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Hands on: The new Kindle DX is bigger, but is it better?

The Amazon e-reader's $489 price could make it a tough sale

By Barbara Krasnoff
May 6, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - If the excitement leading up to today's introduction of the Kindle DX is any indication, you'd think Amazon would have the e-book market wrapped up and ready to deliver with a tidy pink bow. Internet pundits have been buzzing about a bigger Kindle for a week now, passing around tidbits about a larger format, newspaper-friendly device.

For the most part, they were right.

The latest in the Kindle line of e-book readers -- the new model sells for $489 -- was unveiled at a news conference today at Pace University by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The emphasis was on how this new e-reader would allow college students to easily carry and access textbooks, and how ideal it is for larger-format periodicals such as newspapers and magazines.

I was able to briefly try out a Kindle DX, and while there are some interesting new features, it isn't as revolutionary as its promoters might like us to think.

The Kindle DX is indeed larger than the Kindle 2: The new model measures 10.4 inches by 7.2 inches by .38 inches thick. (The Kindle 2 checks in at the same thickness, but is 2.4 inches shorter and 1.9 inches narrower.) The DX has a 9.7-in. diagonal screen; the Kindle 2 has a 6-in. display. And at 18.9 ounces, it weighs nearly twice as much as the smaller version.

Not only does the DX have a larger screen, it also has a slightly better one. The new 824-by-1200 pixel display shows text at 150 dpi; the Kindle 2 displays up to 600 pixels by 800 pixels at 167 dpi. But without being able to compare the two models side by side, the difference in quality wasn't immediately evident.

The large display makes browsing a bit easier, but otherwise, the Kindle browser has not changed -- it is still somewhat awkward to use. (Maybe this explains why you still access the browser by clicking on the category labeled "Experimental.")

Despite the added weight, the Kindle DX is as comfortable to handle as its smaller predecessor. In fact, I found the keyboard, which is now somewhat larger and allows for more space between the keys, easier to work with; when I used it for a couple of searches, I didn't get nearly the number of typos I did with the Kindle.

There are a few other physical differences. The device's control buttons are all on the right-hand side of the screen. (In the smaller Kindle, the "Prev Page" and a second "Next Page" button are on the left side.) However, lefties need not despair; the Kindle DX features a nifty auto-rotate feature, so that by flipping the device upside down, all your buttons are on the left-hand side. But you'll have to cope, of course, with upside down button labels.

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