My review of Amazon’s Kindle 2 (Part 1)

Greetings Readers!

For those that have been following me on Twitter (or pretty much everywhere else), you know that a little over a week ago, I got Amazon’s Kindle 2.  After wanting one since the day the first one came out, I finally caved and bought one on Thursday.  It arrived Friday morning and I have spent the past week with it at my side.  I have decided for the benefit of those interested in purchasing the Amazon’s Kindle 2, I would do a review of it!  This will be a 2-part review.  The first part (this part) will be my written thoughts on it.  The second part will take place in the form of a video.  The reason I am doing it this way is because there are some things better explained on video so you can see what I am talking about than trying to explain it in text.  One quick note, I have never used any e-book reader before so I have no way to compare it to anything else.

The first thing I noticed when I receive the Kindle was the packaging.  The box it came in was larger than I expected but well packed.  Inside of yet was yet another box (sorry I don’t have any pictures of this unfornately).  Once you got passed all of the normal cardboard, the packaging was kind of flashy which was cool.  I was rather surprised at how basic things were.  The only things in the box was a quick guide to get you started, the Kindle 2 and the power/usb cord.

At first, I was rather surprised at how short the instructions were for it.  They got you going and that was about it.  It was quickly pointed out though that the users guide is on the Kindle which kind of made sense when you think about it since it is a reading device after all.  The Kindle came with about a 50% charge but it instructed you to plug it in before turning it on although you could use it while it was charging which was nice.  The first thing I noticed about that was the power plug.  It is a usb port plugged into a regular 2 prong power plug.  This was a huge deal for me since all but a couple of the power outlets in my house are 2 prong and all of the three prong outlets are daisy chained with power strips 3 deep and still no more places to plug into.  It took several hours to charge all the way but I really didn’t mind since I could use it while it was charging.

When you first turn it on, you get an introduction to the Kindle and are shown the user guide which is nice for learning your way around the Kindle and finding out just what this little wonder can really do.  I was quite surprised at the rather long length of the user guide.  It is one of the better ones I have seen in a long time.  It gives you some really good instructions for those that need them.  After that you are kind of on your own to explore the device.

Before I start talking about the software, lets talk the physical aspects of the Kindle.  It has a very nice brushed aluminum backing which is nice and slick.  While it looks nice, I probably would have appreciated something with a little better grip.  With the device being as thin as a pencil, it is too thin for me to feel like I have a solid grip on the device without having the leather cover that I purchased for it, on it.  There is a power switch and headphone jack on the top of the device, neither of which is labeled and you wouldn’t really know what they are if the instructions didn’t tell you.  Personally, I prefer them to be labeled in some way on my devices.  Also the speakers are on the back and seem to do a decent job although I wouldn’t use them for major music listening.  The QWERTY keyboard is nice and easy to use although maybe not the most comfortable thing.  On the left edge you have the previous and next page buttons.  On the right you have the home, next page, menu and back buttons.  The buttons are smaller than the original Kindle so you aren’t as worried about how you are going to hold the device without accidentally turning the pages.  Also, unlike the original, the hinges on the buttons are on the outside so you won’t be accidentally turning the pages by bumping the edge of the device.  Those are the two major complaints I saw of the original Kindle and they have been fixed nicely.  That said, I do wish there was a previous page button on the right side since that is the side I typically hold it from.  Also, there is a 5 way joystick.  The fifth way is pressing the joystick which is how you select options in menus which brings me to talk about the Kindle software.

Overall, the software is nice but it could be better.  In no particular order, here are my thoughts on the software.  First, it seems to take a bit longer than I would like from the time you turn on the wireless in software to the time you are connected and ready to use it.  The menus are fairly intuitive and relatively helpful.  The text-to-speech is pretty good but not perfect.  It is certainly no substitute for a real audio book but it will get you by if its your only option.  I will explain what I mean and give an example of this in part 2 of this review.  The Kindle Store on the device is nice but I do have one issue with it.  When you go to a book’s page, your cursor is automatically on the buy button, so if you accidentally hit the joystick then you have bought the book whether you intended to or not.  I think it should be selected to somewhere else such as download the first chapter instead of buying as to avoid accidental purchases.  As far as actually reading books goes, it is nice that you can highlight a passage and mark it for later, make comments and even find definitions of words.  There is a nice progress bar at the bottom of the screen which tells you how far you are though the book.  That said there is something about the progress bar that doesn’t make sense.  It lists the location and some numbers.  At first, I thought the numbers were the numbers of lines on the page but after looking closer, that doesn’t seem to be the case and I no longer know what they are for.  There is a large number on the right which seems to be the number its working to but it still makes no sense.  I guess it is their own version of page numbers.  I also find not having real page numbers a bit annoying.  I can’t find something in a book and tell somebody who has the dead tree version to go to a certain page and read a particular passage.  This is not a major thing but it is a minor annoyance.  Also, the software can seem a bit slow.  I don’t know if it caused by the software, the e-ink display (which is noticeably faster than what I saw of the original) or the lack of processing power.  When you are doing things like using the experimental web browser or navigating to certain places, the Kindle seems to hang for a bit before doing anything.  It is not a big deal but it would be nice if it was faster.

That is all I want to cover for the first part of my review of the Amazon’s Kindle 2.  The second part is a video review which should come tomorrow.  In the video review, I will be covering a number of things about both the software and hardware that aren’t as easily conveyed in text.  Make sure to come back for that.  Also, check out the new Global Geek News Podcast as it is a great show!