Amazon Kindle 4 Review: Nice Update at a Great Price

Amazon’s new $79 Kindle 4 brings reading eBooks to a lot more people thanks to a nice smaller design and a great price. The upgrade cuts a few features like audio and a physical keyboard in order to hit that price and slim it down. Most people won’t miss them. The smaller, lightweight design makes this the best e-ink reader on the market despite a couple of minor weaknesses.

I chose the lower-priced “With Special Offers” version because the discount for putting ads on the Kindle like the one below don’t bother me. You can remove them for a fee, but I doubt many will bother.

Kindle Ads on the new 4th Gen Kindle

Video Review

Features

Here are some of the key specs with the new Kindle:

  • 6″ e-ink display with 800×600 resolution at 167 ppi
  • Wi-Fi only – no 3G
  • Free AT&T hotspot access
  • 2GB of internal memory which holds about 1,400 books
  • Long one month battery life with Wi-Fi off

Amazon Kindle with ad showing while asleep

The ads replace the old pictures of authors on the previous generation Kindles

Advertisement

The Kindle battery lasts forever. After a week of heavy use it shows 75% left. Turn Wi-Fi off and Amazon promises a month of use. Amazon claims a 3 hour charge time, but it took a little less my first time.

Kindle On-screen Keyboard

The new on-screen keyboard replaces the old physical keyboard

The new Kindle left off a couple of key features previous versions had – a physical keyboard and audio capability. The keyboard I used a little for adding “margin notes”, but my wife and sons never used it. The second feature none of us miss. I have a smartphone for listening to books and music, and I never liked the built-in text to speech voices.

Kindle buttons

These buttons replace the old physical keyboard

Instead of a keyboard you get the following buttons:

  • Back – goes back to your book list, settings pages or browsing history
  • Keyboard – brings up the onscreen keyboard
  • 5 Way Controller & selection button – navigation and selection
  • Menu – brings up on-screen menus
  • Home – takes you to home screen

Kindle page turn buttons

A pair of buttons for turning pages back and next grace both sides

Two buttons grace each side with back on top and next on bottom. The older Kindles had larger buttons. When I quit trying to pinch them and starting pressing downward from the front of the device, they worked perfectly. The change made it a bit awkward at first.

Side-by-side comparison of the 2nd gen and 4th gen Kindle

2nd gen Kindle is on the left with the new 4th gen on the right

The onscreen keyboard works fine if you don’t need to add a lot of notes to what you’re reading, or use your Kindle to surf the web much.

The included “experimental” browser gives you web access but don’t plan to use it much because you’ll get frustrated quickly. The zoom box lets you enlarge the part of the page inside the box (see below).

Kindle browser

Kindle experimental browser with a zoom feature

The Kindle comes with a micro USB 2.0 cable but no AC adapter anymore. It works with the old one and you can buy one fo $9.99 from Amazon. I’d gladly pay a little more up front to have one included in the box. Otherwise you will have to plug into your own USB adapter or a computer to charge it.

Reading on the e-ink screen feels better after long sessions than reading on my iPad. Not having the distraction of other apps helps too.

You can get simple little apps like the free word game Thread Words or a dots clone called Dots and Boxes. Kindle apps can help waste a little time, but don’t compare to tablet apps.

Side-by-side comparison of the 3rd and 4th gen Kindles

Side-by-side comparison of the 3rd and 4th gen Kindles

For those who like to listen to audio books on their older Kindle or who like to listen to the text-to-speech function, which reads the book to you, don’t upgrade. Amazon removed the audio capability of the Kindle, as we said. I never used this and didn’t mind. I’d rather have a cheaper Kindle than audio features.

The Kindle software lets you add things like bookmarks, digital margin notes, and highlighting. All three will sync with other Kindles and you can back them up if you connect to a PC. Unfortunately they changed the way you add markups, requiring more button clicks than before. To add a highlight it takes five clicks to the previous three. If you don’t use the feature, you will never notice the change.

Recommendations

I love this new Kindle. My family shares our 2nd generation Kindle, often fighting over it. Because of the lower price, I’m going to be giving each member of the family their own. For only $79.99 you can’t go wrong.

If Amazon hadn’t dropped the price, then I would likely be less positive about it. At the price, readers will enjoy it.

Kindle TouchShould you pick this Kindle over the newer Kindle Touch or Fire? The key differences between this Kindle and the Touch (pictured right) includes the following:

  • No buttons on Touch
  • Touch screen interface
  • 3G version available
  • Audio support
  • Longer lasting battery

The biggest reason to hold out for the Kindle Touch has to be the 3G access. You can buy and download books even if you are not within range of Wi-Fi. The touch screen will be nice and longer battery life a plus, but do you really need them? The other key reason is the audio capability. The $79,99 model reviewed can’t play audio or read your books. The Touch will have this feature.

Pros

  • Lighter and smaller size is more portable
  • Great screen is easy to read
  • Amazing price
  • Can remove ads if you find them annoying
  • Excellent battery life

Cons

  • New markup feature takes more button presses
  • Onscreen keyboard slows down note taking
  • No AC adapter included

Comments

  1. Yogh says

    I’m interested that you only consider the touch screen to be a nice bonus, not a killer feature.  Obviously, we can’t compare with the Kindle Touch yet, but based on a comparison of the Kindle 3 and the Nook with its touch screen my understanding is that the touch screen adds a lot to the user experience.  The interface has fewer steps because you aren’t limited by your controls, the keyboard not only isn’t a problem like for the Kindle 4 but is responsive and better than the Kindle 3′s physical keyboard, and most importantly the whole device is more intuitive.  We have been thinking about whether to get Kindles for relatives and decided that we would wait for the Kindle Touch as hopefully the most intuitive user interface for the tech-unsavvy.  I’ll be interested to see your review, thoughts, and comparisons, once the Touch is available.

  2. David Skelton says

    I just received my Kindle 4 and I echo many of your praises. At this price point you should have a hard time deciding NOT to buy one. I hadn’t been interested in an e-reader that was over 100 dollars and as soon as this came out I jumped especially now that my local library is Kindle friendly. Touchscreens are indeed nice on my iPhone for web browsing and gaming but for a reader I need one button and that is the advance page button. I like that physical key and my dirty hands aren’t all over my screen. I’m not using this as a web browser, a note taker, or an mp3 player so bare bones is all I need. I think the entry level Kindle is a great buy and the speed and lightweight package is just great. No AC adaptor is kind of a bummer but I usually find myself plugging my devices in to my USB chargers anyways. The only bummer was that the case with book light was 59 bucks! All in all it will pay itself off soon as Kindle books are 50-75% cheaper than bookstores. I will be recommending this device to all of my friends and family.

  3. Anonymous says

    $79 for ad-supported device, every time it goes to sleep you (and everyone around you) see ads and also 2-3 line ads right there at your home screen. Non-ad one is $109. No touch screen, page turn lag, page blinks black on every page turn. Kindle Touch is $139 for non-add model that is the same as Nook Simletouch. No Kindle model has microSD slot that all Nook’s from Barnes & Noble have. e-ink Nook Touch has the latest generation touch screen display, no page turn lag, it weights less, and its battery lasts twice as long (two months on one charge),  and it doesn’t blink on each page turn – much better than current Kindle 3 and is still better designed than even the new Kindle Touch with battery lasting two months with ONE hour reading a day with Wi-Fi off thus it’s still twice as long as new Kindle’s two months with HALF and hour a day with Wi-Fi off. It looks like Kindle didn’t get any battery  improvement in the new model.  More, Kindle Touch still flashes black on each page turn while Nook Touch reduces the flashing by 80%. If you walk in with the Nook to Barnes & Noble store, you’re allowed to read ANY available eBook for free while in the store via free provided in the store Wi-Fi. Nook (unlike Kindle) supports eBooks in ePub format which is the universal format most used in the world.

Leave a Reply