When it comes to ebook readers, the Amazon Kindle is the most prominent name that comes to mind. Amazon already has the mid-range Kindle Paperwhite and the entry-level Kindle (2014) and has just released a higher resolution variant of its already awesome Kindle Paperwhite. With the Kindle Voyage, Amazon is attempting something different. While it still remains an e-reader, Amazon has added some flourishes for which it is demanding a very high price, at least by e-reader standards. Let us have a look at the Voyage and see if it is worth the value proposition.
Build and Design: 8/10
Kindle Voyage is visually different when compared to the Kindle Paperwhite or the entry level Kindle in many ways. In the sense that it has a design which resembles the Kindle Fire tablets more than the Kindle e-readers. For starters, it measures just 7.6mm on the sides (as opposed to 9.1mm on the Paperwhite) and in terms of height it is smaller than the Paperwhite as well. Along the edges, barring the micro USB charging / data transfer port at the base, the sides are completely clean.
The power button is located on the rear, which has an angular design, and a matte finish base with a glossy top. The power button is ergonomically placed where your index finger would rest if you are holding in your right hand. The Kindle Voyage offers a good grip and also weighs lighter than the Paperwhite.
The front of the Kindle Voyage has a 6-inch e-ink display with edge-to-edge glass, and relatively thinner bezels than the Kindle Paperwhite. Also the surface of the glass is much smoother and does not have that matte feel that you had with the Kindle Paperwhite. Although this gives the Voyage a very tablet-like feel and takes away from the paper-like feel of the Paperwhite’s e-ink surface, which we actually liked.
The review unit of the Kindle Voyage came with a cover, which will need to be bought separately. The one we got, called the Origami leather cover, comes in red leather and the rear side of the cover mimics the rear side of the Voyage with provision for the power button as well. The front-portion of the magnetic cover is divided in the centre in a way that lets you dock the Voyage vertically.
One of the major selling points of the Kindle Voyage is its high resolution display. At a 300ppi pixel density and a 1072 x 1448 pixel resolution, the Voyage was the highest resolution e-reader out there, till Amazon released the brand new Kindle Paperwhite with the pixel density. The front-light on the Kindle Voyage is slightly brighter than the Kindle Paperwhite. The Voyage offers an auto-brightness option which basically employs a sensor on board the Voyage to adjust the brightness levels based on your ambient light surroundings.
Another impressive feature which makes the Voyage stand apart from previous Kindle models is the page turn method. You can still press the edges of the screen to flip pages just like you could with the Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle, but the Voyage adds in another mechanism as well. On the sides you will notice a distinct line and a dot above it – these are pressure-sensitive page turn areas. You can adjust the amount of pressure needed to turn pages from the settings. The line lets you move forward whereas the dot is meant to go backwards. This is quite helpful in going back and forth in a single handed mode of operation.
On the software front, nothing much has changed from what we had seen on the Kindle Paperwhite. You get the same top band with options such as Home, Back, Light, Shopping, Search, GoodReads and Settings menus. It offers 4GB of storage which is good enough to store thousands of ebooks. It has a robust file format support including ePub, Kindle Format 8 (AZW3), Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.
Things such as Time to Read, which lets you know your current position in the book and how long you will take to finish it, based on your reading speed are quite handy as well. Vocabulary builder lets you test your vocabulary, by arranging the words you marked to look up, by using flash card like training technique. The X-Ray feature allows you to do a deep-dive on a character or a place in the book and you can also find out areas where that particular character or place has appeared in the book. It resembles a horizontal bar code on the bottom edge of the screen. It will be applicable only on books which support it.
Navigation is quite simple and if you have used the older Paperwhite, you will be right at home. The Home button brings you to the home screen where you can arrange the books either by cover design or in a list form. The settings menu is contextual, and it will throw up different options depending on which menu you are currently in. All in all, once you turn on the Kindle Voyage, the user experience is similar to what you may have already experienced with older Kindle Paperwhite.
Kindle Voyage is fast whether it comes to page flips or browsing through your library. Ghosting is minimal when flipping pages, and is prominent only when you are using the Experimental browser. The touch response is smooth and we did not notice a lag while flipping pages.
The 300ppi pixel density really gives a good output. When placed beside the Kindle Paperwhite 2nd gen with 212ppi pixel density, one can easily notice the difference when it comes to small fonts. The Paperwhite shows more dithering as compared to the Voyage as seen in the image above - the top sample is from the Kindle Paperwhite and the lower one is from Voyage. With Serrif fonts the dithering is particularly noticeable. But with increased font size, the dithering is under control as seen below. Also on maximum brightness settings, you will notice that the Voyage has a higher brightness level than the Paperwhite. The overall colour tone is biased towards the cooler side on the Voyage as opposed to the slightly warm output on the Paperwhite. Although in terms of speed, the page flipping on both the Voyage and the Paperwhite are pretty much at par. The auto-brightness feature is quite useful as it also helps save battery life.
Battery life has been the strong points of the Kindle ereaders. For casual readers who read 30 mins or less, the Voyage will last around a month and half on a single charge. But for heavy readers who get engrossed in books easily, an hour or two of daily reading is the bare minimum, so don't expect to go over a month on a single charge. We could manage to use the Voyage for around 10-12 days on a single charge with at least an hours worth of reading daily. This is good enough for most users. Also depending on the Wi-fi usage, brightness settings, the battery life may tend to differ. But overall, the battery life does not disappoint.
The on-board keypad is quite responsive, but as we had noticed with the Paperwhite, it is not meant for fast typing. Making small notes on highlighted text is quite useful. You can also activate Word Wise which will give the meaning of unfamiliar words in a smaller font (floating above that word) without you having to highlight it to check the meaning. While some of you may love this feature, others may find it rather distracting. This feature is present on books which support it, much like X-ray. When you open a magazine, the top menu will change, showing you the stories in a list form or a cover album form. Also, the settings menu will change contextually as well.
Verdict and Price
The Kindle Voyage has everything going for it. Excellent display, smooth response, pressure sensitive page turns, good battery life, Word Wise feature and so on. It is a foregone conclusion that this is the best e-reader out there.
But at a Rs 16,499 price point for the Wi-fi only and Rs 20,499 for the Wi-fi and 3G variant, this Kindle is surely not meant for everyone. Only hardcore reading purists with a lot of money to spare might want to opt for this. For the majority of the population though, the Kindle Paperwhite is still a good bet, and with the latest Paperwhite having the same resolution as the Kindle Voyage, we feel it gives a better value proposition than the Voyage.
The only thing that makes the Voyage stand apart now are the pressure sensitive page flip features and the thin form factor. But spending over Rs 6,000 just to get that seems like a lot. Imagine the number of ebooks you could buy with the money saved! Not to mention, with the Kindle Voyage having different dimensions, you will need to invest in separate covers as well.
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