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One version of the new Kindle, unveiled last week, sells for $79; it’s one of its Special Offers editions, which have ads and special offers on their screensaver and home pages. There’s also an ad-free version of the same device for $109. It weighs in at less than 6 ounces, which is about 30 percent less than the current Kindle models and makes it among the lightest 6-inch models on the market. Those older Kindles remain available in four different versions, all now renamed as Kindle Keyboard editions.
That’s because the new Kindle lacks the physical keyboard of its predecessors; you instead use the Kindle’s small keypad to navigate to an on-screen virtual keyboard. The new device lacks some other niceties found on the Keyboard models, too, including an MP3 player and an included AC charger—you can charge with the provided USB cord or buy an AC charger as a $10 accessory.
But the new Kindle performs comparably to the older Kindles overall, as well as to some competitors that cost more. Like most e-book readers now on the market (and like the Kindle Touch, Amazon’s upcoming touch-screen reader) the new Kindle has an E Ink screen of the latest generation (called Pearl). Unlike the Kindle Touch, however, the new Kindle has no touch screen: You navigate using the familiar Kindle page-turn bars on each side of the screen.
An improvement in the new Kindle, as claimed, is that it stores (“caches”) pages in groups of six; that helps speed up page turns and reduces the incidence of seeing a momentary black screen before the next page appears. (It’s a technology that’s already found on the Nook Simple Touch from Barnes & Noble, the top-rated e-book reader in our Ratings.)
This new low-priced Kindle is the one to have if simplicity and portability are priorities. But it’s also among the more basic models on the market, so it’s not for every would-be e-book aficionado. Our Ratings include nearly 20 other models, including the new Sony Reader Wi-Fi PRS-T1, which I’ll cover soon in another post.