is anti-glare, there's no need to worry about ambient light or reflections. Like all eInk screens, the device does not ship with a backlight and will require a good amount of light in the room in order to see the words on the screen. But, then again, so would a book.

User-friendliness and Interface - Touchscreen vs Keyboard

The Kindle 4 does not ship with a physical QWERTY keyboard. It also does not ship with on-screen touch controls. Instead, it contains only directional navigation keys. That's overly simplistic, and not in a good way: consumers will find it tiring to navigate the device using only up and down arrows, or left and right arrows. And they'll find text input to be prohibitively time consuming, probably deciding to abort the process altogether. It's clear that Amazon was trying to differentiate its products, and giving the entry-level Kindle a basic navigational control without a touchscreen was probably a good way of forcing users to upgrade to the Kindle Touch. But users shouldn't have to sacrifice usability for price, and the Kindle 4 loses major points in this area.

Memory - Internal and External Storage

Flash Memory: 2GB internal memory
Flash Cards: Not expandable with removable media

The Kindle 4 comes with just 2 gigabytes of internal storage, and that might raise several red flags with prospective buyers. It's worth noting, however, that Amazon estimates the device can hold up to 1,500 electronic books -- and that's still a significant number of books to have on hand. It will be reduced, however, if images and audiobook files are stored on the device's internal memory. To offset this jarringly low amount of internal storage, the company has given each of its new Kindle devices -- including its entry-level Kindle 4 -- access to unlimited cloud storage via the company's revolutionary S3 online storage system. They can store pretty much anything in the cloud, and anything the Kindle supports can be downloaded and opened using the device's included applications.

Formats - Doc, PDF, ePub and Third-party DRMs

Supported Text Formats: AZW, TXT, PDF, MOBI, PRC, HTML, DOC, DOCX
Supported Image Formats: JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP

Amazon's Kindle supports the company's proprietary AZW file format, of course, as used in every book sold through the company's official online bookstore. But above and beyond that, the Kindle 4 supports opening HTML files, basic TXT documents, Adobe's PDF file format, and even Microsoft Word documents with the DOC or DOCX extension. This is not supported by all of Amazon's new Kindle devices, and that is worth noting for business users who would prefer to read their documents on the go.

Web-browsing and Applications

The Kindle 4 ships with the company's Pearl web browser which can be used over WiFi, though the company notes that the browser is experimental and perhaps not the best option for perusing the world wide web. The device also comes with an image viewer that supports all major formats, as well as an audio player for audiobooks and music files.

Battery-Life

The Kindle 4 can last up to one month on a single battery charge, which is truly impressive.

Pricing

An advertising-supported Kindle 4 can be obtained for an astonishingly low $79, while an ad-free version will cost $109.

Additional Features and Accessories

The latest entry-level Kindle is a pretty basic device, and its features are straightforward. Its web browser might be the only big extra feature that many users won't be expecting. Aside from that, it's an eReader and it does that task quite well.

The Bottom Line

The new Kindle 4 is by far the thinnest, most compact, and most affordable eReader that Amazon has ever produced. It's perfect for new eReader buyers as well as those who are on a tight budget and are looking to upgrade from an earlier model. You simply cannot find a better combination of value and features anywhere else.

Buy it here