Amazon Kindle Voyage E-reader Review

Amazon’s Kindle Voyage ereader has been out for a while now, and my initial reaction to it was not positive. Frankly, I thought it looked hideous with the new PagePress lines and dots on each side of the bezel. It also seemed too expensive for what it had to offer compared to earlier Kindles. But I could not have been more wrong about the Kindle Voyage and I’ll tell you why in this post.

Why I bought a Kindle Voyage in the first place

Let me backtrack a little bit before I tell you why I love the Kindle Voyage. I had initially decided not to buy one, partly because I didn’t like the way it looked but also because I had fallen in love with Marvin on my iPhone.

Unfortunately, my love affair with Marvin had to be tempered because I missed reading on an e-ink screen. While there’s nothing wrong with reading on an iPhone, I found that I really needed the comfort of an e-ink screen after staring at computer screens all day. I can and still do read on my iPhone if I’m out and about and just want to grab a few quick pages, but for long reading sessions (especially at home) I prefer an e-ink screen.

I have a Paperwhite 2, but I really wanted a higher resolution screen. So I decided to give the Kindle Voyage a shot, and I’m very glad I did. The Voyage improves on some of the weak spots of the Paperwhite 2 such as the sunken-in screen, weight and size, and the power button on the bottom.

Which Kindle Voyage to buy?

kindle-voyage-300x289After deciding to get a Kindle Voyage, I had to figure out which one to buy. You can get the Voyage with 3G or with Wi-Fi only, and you can also opt to pay $20 less if you don’t mind ads being shown to you on your device. The Wi-Fi only model without ads is $219, with ads it’s $199. The 3G model with ads is $269 and without ads it’s $289.

I have no need for 3G so I opted to buy the Wi-Fi only Kindle Voyage. I had 3G on one of my earlier Kindles, but I rarely used it to download books. I usually have at least fifty or sixty books already downloaded and ready to read on my Kindles, so paying extra for the 3G version of the Kindle Voyage just didn’t make sense to me.

I also decided to pay the $20 to get rid of the special offers (ads) that come with the cheaper version of the Kindle Voyage. The “special offers” appear only as screensavers on the Kindle Voyage, you don’t actually see them while you’re reading. But I just prefer not to see ads on my ereader at all.

I was glad to find that all of the Kindle Voyage models come with 4GB of storage. But frankly, I never even got close to using all of the 2GB that my Paperwhite 2 came with when I bought it (more recent models of the Paperwhite come with 4GB). Still, it’s nice to have the extra storage if I really needed it.

And so here are the five reasons why I love my Kindle Voyage ereader.

5. Weight and size reductions

The Paperwhite 2 was significantly smaller than the Kindle 3 that I’d previously owned. But the Voyage goes even further and slices off some of the size and weight of the Paperwhite 2. Here is the weight and size information for both models:

Kindle Voyage – 6.3 ounces (180 grams) and 6.4? x 4.5? x 0.30?

(162 x 115 x 7.6 mm)

Kindle Paperwhite 7.3 ounces (206 grams) and 6.7? x 4.6? x 0.36? (169 x 117 x 9.1 mm).

So the difference between the two models isn’t huge when you look at the specs. But it is definitely noticeable when you pick up one then the other, or if you hold one in each hand. The Voyage is definitely easier and more comfortable to read with one hand or while walking around.

Yes, I like to read while walking around sometimes. I hold the Kindle Voyage and just pace back and forth. I do this because I spend a fair amount of time sitting at a computer and that’s not good for anybody’s health. So pacing while reading is just a way for me to get some movement instead of being plopped in bed, on the couch or in a chair.

It will be very interesting to see if Amazon can take the size and weight reduction even further with the next version of the Kindle Voyage. The lighter, the better as far as I’m concerned.

4. The screen is even with the bezel

On the Paperwhite 2 the screen is sunk down a bit rather than being level with the bezels. I’ve always found this to be slightly irritating. For some reason I kept noticing it from time to time while reading on the Paperwhite 2. It just looked weird to have the text seem lower than the rest of the Kindle device.

The Kindle Voyage eliminates that problem and I think it makes a significant difference since you don’t feel like the text is distorted by appearing lower than the bezels of the Kindle. I don’t know how many other people will really care about this, but for me it’s a significant improvement. I’m glad that Amazon fixed this with the Kindle Voyage.

3. Power button is round and on the back

One thing that I’ve always hated about the Kindle Paperwhite 2 is the small button on the bottom to turn it on or off. Ugh. It’s in such a bad place, and the thin rectangular shape of it makes it harder to press it to turn the Kindle on or off. It’s probably one of the least comfortable things about the Paperwhite 2 in terms of the hardware, and I’ve always thought it was a pain in the ass to deal with when I wanted to turn my Paperwhite on or off.

The Kindle Voyage now has a round button on the back to turn it on and off. It’s much easier to feel it back there and press it. I hadn’t expected it to be so much better but as with many such improvements, you don’t notice it until it’s been added to the product. Ironically, some Kindle Voyage owners have complained about the power button as they preferred it on the bottom. Go figure, I guess you can’t please everybody. But I’m certainly happier with the round button on the back of the Kindle Voyage.

2. PagePress is fantastic

Earlier in this post I mentioned that my initial reaction to the page turning haptic feedback sensors on the Kindle Voyage was very negative. This was mainly due to some screenshots of the Kindle Voyage that had the page turning sensors looking much more noticeable and brighter than the actually are on the Kindle Voyage.

So I’m happy to admit that I was totally wrong. The page turning dots and lines on the Kindle Voyage are very easy on the eyes. You hardly notice them at all when looking at your Kindle Voyage. And, frankly, I’d forgotten how nice it is to leave my fingers on the bezel and just squeeze to turn a page. It’s much faster and more comfortable than reaching over to tap the screen.

This is another way that the Kindle Voyage provides a better reading experience than my iPhone. With the iPhone you have to tap or slide your finger on the screen, and that gets old after a while. Once you get used to simply squeezing the bezel, you won’t want to bother having to tap or slide your finger across the screen like you have to do on an iOS device.

You can also easily change the PagePress settings. Go to Settings then Reading Options then PagePress. You can change the level of feedback you get when you turn a page, and you can also change the amount of pressure required to turn a page. I opted to go with the default since it seems to work well for me.

I think PagePress is one of Amazon’s best innovations on its Kindle ereaders. I can’t imagine bothering to tap the screen to go to a new page. It’s just much faster and easier to squeeze the bezel to go forward or back in a book. And the haptic feedback is noticeable but not intrusive at all, you can feel it when you press but it’s not something that would distract you while you are reading.

1. Higher resolution screen

The screen on my Paperwhite 2 is fairly easy on the eyes, but the Kindle Voyage screen is significantly better. The Paperwhite 2 offers 212 PPI and the Kindle Voyage has 300 PPI. While it might not seem like a huge difference, I noticed it immediately when I got my Kindle Voyage and opened my first book. I was shocked at how much clearer the text looked, and also at how much better the contrast was on the Voyage. Black text looks…well…blacker than it did on the Paperwhite.

You can particularly see the difference between the two Kindles if you shrink the font size way down or if you blow it way up. The text on the Voyage screen just looks sharper and never seems fuzzy whether you make it larger or smaller. I also think that the higher resolution screen can make a significant difference if you read for long periods of time. It’s just easier and more comfortable to see the text of your book.

The onion in the ointment: Kindle Voyage screen problem

One thing that I want to mention here is the problems with some of the Kindle Voyage screens. Some buyers of the Kindle Voyage reported problems with their displays. I can see that the top of my Kindle Voyage screen seems to have a slightly more yellowish tint to it than the bottom (which is whiter).

So it looks like some of the initial screen problems are continuing or I unluckily got one of the earlier models. Frankly though, I didn’t even notice it until I went into a very dark room without any other light. In regular daylight it was hard to see unless you looked for it. You have to turn the brightness up too to really notice it much.

I contacted Amazon about having it replaced. They will be shipping me a replacement model. I talked to their customer service department in a chat window, and they were quite nice about it. So while having my Kindle Voyage replaced is slightly annoying, I still love using it. The screen problem isn’t enough to put me off reading on it at all while I wait for the replacement.

Here’s a pic from the thread at Mobile Read that will give you an idea of the screen issue:

This is obviously a quality control issue for Amazon, and it’s something they should have fixed by now or avoided completely. It’s too bad that it happened in the first place as it has given an otherwise delightful product a bit of a black eye among some of Amazon’s customers. But at least Amazon’s customer service department seems to be handling the problem well by offering to replace the Kindle Voyage models that have the screen problems.

But is the Kindle Voyage worth the money?

Let’s face it, the Kindle Voyage is not a cheap ereader by any means. The Wi-Fi only model’s lowest price is $199 with ads, and then it jumps to $219 without any advertising. The 3G models cost even more. So is it really worth it to pay so much for an e-ink reader?

For me the answer is yes, and that’s because reading is one of my creature comforts. It’s something that I love to do and I want the best possible experience I can get when I do it. Reading relaxes me and gives me a chance to unwind after a busy day. I’ve always got my nose in a book, and it’s something that I look forward to each day. But your mileage may vary in that regard, and it’s something you should think about before making a buying decision.

If you are a more casual reader then the Kindle ($79) or the Kindle Paperwhite ($119) might be better choices than the Kindle Voyage. It all gets down to what your budget is and how much reading matters to you. The other two readers are also quite good and will work very well if you opt for them instead of the Voyage.

My advice is to visit Amazon’s site (I linked each model in the preceding paragraph to its page on Amazon) and check out each Kindle and then figure out what features you’ll actually want and need when you read. Buy the one that fits your budget and that does what you need it to do.

For my part, I’m glad I got the Kindle Voyage. For me it was well worth the money despite the minor issue with the screen. But don’t take my word for it, check out some of the reviews on Amazon by other folks who’ve bought the Kindle Voyage. As I write this post there are 2468 customer reviews, and the Kindle Voyage is getting an average 4.5 out of 5 star rating. That’s a very impressive achievement for an ereader, particularly one that costs as much as the Kindle Voyage.

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