Kindle 3 Review Update

Even now, weeks after the initial release of the Amazon’s(NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle 3 began to arrive on peoples’ doorsteps, there is certainly no unanimous opinion on the quality of the release.  It’s worth taking a closer look at what precisely is being said, in both the highly positive and highly negative reviews, to determine how much they are likely to effect you.  As is my habit when shopping for new products on my own, I’ll start with the negatives.  After all, it’s always nice to know the potential pitfalls in any device, no matter how unlikely!

Kindle 3 Negative Reviews

Beginning at the bottom and working our way up, there are clearly some trends.  One-Star reviews on the Kindle page seem to center on just about three areas, assuming that we’re safe in skipping the complainers who write negative reviews for a product based on it taking too long to get to their house or the fact that they forgot to check to see how much international importation would cost in customs.

1.  Defective Units

As with any product launch, we can expect some problems.  The most vocal will always be those who were the most disappointed.  In this case, it is definitely true that dozens of people received their Kindles in only semi-functional condition due to broken antennae, battery issues, and even broken screens.  What seems to be universally true, however, is that reviewers who have taken the time to follow up have confirmed that Amazon gladly took the bad units back for either refunds or replacements after walking through a small number of steps to troubleshoot and confirm the problems.

2.  Korean Font Issues

It seems that Amazon didn’t choose the best possible option in its default Korean font.  It has been described as blocky, childish, hard on the eyes, difficult to read for any length of time, and just plain ugly.  To the best of my knowledge, this complaint has gone unaddressed as of yet.  It seems likely that it will take at least until the next software patch to get any work done here, so Korean users might be sadly out of luck for the moment as far as default Kindle software goes at the moment.

3.  Software Shortcomings

I’ll be honest, most of this could well come under the category of defective units.  There are a number of users, though by no means a majority, who have been experiencing issues with frequent locking and rebooting for no apparent reason.  These are likely unit failures, given how many reviewers have been offered exchanges, but it’s a pattern to be aware of just in case.  Also, many seem to feel that the PDF support remains insufficient.  Long load times of image-heavy and/or large files have been reported, as well as unwieldy navigation of zoomed documents.  My personal experience does not bear this out, but different people have different expectations or even perhaps still more malfunctioning units given that many of these reviewers simultaneously complain of frequent reboots being required.

Kindle 3 Positive Reviews

In spite of these issues, there is no shortage of praise to be found.  Even without filtering out the many people who have marked down the product for simply not shipping fast enough, the Kindle‘s favorable(4-5 Star) reviews stand at just short of four times the number of all the rest put together as of my writing this.  We’ve already touched on some of these here on the site in our earlier “Kindle 3 Positive Reviews Summary“, but there are a few things to add that really bring it home for a lot of people.

1.  Advertised Features

Yeah, I know, they were right on the packaging.  What did we expect?  The fact is, however, that many people have been taken aback by how much better things like the new screens and WebKit experimental browser are than were originally expected.  I won’t go into this, there are enough ads floating around to find out many details and we’ve certainly talked about new features here enough so far, but these reviews bear out the idea that exaggeration was not a problem on the new Kindle.

2. Setting a New Standard

For many eBook enthusiasts, especially among the early adopter crowd, the Sony PRS-505 set the standard for eReaders until this time.  In terms of weight, durability, screen quality, software, etc, it was simply the best to be had.  Ignore later Sony models, seriously.  According to many reviews, including at least one very well written direct comparison, the only remaining point of shortcoming for the Kindle is the lack of ePub compatibility.  These sorts of comparisons are amazingly valuable for both eBook fanatics and newcomers since they tend to pare down the block of seemingly new and amazing features to what is really going to end up being important over the course of years of use.  If a functional Kindle is now noticeably better than the device that has long been the fallback for users “in the know”, it’s impressive.

3.  The Feel

Now that it’s shrunk down, in terms of size and weight, the Kindle is even more like your average paperback in terms of size and experience.  People are noticing.  If you’ve been on the fence because you’d miss the feel of your favorite book too much, it might finally be time to give it a try.  No more wrist strain, page turn delay that is far less than turning an actual page would be, and a screen that is no longer significantly distinguishable from a paper book in terms of contrast?  Little room for complaint.

Final Verdict

Honestly, I’ll leave that to you.  It is definitely possible to say that this is the best time yet to be buying an eBook reader.  Is the new Kindle sufficiently great to be worth upgrading from the previous generation or your Nook?  Dunno.  Is it good enough for a first eReader?  I’d say it’s an obvious yes, but I’m writing a blog about eReaders so there’s an implied partiality in what I have to say anyway.  Click a link, check the reviews for yourself, maybe ask a few questions if you need to.  I think most people will be pleased.

11 thoughts on “Kindle 3 Review Update

  1. I love my Kindle. I have recommended it to many friends and colleagues and they have the same reaction. This is so easy. It is a book reader – and although we have used it on occasion to hunt he web for a place to eat – its primary function is to read a book from.

    I have to admit I am on the old side (almost 50) and tend to not want the latest and greatest. My son bought this for me. I love it. Simple to work with – no thought on how to move about or turn on and off – or download. Friends with other variations have found the download process for their systems clunky – requiring software or intermediary exchanges to PCs. Not so with the Kindle. Keep it up.

  2. I just received a new 3G Kindle yesterday. It was a birthday present. I was dubious when told what I was getting. However once I started using it after downloading a book I really liked it. It is easier to read then a book and the page turning is quicker. So I rate it as 4 Stars. I would give it 5 Stars if it had backlighting available.

  3. Here is a copy of a note I sent to [email protected], explaining why I am returning a brand-new DXG – I believe the same issues are applicable to the K3, but are perhaps excusable in a $140 gadget..

    Today I rec’d a new Kindle DX Graphite from Amazon. It has a couple of nice attributes – the screen is excellent, and the browser works better than I expected.

    However, it also has some serious flaws that I find unacceptable, and I’ll be returning it as a result. These are issues that I might tolerate in a $140 gadget, but are not acceptable for $379 – I could buy a real PC for that price.

    – The PDF support is massively flawed. I loaded three PDF files that are completely readable and functional with both Adobe reader on a PC and Preview on a Mac.

    Of the three, only one, a single-page graphic, was viewable, although even with this one artifacts were visible during screen draw and when rotating the DX.

    The second PDF never appeared in the Home page list of contents, no matter how I tried to load it into the DX.

    The third took more than two minutes to open each time I tried to view it. When the first page (a simple image) finally appeared, attempts to view any other page or rotate the DX resulted in locking up the entire DX, to the point where a cold reboot was required. When I called Customer Service to report this, the answer that came back via email (I had been promised a follow-up phone call) was:
    “Our tech team has responded as follows:
    The device may not be able to handle PDFs with large tables.
    For better results please send the file off for conversion using the address.”

    When I converted the PDF to Amazon format via email as directed, the conversion was of such poor quality that the resulting file was completely unusable.

    So for reasons over which I have no control and cannot predict, a large percentage of PDF files are not usable on the DX. Not acceptable.

    – Secondly the DX Graphite does not support a couple of significant readability features that exist in earlier and later Kindles. The inability to select Left Justified (ragged-right) or to choose line spacing seriously degrades reading speed and adds considerable eye strain to the experience of reading on a Kindle. On what is basically a fairly narrow column of displayed text, the absence of Left justification is particularly jarring, and makes reading less comfortable than even a newspaper.

    – Thirdly, the Home page list of contents is the worst implementation I have seen in years. The list wastes a huge amount of screen space by using three lines per document, making only a dozen items visible, cannot be sorted into really useful sequences, and makes it incredibly difficult to browse and page through more than a few dozen entries.

    While the list can be sorted into four different sequences, it is only in low-to-high order, and does not support an inverted sort (Z at the top, A at the bottom).

    Also, the list is completely text-based. Have your people never seen a book-cover icon view, as on every other device in the last 20 years?

    Try to imagine locating a book by an author whose name you cannot spell correctly, but which begins with the letter W or Z, once you have several hundred books loaded, much less the 3500 you claim to support – it would take you longer to locate the book than to read it.

    Bottom line is that in my opinion the v2.5.5 DX software is quite buggy and the user interface design is offal (sic). Since Amazon has not discussed any follow-on fixes or planned feature upgrades for earlier Kindles, I have no confidence that these issues will be addressed with software improvements on the DXG, and I find that these issues are simply not satisfactory for a device at this price point.

  4. I had a K2 that I bought used, and fell in love with it almost instantly. I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the money on a new K3 (with 3G), but figured my Mom would like inheriting my K2 since she’s an avid reader. I understood that there was a significant improvement in quality over the K2, but didn’t realize it would be so noticeable. Pulling it out of the box, my K2 happened to be next to me. I could see right away the screen was much much lighter and not gray like the K2. There was a clear plastic protective sheet with printing on it over the screen and illustrating how to plug in and turn your Kindle on. I removed the protective sheet and was stunned when I saw that the illustration was being displayed by the Kindle itself. It was so sharp and dark and crisp, I thought it was printed at first. That’s how all text looks on the new Kindle…. like it was printed onto the screen rather than being just displayed by it.

    I’ll never fault the iPad because it really is an incredible multi-purpose device, but if what you want to do is read a book, the new Kindle is the best. And if you do have an older Kindle and like it, you really will be amazed if you fork out the money and upgrade to the new version. The screen is gorgeous.

  5. I have a K1 that I use daily, and love dearly. When the K2 came out I didn’t see any reason, especially at that price point, to upgrade. However, I just received an email from Amazon that my K3 3G has shipped and will be in my hands on Monday.

  6. I just received my first K3, loaded it with the PDF file that crashed the DX-G, and while it took 30 seconds or so to load, it successfully displayed the document.

    Too bad that it is too small to be usable on the K3.

    Meanwhile, the DX-G is being returned to Amazon, due to buggy 2.5.5 software that hasn’t been updated to solve known problems with PDF support.

  7. I just got my Kindle 3 (3g/wifi) and I am really liking it. There are some things that annoy the heck out of me though:

    – I loaded 1,600 .txt books on it, for a total of something like 2.5 gb of memory. The load went perfectly, but there is NO good way to navigate or sort that many items.
    – I spent most of the day yesterday marshalling those 1600-odd files into about 30 collections (similar to filing alphabetically). Since I had over 160 pages of books to sort, that meant I had to click 50, 75, 100, 125, 150 consecutive times, many times over, because the sorted books didn’t sort into folders like they would in Windows. Grr! I was monumentally careful and delicate with the page turn button, but I’m surprised the damn thing didn’t fall off before I was done. My previous reader, an EZReader Pocket Pro, would at least turn 10 pages at a time if you held down the page turn button.
    – Arrgh! I just found out (literally like right now) that the page turns on the Kindle will also fast forward if you hold down the button for at least 5 seconds. “Never mind.”
    – I would like to sort the collections alphabetically instead of last-used, though. At the moment mine look something like this:
    B (28)
    E (33)
    0 – 9 (46)
    A (111)
    The_D – The_J (126)

    – I think I have been having the spontaneous reboot problem you mentioned. I’m not losing data and the Kindle seems to recover OK.
    – My unit is defective, I’m sorry to say. With wireless off, the battery drained completely in 24 hours while in sleep mode.

  8. I have now had my Kindle 3 since 8/27/10 and am mightily pleased with it. Three things that are not as good; the page turn buttons are harder for me to turn with one hand but easier with two, the 5 way down selector is too close to the back button and I get the back instead of down if I use my thumb so I have modified my behavior to use a fingernail which solved that problem and the flash between pages is much “brighter” than the Kindle 2. By brighter, I mean the flash between pages is a brilliant black and much more noticeable to my eye. Everything else works better. Faster page loads, faster page turns, faster cursor. Browser way better. PDF handling much better but still frustrating. I cannot seem to get the magnified columns to line up where I want them, using either the shift click or the click itself on the directional pad.

  9. Just got off the phone with Kindle support. We looked at a few things and installed the 3.0.1 upgrade. The tech will call me back tomorrow to see if it worked. Doing the obvious things first is good standard practice… if this does not work they will cheerfully process a replacement, and it looks like most units so far are OK, so I’m not worried.

  10. I don’t have a problem with defective units so much as how the company responds to them. I am on my 5th kindle now due to defects and such over the last year or so, but I still love them. Why? Because it is a good product and I just kept getting unlucky- and Amazon customer service were simply spectacular in handing the issue. They tried to fix it sometimes, or sometimes I would describe the problem and they would simply say “Okay, replacement is being shipped, you’ll have it tomorrow morning.” THAT right there is how you build brand loyalty. By making a good product and treating your customers like a precious commodity. I don’t expect my electronics to be perfect, but I do expect that the company take responsibility for their product.

  11. A number of the early Kindle 3’s are having problems with loose internal screws. You’ll know you have it if your Kindle starts rattling as though a small piece of plastic is loose. Most people have reported easy returns via Amazon; if you’re brave its possible to open the unit (search youtube) and replace the screw. If you do that, be sure to tighten the other screws – mine had 3-4 loose, in addition to the one that came all the way out.

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