Monday, November 24, 2014

Device-mas: Kindle Voyage

This week, at least in the States, ushers in the Christmas shopping season. While most readers here are going to be looking for the newest toys or figurines or such, I'm truly more of a gadget guy, and it turns out that I was in the market for two of the more high-profile device releases of the last few months before the Black Friday Era began. So for the next couple days, I wanted to talk about what I thought about the two new devices that might be on your lists or the lists of others.

The first device I jumped on a little early was the Kindle Voyage. The new flagship ereader from Amazon, it's a deluxe package with a lot of features, but does it justify its $200 price tag in the United States?

First, the device itself. A few years ago, I upgraded to a Kindle Paperwhite from a Kindle Keyboard. It served me really well for a while, but started slowing considerably this past summer. I never upgraded to the second generation, and when I heard about the Voyage I decided, given how much I use the Paperwhite and how important it is for me in terms of reading routine, work and pleasure both, I decided to try the upgrade.

Amazon has been fairly tight-lipped about the internal specs, so whether there's better processing, I don't know for sure. I do know that the internal memory is doubled, and, while that's somewhat superfluous given the Kindle Cloud feature and the cloud collections, I often use the device as a way to sort and organize. The extra space is nice, and may be contributing to the speed, but I will say that the Voyage is exceptionally zippy, with page turns being really quick and navigation not showing the same type of lag the Paperwhite showed even when that was running at its newest. This was always a big thing for me, so I'm glad that the Voyage operates like the Cadillac of ereaders it is.

There are a number of interesting new features on the Voyage that doesn't exist on the Paperwhite (at least currently). The lighting is better, for one - many complaints were made about the lighting gradient on the bottom of the Paperwhite and the brightness appears to be even throughout the bottom of this device. Along with better lighting is better light management - not only is the lighting better top to bottom, but it has an automatic light feature that works so well that it's basically unnoticeable, which is the point. Very happy with how the lighting works.

The screen is also flush with the edges of the device, a change from prior Kindle models. I am still struggling with that somewhat given the habit of how I held my Paperwhite, but as you can see above, it results in a really well-designed piece of equipment overall. The glass itself feels heavy-duty (as opposed to the plastic-feeling glass on the first Paperwhite), and it is apparently etched in a way to reduce glare and increase the "paper" style viewing on the device. I really like it, overall.

The final new quirk is one that I'm surprised came back, the physical page turn buttons. They were part of the Kindle until the Touch, abandoned with that and the Paperwhite, but make a return in a different form here. The buttons are built into the side of the device next to the screen, and provide a quick vibration when pushed to show that they work. I had gotten very used to using the screen as a page turner, and while the screen is still the recommended option, I didn't realize how much I missed the buttons until I had them available to me again. It feels incredibly natural and it might be my favorite new feature on a whole. My one complaint? With the screen so flush with the sides, my thumb sometimes slips off of the button onto the screen, turning the page for me. It will take some adjustment, but that's my small complaint.

The most important question, however, is how does it read? The good news is that it's so much faster than the Paperwhite that I'm frankly surprised at the improvements. Part of it may be the extra hard drive space, another part might be that they actually improved the processor inside (something I haven't been able to confirm), but the reading is super fast as is the navigation. No real delays in finding books, in sorting books, in shopping for books. It's all smooth.

Plus, the actual image has been improved, with a better screen resolution than the first Paperwhite. I can't speak to the improvement from the first generation to the second on the Paperwhite, but this is significant. In some ways, it actually feels better than reading a book, something I didn't expect and haven't with a Kindle yet. It's truly a joy to read from a reading perspective.

Finally, the ghosting that is common with eInk devices? Feels basically nonexistent. The page refreshes come every 10-15 pages, and even that feels like too much for me and I still wish I could set that even higher. Even toward the end of page refreshing, the ghosting is only noticeable if you're looking for it, and even then, you really need to be looking for it.

Overall, as a voracious reader and lover of the Kindle tech and brand, I have no regrets in diving in on the Kindle Voyage. If you're new to the ereader market, this might be a little too rich for your blood and you'd be happy with the latest Paperwhite, but, for my money and usage, I'm extremely happy. I highly recommend the Voyage.

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