Amazon's new Kindle is harder to navigate, has less storage capacity and the experimental web browser is still awful. But we are still giving it five out of five stars. Read on to find out why
So Amazon announced a KFC family-sized bucket of new Kindles but only gave us poor Blighty natives one model to play with. The paltry excuse for its touch and Fire tablet was that Amazon was at the whim of potentially infringing EU data legislation. But it's more likely that it was an issue of not being able to offer a decent enough content system. Amazon then had the audacity to set the RRP for its fourth generation Kindle at £89. It's not even that in dollars in the US where it costs about £50.
But we can't berate Amazon because it is still very cheap and, more importantly; it improved the best e-Reader on the market. Based on the same e-Ink tech and chassis as its predecessor- except the missing keyboard, it still suffers from the same niggles, which we'll discuss. But Amazon has still created a small slice of eBooky techno nirvana.
Amazon Kindle 4: Design and build
Let's start with the obvious. There is no keyboard. Amazon has added a wee responsive four way navi-pad and a virtual board. Even though it is responsive, text input is a pain while browser navigation fares much better. While the lack of a board means it's harder to navigate, it makes no difference to the reading experience.
Amazon kept the same stunning 6-inch e-Ink screen, shrinking everything else around it to make it more portable. The marketing men will tell you you can put it in your pocket and you can but that's a pointless exercise. If you sat on it in your back pocket it would break. That said, taking away so much real estate, made the Kindle 4 only weigh 170g so it's 30 per cent lighter and 18 per cent smaller.
Amazon Kindle 4: Screen
After looking at so many terrible tablet based e-Readers, we are happy to re-visit the best screen we've seen for dedicated reading devices.
At six inches, the screen size is unchanged, it's not as bright as the Apple iPad, but e-ink is far more comfortable on the eye, so there's less chance of strain. It's still the same 800x600 resolution on a matte black display and text literally pops out at you. For online browsing using Amazon's still experimental web browser, it is rubbish. And it is still cack for your own images. But we care not because it does the job it's meant to do unequivocally brilliantly. Amazon even claimed it has a 10 per cent faster refresh and it is very fast though we didn't have the third gen to hand to see if it was much faster.
Amazon Kindle 4: Features and performance
The new Kindle has access to 750, 000 books through Amazon's Kindle Store, which is still cheaper then most other content distribution or eBook sites online. The company was selling new best seller titles, like Terry Pratchett's Snuff at least £2.00 cheaper. At the Kindle Store Snuff is £5.59 but it is £7.49 at the WHSmith eBook store. Ditto for recent Man Booker prize winner, Julian Barnes' Sense of an ending, which is a couple of quid cheaper with Amazon. Only Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography is the same rip off £12.99 everywhere.
There are over one million free books, it holds up to 1, 400 eBooks and Amazon offers free cloud storage if you fun out of space. Just as well because it only has 2GB rather than 4GB so you're more likely to run out of space. As usual, we found downloading to be almost instantaneous over the in built wifi connection as well.
Amazon Kindle 4: The rest
Among the extras, PDF support enables you to transfer work documents onto the device. Text to speech reads out the words, you can playback mp3s and even browse the web using the basic browser. BBC News takes its time to load in (around a minute at least) and is black and white with very rudimentary text and images and a magnifying glass you move around the page to enlarge text. The pages are a bit slow to load, but it's fine for checking headlines.
Amazon quotes a 10-day battery life with WiFi on and an impressive 1 month if you turn it off. With moderate use in the evenings and on our commute during the week, we easily got 10-days use.
Amazon Kindle 4: Verdict
The fourth generation Kindle is the best e-Reader you can get and is so cheap, surely Amazon it selling them at a loss. Despite imperfections we are still giving the nerw Kindle five out of five star because, what it does, nobody does better.
Amazon Kindle 4 availability: Out now
Amazon Kindle 4 price: £89