We review the Amazon Kindle Voyage, the latest Amazon eReader featuring a superbly crisp backlit screen and a new, ultra-thin design. But is it enough of an evolution over the Paperwhite?
Design: A comfortable Voyage
At 7.6mm and 180g, the Kindle Voyage is the thinnest and lightest Amazon eReader to date, something instantly noticeable if you’re still rocking one of the chunky old-school models, although perhaps not if you’re already on the Paperwhite. We whipped it out every day when we were stuck in the usual cramped commuter train, and clutching it for a full hour one-handed was no issue.
While the Voyage doesn’t exactly smash down design boundaries, sporting the familiar rectangular black look, it’s still an attractive piece of kit. The soft-touch back feels lovely, even if it does pick up smudges and finger guff a little too easily.
The only confusing part of the design is the page back/forwards buttons on the edges of the eReader. You’d expect that tapping the right bezel might take you forwards a page, but there are actually built-in back and forwards buttons on both edges. What you need to do is tap the line on either edge to go forwards and the dot to go backwards.
It’s a similar set-up to earlier Kindles, designed to make the Kindle Voyage easily usable whether you’re left or right handed. However, those previous models made it more obvious by using left and right arrows as symbols.
Still, it’s a minor gripe at best and the Voyage is at least flexible enough to let you flick however you like – we personally prefer swiping the screen left and right to flip through a book. The back-mounted power button will also probably result in a fair bit of fumbling at first, as you try and work out where the bloody thing is, but we found we quickly got used to it.
It’s also a slight shame that the Kindle Voyage isn’t water resistant, like the Kobo Aura H2O. Then you could get stuck into that compelling thriller whether you’re standing around in the rain or chilling in the bath.
Screen: Backlit beauty
Like the Paperwhite before it, the Kindle Voyage features a backlit screen that can be used in any conditions, even a pitch black room, so you can comfortably read at any time and in any place. That’s awesome news for horror fans, who can finally curl up under the duvet and read nasty fiction without the need for torches.
The backlight adjusts automatically to suit the environmental conditions too, so it’ll only burn fiercely when needed, if you’re in a brightly-lit room or out in the sun. Factor in the anti-reflective screen and you should rarely struggle to read, even under harsh sunlight.
The only time we had to squint a little was when we first switched off our bedside light at night. The screen immediately dims right down with auto brightness activated, while our eyes were still used to the light. Even the ‘Night Light’ feature, which is supposed to gradually reduce the display’s brightness as your eyes adjust to the dark, didn’t seem to help. Still, you can manually override at any point and it’s great that you can dim the screen to avoid irritating your bed buddy (or bed buddies, if you’re fortunate enough).
At 300 pixels-per-inch (ppi), this is one of the sharpest eReader screens in existence. It’s hard to truly appreciate that when you’re simply reading, although text is beautifully sharp even when set to the dinkiest font. Try reading some graphic novels and you’ll really see how good that screen is. Even if you stick your nose up against the screen, you’ll struggle to make out a single individual pixel.
Features: Beneath the surface
Of course, the Kindle could be made of platinum and puppy dog tears and it’d make sod all difference if the selection of ebooks was crap. Thankfully Amazon’s Kindle Store is the best ebook shop around, featuring millions of titles covering every genre, from established authors and indie writers alike.
You can jump to the Kindle Store in a heartbeat by tapping the shopping cart icon and browse the selection right there on your Voyage. You have the option to read a sample as well as customer reviews before committing your cash and any purchases are instantly downloaded to your device, making the whole experience smooth and satisfying.
We’re pleased to hear that Amazon is introducing library sharing too, so you can enjoy all of the books that a chosen partner has purchased, and vice versa. Then there’s Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited scheme, which lets you read as many books as you like from the 700,000-strong selection (as well as download audiobooks), for a monthly fee. Both very handy, since new releases tend to be horrifically expensive still (over a fiver for a digital book download is simply ridiculous, considering the author will still see very little of that cash).
The Kindle Voyage has plenty of hidden functionality too, which stays buried away until you need it. For instance, if you long-press on a word in any book, a dictionary definition will pop up, along with a Wikipedia entry if applicable. Press and drag your fingertip and you’ll highlight a body of text, which can then be copied, shared and more.
The Kindle Voyage packs 4GB of storage space, which is enough for thousands of books. So basically, you’re sorted for that fortnight in Mallorca. In addition, all of your Amazon purchases are stored in the cloud for free, so all you need to do is get connected and dive into your collection if you want something different.
There’s a standard Wi-Fi model and also a 3G model (with free 3G included) so you can download content wherever you roam, although it’s a rather steep £229. With Wi-Fi so prevalent these days, that seems a bit too much for too little return.
Kindle Voyage: Battery life
The very presence of the backlight means that the Kindle Voyage doesn’t enjoy the ridiculously long battery life of old-school Kindles, but the compromise is one we’re willing to make.
By sticking the screen on mid-brightness, we managed to read for about two hours a day for a whole week before the battery died. Keep the brightness right up and the battery will drain even faster. That means you’ll need to take your charger away with you if you’re a bookworm on a fortnight’s holiday, but at least you don’t have to constantly charge the Kindle Voyage up like a tablet.
Bear in mind that you need to manually turn on auto brightness when you first get your Kindle, as it defaults to high brightness.
Verdict: One for the old-schoolers
If you already own a Kindle Paperwhite, there’s not much reason to upgrade to the Kindle Voyage. You get a slightly sharper screen that now adapts to lighting conditions and Amazon has shaved off a bit of girth and weight, but not enough to change the experience.
However, owners of older Kindles will be more than happy with this new eReader. That crisp backlit screen is a joy for extended reading and the design is attractive and functional (if a tiny bit confusing at first), while the Kindle store is still the best ebook stash by far.