Micro Fondle: Amazon Kindle DX Graphite

My final destination after micro-fondling both the Kobo Reader and the Sprint 4G HTC EVO phone was J&R, to get that damn thermal compound.

Walking into J&R, I was smacked in the face with a sign announcing one of their famous J&R Exclusives — they’re now selling the Amazon Kindle DX Graphite!

This is the latest model that has the allegedly higher-contrast Pearl eInk screen.

You know I wasn’t going to miss this. Despite the fact the eBook sales guy has seen me a lot — but has never seen me ever buy a device from him — he allowed me to give it a spin without any complaint.

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I actually saw the first-gen Kindle DX in the wild a few months ago at the ferry terminal. It’s honking big!

The new Graphite color doesn’t make it look any smaller!

And it’s heavy too. The stated weight is 18.9 ounces — and it feels it. There is no hiding it, either. Add a cover and you’re talking coverless iPad weight — but without all that iPad joy.

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Here’s a macro shot of that Pearl screen. None of today’s photos used flash — including the ones of the Kobo Reader and HTC EVO.

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Let me get the remaining two photos out of the way so I can write about using it.

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I found it very weird that it had page buttons only on the right side, especially after looking at the damned photos of the Kindle 3 too many times, which has buttons on both sides.

This was also my first encounter with the second-gen’s micro-joystick and that wee keyboard.

Was I bowled over by the new Pearl screen and was this a speed demon?

No and no.

I suppose there is an improvement to the screen contrast, but I really didn’t see anything dramatically different from the Kobo Reader. And this includes page turn flashing! This could be accounted for by two things: 1) the screen is much larger so there is more gray to see, and 2) again, the screen is much larger so there is more to refresh when changing pages. It’s very likely the smaller screen of the Kindle 3 would be faster than the DX as well as show a big improvement in contrast.

I deliberately paged forward and then backward because of something that I’d read about the new Kindle 3 and page caching (unfortunately, I can’t find the source). It mentioned that although paging forward was now faster, paging backwards was not and the user suspected Amazon was caching the next page in memory to make it all seem speedier.

Well, that was exactly what I found with the DX today. Page forward had no delay, but going backwards clearly did.

And since I can only report my personal experience, I have to say that I did not see this page backward delay at all today with the Kobo Reader. (In fact, I don’t know what the Washington Post writer means when she found menus on the Kobo to be sluggish; I didn’t.)

Since this was a micro-fondle, there is plenty I missed.

Three things, though:

1) It was possible to shop the Kindle Store with the demo unit. I searched — of course — for “Larsson” and up came his books and it was easy to highlight one to get its details. I could see the immediate allure of having a 3G-enabled eBook reader. Bang, zoom — you can buy and read!

2) The keyboard and joystick. I’m glad Amazon ditched that joystick with the new Kindle 3. It wasn’t a pleasant thing to use. As for the keyboard, damn, those letters are small! So are the keys. I guess I could get used to using it, but trying the small keyboard cold like that for few minutes wasn’t much fun. I can’t imagine anyone really doing email or Twitter on that (I think you’d have to be slightly insane to use an eInk device that way!).

3) The salesman made it a point to show me Text To Speech. The last time I heard this was back in the days of pre-System 6 Macintosh OS, so I really didn’t expect much. It was machine-like but an improvement over those days. I suppose there are people who will find this very useful, but until my own eyes give out (God forbid!), I’m a letters guy, not someone who listens to text.

As I was doing these three posts, word came in via Twitter that iRex is emerging from bankruptcy to sell its larger eInk readers at a high price to the corporate market. Why bother? That’s clearly what the Kindle DX is for.

Final observation: It’s probably just me, but I dislike dark fascias on eInk devices. They make the screen look darker to me. That’s been the case with every eInk device I’ve tried. So, if you’re out there wondering which color Kindle 3 to buy, see if you can try out a Sony Reader in silver and one in dark blue first, so you can determine if the eInk seems brighter with a lighter casing.

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