Well, let’s face it. An e-book reader is not everybody’s thing. More so, in an era of phones and tablets that have made reading on-the-go simpler than ever. But there are some, like us, who yearn for an e-reading experience that is satisfying, convenient, and takes us as close to the physical book reading bliss as possible. This experience is what the Kindle devices have been about all along. At its core, Kindle is just a reading device and does little else than enabling you to buy books and read them. But it does that to near perfection.
For me, the Kindle Paperwhite, both in terms of hardware and software, was as good as it got in the world of e-book reading. It was (is) comfortable to hold, could adjust screen lighting for you, came with a good screen resolution, a great battery life and an almost real e-book reading experience. Yes, it was predictable and boring – but that was something we had come to expect from a device which was just a book reader.
With the successor to Paperwhite, the Kindle Voyage, Amazon has thrashed established perceptions around e-book readers. The same perceptions, by the way, that the company helped build almost single-handedly.
What Amazon has done with the Kindle Voyage is taken the boring out of the e-book readers category. At the first glance, the Kindle Voyage amuses with an eye-catching design – something that couldn’t be said for any e-book reader so far. Gone is the flat, drab (if strong) looking back of the previous Kindles. This sleek, curved edged device has elicited many an unexpected praise from people we flaunted it to. At 7.6mm and 188 grams, the Voyage is lighter and thinner than the Paperwhite. It feels great to hold and shuffle between hands too, though the glossy material at the back is a smudge magnet. Another addition to the rear of the device is the power button that has been moved there with the Voyage, and though it takes some getting used to, its a comfortable repositioning.
The front panel has the 6-inch Carta E-Ink screen, with thick but flush bezels on all sides. And though no one really complained about Paperwhite’s recessed screen and raised bezels, the uniformity, once you notice it, is comforting. The other big hardware capability Amazon has added to the Kindle Voyage are the PagePress buttons on either side of the screen. The whole thing is simple enough: Press the long vertical line on either side of the screen to turn the page, and the dot sitting above it to flip back one. A slight vibration greets you once your directed task is achieved. You can set this sensitivity to ‘high’ in settings (it is set to medium, by default) if you yearn for the physical, button-assisted page turning experience (for old times’ sake).
Display wise, the Kindle Voyage is nothing short of stunning. The 6-inch display manages to squeeze in a full 300 pixels per inch, bringing it as close to actual ink on paper as it gets. The details that were glossed over on the screen of Paperwhite come out beautifully alive on the high-res display of Voyage. It is whiter, sharper and easier on the eye. You could spend a day just playing with fonts and margins and marvel at the results. Even the text boxes come up with so much clarity that you want to stop and admire. This is, in my view, the first e-book reader that you can actually read graphic novels on (though of course you will miss the colors).
The ambient light sensor, which basically means that you don’t have to manually adjust the screen lighting as per your environment, seems to work too. You can shuttle between indoors and outdoors and continue reading without blinking rapidly because the screen will do the adjusting for you. Also, it doesn’t even give as much as a flicker or twinge as it automatically adapts to light (though it takes a few seconds to adjust), keeping the reading experience uninterrupted.
One might expect the enhanced hardware capabilities to take a toll on the battery life of the device, but the Kindle Voyage still seems as reliable as its kin in terms of battery.
Amazon’s efforts to reduce glare on its Kindle screens have borne fruit with the Voyage. The chemically etched surface shows you more of the book rather that your reflection on bright sunny afternoons. That’s thumbs up to winter outdoors reading, we say! Also, the reinforced glass screen, according to Amazon is scratch resistant too, and that is good news for Kindles that live in handbags and backpacks without any protection (yes, I’m guilty).
The other big plus with the Kindle Voyage is its responsiveness. No more the slight sluggishness of Paperwhite, the Voyage is quick and handles multiple page turning or settings commands rather well. Yes, the page turning speed is still not quite as good, but it is noticeably better than the previous Kindles. Although Amazon never talks about the processors that power its Kindles, the processor that hums beneath the Voyage certainly seems like an improvement over the Paperwhite.
Coming to the software bit, it seems like Amazon exhausted its innovation basket pretty much on the hardware, and left the software bit nearly the same (not that we are complaining). There’s still the Goodreads integration, the Vocabulary Builder and the Kindle Cloud Reader. Also, there’s plenty of good stuff like Word Wise (which shall display definitions above complex words) and Library Sharing that is expected to hit the Voyage, Paperwhite and the basic New Kindle later this year.
And now the most important bit – pricing. The Wi-Fi only version of the Kindle Voyage will set you back by Rs 16,499, while the Wi-Fi+3G version (the connectivity is pretty good, by the way, and comes at no additional monthly costs) will cost you Rs. 20,499. Those are no doubt, steep price points for an e-book reader, especially if you consider that the Paperwhite, which is a great reading device, is currently retailing from Rs 10,999. So, is the premium price worth the enhancements? Sure, the hardware is easy to fall for as are some of the new features, but I would still go with the Paperwhite (the software bit, after all is largely the same) and save some bucks without compromising a great deal on my reading pleasure.
However, if you itch for perfection in your e-book reading experience the Kindle Voyage is just the device for you. If you haven’t used a Kindle before, and have the gods of plenty on your side, the Kindle Voyage is a superb stepping stone to the world of e-books.
In our opinion, with the Kindle Voyage, Amazon has outdone itself by creating the nearly perfect e-book reader. It has also set the bar really high for the next version in its Kindle series.