by Tony Thomas
After enjoying my Kindle 5th generation for a few years, I decided to upgrade to the new 7th generation basic Kindle. I needed a device with more memory and at only $79 with Special Offers and $99 without, it seemed to be a decent reader at an affordable price.
I went on quest to search for one locally. Staples was a no-go. They only had the previous gen models and a well-worn display. Fortunately, Best Buy was right next door. Best Buy also had a beat-up display, but alas there was a lonely 7th gen basic with no tagging or price. If I hadn't recognized it from pictures I had seen, I would have probably missed it.
Note to Amazon: You really need to improve your merchandising. Best Buy now has a Apple store, Samsung store, Windows store and Sony store. How about a Kindle store?
Anyway, I finally got it home and opened up the typically minimalist Kindle box. Inside, there was only the Kindle, a basic instruction card and a USB cable. No power adapter. That will cost you an extra $15-20 for the Amazon version.
Fortunately, I still have the charger from my old 3rd gen Kindle "keyboard" model. Reportedly, you can also charge the device in about 4 hours from your computer's USB jack.
Compared to my 5th gen, the new basic Kindle seems to be less sleek and more boxy. The beveled back breaks up the otherwise bland and utilitarian design and makes the device easy to hold. It is slightly thicker than the old version and a tad wider and longer as well. It offers a wider bezel and a bigger "chin". The design is reminiscent of the first generation Kindle Fire which leads me to believe that Quanta may be behind this build. There are no buttons other than the power button at its usual location next to the USB port at the bottom.
That's right. No buttons. This is the first basic Kindle to offer touch control. It uses an infrared (rather than capacitive) 6" touch screen featuring Pearl e-paper technology with 167 ppi resolution. It is capable of 16 levels of gray and is not back-lit. The contrast seems to be similar to that of my 5th gen and text is dark and easy to read. Photos can look a bit washed out, however.
5th gen vs. 7th gen Kindle Basic
New features include:
- Goodreads and social media integration.
- Enhanced "X-Ray" feature that allows you to see the structure of fictional works.
- Integrated vocabulary builder with flash cards.
- Kindle "FreeTime" to encourage young people to increase their reading.
Features coming soon include:
- "Family Library" to allow you to link to your spouse's account.
- "Word Wise" to allow you to read selected challenging books more easily.
- Enhanced search capabilities incorporating info from Goodreads and the Amazon site.
- "About the Book" for more detailed author and book info.
The new 7th generation Kindle basic comes with 4GB of memory--twice as much as my 5th gen--and enough to store thousands of average-sized books. In addition, as with all other Kindle devices and software, you also receive free cloud storage for your books and documents.
Using the new 7th gen is pretty easy. The only snag is that, when you hit the power button, nothing seems to happen. However, if you look closely, you will see a message at the bottom of the screen to swipe to unlock your Kindle.
Also, the infrared touch screen works much better than I expected. It is very responsive and flawless in operation. You just tap on the right to advance a page, on the left to go back a page, and on the top of the screen to view the menu and other information. I found it almost as enjoyable to use as a capacitive screen, despite its lack of multi-touch capabilities.
In addition, the device allows you to view the covers of the books or just the text of the titles. As with previous Kindles, there is an experimental web browser that is poky and awkward to use, but it may come in handy in a pinch. I guess that is why it is still experimental.
All in all, the 7th gen basic Kindle is a solid performer with long battery life (weeks, not days, in many cases), great readability and ease of use, small footprint and light weight. If you are looking for a non-backlit e-reader that can hold a library full of books, it is a great choice.
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