Which Amazon Kindle should I buy?

There are two versions of the Amazon Kindle available in the UK, known as the Kindle Wi-Fi and the Kindle Keyboard 3G. Previously these devices were essentially the design, but one offered 3G connectivity and one didn't.

However, with the recent updates to the Kindle line, the choice now incorporates different design and controls, so there is a fair amount to consider if you are looking to buy a new Kindle.

It's worth noting that in the US there are more Kindle devices which currently aren't available in the UK. We're not dealing with those devices here, only the ones you can actually buy from Amazon.co.uk.

Is the Kindle the right device for me?

Look around any commuter train and you can generally split devices into two categories: ebook readers and tablets. The two most common examples respectively are the Amazon Kindle and the Apple iPad.

The Kindle's display is E-Ink that offers great contrast and minimal power consumption. The battery will last you weeks rather than hours and you can see it perfectly in bright conditions, be that on the beach, by the pool or next to the window on a train.

The Kindle isn't the only ebook reader out there, Sony is the most notable rival, but the likes of BeBook, Samsung and others have their own too. The thing that sets the Kindle apart from other ebook readers is the tie-in to Amazon.

If the Amazon Kindle store contains the titles you want, it is typically the most affordable place to buy ebooks, offers simplicity and, thanks to apps for PC, Mac, Android, BlackBerry, iPhone and iPad, you can access your books pretty much anywhere with syncing across devices.

The limitation of the Kindle is that you can't use other formats of ebook: if you buy an EPUB from the Waterstones or WHSmith website you won't be able to read it on your Kindle. Likewise, you can't use your AZW Amazon files on your Sony Reader. 

Finally a word on libraries. In the US, a company called OverDrive has made it possible to borrow books on the Kindle from public libraries, so they are effectively free. Currently only Sony Reader devices offer this compatibility in the UK. We expect this facility to come to the Amazon Kindle in the future, but so far there hasn't been a confirmation of this. 

How do the Kindle Wi-Fi and Kindle Keyboard 3G differ?

The clue is in the name, but it goes a little further. The Kindle Wi-Fi is smaller and lighter and doesn't offer a physical keyboard. It measures 166 x 114 x 8.7mm and weighs 170g, probably about as much as your phone. You get 2GB internal memory, enough for about 1400 books. It costs only £89.

It only offers Wi-Fi which can connect to your home network or any friendly network you can find whilst out and about.

You can read our review of the Amazon Kindle here.

The Kindle Keyboard 3G on the other hand is larger, measuring 190 x 123 x 8.5mm and weighing a more meaty 247g, giving you 3GB of usable memory, around 2100 books. The Kindle Keyboard 3G has a headphone jack, so supports MP3 playback too.

Importantly it comes with that 3G connection, which means you can be hooked into the mobile phone network, with support in over 100 countries. The key point is that you don’t have to pay for this connection - it is included in the £149 cost of the device.

You can read our review of the Amazon Kindle Keyboard 3G here.

Finally you have control. The user interface is essentially the same. It's basic, but it does the job. As you'll spend most of the time reading rather than playing with the menus, we don't care that it's almost entirely text based. 

Then you come to that keyboard. The buttons account for the extra size of the Kindle Keyboard 3G. In reality this makes text entry much faster, because on the Kindle Wi-Fi you have to use the onscreen keyboard and navigate to each letter to spell out a word.

Actual device navigation speed is comparable on both devices, as is access to the Kindle Storefront within a couple of button presses. But once you arrive there, the Keyboard has a distinct advantage in speed again, but the Kindle Wi-Fi returns results as you enter letters, so can be faster at times. 

What do those different connections mean?

Most people now have a Wi-Fi connection at home, but once you hit the road, finding Wi-Fi can be a little more difficult. If you have an Android phone, or a Mi-Fi, you can easily connect your Kindle to a mobile hotspot if you need to. 

The Kindle Keyboard 3G on the other hand will work in many places globally, across Europe and the US, Australia, New Zealand, parts of South America, parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia all over the mobile phone network. If you're going on extended travels and want access to content on the move, then it's certainly the better option, especially as it also contains Wi-Fi for when you do find a friendly network.

The other factor to consider is newspapers or magazines. A wide range of subscription material is available on the Kindle and although both devices can access it, if you want to be able to access your copy of The Times when on the road, then the 3G might be the better choice for you. If you rarely step out of your routine, or you're only really interested in reading the latest best seller, then the Wi-Fi should suffice.

Which device would we choose?

It has to be said that having lived with both versions of the Kindle, we'd take the Kindle Wi-Fi every time. The most compelling factor for us is the size and weight. It is light enough to slip into an inside suit pocket, or outer pocket of a bag and barely notice it is there.

The screens are virtually identical when it actually comes to reading and things like page turning isn't noticeably different in speed. The contrast on both devices is very good and general navigation is practically the same.

Although we can appreciate the extra speed that having a keyboard can offer, the onscreen keyboard is fast enough for us, especially as we only go shopping for books every couple of weeks. If you regularly find yourself sitting in foreign airports, bored, then the 3G version will probably suit you better.

Which Amazon Kindle did you choose? Let us know in the comments below...



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