The Kindle 2
Everyone knew Amazon would announce a successor to its popular Kindle ebook reader. What people did not know was when. Thankfully, the time between when the Kindle 2 was announced and when it started shipping was short. Now that it has been released, it's time to put Amazon's Linux-powered book reader to the test.
Like the original, the Kindle 2 is built around an e-ink display. The dimensions of the display are the same, but every other aspect of the device is either new or modified. Instead of being shaped like a wedge, the Kindle 2 is a flat slab. Instead of a rubberized back, it has brushed aluminum. Instead of angled rectangular keys in a split keyboard configuration, it has circular keys in a rectangular grid. Instead of a scroll wheel, it has a five-way thumbstick. Instead of four shades of gray, it has 16. You get the idea.
Let's start with my favorite Kindle 2 improvement: battery life. Of all the changes, this is the one I appreciate the most. With the wireless turned on, I can use the Kindle for several days before having to charge it. With the wireless turned off, I have to charge the Kindle only two or three times a month. This is a vast improvement over the original Kindle—when I did not have the charger with me, I had to be careful never to turn on the wireless except when I wanted to purchase something or knew I had a subscription waiting for me to download. Turning on the wireless on the original Kindle is a sure way to kill your battery life.
Another improvement is that newspapers and magazines are easier to navigate on the Kindle 2. Instead of having to use the scroll wheel to select links to jump between different articles, I can move the joystick to the left or right anywhere on the page to jump between stories. Likewise, a single click takes me to the section list.
Browsing Web sites also is better on the Kindle 2. The combination of better graphics and a faster processor makes the experience tolerable. It still could be improved, sure, but it is a definite step up from the original. Web pages appear quicker and are much easier to navigate.
On the entertainment front, the Find the mines! (aka Minesweeper) game (that you can get to by pressing Alt-Shift-M) works much better on the Kindle 2. For one thing, it's actually playable, which I consider to be a requirement for games. The game works so well, I wish there were more games. Hangman, Scrabble or some other word game would be nice, for example.
Another improvement is that you now can attach notes to individual words, thanks to the five-way joystick controller. The original Kindle let you attach notes only to individual lines of text. Of course, that being said, there aren't many instances where I have wanted multiple discrete notes per line, but just in case I do, the feature is there. Unfortunately, although the original Kindle can see the multiple notes per line that I made on the Kindle 2, it can't select or edit them properly.
The power and USB ports have been combined on the Kindle 2. The included power adapter is really just a standard USB-A to micro USB-B cable with a wall adapter. The use of a micro USB end instead of the more common mini USB that the original Kindle used is a disappointment, because I can't use the same cable to connect both Kindles to my computer. A lot of manufacturers are moving to micro USB, because although the width of the plug is the same compared to mini USB, it has about half the height, which makes it easier to incorporate into thinner devices. Two years from now, I'll probably have lots of micro USB cables, because most devices will have moved to it, and it won't be a big deal. Right now, the cable that came with the Kindle 2 is my only micro USB cable, so I need to keep an eye on it. At least Amazon did not do something stupid and create its own custom connector. I also hope more manufacturers take Amazon's lead and combine both the data and power cables. Fewer cables is good, and the more devices I can charge with the exact same cable, the happier I'll be.
There is no longer a physical button for turning the Kindle's wireless on and off. This has both good and bad sides to it. For one, if you attempt to do something that needs the wireless, the Kindle 2 offers to turn the wireless on for you. On the other hand, it takes more effort to turn the wireless off now that it is not a physical switch. It takes only a couple clicks from anywhere in the Kindle 2 interface, so it's not a big deal. And, with the longer battery life, I don't need to stress as much about leaving the wireless on like I did with the original Kindle.
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