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Amazon Kindle Touch review:

Amazon Kindle Touch

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The Good Simple gestures to flick through books; improved menus; high-contrast screen.

The Bad Slow touch interface; easy to accidentally turn pages; heavier than the standard Kindle.

The Bottom Line Multi-touch makes e-reading easier than ever but a sluggish interface means the Amazon Kindle Touch isn’t cut out for speed reading.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.3 Overall

Review Sections

Amazon's newest Kindle has shed buttons like an autumn tree losing its leaves. But is the first touch-sensitive Kindle the closest thing yet to a true digital book, or just a black and white iPad wannabe?

The Amazon Kindle Touch took its time to make the leap across the pond from the US, but is now on sale in the UK, costing £109 for the Wi-Fi version or £169 for the 3G version.

Touch test

Ask anyone who shuns ebook readers why they dislike the digital devices and you'll hear a common theme: they miss the physicality of books. It's hard to let go of the cover art, the book jacket, the whisper of pages under the finger, the turning down of a corner to bookmark a spot...

Amazon Kindle Touch menu bar
There's no freshly inked paper to wistfully sniff when this delivery arrives in the post from Amazon.

The first touch-sensitive Kindle goes some way to addressing that. Instead of clicking plastic buttons, you simply tap the screen to turn a page -- or better still, swipe naturally from right to left to flick through pages. Swiping upwards shifts to the next chapter, or downwards heads back.

Amazon has clearly thought long and hard about the interface. Tap anywhere in the right or lower sides of the screen and you'll go forward a page, or tap a much smaller area to the left to go back. It's a solution that seems to work well for either right or left-handed readers. Tapping the top of the screen brings up the menu and toolbar.

Regular Kindle users will notice that the screen on the Touch has a deeper setback than previous models. This is to accommodate the infrared system that adds touch technology, without using any extra sensing layers on the screen itself.

Amazon Kindle keyboard
The soft keyboard is one of the more responsive elements of the touch interface, which can otherwise be sluggish.

Annoyingly, the touch system is not as responsive as it could be. While the virtual keyboard lets you tap away pretty quickly, menu buttons and options can be very sluggish, leaving you bashing away at the screen in frustration.

Amazon Kindle Touch screen
It's hard to see here but we think the screen on the Touch has the edge over the standard Kindle when it comes to contrast.

For all the perennial talk of a high-resolution, full-colour, full-motion video E-Ink technology 'coming soon', the Kindle Touch ships with the same monochrome 6-inch Pearl display found on all major ebook readers. Put side-by-side with the latest non-touch Kindle, the screen looks just as sharp and slightly more contrasty -- a bonus for low-light reading.

Books and reading

Those four tiny horizontal stripes below the screen aren't a speaker -- they're Amazon's homage to Apple's home button, taking you straight to the first page of the Kindle's home screen.

Amazon has made a few changes to the Kindle's dull text-only home screen layout. The menu bar has been redesigned to shrink the battery meter and add wireless and (strangely non-auto updating) clock icons.

There's also a back arrow, a cart icon to access the Amazon Kindle store, a search box and a menu button, all of which reduce the number of actual books and magazines on your home page from nine to seven.

Amazon Kindle Touch menu bar
The new menu bar has a link straight to the store, menu options and universal search.

You can flick through home screen pages with swipes only (no taps), or press and hold an item to call up a pop-up window holding search, notes and delete options. It's definitely simpler and more intuitive than previous Kindles although it does take a little getting used to.

Inside a book, just the top menu bar remains, with title, clock, Wi-Fi and power icons. The progress bar has been replaced by location numbers (or real page numbers on some titles), and a 'read' percentage.

One disappointment is that the Kindle Touch is slower to turn pages than its smaller brother; it lacks the smooth page transitions of the Kindle Fire's LCD screen.

With the Touch, you have the choice of the device refreshing the screen on each page turn, giving clearer text but a nasty black flash every time -- or only every sixth page, which offers better transitions at the cost of a little text degradation. The Touch is set to refresh every page by default; try both and see which you prefer.

Social sharing and X-Ray search

If you want to add a note or highlight to a book, or search for a definition, just press and hold a word and a menu (eventually) pops up. This is also how you share passages via Facebook and Twitter.

Amazon Kindle Touch Facebook and Twitter
Adding Facebook or Twitter details lets you share passages online.

Tap the top of the screen to get the same shop, search and menu buttons as the home screen, plus three further options at the bottom. The first controls typeface and font size; the second lets you skip straight to the start of the book, the end or points in-between; in most books, the third button is a simple Sync option to refresh your cloud purchases and progress. But on some books, this will say X-Ray instead.

This new feature aims to centralise and supercharge the contextual search functions, bringing up a list of key terms in the book along with a barcode-style image of their distribution throughout the text.

X-Ray's choice of which terms to extract seems a little random, but it actually works quite well. Tap on a character or concept to get a brief Wikipedia introduction, quotes from the text and a link out to the full Wikipedia article.

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