The Amazon Kindle is now synonymous with e-book readers, even though Amazon’s model was arguably not always the best example of the breed.
We’ve always admired the Sony Reader range for its better build quality and navigation as well as its welcome embrace of e-lending libraries.
With its latest offering, the Kindle Touch, reviewed here, Amazon comes closer than ever before to toppling the Sony Reader from the top of our e-book reader list. Here’s why.
Touchscreen input has become the preferred input method for many display-based gadgets and the Kindle Touch implements this well. The screen is responsive to user input and onscreen information redraws quickly, ensuring interaction is positive. It even supports pinch-to-zoom and has a handy portrait/landscape toggle option.
Tapping anywhere but the extreme top of a page lets you progress through your book. Click top right to return to the main menu, adjust the text size and adjust manual sync options. The latter checks whether you were reading the same book on another device and jumps to the last page you were on.
Our test ebook contains complex graphics and lots of links. The Amazon Kindle Touch was unfazed by the way we darted between linked web pages, forward and back through the pages and between the standard page view and zooming in to view detail. Existing Kindle owners will immediately notice the difference.
We also like the design. The subtly rubberised overlay on the rear aids grip as well as being protective. A slightly narrower frame would make the Amazon Kindle Touch easier to grip in one hand though.
Importing titles you’ve already read is straightforward. Type in your Kindle login and password and they will appear almost instantly if there’s an available Wi-Fi connection.
Purchasing books, newspaper and magazine subscriptions can be set up via Amazon 1-Click ordering. You can preview sample pages or download sample chapters of many titles. Free books on the Kindle Store are a popular search term and we downloaded several classics, with accompanying audio files. The WhisperSync background downloader delivered each tome in around three seconds.
Publications you've subscribed to await you each day. You have 4GB of internal storage to play with. You can 'share' literary finds with friends via email and Facebook. There's no library option, though.
On the 3G model (at £169, a full £60 more than this model) you can sync and update your library without having to find a convenient Wi-Fi point. On holiday, that could make a big difference. It could also be useful for casual browsing.
Navigation isn’t seamless. We got caught up in a loop in which pressing the Home button on the bottom didn’t do so and at one point we were stranded within the web browser. In general, the browser works far better than expected, though images and rich media remain a sticking point.
Audio is poor, with a small single speaker at the bottom. This feature is useful if your eyesight is poor, but the text-to-speech implementation is crude and rather rapid, although you can slow the speech.
After a full charge of the battery, it performed more in line with our expectations, with some battery drain noticeable after extensive web browsing while we dithered over book choices in the Kindle Store. Amazon says half an hour's use per day should result in the battery lasting for two weeks at a time.