Replacing My Kindle DX

On 2013/01/03, in Uncategorized, by Greg Woods

A comparison of the Google Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD and 8.9″ HD, the Nook HD and HD+

I had high hopes for the Kindle DX. A 9.7″ screen e-reader with PDF support. Ideal for reading technical manuals. The battery life measured in weeks not hours. Readable outside with an easy on the eyes passive e-ink screen. After owning one for over a year, a summary of my thoughts are:

  • Being able to show a full page of PDF without reflowing or zooming is great
  • However…
  • I rarely read outside (blame the British summer)
  • Incredibly annoying “screensaver” is not good when you may be referring to the same page for days at a time
  • Table of Contents doesn’t work for PDFs
  • Flicking back and forth between pages is frustratingly slow

So I’ve come to the conclusion – a little later than Amazon who recently canned the Kindle DX – that a LCD screen tablet would be better for my purposes. But which one? For technical books with diagrams, tables and formatted code listings it is important to be able to view the content of PDFs as they were originally intended. So the most important qualities are the combination of screen resolution and screen size. PDFs viewed on my laptop’s 1280 x 800 16:10 ratio screen look good when I rotate the screen to portrait mode, so I’m looking for this resolution and higher. Even at this resolution, I’m not convinced that viewing a full page on a 7″ device will be comfortable without turning into landscape mode and doing a lot more scrolling. I also found whilst playing with a variety of tablets in HMV a year ago, that an (overpriced at the time) 8.9″ Samsung tablet seemed the sweet spot for size. My final criteria is price. I won’t pay £400 for a tablet, half of that is more reasonable.

How do the current crop of tablets compare to my criteria? (sorted by screen size)

Device Resolution Ratio* Screen Size Notes Price
Google Nexus 7 1280 x 800 16:10 7″ 16Gb £159
Kindle Fire HD 1280 x 800 16:10 7″ 16Gb £159
Nook HD 1440 x 900 16:10 7″ 8Gb, microSD £159
iPad Mini 1024 x 768 4:3 7.9″ 16Gb £269
Kindle Fire HD 8.9 1920 x 1200 16:10 8.9″ 16Gb £239*
Nook HD+ 1920 x 1280 3:2 8.9″ 16Gb, microSD £229
LENOVO IdeaTab A2109 1280 x 800 16:10 9″ 32Gb £199
iPad (retina) 2048 x 1536 4:3 9.7″ 16Gb £399
Google Nexus 10 2560 x 1600 16:10 10″ 16Gb £319
Microsoft Surface RT 1366 x 768 16:9 10.6″ 32Gb £399


* Aspect ratio is calculated by dividing the pixels high by pixels wide and comparing to the ratios for 16:9 (1.78), 16:10 (1.6) 4:3 (1.33). The measurable screen aspect ratio may differ if non-square pixels are used. However, for my usage of mainly reading, I am only interested in the aspect ratio in terms of pixels – where 4:3 and 16:10 are better for most books, and provide better experienceswitching between landscape and portrait than a 16:9 device, which is comically wide for these tasks.

* Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ not available in the UK (yet). Price is estimated by converting the USD price to GBP at current exchange rates, and adding VAT at 20%. This calculation is accurate for the UK released Fire HD

* Storage capacity comparisons not entirely fair, since the operating system takes a variable chunk of this.

Conclusions

For my use case, which primarily reading PDFs and web sites…

  • All except the ipad mini and Microsoft Surface meet my minimum resolution of 1280 x 800
  • However, I need to look at the iPad mini in person, preferably with some techy PDFs
  • A larger screen is better
  • Being able to run all the apps from Google Play is not important
  • Lots of customisation options is not a priority – I do not need more gadgets to tinker with
  • Low price is important
  • A 3G option would be nice, but tethering to my Windows Phone is very easy
  • microSD is nice, but lack of it is not a deal breaker
  • Although I have a Kindle DX already, most of my purchased content is fiction, which will look just fine on a new 6″ Kindle. So I have no strong vested interest in the Amazon ecosystem
  • No matter how much I like the Windows 8 UI, the screen resolution and aspect ratio make the Surface RT a non-starter, and the price is simply a joke

Winner

The Nook HD+

The Lenovo looked good on paper, but CNET slated the dull display – which is my main criteria.
So, the Nook HD+ is (currently) the winner, with the unreleased in the UK Kindle Fire HD 8.9 close behind. It has my favourite screen size, awesome resolution, reading-centric aspect ratio, and is extremely well priced. The downside? I’m tied to the Barnes and Noble ecosystem, which may not survive alongside Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft – and this will affect my ebay resale price in a year’s time.

Of course, between now and me parting with cash, we could see the UK release of the Kindle Fire HD 8.9, or who knows, maybe even a Google Nexus 9. Either of these events could sway me.

Now, does anyone want to buy a used Kindle DX?

 

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