วันพฤหัสบดีที่ 8 ตุลาคม พ.ศ. 2552

The Godzilla of Kindles

The Godzilla of Kindles tries to conquer the Ereader world,
I’ve been a very happy 1st-generation Kindle (referred to henceforth in this review as the K1), since last April, and as a disabled person who’s always loved to read but for various reasons (including the physical difficulties in handling an actual book), the device reintroduced the reading experienced and substantially changed my world. When the 2nd-generation Kindle (referred to henceforth as the K2) came on the scene, I didn’t feel overly compelled to upgrade to the new version because there was not a significant advantage, in my view, to do so. But when the Kindle DX was announced with it’s larger screen and specifically the native PDF support, which as one who had converted many software manual PDFs for reading on the K1 with passable but not great results, I couldn’t resist taking the plunge and upgrading. I’ve now been using the Kindle DX (referred to henceforth as the KDX), since Thursday (this review is being typed on Sunday), so here is my first impressions review.
The first thing I noticed about the Kindle DX is that it could as easily be called the Kindle Jumbo, or The Kindlenormous, because compared to my K1 (as stated above, I never owned a K2) it’s huge! I’ve seen several people comment on the difference in size, and one might get the impression from various comments (including my own above) that the device requires a forklift to pick up and a warehouse to house. The truth is that the Kindle DX is only big in relation to the prior Kindles. In fact, if this had been the size of the first Kindle, I think everyone would have felt it was the perfect size. As for the increased weight over its smaller brethren, if I personally had to manually hold it, for me with my disability, it would be a real problem. It’s not really the weight itself, but due to the center of gravity being more spread out as opposed to the more compact K1 and K2. Basically, if you hold the device vertically near the bottom, it becomes top heavy. Because of this, I don’t know if I’d consider the Kindle DX the best choice for the casual reader, especially one who hasn’t owned a Kindle before. Sort of like buying a full-sized Hummer for the little old lady from Pasadena who just wants to run to the grocery store twice a week. Doesn’t mean a Hummer isn’t great in itself, but it would be just a bit of overkill for the proverbial old lady’s needs.
As for the Kindle DX itself (and keep in mind that I’ve never owned or touched a K2, so some of the things that impressed me might be applicable to the K2 as well), it is truly amazing. My own feeling is that this design greatly improves upon what was begun with the K1. In fact I’d go so far as to say that the K1 seems more like a production or Beta model…a great Beta model, but a Beta model nonetheless. The Kindle DX feels more sturdy (and I think this due more to the case construction than the overall weight), and as I said, more polished than the K1. I like the 5-way controller (introduced with the K2) much more than the K1’s scroll wheel. While I used the scroll wheel without any qualms whatsoever, it always felt a bit kludgy, as if it was a bit “low tech-ish” for such an advanced product.
The K1 display is great, and if images are done well, they can be quite beautiful. However, if images are done right for the Kindle DX, they are mind blowing in comparison. The K1 always has looked great to me considering it’s limited abilities, but the Kindle DX shows just what eInk technology is capable of. Seeing this screen now has me excited for the first time about the prospect of a color eInk screen one day, because if they can do this with 16-shade grayscale now, imagine what we’re in store for in a few years. I checked how a couple of my own books’ covers looked on the KDX, and they looked great even at the larger size. The Kindle DX screen is also more elongated than it’s little brothers’, so you get more text per screen not just because of the larger size, but because of proportionally having more screen real estate to work with. Text is sharp and the interface differences from the K1 are also pleasurably improved. Again, I would use the expression “more polished” to describe the difference. Some of that is due to the improved screen resolution, I’m sure.
The Kindle DX’s responsiveness is better overall, although that’s a relative thing since a large PDF or a page laden with images will take longer to display than a plain text page, regardless of which Kindle you own. I do notice that when one scrolls the cursor with the 5-way controller, that it flies down the page. Not sure if the K1 could have done that it if had used the same controller, so I think the screen refresh rate is improved on the Kindle DX (again, this may be true for the K2 as well).
I don’t subscribe to any newspapers currently, but blogs look great on the KDX. On my K1, if you viewed the article list in a blog, you’d get a simple list of article titles. On the KDX, you get titles, a summary or first line from the article, and divider lines separating each listed article. Not to sound repetitive (although clearly I am guilty of just that), but “more polished is again the way I’d describe this difference.
I also own several Kindle books that are now listed as “DX optimized” (most of them being software reference books). These books look as if their layouts are very close to, if not identical to, their printed counterparts. One thing I’ve noticed, and I’ll use one of the books I own, How to Do Everything: Adobe Illustrator CS4, as an example. My guess is that the images contained in the book are in color in the printed book, and were directly scanned into ebook format “as is.” This becomes problematic because of the grayscale display, which shows these images as various shades of gray, often with little contrast between the different shades. The biggest problem, however, is that the gray in the images do not contrast well to the gray background of the screen. The gray screen provides plenty of contrast for text on the Kindle DX, but for images with a lot of gray shades in them, the lack of contrast makes the images look washed out. I would therefore strongly urge Amazon to take the “DX optimized” designation even further and make sure that the images in these books are also optimized for the grayscale display, because they do the KindleDX fabulous display capabilities justice.
The PDFs I have loaded onto my Kindle DX look wonderful as well. Most of my PDFs are Adobe software manual, and therefore they are true PDFs (not all PDFs are the same, or true PDFs) with lots of imagery, and they seem to display almost flawlessly in their native format. So the it appears that the promise and the biggest reason I once again invested a significant amount of money with Amazon has proven to be well worth it.
A personal note about the Kindle DX’s size. The KDX is too big for my Kindle stand from Octo, so I have to prop up against other stuff on my bed, Which is fine, and actually works well for this Godzilla of Kindles. However, when I want to charge the KDX while I read (which I generally do nightly), I have to turn it upside down because the charging plug is on the bottom of the device, and so can’t be “stood up” on that end while charging. So for me, the screen flipping technology is a godsend, although oddly enough, neither the screen savers nor the Kindle store will flip. Probably because neither could display properly in horizontal mode. Still, it’s annoying to be using the Kindle in one orientation but then be forced to reorient the device if I want to dash off to the Kindle Store briefly. While certainly a minor thing, I’d really like to see Amazon enable the screen flipping technology to work with the Kindle Store as well.
Overall, I already love my Kindle DX. While I’ll always love my K1 as well, I just don’t have the need for both, so I’m glad the K1 will have a happy new home with my sister. The KDX is an excellent addition to the Kindle family, while it was promoted as a device targeted to students and others with specific large-format document needs, the KDX could have easily been the first Kindle released, and I believe that it would have been equally successful even at the larger size.
If you’re thinking of buying a Kindle DX, or are especially debating between a K2 or KDX, I’d recommend you really assess your needs and uses for your Kindle, and use those to help make your decision. The KDX itself is amazing and expands on the promise and functionality of the original Kindles. But some may buy the Kindle DX and then criticize it, not because of the device’s failings (of which I have seen none yet), but because they perhaps would have been better served by a smaller Kindle instead.
So while I say any potential Kindle buyer should choose wisely depending upon their needs, the Kindle DX is in itself an outstanding product that will only help to solidify the Kindle brand as the standard by which all other ereaders will be compared.
Where I gave the 1st-generation Kindle 5 stars, based upon how the Kindle DX has improved upon the design and functionality, I’d give the KDX 10 stars if I could.

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