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First Look: Amazon Kindle (third generation)

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First Look: Amazon Kindle (third generation)

3:42 /

The improved screen, more compact design, and better battery life make the third-generation Kindle a very appealing e-book reader at an affordable price.

Hi, I'm David Carnoy, Executive Editor for CNET.com and I'm going to give you a quick tour of the third-generation Kindle. The first thing you should know about it is that it's more evolutionary than revolutionary. Most importantly, Amazon has made it 6-inch eReader smaller and lighter with a better screen and wi-fi phone into the mix. In fact, this kindle comes in a couple of flavors; one with both wi-fi and 3G wireless and a wi-fi only version that's $50 less. The latest models are available in this graphite color you see here or white. On top of the more compact design, some other key additions include more memory, that's 4 gigabytes instead of 2 gigabytes and double the battery life, which comes out to about 4 weeks instead of 2 weeks with the wireless turned off. Well, the Kindle offers some additional functionality beyond reading. Amazon has been careful to market it as a purpose built-reading device in order to contrast it with the multi-positive Apple iPod, which features a touchscreen LCD instead of an E-Ink screen. That E-Ink screen is both the Kindle's strength and weakness. On the upside, the latest Kindle display looks really good. When compared side by side to the older Kindle, the letters appear slightly darker and pop a little more. It's not a huge difference, but it's noticeable. E-Ink displays aren't backlit and their advantage over LCD's that they are made for reading in direct sunlight and don't get washed out. At night, however, you have to have a light source to use the Kindle, which is part of the reason why Amazon has designed an optional protective cover that includes the retracting LED light that's brilliantly designed. This little light draws power from the Kindle and tucks away into the case. The only downside is it's expensive at $59.99. We have to say we really like it. In tricking the Kindle Amazon has made some noteworthy changes, the button design; most are good, for instance, the new Page Turn buttons on each side of the device are smaller and make only a muffled clicking sound when you to press them, which is important if you're reading next to someone trying to sleep in bed next to you. The main navigation button is lower and integrated into the more tightly space keyboard with the Enter key on a computer keyboard when typically be. The only problem is we sometime end it up accidently hitting the back or menu button and we expect that users with larger fingers will have to take extra care when using the nav button. Aside from those button adjustments, very little has changed in terms of the overall experience of using the Kindle. Yes, there is now wi-fi on board, which enables you to get a faster connection for browsing the Kindle store and browsing the web using the new experimental web kit browser. Like with the Nook, the combination of wi-fi and the new browser makes for better surfing, but it still remains a somewhat sluggish less than fluid affair. All in all, we really didn't have any serious gripes as Apple tends to do with its mobile devices, Amazon has simply taking an E-reader that was already good and improved it. Those improvements aren't so great that will make owners of the second-generation Kindle or Nook feel abd about what they've already. But if you're already a Kindle fan, you're most likely be tempted upon off your older model on a friend or a family member and purchase this model. And if you're new the whole E-reader game, well, $139 or $189 may not be dirt-cheap, but it's a whole lot more reasonable than the $399 that the Kindle cost when it first came out in late 2007. At these prices, we can actually see the latest Kindle is a decent value. I'm David Carnoy and that's Amazon's third-generation Kindle eReader.

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