In recent years, Amazon's mantra for its tablets and e-readers has been to build "premium products at nonpremium prices." So it surprised some people when the company went ahead and built a premium e-reader, the Kindle Voyage, for a pretty premium price. It starts at $199 in the US and £169 in the UK for the Wi-Fi version.
A step-up version with "free" 3G is also available for $269 or £229. In the US, both models require an additional $20 charge to remove the embedded ads on the home screen and lock screen (in the UK, there is no cheaper ad-supported version). The Voyage is available for preorder now, and ships the week of November 23 in the US and November 4 in the UK.
In Australia, the Voyage has just gone on sale as of May 1, 2015. Only the Wi-Fi version is available and it's going to cost you a rather large AU$299. Amazon has no current plans to bring the 3G Voyage into Australia.
The Voyage isn't a huge upgrade over the existing($119, £109 and AU$179 for the Wi-Fi version), which remains on sale with a bump from 2GB to 4GB of memory. But it's a little slimmer, measuring 7.6mm thick and weighing less than 181 grams (the Paperwhite weighs 206 grams). It also has an improved lighting system, and its higher-resolution screen is a little sharper, with better contrast.
Simply put, the Voyage is the best Kindle I've used to date. But is it worth the $80 or £60 premium over the Paperwhite?
If you're already a satisfied Paperwhite owner -- or if you only use an e-reader sparingly -- the answer is probably no. But if you're an avid everyday reader, check the yes box -- and know that you're getting the latest and greatest e-reader, bar none.
The Voyage is the first Kindle e-ink reader to feature a flush glass front and magnesium back. It uses a new 6-inch Carta E Ink HD touchscreen display, with pixel density of 300 pixels per inch (ppi). Like the Paperwhite, the Voyage uses capacitive touch technology, not the older infrared-based touch technology of the entry-level.
Its display stack uses "chemically strengthened glass" too, which Amazon says is designed to resist scratches. On top of that, Amazon says the cover glass is micro-etched to diffuse light and reduce glare, which sounds pretty high-tech. From my time using the Voyage both indoors and in direct sunlight, the micro-etching does seem to help, but that doesn't mean you won't encounter some glare.
In some ways the Voyage resembles the, which weighs 174 grams and has a flush glass front and similar specs (1GHz processor, 4GB of memory, built-in light). There's also the new $180/£140 -- a 6.8-inch waterproof e-reader that sports a Carta E Ink HD touchscreen similar to the Voyage's (in this case with 1,430x1,080-pixel resolution, at 265 ppi) and has expandable storage, too. But the Voyage is sleeker. And, of course, it has access to Amazon's extensive e-book ecosystem, while the Kobo can use "open" epub files.
Thanks to the flush-glass design, the Voyage's touchscreen is allegedly a tad more responsive than the Paperwhite's, but I didn't notice a significant difference. When you compare the screens side by side, however, you can see that the Voyage's screen is a little sharper -- it's easy to spot in book covers but is also noticeable in text, particularly small text -- and the contrast is a little better, with blacks appearing more black than dark gray.
The light at its highest setting is clearly brighter -- Amazon says 39 percent brighter -- and the screen appears whiter. Look closely and you'll also see that the light splays across the screen more uniformly, though it's still not absolutely perfect, leaving room for some small improvements in the next model.
What's also new is that the light can be set to adjust automatically based on the light in your environment. You can, as always, opt to adjust the lighting manually, but I suspect most people will just go with the automatic setting and not think about it too much. Additionally, you can enable the "Nightlight" feature, which Amazon says "gradually reduces the screen brightness over time as your eyes adjust to the darkness."