Kindle DX vs. iPad
If you're considering the DX, chances are you've also considered the iPad, which has a 9.7-inch screen and starts at $500 for a Wi-Fi-only version. Obviously, in terms of functionality, the Kindle DX simply can't compete with the iPad, which not only allows you to read books using your e-reader app of choice, including the Kindle or Nook apps, but it supports video playback, true (albeit Flash-less) Web surfing on a color screen, and a variety of apps that let you do everything from play games, do e-mail, read comic books, and everything in between. The iPad is also a strong PDF viewer, and there are several apps available for viewing documents and other graphic images.
The main things the DX has going in its favor are its e-ink screen and superior battery life (up to 2 weeks with wireless off). Amazon says that the display's contrast has been improved by 50 percent over the previous Kindle DX, and though we didn't think the difference was like night and day, we did think the lettering looked darker and sharper overall. It offers 16 levels of grayscale, and the flat matte screen can be viewed in direct sunlight. That's opposed to the iPad, which has a reflective LCD screen. The iPad's touch screen is invariably smudged with fingerprints, too. Unlike the Kindle, it's backlit; that's a boon for some, but many others find reading a backlit LCD screen to be tiring on the eyes for the long haul.
On a more cosmetic level, we also liked the graphite-colored border, which helps to distinguish this Kindle from the older DX. (Unlike the new 6-inch Kindle, which is available in white or graphite versions, the DX is, for now, graphite only.)
The reality is that the Kindle DX is for a very specific user who wants a large-screen e-ink display that allows you to see more text on a single page or increase the font size and still have more than three words per line (at the third largest font size, which should be plenty large for most people, you get about six or seven words per line). Its size also makes it superior to other e-ink e-readers for viewing PDF files and image-heavy textbooks (however, the textbook market and adoption rate of students for the Kindle DX has not taken off as Amazon had hoped). Newspapers and magazines also are better suited to the larger screen, but the iPad's ability to display color and its zippier touch-screen interface give it a big advantage in this department.
The Kindle DX offers a rudimentary Web browser that Amazon lists as "experimental." That's a generous assessment: except for the most basic of text Web surfing, it's not terribly useful. This may change with a future firmware update (Amazon is adding a WebKit-based browser to the new, smaller Kindle that may be ported to the DX as well), but for now, anyone who needs a more robust tablet device to access the Web should stick with the iPad.
Another unimportant but often overlooked consideration is weight. The DX tips the scales at 18.9 ounces, whereas the iPad is 22 to 23 ounces (depending if you go with the Wi-Fi or 3G versions). Add a case (likely for both devices), and they'll be even a bit heavier. Now, both are quite light compared to a laptop, but they're comparable to the heft of a 350-page hardcover book (25 ounces). If you're holding them upright during a long reading session, they could begin to become tiresome, especially compared to a magazine, paperback, or 6-inch e-book reader.
Obviously, lowering the Kindle DX's price and improving its screen are something Amazon had to do to keep the DX relevant--and we're glad it did. With a price delta between it and the entry-level iPad now standing at $120, those considering a larger, dedicated e-reader might be tempted to opt for the DX. Still, its lack of versatility (no video, limited Web browser) and Amazon's price cut to its 6-inch Kindle ($139 for Wi-Fi, $189 for Wi-Fi plus 3G), hurt some of the DX's appeal and leave as niche product. But at least the new look, and improved pricing and screen contrast give it a better chance of survival in a post-iPad world.