Kindle DX Graphite Review

My new, 2nd generation Kindle DX arrived today. I’ve had the small Kindle 2 for the past year-or-so, and I also have an iPad, but the new Kindle DX looked like the ideal platform to fill my needs. Being a computer programmer, I tend to have a lot of technical books in electronic format. Neither the Kindle 2 nor the iPad are especially adept at handling PDFs. The Kindle DX is about the same page size as a typical technical book, so I was hoping it would be the dream solution to my reading needs.

Size wise, the Kindle DX is a hair larger than the iPad:

Kindle vs iPad

The extra length is going to be a bit annoying for fitting in cases, but the two devices are about the same width. The biggest difference, which is immediately noticeable the first time you pick-up the Kindle DX, is the weight. The Kindle DX doesn’t feel much heavier than its smaller cousin, the Kindle 2, and it makes the iPad feel like a boat anchor by comparison. Here’s the Kindle DX compared to the Kindle 2:

Kindle DX vs Kindle 2

One of the big selling points of the new Kindle DX is the improved screen contrast. While it is not clear in the picture above, the text on the Kindle DX is noticeably darker than on the Kindle 2.

Since I’m really interested in how each of the platforms handles itself as a PDF or book reader, I loaded the same PDFs on each and took some pictures. The images below are from a PDF of the outstanding GroovyMag, a must-read for Groovy and Grails developers.

First, here’s the Kindle 2, showing both the full page and a close-up of the text. Note that I also link to a very-high resolution image so you can drill in and see the difference. Also, none of the photos have been retouched or corrected in any way.

Kindle 2 with PDF
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And here’s a close-up of the text on the Kindle 2:

Kindle 2 with PDF close-up
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Now here’s the Kindle DX with the same page:

Kindle DX with PDF
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And the close-up of the text on the Kindle DX:

Kindle DX PDF text
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And finally, here is the iPad rendering the same PDF side-by-side with the Kindle DX:

Kindle DX and iPad with PDF
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And the close-up of the text on the iPad:

iPad close-up
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I also have several ebooks in .mobi format for Kindle, and I loaded the same book onto both the Kindle DX and the iPad, using Amazon’s reader for the iPad. Here’s a screenshot of a page side-by-side:

Kindle DX and iPad book
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The Kindle DX fits more text on a page, if we compare using the standard font. One big difference is that I can make the fonts even smaller than this on the Kindle DX, whereas I couldn’t make them smaller with the Kindle Reader on the iPad. As my eyes have spent too many years looking at computer displays, I can’t support reading microscopic text, so the default size is perfect.

Here’s where things get interesting and you can really see the benefits of the E-Ink technology. This is a close-up of a paragraph on the iPad:

iPad text closeup
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And here is a close-up of the Kindle DX with the same text:

Kindle DX text closeup
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The differences are startling. There is no contest on text sharpness. The Kindle DX crushes the iPad. While this sharpness won’t make much of a difference checking email, there is literally a world of hurt between the two if you actually use the device to read for prolonged periods of time.

For one final comparison, lets take a look at the New York Times reader/application for both devices. The iPad “NYT Editor’s Choice” application really demonstrates what the iPad is good for. On the Kindle, for $2 a month, you can subscribe to NYT Latest News. There is a bit more content in Editor’s Choice, but there are also ads. Here is a comparison of the front page from today for each application:

Kindle DX and iPad with NYT
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Although it only has limited gray-scale abilities, the Kindle DX actually does really well with images, probably due to its ungodly resolution.

One thing I don’t like about the iPad when reading in bed is the metal edge. This bottom edge is not as rounded as it looks, and tends to dig in to my tummy. Here’s the edge on the iPad:

iPad edge

The Kindle DX has a slightly more curved, plastic edge on the bottom which makes it more comfortable for propping up when using a body part as a rest:

Kindle DX text closeup


The new Kindle DX is a phenomenal device. It handled PDFs easily, much better than the iPad. The Kindle DX can be plugged in to a USB port and mounts as a drive. You can drap-and-drop PDFs or eBooks into the document and the Kindle DX will read them. Getting PDFs on to an iPad is a major nuisance. The Kindle DX is also faster rendering the PDFs. The iPad will sometimes loose itself and you’ll get a bunch of blank pages while it is trying to sort out the layout. I’ve also had the iPad PDF viewer crash on several PDFs.

For books, there is no contest. The Kindle DX has razor-sharp text and its light weight makes it disappear while reading. With the iPad, be assured you will never forget you are holding it.

Now I know it is not fair to compare these devices, as they really are like apples and oranges. The iPad is about Distraction. If you want a device to check email, surf the web, hit Twitter and Facebook, play games and watch videos, the iPad is really the only game in tablet-town that can do it all.

The Kindle DX, on the other hand, is about Concentration. If you want a device to read books or other text, the Kindle DX is a light-year beyond the iPad in handling that task. It really is an electronic book. It is sort of like comparing a swiss army knife to good survival knife. If you need to open a can, file the nails, uncork a bottle of wine and maybe cut open something, the swiss army knife is your tool. But if your in the woods trying to build a shelter, start a fire and cut wood, the survival knife is hands-down the tool to have.

If you’re in the market for a book reader, and not an entertainment platform, the Kindle DX is the king of the hill.

12 thoughts on “Kindle DX Graphite Review”

  1. Very well written! I like the analogies that you used and they are beautiful. I ordered my kindle and waiting to receive it today. My main concern is also PDF readability and I believe that the DX will handle Head First books with no issues.
    I tried Sony Reader Touch edition few weeks back and it was a painful experience with the glare.

  2. Thanks Jay. Yes, glare is a big issue on the iPad too. The new Kindle DX has worked out awesome for about any PDF I have thrown at it. It will even render graphically intensive PDFs, albeit with slower page turns.


  3. well, I don’t know how you can read large technical pdf’s without having the table of contents activated. I have the old dx and that is the biggest disappointment to me.
    some books have like 30 chapters…how the heck do you navigate that? And I read sony has had toc active for years. poor work amazon poor….

  4. Awesome review! I was just having this discussion with myself on the drive home from work last night and my conclusions (although, speculative since I don’t own either device) were similar to yours.

    I was able to spend a day with the iPad (borrowed from a user at work) and load Instapaper, iBooks, and the Kindle app and it’s a very nice product. (Disclosure: I own an iPhone 3GS and MacBook Pro.) In fact, I love what the iPad brings to the table. It was easier to watch a television show in bed, because it was big enough for my wife to see. However, when it came to reading, the dreaded eye strain was there and the visible pixels and aliasing in the text was extremely noticeable.

    In addition to that, the iPad had a flaw…It constantly presented distractions within itself. Surfing the net, reading RSS feeds, checking email, reading twitter, playing a game, watching a tv show, listening to music, etc. All those things screaming at me while I would try to read. Since I love new information, this isn’t exactly a perfect reading environment for me. I need full concentration if I want to read and comprehend it. For others, though, it might work fine.

    I’ve never used a Kindle before, so I would definitely like to experience one in-person to confirm my thoughts. But it seems like the Kindle DX would be the best option for me or the new Kindle 3 if it had the same improved contrast. Target has a Kindle 2 on display in the store, but it’s running some demo loop script that won’t let me actually play with it.

    Thanks for the review.

  5. Excellent comparison review! I had a chance to play with an iPad and I think it is an excellent entertainment gadget. But that’s where it stays – a gadget with many distractions. After reading so many positive user feedbacks on Kindle DX, I ordered the new Kindle DX from Amazon and expecting delivery in a few days.

    Again, awesome review!


  6. Thanks a lot! Definitely the best review around!
    In my opinion the bottom line is that iPad simply can not be considered a true reading device because of it’s LED screen. I mean, I don’t see a problem reading news and the like off it, but I don’t see how someone can read a whole book (and more) off that kind of screen. Unless one wants to go blind quickly.
    Thus for me iPad (as any other tablet) is out of any consideration. Epaper-based readers are for reading, tablets are for news, games, movies and everything else. Simple as that.

  7. Just wonder, do you think the DX will get a major update through firmware that will make PDF reading better (If you have any experience with amazons update policy)

    I am considering buying the DX Graphite now as my brother is in the states which makes it 2000 instead of 3000 danish krones so 2/3 price, but if a much much better model is released in winter holiday then it might be stupid?

    I will use it for programming books so I need to pdf support as I download a lot of those from third party vendors.

  8. Hi Mads. There have been a few firmware updates, but nothing that spectacularly improves the speed of PDFs. I’m expecting they’ll drop a new version of the DX before too long, which hopefully does better with PDFs. I still love my DX, and it is my daily companion, but technical PDFs can still be painful to read. Fortunately, a lot of the publishers I like are also releasing books in mobi format for Kindles.


  9. Think I will have to wait then, its wierd the graphite version dont support the same firmware updates as the kindle 3 then I wouldnt be in doubt.

  10. Just ordered my DX, hope it works out well else it seems there are other 3. party firmwares that I can try out or upgrade to 3.0 firmware using jailbreak. If I wait for the new model then I am almost done with my education

  11. Saying that the Kindle DXG handles well PDF means you do not know any other e-reader than this. Between the 9,7″ e-ink/sipix readers, the DXG is the worst by far in handling pdfs.
    It cannot make any reflow = no zoom on pdfs. Very lame, if you consider that even the old kindle 3 does better.
    It’s also incredibly slow when displaying pdfs made with static images.

    Truth is that readability is gold thanks to the Pearl screen, but hardware resources and firmware were outdated in the moment when the DXG came out.

    Do not buy this for reading pdf.

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