Review: Kindle Voyage Is a Nearly Perfect Ebook Reader

feature-beyond._CB325792767_.jpgI’ve been using Kindles since the first small model, back in the pre-touch, pre-backlit days. I never really got on with them: my eyes don’t like the lack of contrast, though I loved reading with them outdoors.

When the Kindle Paperwhite came out, I liked that device very much, and had each of the two versions. The first was okay, but the second had better backlighting and more contrast.

Now, Amazon has released the Kindle Voyage (, Amazon UK), the next-generation of the device. It’s a bit lighter than the Paperwhite, but also more expensive: at $199, that’s a big step up from the $119 Paperwhite. (The difference is less here in the UK; the Paperwhite is £109, and the Voyage £169.) It’s not clear whether many people will pay $200 for an ebook reader, but I’m pretty sure that there are enough die-hard Kindle users who will welcome the new device.

I’ve had mine for a few days now, and I can say that it’s not only the best Kindle yet (which isn’t surprising; tech devices generally get better over time), but also the first Kindle that I can truly forget about. Something about the design – the sleek, think body, and the improved 300 dpi display, makes this feel like it’s just not there when I read it.

To be honest, I’m not totally enamored of the form factor. I did like the rounded edges of the Paperwhite, and the Voyage has much squarer edges, and the back isn’t flat; it’s got five slightly angled sections, and is thickest at the top. That the back has a matte finish, with the exception of the top, which is glossy; that may be because the Wi-Fi and 3G radio antennas are behind that part of the device. On the front, the entire face is flush; there’s no more raised bezel, and I like that a lot. And the display is beautiful.

I’ve expressed my dismay at the lack of font choices on the Kindle, and I was worried that this would still be a problem on the Voyage. But with the higher-resolution display, the few available fonts look better. On the Paperwhite, the Palatino font was too thin, and Caecilia too bold. Now, both are very readable. I switch between the two: if I use a smaller font and wear my reading glasses, I use Palatino, but sometimes I like to eschew the glasses and zoom the font; in that case, the higher contrast of Caecilia is better.

One of the big new features of the Kindle Voyage is the PagePress sensors with haptic feedback. These are strips and buttons on the sides of the bezel. Press them to move forward and back a page at a time; when you do, you feel a brief vibration. There is a tall sensor to go to the next page, and a smaller one, above it, to go to the previous page. I find it odd that the sensors on each side do the same thing; I’d have expected the taller sensor on the left to go back a page. And, to be honest, I find it easier to simply touch the page to move ahead in a book; it’s more work to press the sensor. And I wonder if PagePress will have a big effect on battery life. (You can turn this feature off in the settings.)

The Kindle Voyage also has an adaptive light, which slowly changes the backlighting according to the ambient lighting when you’re reading. There is one problem with this, though: the light sensor is at the top-left of the device, and if you happen to hold the Kindle Voyage with your hand covering the sensor, it will dim the device slowly. You can turn this off, if you wish, by turning off auto-brightness.

I think the next area where the Kindle needs to improve is in the display of text itself. It needs more fonts, and even more font options; for example, for each of the available fonts, it could offer different weights: light, semi-bold, etc. Also, the Kindle really needs hyphenation. I personally don’t like having hyphenation on in general, but there are too many times when, on the Kindle, a line ends with a long space, because the next word is too long to fit. Since the Kindle seems to fail at justification in such cases, hyphenation – when needed – could be useful.

In spite of these reservations, I’ve been finding the Kindle Voyage a joy to read. The display is crisp, the fonts show up better, and it’s light and comfortable. I’ve long been a fan of the Kindle, and, while I could read on my iPad or iPhone – though not outdoors – I prefer having a reading-only device to not be distracted by notifications. The Kindle Voyage is what Amazon has done best. It’s not cheap, but if you read a lot on a Kindle, you should try it out. (, Amazon UK)

And if you need a case for your Kindle, avoid Amazon’s overpriced “Origami” case. I got this great felt sleeve, originally for the Paperwhite, but it is great for the Kindle Voyage as well.

One note regarding availability: I got my Kindle Voyage from Amazon UK, after pre-ordering it when it was announced. It currently shows as unavailable until December 16, which is quite surprising. Perhaps Amazon didn’t think there would be so much demand for a Kindle at this price. In the US, it is unavailable until December 1.

Update: I’ve had the Kindle Voyage for a week now, and I’m noticing that the battery life is a bit less than with the Paperwhite. It’s always hard to judge with a device like this, but I actually had a low battery warning last night, the first I’ve ever seen on a Kindle. It’s not that I’d forgotten to charge it; I had already charged it once after the first full charge, but I think the backlighting may use more power than the Paperwhite.