The Amazon Kindle has been around for a few years now and is synonymous with eReaders like TomTom is with sat navs. The third generation comes with a welcome price drop, quicker and more efficient interface and finally a UK-centric book store. Despite some stellar challenges from Sony and Samsung, it’s still the eReader to beat.
But six months ago, the Apple iPad made its debut and changed the tech landscape forvever. Combining a browser, handheld gaming device, music player and an eReader. The iBooks app offering on-the-go downloads, via the sleek, glossy touchscreen. Does it pose a serious challenge to the Kindle? We pitched Apple against Amazon to find out.
Design and build: Apple iPad WiFi+ 3G: Measuring 243x190mm the iPad is twice as big as the Kindle, but it’s still the right size to carry in a laptop bag. Build quality is excellent, the aluminium body is gorgeous, although at 680g, is heavy for everyday use. Amazon Kindle 3: The Kindle 3 feels fairly sturdy, although the plastic construction isn’t as durable or stylish as the iPad. 190mm high, the Kindle is half the size of the iPad, but weighing 241g is far more portable for using on holiday and commuting. Winner: Amazon Kindle 3
Apple iPad WiFi+ 3G: The 1024×768 9.7-inch screen is bigger and you can read to two pages at once. Because it’s LED backlit it is very bright, which is great for browsing and reading at night. However, even though you can adjust the brightness, we personally find LCD best for short bursts. Amazon Kindle 3: At six-inches the screen isn’t particularly large or high-res at 800×600, but e-ink feels comfortable to ready even for prolonged periods. Amazon has improved the contrast by around 50% since the previous version and text is certainly bold, popping out at the screen. There’s no backlight, but you can invest in a case with a pop-out reading light for £50 Winner: Amazon Kindle 3
Apple iPad WiFi+ 3G: One advantage the iPod has over the Kindle is the capacitive touchscreen, so flicking through pages literally means gliding your finger over the screen. Books are downloaded to a gorgeous virtual bookshelf, which includes coloured cover art. Amazon Kindle 3: Forward and back controls on each side suit left and right-handed readers and Amazon’s improved the page turning speed by 20%. Additional controls are accessed via the Menu button, which isn’t as responsive as the iPad so there’s a slight delay when you move between screens. It’s not unintuitive by any means, but feels archaic nex to the iPad. Winner: Apple iPad
Apple iPad WiFi+ 3G: If the average ebook is 1.5Mb, allowing 6GB for other apps, there’s storage for approximately: 10,000 (16GB), 18,000 (32GB) and 26,000 (64GB) ebooks. So, there’s room for far more than you get in most libraries, although if you play music and watch movies, it will be less. Amazon Kindle 3: At 4GB, storage is far less than the iPad, with space for 3500 books. But remember the Kindle is purely designed for books, not videos or music, so that should be ample space for even the most dedicated reader. Winner: Apple iPad
Apple iPad WiFi+ 3G: There are tens of thousands of books, including a good selection of freee books, but it doesn’t come close to the choice from the (arguably more established) Kindle store. We couldn’t find top titles like ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ and ‘Lustrum.’ Amazon Kindle 3: Choose from 1 million free books and 400,000 pay books. Expect to pay $4.23, (approx £2.70) for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Robert Harris’ Lustrum is $6.33 (approx £4). Winner: Amazon Kindle 3
Apple iPad WiFi+ 3G: Speeds vary depending whether you’re using WiFi or 3G, but downloads seem slightly quicker than the Kindle. A Christmas Carol takes around 10 seconds Amazon Kindle 3: A close-run thing to the iPad. Book downloads take around 1 minute, although shorter books like A Christmas Carol only around 10-20 seconds over 3G. Winner: Apple iPad
Apple iPad WiFi+ 3G: The iPad is only compatible with PDF and DRM free ePub files and the quickest way to download is via 3G or WiFi. Unlike the Kindle 3 you can’t transfer files by plugging and playing, you need to use iTunes, although iBooks can display PDFs sent via email. Books bought via iTunes can be played on other devices linked to your iTunes account, including your iPhone 4. Amazon Kindle 3: Format support includes: PDF, HTML, TXT, Word, RTF, MOBI files, but not ePub. Transfer files over 3G, by emailing your Kindle’s unique email address or alternatively by connecting via USB and dragging and dropping. Books bought from the Kindle store are in AZW format, a closed Kindle format, although once you’ve downloaded a book you can use it on multiple devices with the Kindle app, all linked via your Amazon account. Winner: Amazon Kindle 3
Apple iPad WiFi+ 3G: Because reading is just one of many functions the iPad offers, and it’s got a brighter, bigger screen that uses more energy it’s hard to judge battery life for the iPad. Use it for reading and it will easily last a week, which is impressive, but not as impressive as the Kindle.
Amazon Kindle 3: With 3G on, the iPad will comfortably last around 10 days, which obviously varies depending whether you browse the internet. Turn off 3G and it will last a month Winner: Amazon Kindle 3
Apple iPad WiFi+ 3G: iBooks is just one element of the iPad and arguably a secondary feature. The bright, colourful screen is excellent for browsing and movies, and touch controls great for gaming. It’s also a very capable work device with a decent keyboard, support for Word and Excel documents via Pages and Numbers and email. Amazon Kindle 3: The Kindle is equipped with a WebKit browser, which Amazon calls ‘experimental,’ and has done since the first version of the Kindle. It’s black and white, pages are slow to load and unsurprisingly it can’t handle video, So while you can just about check web email, there’s no push email. The Kindle can also play mp3s and there’s Text-to-Speech, which are useful to a point, but the implemention means you won’t be using them regularly. Winner: Apple iPad
Apple iPad WiFi+ 3G: WiFi and 3G versions are available, priced £429, £499 and £599 for 16GB, 32GB and 64GBs respectively, the 3G version costs an extra £100, plus around £7.50 for 1GB a month. Sure, the iPad is expensive if you’re just using it for eBooks alone, but it can do a lot more. Amazon Kindle 3: The WiFi version costs £109, 3G adds an extra £40, but there are no monthly fees for 3G, or browsing – something you’re not likely to do at these speeds Winner: Amazon Kindle 3
It’s really tough comparing the Amazon Kindle 3 and the Apple iPad 3G+WiFi – they’re totally different devices, each perfect at what it has been designed to do.
In the iPad, Apple has created a high-quality quailty portable browsing/video/gaming device, with an interface and download process that is far more efficient than the Kindle’s. However, while video playback and browsing is class leading, and the screen is fine for reading in short bursts, for regular reading we found the Eink screen more comfortable.
Web browsing may be slow and the interface far from slick, but for on-the-go downloads from a huge choice of books, anyone serious about reading will appreciate the Kindle. The Kindle 3 is also a dedicated device for reading and nothing else. Consequently the Eink screen, controls and light design provide a comfortable, convenient and portable reading experience, at a very reasonable price.
If you think at some point you’re going to watch videos on the move, or browse at home, yet still want the ability to read the odd book, futureproof yourself and go for for the iPad. However if reading is your priority, go for the Kindle. But at the moment there’s room on the market for both