As some of you might know, I recently came into possession of a brand new Kindle Touch 3G. Now that I've had the device for about two months now, I thought I would take some time to share my experience with the device, describing what I really like about the Kindle and what could be improved.
After unpacking the Kindle, setting the unit up was extremely easy. All I needed to do was connect the Kindle (with the included USB cable) to my computer. The Kindle appears as a mass storage device to the operating system, so transferring files is as easy as copying them to the appropriate directory on the device.
One thing I quickly discovered is that my USB 2.0 hub did not provide enough power to charge the Kindle. After a few moments, a message was displayed on the screen indicating that the device was not charging. Instead, I plugged the cable into one of the ports on my computer and charging resumed.
Although the Kindle does a lot of things, it is primarily marketed as an e-book reader. The Kindle really shines in this area, offering an enjoyable reading experience for all kinds of "printed" material. The first thing you will probably read on your Kindle is the user's guide, which is immediately displayed after powering the unit on. The first page describes how to navigate through the remaining pages, which is as simple as a tap on the screen.
I started copying some documents to my Kindle (which were in PDF format) and all of them displayed without any issue. I was impressed with the fact that even tiny text was readable on the Kindle's display. The Kindle does include the ability to enlarge (zoom in) the page if the text is too small to read. This is done using a two-finger gesture that most iOS users are familiar with.
Actually putting documents on the Kindle can be done it two ways. If the Kindle is physically connected to your computer, you can copy them to the device using your operating system's file explorer. Alternatively, you can create a special @kindle.com email address that can be used for emailing documents as attachments. The files are then delivered directly to your Kindle via WiFi. (In fact, you can even pay to have them delivered via 3G if you wish.)
The display is not backlit so you will either need to get a flashlight or stop reading when it gets dark. On the other hand, the display looks incredible in direct sunlight (thanks to its e-ink display which differs from conventional LCD displays found on most portable displays).
Alternatively, the Kindle features text-to-speech support, so you can actually have the document read to you by a speech synthesizer. Your options include adjusting the speed and switching between a male and female voice. I found the words to be quite clear and pronunciation was accurate and natural most of the time.
The Kindle Touch does more than just display books. It also features an experimental MP3 player that you can use to listen to music while you read. Although extremely limited in functionality, with a couple of exceptions (which I'll mention shortly) the player works well. The Kindle features two speakers at the bottom of the rear side that produce reasonable quality sound. You can also plug a pair of headphones in to listen privately.
The MP3 player is labelled as "experimental" and rightly so. If you plug headphones in before turning the Kindle on, the music will play through both the speakers and the headphones. It would be very embarrassing to travel on public transit and forget about this "feature". Secondly, plugging in a cable to charge the Kindle while music is playing instantly stops the music. This wouldn't be so bad except there is no way to seek to a specific location within the current song. However, there is a workaround: simply pause the song before plugging the cable in.
One of the other experimental features included with the Kindle Touch is a WebKit-based web browser. Despite the Kindle having only a monochrome display, the browser is surprisingly usable. (In fact, the browser passed the Acid 3 test with a score of 100.) An onscreen keyboard is used to enter text and requires a fair amount of precision to use (though you will get used to it over time). You can download e-books (provided they're in a format the Kindle recognizes) directly from the browser.
It should be noted that browsing most of the web requires a WiFi connection. The Kindle does provide access (via 3G) to their store and Wikipedia at no charge. This can be handy for looking up information on the go (when WiFi access isn't available).
Unfortunately the Kindle does not support connecting to ad-hoc (peer-to-peer) networks. This means you won't be tethering your Kindle to your iPhone or using a PC to share an Internet connection with your Kindle. If I could pick any feature to add to the Kindle, it would be this. Hopefully Amazon will add support for ad-hoc networks in a future update.
As an e-book reader, the Kindle Touch is a solid choice. Although the other experimental features have some catching up to do, they certainly compliment the reader's primary functionality. If you're looking for something to take on a trip to catch up on some reading, then you don't need to look any further. It will be interesting to see how some of the experimental features progress in the coming months.
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