Kindle Voyage Impressions

I’ve had my Kindle for several years now, and I love it. A Kindle doesn’t just let you read in peace, it makes you read in peace – no push notifications, no task switching, no desktop cluttered with windows – just words on a page.

It’s hard to read in the dark, though– mine requires a case with a little pop-out light that’s uneven and glaring. I was really excited by the Paperwhite, but having to touch the screen to turn pages seemed weird to me. I really liked the two little page-turn buttons, and was sad when they went away with the new touchscreen models.

When Amazon announced the Kindle Voyage, it seemed to have pretty much everything I was waiting for: a backlit screen and screen-side buttons. I put in my pre-order the day it came out, and eagerly waited.

So how is it?

The body is thin and light, and the screen is bright and clear. Text looks great, sometimes better than on actual paper, and it’s easy to hold in one hand. That said, the old ones looked great as well, and old to new, it’s a smaller difference (at least to me) than a retina vs. non-retina screen on a mac.

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The backlight is the killer feature, though, and you can dim it down really low for reading at night.

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Full brightness, vs. Kindle 4

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Half brightness.

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Versus the lighted Kindle 5 case.

I’ve been using it to read before bed most nights, and it gets dim enough that it doesn’t seem to strain my eyes. The jury seems out on whether the blue light of the display actually hurts melatonin production, but anecdotally it seems to not be a problem compared with, say, a computer screen.

Supposedly it’s also faster, thinner, and lighter, but I don’t really notice any of that. Kindles have been comfortable to use in one hand since they first came out, and there aren’t any apps on it to take advantage of extra power.

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I’m also neutral on the “PagePress” buttons. It’s a little odd to switch mindsets from touching the screen, where the tiniest touch registers input, to the PagePress strip, which requires physical pressure. They’re also harder to find by feel than actual buttons, and I got a bunch of mis-registered turns at first.

Most of the blogs seem to love the thing, though they note it’s kind of expensive (~$200) compared to everything else on the market. With laptops, tablets, and phones running 2-3x as much, the price feels fair for the fit, finish, and focus. Whether it’s worth the extra $80 over the Paperwhite comes down to how much you care about buttons and a little extra resolution.

In the end, coming from the 2011 model, the Voyage feels like a significant upgrade. Last night at 11pm, I turned off the laptop and phone, climbed into bed, read Black Wine, and got a great night’s sleep.

Kindle Voyage, $199 at Amazon.