Amazon Kindle 2012 roundup - which is the best Kindle?

Amazon currently offers 3 Kindle e-readers - the Kindle Keyboard (K3), the Kindle (K4) and the Kindle Touch. I've got all three models, and after a few weeks of use, I'm posting this roundup review. So first of all, let's look at the different devices, and how they compare to each other. Note that I'm not adding the Kindle Fire to this roundup as I consider it a tablet and not an e-reader. I'm also not including the Kindle DX which is still being offered by Amazon, but I do not have one.

Kindle family (K3, K4, KT) photo

The Kindle e-reader family

So let's start with the features that the three kindles on review here share. All of them have the same display - a 6" 600x800 E Ink "Pearl" display. All devices have Wi-Fi and USB, and Amazon Kindle books can be read on all devices. All three devices are offered in two models: regular and ad-supported.

The Kindle Keyboard (K3)

The Kindle Keyboard is the oldest device. It's bigger than the other two as it includes a QWERTY keyboard (but no numeric keyboard). It also includes 3G connectivity.

Kindle 3 side photo

The keyboard can be used to navigate Amazon's store, enter notes and is also used in some active software titles that are available for the Kindle platform. But as the main function of your e-reader is probably to read books, not to write, so I'm not sure if the keyboard is worth the extra side.

The main disadvantage of the K3 compared to the newer kindles is the speed - it is a bit slower than the new offerings - which means slower page turns and also slower software and interface.

The Kindle (K4)

The Kindle (or K4) has a non-touch display, and offers very few physical buttons: a 5-way selector, back, on-screen keyboard button, home and menu. It also includes next page and previous page buttons and a power switch. This is the only Kindle that has no audio-out, and there's no 3G version - only Wi-Fi.

Kindle 2011 photo

On the plus side, this is the cheapest Kindle - you can buy it for $79 with ads (or $109 without ads). This is also the fastest Kindle - it responds better than the Touch one.

The Kindle Touch

As its name suggest, the Kindle Touch is basically the same as the K4 only with a Touch screen. Amazon is using infra-red touch which is enabled using infra-red receivers and transmitters on the edges of the display. The screen is thus sunk a bit lower than on the other kindles - and the device is a bit thicker. The touch is available in two models - 3G and Wi-Fi only.

Kindle Touch photo

The big question is of course: how good is the touch? Do not expect an iPhone like experience here. The E Ink itself is slow, so you cannot move things around. Mostly you use it to turn pages and make choices in the UI. It's perfectly usable - but I don't think it really makes for a better reading experience. Of course the on screen keyboard is much easier to use than on the Kindle 2011.


Personally, I think the Kindle 2011 is the best Kindle out there today. It's the fastest, easiest to use, cheapest and smallest one. I think it also looks better than the Kindle Keyboard (it looks pretty much the same as the Touch).

So unless you need 3G, audio out or you expect to be doing a lot of writing, I think that's my personally preferred Kindle. And for only $79, you can't go wrong (I don't find the ads annoying at all, so I'd go for the ad-supported version).

Kindle Fire

I have to whole-heartedly disagree with you concerning the Kindle Fire's classification as a tablet rather than an e-reader. The Fire is first and foremost an e-reader. I feel that one of the major misrepresentations of the Fire is that it's an iPad contender, and this makes people approach it with different intent than they would an e-reader. In this regard the Fire can only fail, because it was not intended to be a fully functional tablet device, but rather a Kindle with extra features. In this respect, the Fire is by far the best e-reader in the lineup (leaving lcd vs. e-ink arguements aside). I use my Fire almost entirely for reading, and little else. It fares poorly in other areas, but functions marvelously as an ebook reader. So to completely eject it from consideration as an e-reading device here is to do it a serious disservice.

For me it all boils down to

For me it all boils down to the LCD vs E Ink. And the weight. Personally I find it hard to read for a long time (more then a few minutes) on the Fire - it's heavy to hold and I don't like reading on an LCD. That's why I leave it out.

If you just use it for reading, why not buy a K4? It's cheaper, lighter, has a better display and lasts longer...

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