Recently, Amazon announced several new devices to the Kindle line of products. One of the least covered was the Kindle 4, a smaller and more compact version of the traditional Kindle. This Kindle features a smaller and lighter design than any previous model, and an attractive $79 price tag. So, how does this cheaper Kindle really compare to the older models? Is there any reason to pick one of these up over the Kindle Touch, Kindle Keyboard, or Kindle Fire?
Well, for starters, the Kindle 4 is small enough to fit in your pocket. With dimensions of 6.5″ x 4.5″ x 0.34″, it is significantly smaller than even the Kindle Touch. Weighing in at 5.98 ounces, it’s also incredibly light, especially compared to the 8.5 – 8.7 ounce Kindle models of the past. After two hours of near-constant reading with the Kindle 4, I was surprised at just how much less fatigue my hands and arms felt when compared to the same time span with the older Kindle. If these smaller dimensions seem concerning, don’t worry. The Kindle 4 has the same 6″ E Ink Pearl screen that has existed since the early days, and currently resides on every Kindle with the exception of the Fire.
Size isn’t the only thing the Kindle 4 has reduced. Battery life on the Kindle 4 is also significantly lessened. Undoubtedly, this is one of the contributing factors to the smaller and lighter design. Instead of two months of battery life on a single charge (without using Wi-Fi), you should expect about a month. The Kindle DX has an expected battery life of three weeks, making it the only E Ink device in the line that has less expected battery life than Kindle 4. Kindle Fire, due to its 7″ Vibrant Color IPS display, only has about eight hours of active battery life per charge.
The Kindle 4 also lacks in storage capacity when compared to other current models. At 2 GB (1.5 GB accessible to the user), the Kindle 4 is capable of holding less than half of the reading material of one Kindle Keyboard, Kindle Touch, Kindle DX, or Kindle Fire. Granted, this still means you can expect to carry well over 1,000 books with you as you go about your day. Your books are still stored in the cloud and readily accessible, so while most pundits will harp on this issue, it’s really not that significant of a loss.
During evaluation, there was one problem I found with the Kindle 4 over the Kindle 2 I owned previously. Ghosting is definitely present on the Kindle 4. On the Kindle 1 and 2, switching between pages included a screen flash where the entire page turned black and/or white before text was added. This meant that a page turn took a little less than a second, but enough to cause some aggravation for the reader. In the Kindle 4, the screen switches from one page to another without doing this complete page flash. The result is a slightly visible ghost of text from a previous page appearing in areas where no text exists on the current page. You can flash the screen by doing a quick reset, but that process may be more annoying than the ghosting itself. I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if I hadn’t have been looking for it during evaluation.
The Kindle 4 lacks a few notable features. There is no 3G option for the Kindle 4, meaning that you’ll only be able to connect to Amazon’s cloud storage and the Kindle store via Wi-Fi. Audio is also absent, making the auto reader an absent feature as well. Because there is no tactile keyboard, entering information such as search queries and Wi-Fi logins is more of a pain. You have to use the directional keypad to navigate an alphabetic keyboard. I wish there was an option to change the keyboard to QWERTY, but sadly there isn’t one built-in.
Ads are included with the Kindle, which is another reason Amazon cites for the low price. These ads can be disabled on your Kindle 4 by making a one-time payment of $30 to Amazon through your account management menu on Amazon. If the price drop was truly due to the sponsored deals, I’m not sure why so many features were ripped out of the device, unless the smaller size and lighter weight really was the company’s primary focus in this model.
Over all, the Kindle 4 is a great device for reading on the go. Despite being the budget option in the Kindle lineup, it has a remarkable advantage of size and weight, which means a lot when reading on the road. Whether you’re reading before bed, or from 30,000 feet in the air over the Atlantic, the Kindle 4 is a solid solution for anyone seeking a simple eReader without having to bother with the eye strain of an LCD.