• Low cost
• Excellent display for reading
• Very small and light
• Huge array of content
• No keyboard
• Lacks features
A superb ereader that makes up for its lack of features with a superior display and super-low price.
The Amazon Kindle 4 is the latest version of the standard Kindle (Amazon also has the Kindle Fire that has a colour screen, and the Kindle Touch which boasts a touchscreen for navigation), and is essentially a new version of the Kindle 3 (or Kindle Keyboard as it is know as), just slightly repackaged and tweaked. But is this enough in the world of touchscreens, 3G and glowlights?
The Kindle 4 is a smaller and lighter ereader than its predecessor, the Kindle Keyboard. This is mainly because the keyboard is no longer present, and in losing that, the Kindle 4 weighs only 130g and measures a meagre 166 x 114 mm. Held in your hand, this feels about the perfect weight for an ereader, and yet it is reassuringly solid also. It cannot compare with other ereaders in terms of looks, with a grey surround that is a little uninspiring, but the Kindle 4 is not about sleek style and fancy features.
The page forward and back buttons are well placed to the right and left of the screen, and along the bottom of the device are four dedicated keys (keyboard, back, home and menu), with a cursor pad in between them.
The screen is the same as the screen on the Kindle Keyboard, and so therefore this one too is excellent. It has a 600x800, 16 level greyscale E-ink display, which we found is still perfect for reading even in bright sunlight. Letters appear clear and crisp, and the contrast is superb.
Ease of use
As there is no touchscreen on the Kindle 4, page turns are achieved via the two dedicated buttons. These are sturdy enough that they are not easily pressed by mistake, but also they are comfortable enough to skip through pages.
Also, there is no dedicated keyboard, and the displayed keyboard is not great for much other than searching for titles. Navigation is carried out via the buttons and cursor pad at the bottom of the device, and this is all intuitive enough to make basic functions second nature. Anything more complicated can be a pain, but as we stated earlier, this isn’t an ereader you are going to want to spend much time using to surf the web (while this is possible it isn’t recommended). Once you have your content, opening books and reading them are a joy on the Kindle 4, and the lack of touchscreen etc. is soon forgotten.
Amazon still has by far the largest database of ebooks available, with a good amount of free content on offer too. The new digital lending feature is a triumph, with over 11,000 public libraries in the US available to borrow from. It is best to navigate this from a PC rather than the device, but it took no longer than a couple of minutes to find the books we were looking for and add them to our reading list, and don’t forget this is a free service!
The Kindle 4 is Wi-Fi only, which means it is difficult to download whilst out and about, but Amazon have this covered to a certain extent, with free AT&T hotspot access thrown in for free. The Wi-Fi chip has been upgraded since the Kindle Keyboard, and we easily downloaded Sebastian Faulk’s Devil May Care in one minute.
Battery & storage
The battery capacity on the Kindle 4 has been reduced since the previous model (probably due to its small size), but this will still last a month on a single charge provided the Wi-Fi isn’t on constantly. There isn’t a charger included with the Kindle 4, so you will need to charge via the USB cable provided (or find a compatible charger which shouldn’t be too difficult as it is a micro USB type that many phones use)
The memory has also been reduced on the Kindle 4, from 4GB to 2GB, and half of this is available for ebooks. Amazon claim this is enough to store 1400 ebooks on, and they also offer a service to store ebooks you aren’t reading on their servers, and restore them quickly when needed.
Basic – Web browser is surprisingly quick but isn’t so easy to navigate using the cursor and keyboard. There is no audio function, so no read-aloud books or music on offer.
Overall, the Amazon Kindle 4 is an excellent basic ereader. Granted, it lacks the sleek design, swift navigation and features that more expensive devices boast, but for purely reading ebooks, it is hard to find a better ereader, and at such a low price this really cannot be ignored.
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