Geek Gifts 2010: Amazon Kindle Graphite 3G + Wi-Fi 2010

The Amazon Kindle Graphite 3G + Wi-Fi 2010 edition is lightweight, comes with some great features, and sells for a reasonable price. However, first-time Kindle users may not find it very intuitive.

Since the Amazon Kindle was released in 2007, its latest version is often the standard to which other e-readers are compared. So when the Apple iPad was released earlier this year, there was media speculation about the iPad effect on e-readers and comparisons between the Kindle and the iPad in terms of e-reader capabilities. It appears that both the Kindle and iPad are doing well in the portable device space, and Amazon stated earlier this year that it is selling 180 e-books for every 100 hardcover books.

Rather ironically, when I started using the Amazon Kindle Graphite 3G + Wi-Fi 2010 edition, I repeatedly found myself trying to use the e-reader like an iPad, or rather any device with a touch screen. (I suppose I learned this behavior from testing various touch screen devices that we have at TechRepublic.) Once I got beyond my own user behavior quirks, I found this Kindle to be very robust, especially for the price.

Specifications and features

  • Screen size: 6"
  • Display: High contrast E Ink screen
  • Size: 7.5" x 4.8" x 0.335"
  • Weight: 8.7 ounces
  • Storage: 4 GB internal (3,500 books)
  • Free 3G wireless (Global wireless coverage is available in 100 countries and territories)
  • Built-in Wi-Fi (free Wi-Fi access at AT&T hotspots)
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • Battery: 3.7V, 1750mAh (6.5Wh) Li-ion
  • Battery life: One month with wireless off / Up to 10 days with wireless on
  • Content formats supported: Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, Audible (Audible Enhanced (AA, AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.
  • Native PDF support
  • Text-to-Speech available
  • Portrait and Landscape Views available
  • Whispernet personal document service
  • WebKit-based browser
  • Ability to transfer MP3 files
  • Available colors: Graphite, White
  • Inside the box: Kindle, product documentation, Kindle power adapter, USB 2.0 cable (connects to the Kindle power adapter or to a computer)
  • Price: $189
  • Warranty: 1-year limited warranty and service (optional 2-year extended warranty for U.S. customers sold separately)
  • Photos: TechRepublic's Amazon Kindle Graphite (3G+Wi-Fi) 2010 Teardown gallery

What I like

  • Size: This e-reader is extremely thin and lightweight, so it would be convenient to carry all the time and especially when you travel.
  • Display: It is very easy to read the text, especially because you can adjust the text size, font, the number of words that appear on a line, page turn speed, and more. I also like that you don't see smudges on the screen, which is an annoyance with the iPad.
  • Wi-Fi and 3G capabilities: These features are definitely nice to have.
  • Battery life: According to Amazon, the battery life is one month with wireless off and up to 10 days with wireless continuously on. This is a huge selling point for me.
  • Number of available titles: There are more than 725,000 books, as well as audiobooks, periodicals, and blogs, available for the Kindle in the United States. (Content availability varies by country.)
  • Can add new titles from the device: When I reviewed the Sony PRS-600 Reader Touch Edition last year, I didn't like that I couldn't add titles directly from the e-reader; it was a pleasant change to be able to search and buy from the Amazon Kindle Store directly from the Kindle. It was also a simple one click to cancel an order, which you can do on the device.
  • Reviews, recommendations, and samples: Three features that I like on Amazon -- reviews, people who purchased this item also purchased xyz, and the ability to read text excerpts -- are available on this Kindle.
  • Ability to add MP3 files: Unfortunately, I now have a lot of trouble concentrating when there is background noise, so I usually listen to some type of white noise when I want to focus. The ability to load MP3 files of my brown and red noise is a welcome feature.
  • Search capabilities: I think this is a pretty standard feature for e-readers, but I like being able to search within a book, especially when I'm trying to keep lots of characters or places straight in my mind.
  • Built-in dictionaries: Another standard feature, but it's still worth mentioning because it's so useful.
  • Price: Although $189 isn't exactly inexpensive, it does seem affordable, especially if you or the gift's recipient buys a lot of books. And even though I tend to be frugal, I think the extra $50 is worth it for the 3G version.

What I don't like

  • Learning curve: This is the first Kindle I've used, and there were a number of times that I felt pretty frustrated because I was trying to figure out how to do something, and almost every time, I ended up at a dead end. I suspect that I would figure out or maybe not care about some of these minor quirks over time, but it wasn't an outstanding user experience. I expected this e-reader to be more intuitive. I think this could be a significant drawback if you are considering buying this e-reader for a non-geek who isn't familiar with technology.
  • Narrow Results by Category: On the Kindle, you cannot narrow your search results as much as you can on For instance, I wanted to search for free ebooks from the Kindle, but I was never able to figure out how to do it or determine if it was possible. I opted to go to the Kindle Store using my computer to add free ebooks to the device.
  • Search problems: I had trouble searching within in a category. For instance, I searched for the CBS Interactive brand Chow in Blogs, and search returned all results for the word chow. Also, some of the search results were head scratchers (for instance, Jane Austen was the first result under Humor).
  • Available titles is somewhat limited: I think I've become spoiled by the ability to find almost anything you're searching for on the Internet because I was surprised when not all titles would be available under an author's name. This is a relatively minor complaint considering the breadth of content that is available for download, but it is one to be aware of if you decide that you're going to read all of the works by a certain author on your next trip.
  • MP3 file quirks: I wasn't able to pause a playing MP3 file by pressing the space bar as indicated on the device. I also wasn't able to add an MPR file to My Collections.
  • Didn't receive PDF via email: I emailed a PDF file to my Kindle email address, and I never received the email. I set the maximum amount that I would pay to receive a PDF at $0.00, so this is probably why I didn't receive the PDF, but it would have nice to have received an email explaining that was the case. I was left wondering why I didn't receive the PDF.
  • Cannot add all titles to Kindle wish list: This is a minor complaint.

Geek bottom line

Despite the fact that I discovered a number of minor (but frustrating) issues when I tested the Amazon Kindle Graphite 3G + Wi-Fi 2010, overall, I am still pleased with its capabilities and features. Plus, I feel certain that some of the issues I encountered might be new user errors that would resolve if I used the device for a longer period of time.

This is a quality device that you could feel good about purchasing as a gift. If the price seems a bit steep, you might consider the Wi-Fi 6" Kindle for $139. Before buying this e-reader for one of your favorite geeks, you might try to find out what other portable devices they carry that might serve this same purpose. Or, you might just decide that you deserve a gift for being a very good geek this year.

Geek gift score (out of 5)

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

Want more reviews of tech gadgets and gizmos? Download the PDF of TechRepublic's Geek Gift Guide 2010.