To Touch, or Not To Touch: Choosing Kindle 4 vs Kindle Touch

Let’s say that you know you want to buy a brand new Kindle eReader.  It could be for a Christmas gift, a charity donation, or just because you’ve been wanting one.  Technically I suppose you could just have a desire to use the new Kindle to wedge under the leg of a desk to stop it from wobbling, but if so then we have different priorities and budgets.  Anyway, there are a couple options right now as far as which to buy, so it’s important to know what you want to get out of it.

Displays: Tie

This part doesn’t matter too much.  Basically any modern eReader will be making use of the E INK Pearl display and the Kindle family is no exception.  Unlike an LCD, you can read on this type of screen with no eye strain in any sort of lighting that would work with a normal paper book. In an extremely minor way the Kindle Touch might be at a disadvantage here since there is a likelihood of fingerprints, but in practice they are surprisingly minimal and don’t have an effect on anything that quickly wiping the screen down every couple days or weeks won’t fix.

Interface: Kindle Touch

The Kindle Touch is far superior in terms of interacting with your books.  If you have any interest in taking notes, highlighting, or just about anything else besides flipping pages while you read, then the touchscreen will be practically necessary.  The Kindle 4’s directional control is fine for choosing a book, but using the virtual keyboard is tedious at best and you’ll find yourself avoiding it quickly.

Storage: Kindle Touch (Barely)

The storage space on the Kindle Touch is effectively twice that of the Kindle 4.  While this might seem at a glance to be a big deal, in actuality it won’t come into play much.  There are only so many books you can easily navigate at a time anyway which means most people hit their limit well before the Kindle’s storage fills up and start archiving titles that aren’t needed.

Battery Life: Kindle Touch

The battery life is also doubled on the touch model by comparison.  Once again, however, it doesn’t much matter.  The cheaper model still gets a month of use in between charges.  When you hit the point where your biggest problem is remembering where the charging cable was after such a long time has passed, it stops mattering much which eReader wins.

Price: Kindle 4

Obviously the Kindle 4’s price is its biggest advantage.  An $80 price tag makes it the cheapest major eReader on the market.

Form: Kindle 4

The Kindle Touch weighs slightly over 25% more than the Kindle 4.  It’s a fairly negligible amount, and both devices are comfortable to hold in one hand, but every bit helps.

Extras: Kindle Touch

Hands-down, the Kindle Touch provides the most extras aside from simple reading.  It has text-to-speech, audio playback, optional 3G, simple PDF zoom and scroll control, and Amazon’s new X-Ray feature.  While none of these is likely to be enough to sell the device on its own, the ability to access audiobooks and PDF documents easily is likely to be important for some people.

Recommendation: Kindle Touch (Mostly)

Basically, the Kindle Touch has the most to offer you.  It does everything that the Kindle 4 can do and more, for just $20 price difference.  This isn’t to say that the Kindle 4 has many problems, because if all you want to do is read cover to cover in your favorite books then it’s wonderful, it just isn’t as versatile.  We’ve effectively reached the point where all new eReaders will be equally pleasant to use for basic reading, so I’m forced to weigh other factors more heavily.  Regardless of that, the Kindle will almost certainly be enjoyed regardless of which one is chosen.

8 thoughts on “To Touch, or Not To Touch: Choosing Kindle 4 vs Kindle Touch”

  1. Don’t forget that the Touch support audio books and music, so the extra storage could be more useful than you first think.

  2. When I have shown my kindle to others, the first thing they almost always do is try to use it like a touch screen, so I have a feeling that’s what most people would prefer. I like the fact that you can see the book covers on the kindle touch, but other than that, I like my kindle keyboard. If I were buying a new kindle, I think I would buy the same thing again. (Does that make me old-fashioned?)

  3. I just hate to read through fingerprints and smudges. I find that once I point that out to people I see a light go on.

    I just purchased kindle keyboards for a bunch of family members for christmas this year.

  4. What do you think of fingerprints? Does the Kindle touch screen gets “dirty” after some time? This is the only thing that is holding me back from buying the touch. I whish the’ve included some physical buttons to turn pages. What do you think of this? Thanks for the article!

  5. @Arwen: I have a KK too, and I did end up buying a second one Keyboard for my GF, so it’s two of us who are old-fashioned… The K4 non-touch doesn’t cut it for me as far as features are concerned, and I don’t like touch in a reading device.

  6. Regarding Fingerprints,
    I’ve found that this is not nearly the issue I expected it to be. While it’s true that you have to clean the screen slightly more often for the best experience, the type of touchscreen being used means that only light touches are necessary. Less chance to leave a mark, at least from what I can tell.

  7. The touch interface seems a great step forward. However, I think Amazon took a step backward in not including physical buttons for turning pages. I am not interested in turning pages with a touch screen. I got the Kindle Keyboard only half a year ago, so I am going to sit this generation out and see what happens in the next generation.

  8. Touch sounds spiffy and all, but I have no idea how it will be in practice. The slow refresh rate seems like it would make pinching to zoom frustrating, and the Touch removes the physical page turn buttons that provide feedback (again, low refresh rate with e-ink). I can’t decide whether to pick up the basic or the Touch.
    The deal breaker for me with the Kindle Touch is the fact that it has no page turn buttons. The e-ink screens look horrid with fingerprints, I’d never be able to read with any on the screen. I’m too OCD about that, and since I use my Kindle for reading only, the functionality of a touch screen wasn’t really necessary.

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