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Hands-On: Amazon's Fourth-Gen Kindle Refresh

Kindle: $80 And Two Ounces Lighter

The fourth-gen Kindle presumably uses a more efficient processor, as Amazon is claiming faster page turns. However, we're unable to confirm the component list because the company uses aluminum shielding to minimize EMI/RFI. In lieu of part numbers, we turned to the high-speed camera (1000 FPS) test commonly used in our tablet reviews.

Overall, we don't see any change in performance. Pages turn just as quickly as they did on the Kindle Keyboard, though the display technology could be the bottleneck here. E Ink panels always take longer to refresh the screen because more time is needed to change the polarity of the microscopic capsules.

Update 10/4 (Using Firmware 4.0.1 on fourth-gen Kindle and 3.2.1 on Kindle Keyboard):The page refresh option with the new 4.0.1 firmware only applies to the ebooks bought on Amazon. With large PDFs containing OCR, every page refresh = a screen refresh like the Kindle 3rd-gen. However, even with page refresh on and an Amazon purchased ebook, the screen doesn't always refresh on every sixth turn. A page-style refresh only occurs when you're turning between pages of pure text. When there are diagrams or images, it's still a screen refresh. In terms of speed, you can see that a page refresh still occurs about as fast as a screen refresh. The only difference is that a screen refresh requires the display to go all black before rendering the next page.

The new Kindle employs a battery pack about half the size of what's found in the Kindle Keyboard. So, while you can expect naturally expect less battery life, remember that e-book readers can go without a charge much longer than tablets. It's not uncommon to go weeks without plugging the Kindle in.

The Kindle Touch is rated for the same battery life as the Keyboard model, so we're expecting the former to come with a 1750 mAh battery pack.

Kindle (Fourth-Gen) Wi-FiKindle Touch Wi-FiKindle Keyboard (Third-Gen) Wi-Fi
Battery Life: Wi-Fi OffHalf-Day of Reading1 month2 months2 months
Battery Life: Wi-Fi OnHalf-Day of Reading3 weeks6 weeks6 weeks
BatteryLi-ion Polymer 890 mAh (3.7 V)Li-ion Polymer 1420 mAh (3.7 V)Li-ion Polymer 1750 mAh (3.7 V)
Text to Speech/MP3 PlaybackNYY
User Accessible Space1.35 GiB3.21 GiB3.05 GiB
Price$79 (special offers)$109$99 (special offers)$139$99 (special offers)$139

Overall, the differences are small, but the Kindle's real draw is its low $79 price tag. That's far more attractive than Barnes & Noble’s Nook at $139.

The tablet craze makes it easy to gloss over e-book readers. But let's face it: tablets are still a luxury. Amazon's newest Kindle gets us back to basics, satisfying anyone who just needs a portable reading device capable of occasional Web browsing, backed by incredible battery life.

  • Nim Chimpsky
    "Amazon is claiming faster page turns... Overall, we don't see any change in performance." Maybe they were hoping for the placebo effect.
    Reply
  • frost_fenix
    "But let's face it: tablet are still a luxury." Should read "tablets"
    Reply
  • slicedtoad
    still using a 1st gen kindle. Kinda slow page turns and not the greatest contrast but it still reads better than a physical book (cause it's lighter).

    And e-readers shouldn't be compared to tablets, the only similarity is the physical form. e-readers allow you to read long books without straining your eyes anymore than with paper. Tablets on the other hand do a large number of things (of questionable usefulness) but reading anything more than a newspaper is hard on the eyes.
    Reply
  • CorusMaximus
    Could you guys test them against large PDF files? As a grad student that is what I would be seeing quite a bit of.
    Reply
  • acku
    CorusmaximusCould you guys test them against large PDF files? As a grad student that is what I would be seeing quite a bit of.You mean a page speed test with large PDFs?Sure, we can do that. Check back tomorrow.
    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
    Reply
  • Saulot
    To the extent that I am interested in an e-reader, it is because I don't want to do my reading on an LCD. However, it is disappointing that Amazon seems to have cheapened the display quality on this model. Probably won't be a buy for me.
    Reply
  • interfan7
    Well if Amazon claims in advertisements that it is the same 6" e-ink screen and we find out it is not, it damages Amazons' reputation in my opinion. Personaly I'm starting to feel disappointed and won't buy it.

    If TomsHardware is correct clients should know about it.
    If the touch versions cames with a screen in the same quality like the 3rd generation, then there is a chance I will buy it.

    They should have added $10-$15 for a unit and use a good panel.
    Reply
  • tipoo
    20 more dollars for much easier typing/navigation and double the battery capacity. I'm not seeing the appeal in the lowest end one, the Touch seems to be the way to go.
    Reply
  • As a matter of argument the K3 refreshes EVERY page turn whereas the K4 comes defaulted to refresh after a few page turns. That can make a big difference between displayed screens even on the same K4. To test it where it is apples to apples, you need to install FW 4.0.1 on the K4 and set the page refresh to EVERY page. Otherwise your tests are skewed and totally meaningless.
    Reply
  • dark_knight33
    Videos on the last page are kinda lame quality, particularly the ipad input lag. I'm not even sure what I'm supposed to be looking at there.

    As a Kin 3rd gen owner, I'm happy that my device is still superior, and don't feel a bit bad about the extra money spent on it. I don't know what the sweet spot price is they are trying to achieve, but $100 seems like more than a bargain for an e-reader. People that want to spend less money than that for a "book replacement", probably don't buy many books anyway. ;-)
    Reply