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Amazon has launched its new range of Kindles, but, to our dismay, the spiffing Touch version hasn't been made available to Australia, and we entertain doubts that it ever will. What was made available is the budget model: a Wi-Fi-only e-reader sans touchscreen and audio options.
Of all the Kindles that have passed through our hands, we have to say that this is the handsomest. It's smooth, metallic graphite with a smooth and lustrous front and curved matte back. Buttons are kept minimal — a five-way D-pad on the middle front of the bottom panel, flanked by two small buttons on either side — Return and On-screen keyboard to the left, and Menu and Home to the right. More on that keyboard in a bit.
On either side of the device are two long, discreet buttons flush with the edge for page turning, so that it's equally comfortable in the left or right hand.
Ports are kept to a minimum, too; there's only one micro-USB port for charging on the bottom edge of the device, along with a power button and a charge/power indicator light. Overall, this minimalism speaks of the device's raison d'être — that is, it is a budget, bare-bones reader that does its job and nothing else.
It's also thanks to these design changes that the new Kindle is the smallest and lightest Kindle yet; it's only 166x114x8.7mm and 170g, compared to the older Kindle, which was 190x123x8.51mm and 241g. We suspect that this is mostly due to the removal of the keyboard.
As such, the Kindle is relatively light on some of the features that we are growing to expect from e-readers. Kindles have never had expandable memory, so the absence of a memory card slot is no surprise; but the lack of audio, we have to confess, is. This is not because we feel pouty that we can't listen to Handel's Messiah on the bus out of tiny, tinny speakers — it's because it makes the new Kindle all but useless to the people who would have purchased one for Amazon's text-to-speech-enabled books. Because none of the Kindle apps have TTS, either, it's a pretty poor showing that the new option with audio isn't available in Australia.
We should note at this point that the older Kindle — or the Kindle Keyboard — is still available for purchase, so all is not entirely lost.
What it does include is dictionary support, annotations, bookmarks, custom fonts and font resizing and on-board Wi-Fi — and even a web browser. Overall, for its price, we'd say that it's pretty great, actually.