Early analysis of Amazon's Kindle DX: Overview

Amazon has launched its new large-format Kindle DX. Here's a summary of its major features.

As expected, Amazon rolled out its new large-screen e-book reader, the Kindle DX. See Caroline McCarthy's coverage of the announcement here on CNET: " Amazon's big-screen Kindle DX makes its debut ." I've spent much of the day reviewing the available information, and here are my first thoughts on the announcement.

Inevitably, the DX isn't exactly what I expected when I wrote my predictions earlier this week (" What to expect from Amazon and Apple "), but I got most of the major points right.

Kindle 2 and Kindle DX side by side
The new Kindle DX is larger than the Kindle 2 with over twice the screen resolution. Amazon.com, Inc.

Here are the basic facts:

It's 7.2" wide and 10.4" tall, just a little smaller than I expected. With so many things in our lives adapted to the size of a standard 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper, it seems to me that would have been a better target for the DX. (Internationally, A4 paper serves the same purpose at 8.3 x 11.7 inches, so perhaps 8.3 x 11.0 inches would have been a good compromise.)

The DX's monochrome E Ink display is much smaller than I was hoping for, only 9.7" diagonal. Like the original Kindle, much of the space on the front of the unit is occupied by page-turning buttons and a physical keyboard.

The screen has 1,200 x 824 pixels, about the number on the LCD of a 12" Dell Latitude E4200 laptop, so the Kindle DX's linear resolution is significantly higher than that of most notebook displays. However, it's about 10% lower than that of the 6" E Ink display on the Kindle 2 (150 dpi vs. 167 dpi).

As Amazon says, the DX's display is about 2.5 times larger than the Kindle 2's screen. But that's in square inches. In pixels, it's only 50% taller and 37% wider.

That's a key point, I think, because of the markets Amazon says the DX was developed for: newspapers and textbooks. I'll deal with these topics in two subsequent posts (" Early analysis of Amazon's Kindle DX: E-news " and " Early analysis of Amazon's Kindle DX: E-textbooks ").

The Kindle DX does have a few unique advantages over the earlier Kindles. It supports rotation, providing a landscape display mode, a feature long available on Sony's Reader. Also like the Sony Reader, the DX has PDF support. On the Reader, PDF documents support zooming to a certain point, but even when zoomed in all the way in landscape mode, illustrations in PDFs of technical books are often unreadable. I expect the same will be true of the Kindle DX.

Oddly, Amazon isn't retrofitting these features to the Kindle 2. The Kindle 2 may lack the position sensor that makes rotation automatic on the Kindle DX, but it could still allow manual rotation. PDF support should be even easier to add.

Perhaps Amazon is holding these features back from the Kindle 2 to promote sales of the DX, but if so, I think that's extremely short-sighted.

Although it isn't particularly a Kindle DX feature, I'll mention something disappointing that I came across while browsing through Amazon's Kindle pages just now. Since the Kindle was launched, users have been able to email documents in various formats such as Word, HTML, PDF, and JPEG to their Kindles to name@kindle.com, where they go through an Amazon server that converts them, if necessary, into a Kindle-friendly format and downloads them automatically to the user's Kindle.

The fee for this super-convenient conversion and download service was ten cents per document. But now, Amazon charges $0.15 per megabyte, rounded up to the next megabyte. For PDF files and image-rich Word documents that exceed a megabyte in size-- a common situation-- the cost of this convenience has tripled or worse. Fortunately, Amazon still supports the "name@free.kindle.com" method, which results in the converted documents showing up in the user's email, from where they can be manually moved to the Kindle via USB.

I'm surprised that Amazon didn't equip the DX with an improved web browser. As far as I can tell, the DX has the same browser as the Kindle 2. It's still called "experimental," at least. The screen size of the Kindle 2 (800 x 600 pixels) is a little on the small side for effective web browsing, but the Kindle DX's screen is big enough to display almost any web page, especially in landscape mode.

Now, I'll move on to the two new markets for which the Kindle DX was developed. See " Early analysis of Amazon's Kindle DX: E-news " and " Early analysis of Amazon's Kindle DX: E-textbooks ".

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About the author

    Peter N. Glaskowsky is a computer architect in Silicon Valley and a technology analyst for the Envisioneering Group. He has designed chip- and board-level products in the defense and computer industries, managed design teams, and served as editor in chief of the industry newsletter "Microprocessor Report." He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. Disclosure.

     

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