After Hours

Geek Gift Guide 2009: Amazon Kindle DX

The Amazon Kindle DX has a larger screen and more memory than the Kindle 2. It also supports PDF files. But, these benefits come at a steep price.

Amazon Kindle DXJust four months after releasing the Kindle 2, Amazon launched the larger Kindle DX. Like its smaller sibling, the Kindle DX offers several improvements over the original Kindle e-reader. The Kindle DX can store more content, display more shades of gray, has a faster processor, offers better navigation controls, and more. The DX also offers features the Kindle 2 lacks—the ability to automatically rotate between portrait and landscape views, native PDF support, and an improved Web browser.

Yet, the Kindle DX's enhancements come with a price. The unit is heavy, cumbersome to carry, and expensive. If you're a voracious reader who travels frequently, needs a large screen, and doesn't care about price, the Kindle DX is worth a look.

You can find all of our geek product reviews on the Geek Gifts 2009 focus page.

Specifications

  • Screen size: 9.7" diagonal E ink (1,200 x 824-pixel resolution)
  • Dimensions (W x D x H): 7.2 in x 0.4 in x 10.4 in
  • Weight: 1.1 lbs
  • Storage: 4GB (3.3GB useable - 3,500 books)
  • 3G wireless (U.S. only - Sprint EVDO with 1xRTT backup)
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • Nonremovable battery
  • Micro-USB connector (USB 2.0)
  • Auto-rotating display (landscape or portrait)
  • Native PDF support
  • Text-to-Speech (on some titles)
  • Price: $489

What I like

The Kindle DX offers 2.5 times more screen space than the Kindle 2. This is by far the unit's best feature. The larger screen definitely improves the reading experience for books (especially if you need to increase the font size of the text). And, the larger screen makes images and graphics easier to view. Unfortunately, the larger screen does not significantly enhance the reading experience for newspapers, magazines, or Web pages—a task the DX was specifically designed for. Although the unit automatically switches between portrait and landscape view, depending on how you hold the device, even the wider view doesn't give you same feel as full-size magazine or newspaper page.

The Kindle DX has more memory than its smaller sibling𔃌GB on the DX compared to 2GB on the Kindle 2. According to Amazon, 3.3GB of that space is available to store content and the Kindle DX can hold 3,500 titles. (At $9.99 a title, a full Kindle DX would hold just under $35,000 worth of content.)

The device offers good battery life. With average use, a full charge should last you about two weeks, provided you use the wireless connection sparingly. The navigation controls have also been improved since the original Kindle. The DX and Kindle 2 now have a small 5-way control stick, which is used to navigate most menus. This is an improvement over the original Kindle's scroll wheel. The page navigation buttons are well placed and easy to operate. It's also more difficult to accidently press them than on the original Kindle.

Overall, the Kindle DX is a significant improvement over the first Kindle, and its size, built-in PDF support, and landscape view give it a slight advantage over the Kindle 2. Still, the unit has flaws.

What I don't like

The Kindle DX's larger size comes at a price—more weight and less portability. At 1.1 pounds, the Kindle DX is nearly twice the weight of the Kindle 2. I could definitely feel the difference when holding the DX for several hours. The Kindle DX is also unlikely to fit inside most jacket pockets or small bags. You'll need a backpack, laptop bag, or large purse to tote the DX around. A carrying case is therefore a necessity. Unfortunately, Amazon doesn't include one with the device (as it did with the original Kindle). A leather cover for the DX from Amazon will cost you $49.99. Other annoyances include the lack of an SD card slot and a non-removable battery.

But like Amazon's first e-reader, the Kindle DX's biggest weakness is the unit's steep price tag. With tax and shipping, our Kindle DX was over $500. Throw in a cover and you're over $550. That's an awful lot to pay when you can purchase a Kindle 2 for $359 or download Amazon's own Kindle iPhone/iPod Touch application for free.

Geek bottom Line

My impression of the Kindle hasn't changed much from my review of the original Kindle in 2008. The Kindle DX, and indeed the Kindle 2, will likely appeal to readers who fit the following profile:

  • Avid readers who consume several books and/or periodicals a month
  • Travelers who don't want to carry multiple books, magazines, newspapers, etc.
  • Those not interested in building a physical library

Unfortunately for travelers, the Kindle DX's size and weigh make it less than ideal. If portability is your main concern, you should seriously consider the Kindle 2 over the Kindle DX. The smaller sibling costs less and is more portable.

Lastly, the Kindle DX just doesn't have much of a "geek factor" this year. When the original Kindle was released in late 2007, e-readers were extremely rare. Having one meant you were a real book and gadget geek. But this year, there are more alternatives.

Sony has released several new e-readers and plans to release one with wireless connectivity. Barnes & Noble hopes to release its Nook e-book reader before this Christmas. The Nook will feature a 3.5" color touchscreen for navigation and a larger grayscale E ink display for reading. It will also have an SD card slot, Wi-Fi, and run on Google's Android OS. Several other companies, such as Spring Design and Plastic Logic, have also announced plans to release e-book readers in late 2009 or early 2010.

The Kindle DX is a nice improvement over the original Kindle and offers a few advantages over the Kindle 2, but with the market heating up, those looking for an e-book reader should look at all their options.

Geek Gift Score (out of a possible 5)

  • Fun factor: ***
  • Geek factor: ***
  • Value: ***
  • Overall: ***

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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