Amazon has been making e-readers since 2007 and over the years they have refined their hardware technology constantly. The new Kindle Voyage might very well be the best e-reader currently on the market, due to the innovative new tech and expansive eBook ecosystem.
The Voyage is nothing but innovative and it has enhancements that are not found on any other e-readers on the market. One is the inclusion of Page Press technology, and the other is an ambient light sensor.
Today, we take a look at the Kindle Voyage, from the prospective of looking at its core technology and what makes it entirely unique.
The Amazon Kindle Voyage features a six inch e-ink Carta display with a resolution of 1430 x 1080. It has 300 PPI, which is the highest we have ever seen. In contrast, the Paperwhite 2, which this model replaces only has a resolution of 1024 X 768 and 212 PPI.
Lets look at what the competition is doing, the Kobo Aura H20, which came out a month ago has a 6.8 inch screen with the same resolution as the Voyage, but has 265 DPI. The Barnes and Noble Nook Glowlight has been on the market for most of the year, but its 1024 x 758 and 212 PPI is somewhat depressing.
One of the big design changes with the Voyage is the screen is completely flush with the bezel. All prior Kindle e-readers had a sunken screen and employed infrared touchscreen technology. The new capacitive screen is much easier to interact with and allows for more pin-point procession.
The Voyage has really refined their front-lit technology, which allows you to read in the dark. It has five LED lights on the bottom of the bezel, which projects light evenly across the screen. This is ideal for reading compared to smartphones and tablets which has the light emitting from behind the screen. The lighting system is a marginal improvement over the Paperwhite 2, but completely blows away anything that Kobo has ever done.
Amazon has really hyped the new ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts in the brightness of the screen. On paper, this sounds really cool, but it misses the mark. When reading in complete darkness, it makes the screen too dark to read properly. I often had to find myself relying on the manual settings.
Many older e-readers had physical page turn keys that protruded from the bezel and had a audible mechanical click when turning a page forward or backward. Page Press technology actually has the page turn keys flush completely with the bezel. You can turn a page and there is a small vibration that is courtesy of haptic feedback. Within the settings menu there are a number of options to tweak how hard you have to press in order to turn a page, or you can remove it completely. If you are not a fan of turning pages by clicking on the bezel, you can disable Page Press completely and rely on the touchscreen to swipe pages.
In the past, all prior Kindle e-readers had a power button on the bottom of the chassis, right next to the MicroUSB and status indicator light. Amazon has borrowed design elements from the Kindle Fire line of tablets and implemented a sweet rounded button that is easily accessible when holding the e-reader normally. When I first noticed it and turned it onto standby mode, it was one of the those moments when I said to myself “man this is so intuitive, why din’t they do this all along?”
The back of the Kindle Voyage is not 100% plastic or rubber anymore, but uses a new hybrid magnesium alloy. This not only makes the e-reader lighter than previous iterations, but prevents scuffs and fingerprints when taking it in and out of your bag on a daily basis. I really like the angular aspects of the design, which again, is much akin to the Kindle Fire.
Underneath the hood of the Voyage is a 1 GHZ single core processor, 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of internal storage. Battery life should last around a month, and if you don’t use it much, standby should easily last you six months.
On paper, the Voyage has super high DPI and crazy resolution, but how does it play out in real world conditions? During the last few days we have been putting the Voyage head to head against the Kindle Basic Touch, Kobo Aura H2O and Paperwhite 2. We tested the Glowlight, eBooks, and PDF files. The new Voyage really stands out in the crowd by having more clarity on the screen and the fonts really do look better.
The Amazon Kindle Voyage borrows heavy design elements on the software front from the Kindle Basic Touch and second generation Kindle Paperwhite. You have the main navigation bar which allows you to quickly access the Kindle Store, search for books or access social media website GoodReads.
Amazon has promised new features such as Kindle Family Sharing, which allows you to share the same purchased content accross all other Amazon tablets and reading apps in a few months. They also will be introducing another new feature upon opening a new book will tell you who the author is and other books they have written. You also will be able to establish the book as “currently being read” on GoodReads. Ironically, the new Kindle HD6, HD7 and HDX 8.9 all have “currently reading” out of the box.
What I can say about the software that it is really polished. Its easier to interact with all of the menu and settings features due to the screen being flush with the bezel. It basically feels like you are interacting with a smartphone in terms of performance. This fact is really evident when you are typing notes or entering your WIFI password with the keyboard. In the past, many e-readers had a noticeable delay between when you hit a key, to when it actually projected the character on the display. e-Ink Carta really addresses this shortcoming and doing anything touchscreen related on the Voyage is pure bliss.
Amazon has really simplified the entire reading experience on the Kindle. It is really easy to adjust the font type and font size by clicking on the top half of the e-reader. There are six options, and the rare book will have a seventh, which is the publisher default. Changing the margins and line spaces is also a walk in the park, I like the fact Amazon does not make the adjusting of the core e-reading experience complicated or advanced. It provides enough customization options to appeal to the average user, but isn’t a barrier to the non-tech-savvy.
The high PPI and resolution are really evident when you are reading a standard eBook or anything that involves heavy imagery, such as Manga or digital newspapers. The text just pops, its hard to quantify exactly how, but there is no pixelation, even when you crank up the font size to maximum. Its times like this, that I wish I knew someone with a quantum microscope to really dive deep into the matter. All I can say, is its a step up from the Paperwhite 2.
Amazon has really refined their entire PDF rendering engine in 2014. I remember when the Paperwhite 2 first came out, the page turn rates would be really slow and files over 100 MB would simply crash. Engineers released a series of firmware updates that solved this problem.
When you read a PDF file, you get a small preview pane on the upper left hand corner, which helps orient you on where exactly in the document you are. If you have zoomed in to a very high degree and feel lost, this feature lends the assist.
Pinching and zooming PDF files has never felt as robust as it does now. The capacitive touchscreen makes this possible and images look great. One feature many people aren’t aware of, is when you click on the top center to access the settings menu. Normally when reading an eBook, this brings you to the font option screen. On the Kindle Voyage you can increase or decrease the level of darkness or brightness in a document. So if you notice things become very dark or shady in an image, and it becomes hard to discern exactly what it is, like things getting lost in the shadows, you can adjust this. Kindle is the only e-reader to include this type of tech, which makes it stand out in a crowd.
The Kindle Voyage is a priemium e-reader with a high cost. It retails for $199 right out of the gates, but is comparable to the Kobo Aura H2O which hit the market at $179.99. I remember a time when basic e-readers cost $349 for a six inch model, so the price tag is not really a barrier.
If you have an older model Kindle should you upgrade to the Voyage? Well, it depends. If you have the an older model with a physical keyboard or a Kindle Basic 2013, the answer is yes. If you bought the Paperwhite 2 in the last year, the Voyage on a fundamental level is an incremental update, with a few new bells and whistles.
Screen is Flush with Bezel, much like the Kobo Aura
High PPI and resolution
Front-lit display is the best in class
Responsive touchscreen display
Page Press feels like a gimmick
Wish it had audio
Costs more than most other six inch e-readers on the market
Rating – 9.5/10
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.