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.com, 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.com, 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.

24 thoughts on “Review: Kindle Voyage Is a Nearly Perfect Ebook Reader

  1. “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)”

    I concur with the vast majority of tech bloggers I regularly read in thinking Kindles are most definitely not getting better over time. I returned the Voyager, and am continuing to use the last Kindle with physical page-turn buttons.

    Unlike you, I’ve never had trouble with the contrast with the non-Paperwhite models. And, again, like the vast majority of tech bloggers I regularly read, I find the physical form factor and overall UX of the older Kindles to be far superior to the newer models.

    However, we’re all different, with different needs and tastes, and I’m glad the Voyager is such a success for you.

    • Interesting thoughts. I find the dpi of the Voyage to be a huge difference. If you’re using a pre-Paperwhite, I think the dpi is 167; do you find that good enough? Do you use large fonts or small?

    • My main e reader now is a Nook HD, purchased mainly for the backlit feature, allowing me to read in bed without additional illumination. At the time of purchase Barnes & Noble didn’t have in place many of their current restrictions on downloading and side-loading of content. And as an Android device it, or at least the HD, are totally incompatible with Macs. B&N has discontinued or abandoned their PC and Mac apps, and Android Transfer for me turned out to be a colossal waste of time.

      The experience with reading outdoors on a sunny day are similar to yours and the idevices; way too much glare.

      Having read the mostly favorable reviews of the latest Paperwhites I became more and more curious. They seem to be able to play as nicely with Windows boxes as well as OS X. As a Calibre user I routinely convert rtf’s into epubs to read on the HD. The Take Control of series thankfully offers mobi as a download option, and being Amazon Prime member is a plus.

      I’ve had the 119USD Paperwhite version in my shopping cart for a while. It will be a From-me-to-me Christmas present. As one who lives on a fixed income I couldn’t justify the expense of the Voyager. Now, if it offered a color display….

      Different strokes, right Kirk?

      • Indeed. I don’t see the need of a color display, though for Take Control books that would be a plus. I only read text on Kindles myself.

        I think the Nook is on its last legs.

        As for Kindles, do you know that you get an email address, so you can email yourself books and documents? It’s even easier than side-loading by connecting the device and copying files (unless you want to move a lot of files at once).

        • I wasn’t aware of the sideloading via email route, Kirk. Terrific bonus!

          Yes, I was thinking of the Take Control of title covers in particular when mentioning the color option wish.

          One huge drawback (for me at least, anyway) in ereading has been graphics and in particular maps. For me on the Nook HD there is no way to expand or zoom in on them to make them easier to read and view, and with historical non-fiction titles the use of maps is integral.

  2. “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)”

    I concur with the vast majority of tech bloggers I regularly read in thinking Kindles are most definitely not getting better over time. I returned the Voyager, and am continuing to use the last Kindle with physical page-turn buttons.

    Unlike you, I’ve never had trouble with the contrast with the non-Paperwhite models. And, again, like the vast majority of tech bloggers I regularly read, I find the physical form factor and overall UX of the older Kindles to be far superior to the newer models.

    However, we’re all different, with different needs and tastes, and I’m glad the Voyager is such a success for you.

    • Interesting thoughts. I find the dpi of the Voyage to be a huge difference. If you’re using a pre-Paperwhite, I think the dpi is 167; do you find that good enough? Do you use large fonts or small?

    • My main e reader now is a Nook HD, purchased mainly for the backlit feature, allowing me to read in bed without additional illumination. At the time of purchase Barnes & Noble didn’t have in place many of their current restrictions on downloading and side-loading of content. And as an Android device it, or at least the HD, are totally incompatible with Macs. B&N has discontinued or abandoned their PC and Mac apps, and Android Transfer for me turned out to be a colossal waste of time.

      The experience with reading outdoors on a sunny day are similar to yours and the idevices; way too much glare.

      Having read the mostly favorable reviews of the latest Paperwhites I became more and more curious. They seem to be able to play as nicely with Windows boxes as well as OS X. As a Calibre user I routinely convert rtf’s into epubs to read on the HD. The Take Control of series thankfully offers mobi as a download option, and being Amazon Prime member is a plus.

      I’ve had the 119USD Paperwhite version in my shopping cart for a while. It will be a From-me-to-me Christmas present. As one who lives on a fixed income I couldn’t justify the expense of the Voyager. Now, if it offered a color display….

      Different strokes, right Kirk?

      • Indeed. I don’t see the need of a color display, though for Take Control books that would be a plus. I only read text on Kindles myself.

        I think the Nook is on its last legs.

        As for Kindles, do you know that you get an email address, so you can email yourself books and documents? It’s even easier than side-loading by connecting the device and copying files (unless you want to move a lot of files at once).

        • I wasn’t aware of the sideloading via email route, Kirk. Terrific bonus!

          Yes, I was thinking of the Take Control of title covers in particular when mentioning the color option wish.

          One huge drawback (for me at least, anyway) in ereading has been graphics and in particular maps. For me on the Nook HD there is no way to expand or zoom in on them to make them easier to read and view, and with historical non-fiction titles the use of maps is integral.

  3. It may be a better Kindle but calling it nealy perfect is far overselling it. The font choices are still terrible, the case is a wacky mess, the page-turn zones are a bit of a kludge.

    Mine went back.

    • Interesting. I think it needs more fonts, but the ones included, as I say, look a lot batter. I don’t care about the case; I wouldn’t pay for that thing, which costs about 1/4 the price of the device. And I agree that the PagePress thing may not be the best feature. But I find that it’s crisp and clear, and it’s the best Kindle I’ve had. If you found the Paperwhite to be good enough, then I can see holding on to it.

  4. It may be a better Kindle but calling it nealy perfect is far overselling it. The font choices are still terrible, the case is a wacky mess, the page-turn zones are a bit of a kludge.

    Mine went back.

    • Interesting. I think it needs more fonts, but the ones included, as I say, look a lot batter. I don’t care about the case; I wouldn’t pay for that thing, which costs about 1/4 the price of the device. And I agree that the PagePress thing may not be the best feature. But I find that it’s crisp and clear, and it’s the best Kindle I’ve had. If you found the Paperwhite to be good enough, then I can see holding on to it.

  5. “I find the dpi of the Voyage to be a huge difference. If you’re using a pre-Paperwhite, I think the dpi is 167; do you find that good enough? Do you use large fonts or small?”

    While obviously, I’d prefer a higher DPI, I don’t have reading trouble with the DPI on my Kindle. I’m blessed with good eyesight at very close range, which may make all the difference. My reading speed and comprehension approaches the gold standard of the dead-tree form factor.

    As far as font size goes, I default to medium, but usually vary it either way depending on the book. Smaller sizes often work fine for me, again, depending on the book.

    ——

    My wish list for a perfect Kindle would be a cheap, non-Paperwhite model, with the build quality, the physical page-turn tabs, and the physical home / setting / back buttons of my current model. I can certainly live without a touch screen.

    The only two changes I’d prefer would be a somewhat higher DPI, but they don’t need to go crazy on that front for me.

    And the change I’d really like is a somewhat larger reading screen. I think they can somewhat increase the size of the screen without greatly increasing the all-important weight factor, or the price. (Though, personally, I’d pay substantially more for the larger screen.) I had high hopes that when they initially ditched the physical keyboard, they’d move in that direction, but no luck.

    But given the consensus that newer Kindles are getting worse, not better, I’m not holding my breath. If my current Kindle gives out, I’d buy a used-version of my current model.

    • I agree about the screen size. I find the full-sized iPad a bit too large, but I would like a Kindle about the size of the iPad mini. They said, when it’s just text, it doesn’t make that much of a difference. I have read some books on my iPhone — I don’t really like it, but if that’s all I have sometimes I use it — but I find the size of the Kindle okay.

  6. “I find the dpi of the Voyage to be a huge difference. If you’re using a pre-Paperwhite, I think the dpi is 167; do you find that good enough? Do you use large fonts or small?”

    While obviously, I’d prefer a higher DPI, I don’t have reading trouble with the DPI on my Kindle. I’m blessed with good eyesight at very close range, which may make all the difference. My reading speed and comprehension approaches the gold standard of the dead-tree form factor.

    As far as font size goes, I default to medium, but usually vary it either way depending on the book. Smaller sizes often work fine for me, again, depending on the book.

    ——

    My wish list for a perfect Kindle would be a cheap, non-Paperwhite model, with the build quality, the physical page-turn tabs, and the physical home / setting / back buttons of my current model. I can certainly live without a touch screen.

    The only two changes I’d prefer would be a somewhat higher DPI, but they don’t need to go crazy on that front for me.

    And the change I’d really like is a somewhat larger reading screen. I think they can somewhat increase the size of the screen without greatly increasing the all-important weight factor, or the price. (Though, personally, I’d pay substantially more for the larger screen.) I had high hopes that when they initially ditched the physical keyboard, they’d move in that direction, but no luck.

    But given the consensus that newer Kindles are getting worse, not better, I’m not holding my breath. If my current Kindle gives out, I’d buy a used-version of my current model.

    • I agree about the screen size. I find the full-sized iPad a bit too large, but I would like a Kindle about the size of the iPad mini. They said, when it’s just text, it doesn’t make that much of a difference. I have read some books on my iPhone — I don’t really like it, but if that’s all I have sometimes I use it — but I find the size of the Kindle okay.

  7. “I agree about the screen size. I find the full-sized iPad a bit too large, but I would like a Kindle about the size of the iPad mini. They said, when it’s just text, it doesn’t make that much of a difference.”

    I’m of the opinion that a somewhat larger screen would increase reading speed and comprehension, up to the point that it could start to really match the dead-tree form factor. And all I’m concerned about is text. When I buy a book where I’m concerned with non-text, I buy dead-tree.

    I’d be happy with something even a couple of notches smaller than the iPad Mini, since I think weight and ease of holding is a big deal for heavy reading.

    “I have read some books on my iPhone — I don’t really like it, but if that’s all I have sometimes I use it”

    Beyond not liking it, I’d strongly bet that your reading speed and/or comprehension falls off a cliff on such a device, should you measure it…

  8. “I agree about the screen size. I find the full-sized iPad a bit too large, but I would like a Kindle about the size of the iPad mini. They said, when it’s just text, it doesn’t make that much of a difference.”

    I’m of the opinion that a somewhat larger screen would increase reading speed and comprehension, up to the point that it could start to really match the dead-tree form factor. And all I’m concerned about is text. When I buy a book where I’m concerned with non-text, I buy dead-tree.

    I’d be happy with something even a couple of notches smaller than the iPad Mini, since I think weight and ease of holding is a big deal for heavy reading.

    “I have read some books on my iPhone — I don’t really like it, but if that’s all I have sometimes I use it”

    Beyond not liking it, I’d strongly bet that your reading speed and/or comprehension falls off a cliff on such a device, should you measure it…

  9. Thanks so much for this review. I am getting one for Christmas (already ordered and shipped just waiting on Christmas). I wish I would have read your review sooner because I did spring the $50 (shipping and handling included), but would not have spent that if I had read the review sooner). I am glad it was worth the $200 that was spent on it. I love reading and don’t like using Kindle Fire cause of all the distractions it causes. Happy reading!

  10. Thanks so much for this review. I am getting one for Christmas (already ordered and shipped just waiting on Christmas). I wish I would have read your review sooner because I did spring the $50 (shipping and handling included), but would not have spent that if I had read the review sooner). I am glad it was worth the $200 that was spent on it. I love reading and don’t like using Kindle Fire cause of all the distractions it causes. Happy reading!

  11. I LOVED my Kindle Keyboard. It was just perfect! A solidly built Kindle! Overtime I’m sure the buttons wear out. Mine was getting loose but I had it about 5 years then I accidently broke it. Otherwise I would never get the Paperwhite or Voyage.

    WHAT I HATE and it seems NO ONE dashes Amazon for it, but how it constantly reminds you that your personal documents (BOOKS) are second class! The nice footnote feature doesn’t work with MOBI books you send to Kindle. You can’t send your AZW books to Kindle you have to side load them. If you side load they punish you by not letting you see the book covers. You can’t enjoy your Kindle without being constantly reminded they don’t really like you.

    I HATE the idea that the news media eats up everything Amazon does! WOW! They added a button to the Kindle! But they don’t publish the fact that Amazon is treating our books with disdain! If more news media complained about this, it might make Amazon ease up a little on their treatment.

  12. I LOVED my Kindle Keyboard. It was just perfect! A solidly built Kindle! Overtime I’m sure the buttons wear out. Mine was getting loose but I had it about 5 years then I accidently broke it. Otherwise I would never get the Paperwhite or Voyage.

    WHAT I HATE and it seems NO ONE dashes Amazon for it, but how it constantly reminds you that your personal documents (BOOKS) are second class! The nice footnote feature doesn’t work with MOBI books you send to Kindle. You can’t send your AZW books to Kindle you have to side load them. If you side load they punish you by not letting you see the book covers. You can’t enjoy your Kindle without being constantly reminded they don’t really like you.

    I HATE the idea that the news media eats up everything Amazon does! WOW! They added a button to the Kindle! But they don’t publish the fact that Amazon is treating our books with disdain! If more news media complained about this, it might make Amazon ease up a little on their treatment.

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