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Kindle Voyage – A Review

One trick pony?
I am a confirmed e-reader, having given up paper books many, many moons ago. I love being able to carry my entire library around with me and I certainly don’t miss the smell or feel of paper. My first Kindle was a Kindle Keyboard (3rd generation), bought around about five years ago and I loved it. I moved on to tablet-based e-reading (Kindle for Android) and eventually ditched the KK altogether about a year or two ago. I have become a little dissatisfied with tablet e-reading however; my Galaxy Tab’s battery life is OK, I suppose, but any sort of intensive use drains it so that a recharge during the day becomes inconveniently necessary. The Tablet also holds many distractions and my reading rate and volume has dropped off significantly and the difficulty of reading on a tablet in full sunlight is also well documented.

So, I picked my KK up again and instantly fell back in love with the Kindle experience. I did feel the need to upgrade, however, and decided on a whim to treat myself to a new Kindle.

What’s inna box?
Not a lot. The rather lush-looking box is no larger than a medium sized paperback book and it contains a Kindle (thank goodness!) and a USB lead. There’s no charger – this is sold separately, which may be an irritation to some, but then there can’t be many people who don’t have small hordes of USB chargers clogging up their bed side table drawers these days. There’s a warranty leaflet and an instruction booklet. This latter is fairly large but, on inspection, the instructions are limited to a single full page diagram of the Kindle and a sparse page telling you how to turn it on. All the instructions are on the device itself.

You look so sexy, baby
First impressions are that the Kindle Voyage is SMALL! Oh, so very small. But it also looks very pretty. The subtly textured glass screen at the front is pretty much full width/height with almost no bezel. The reading area is slightly smaller, being the same as any other Kindle. The casing at the back is slightly sculpted and has a pleasant, somewhat rubbery, matt feel to it. The rear also sports an engraved Amazon logo and a tiny on-off nubbin. The Voyage could easily be mistaken for a small tablet and the overall effect makes my poor old KK look awfully dowdy.

Turn me on! Connect with me!
Turning the Voyage on for the first time (it came almost fully charged – yay!) initiates a bootup sequence which includes an tutorial simple enough to be (probably) unnecessary for all but the most inveterate technophobes. It’s also impossible to skip which annoyed me intensely – I wanted to get started! It then prompted me to connect to a wifi; the Kindle scanned for nearby devices and then asked for a password. If you can’t connect to a wifi at this stage you won’t be able to download any books, but it’s easy enough to connect later when you ARE in range.

I was rather surprised at this point when the Kindle announced itself as “Crookedmouth’s Xth Kindle”. I didn’t have to register or even log into my Amazon account. When you buy a Kindle from Amazon it comes already registered, which is nice.

My KK was 3G enabled which meant I didn’t need to find a wifi to connect to – I had full mobile connectivity. That was really useful at the time, but I now own two other devices (my mobile phone and my Tablet) that I can set up as mobile wifi hotpots. As a consequence I didn’t feel the need to buy the Voyage 3G this time ‘round. And to be honest, these days, the availability of free wifi signals in airports, restaurants, hospitals and pubs makes 3G capability even less attractive.

I can read you like a book
Skipping forward a little, using this to read books is… well it’s a pleasure. The Voyage’s main selling point over it’s next-in-line stablemate the Paperwhite is the resolution of the screen. Harking back to my old KK (167ppi) , the screen reso was pretty poor – rather like reading a book printed on crepe paper. I don’t know what a 212ppi Paperwhite looks like on-screen but the Voyage is lovely; crisp and clean. The Voyage is also back-lit and the screen is, therefore, also paperwhite.

The Voyage is light as a feather and sits in my hand comfortably; I can support it with a couple of fingers and turn the pages with my free fingers. Page turning is achieved by pressing the virtual buttons on either side of the reading area (they respond with a satisfyingly haptic bzzz) or by swiping the reading area as if t’were a tablet. And,I repeat, this can all be achieved one-handed leaving your other hand free to stir the béchamel sauce, steer your articulated juggernaut down the motorway or “toast” a “perp” with your Glock, yo.

I do find the reading area a little small, compared to my 8” Tab, but the 6” screen is standard for all Kindles so I can hardly complain. In any case I got used to it pretty quickly and it doesn’t bother me at all now.

The screen is subtly back-lit and it also has an adaptive feature that adjusts the back-light automatically to suit ambient conditions.

Touch me up
The Voyage is a touch-screen device and it does this rather well too. You can use this feature to swipe the pages back and forth, select text and type in notes on an on-screen keyboard. The touch screen is sensitive, but also responsive and pretty accurate.

Creature features
The Kindle Voyage has a wide range of functionality features, many of which I have yet to discover or explore. Some of these are available on Paperwhite and will be familiar to e-reader users and some will be new:

You have access to dictionary definitions of the words you are reading and, if you’re online you can call up the Wikipedia entry for the word of interest. You can also build a vocabulary list of newly learned words and the “x-ray” feature provides you with an analysis of the book that you’re reading.

The Amazon Kindle bookshop can be accessed via wifi and it is all too easy to add to your “to be read” stack. Fortunately, Amazon give you a chance to change your mind avoiding the need to repent at leisure. The bookstore is, as viewed on the Kindle itself, pretty functional looking but then this IS an e-reader, NOT a web browser. Indeed the Voyage retains the “experimental web-browser” of the 3rd generation Kindles. It works a little better on the Voyage but not much.

You can organise your library into collections and synch your library across other Kindle devices. There’s a nice touch that allows you to share your Kindle library with family members who have their own Kindle accounts. I haven’t tried this yet but it seems like a great idea.

… look, there’s a whole lot of other stuff that the Voyage does. I (and you) can take these or leave them and exploring them is, I suppose, part of the fun.

In the final analysis
The Voyage is the best of the best. The Kindle reading experience is fantastic across the range but the Voyage scores over the Paperwhite in terms of its superior screen resolution and its reduced size and weight. Whether these distinguishing marks are sufficient to persuade you to pay the mark-up is really a personal thing but I would guess that if you went for the Voyage, you’re unlikely ever to send it back to Amazon, bitterly disappointed, to exchange it for a Paperwhite.

Kindle’s underlying functionality offers an added dimension to reading: again, the Voyage takes this a step or two further on but to my mind this isn’t a sufficiently marked improvement over the capabilities of older Kindle models so it’s not something I feel the need to shout about.

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