Editors' note: As of January 19, 2010, Amazon has discontinued this version of the Kindle DX and replaced it with the international Kindle DX model. That new model runs on AT&T's network and can access content on cellular networks inside and outside of the U.S. It's otherwise essentially identical to the Sprint-powered Kindle DX reviewed below.
Amazon announced on April 20, 2011, that a software update adding the ability to read e-books from participating local libraries will be added by the end of 2011.
Even before the Kindle 2 launched, there was talk of an even newer, larger digital reader from Amazon that would be geared more toward reading textbooks and periodicals. We all assumed it would be bigger, but it was unclear exactly what form it would take. Well, now that it's finally arrived, what is a little surprising is how much the Kindle DX--bigger face aside--is a dead ringer for its little sibling.
In profile, the two devices appear equally svelte: the 0.38-inch-deep DX is just a tad thicker than the 0.36-inch Kindle 2. Obviously, the big difference here is the Kindle DX's 9.7-inch e-ink display (1,200x824-pixel resolution), which technically offers 2.5 times more screen real estate than the Kindle's 6-inch display. That extra screen comes at a price, both figuratively and literally, as the DX weighs almost twice as much (18.9 ounces) as the Kindle 2 and costs $130 more, at $489.
That said, while the DX is significantly larger and heavier, it doesn't feel too burdensome to carry or hold. However, it clearly isn't as portable as the Kindle 2; its larger footprint requires a larger bag or briefcase for stowaway purposes. Most women's handbags, for instance, just won't be big enough to contain the thing.
Amazon says the DX's screen technology and guts (i.e., processor) are exactly the same as what you get with the Kindle 2. The DX comes with more memory: 4GB (3.3 usable) of internal memory, compared with 2GB for the Kindle 2 (neither the DX nor the Kindle 2 has an expansion slot for more memory, like the original Kindle had). That's enough memory to store 3,500 books, according to Amazon. If you run out of space, however, you can delete titles from the Kindle and then later redownload previously purchased books in under a minute, free of charge.
The DX also features a built-in QWERTY keyboard for taking notes, entering search terms when wirelessly accessing the Kindle Store, and typing out URLs in the rudimentary Web browser. Like the Kindle 2, the DX's rechargeable battery is sealed into the unit (read: nonremovable) and delivers about two weeks of battery life if you use the built-in 3G wireless data connection judiciously. If your battery dies, you have to send the device back to Amazon to replace the battery for a fee.
Aside from the expanded memory, the two most important feature additions to the new Kindle are native PDF support and the capability to go from portrait to landscape mode by simply rotating the device. Additionally, you can now adjust not only the font size but how many words you want to see on a line of text. And finally, the Web browser is slightly improved (I'll get to that in a minute).
As advertised, the larger screen lends itself to displaying newspaper and magazine content, especially when you throw some graphics and images into the mix. You see more of the story on a single page and the reading experience is a little more akin to reading an actual newspaper. However, the newspaper/magazine reading experience isn't dramatically changed from reading newspapers on the Kindle 2.
When it comes to textbooks, the Kindle does a good job of displaying graphics and charts (alas, there's no color--only 16 shades of gray), so complex layouts with multiple images end up displaying more or less as they would in a textbook. And obviously, the Kindle DX weighs far less than an organic-chemistry textbook, which is why this device will appeal to students hoping to lighten their backpack loads.
Amazon didn't make a big deal about the capability to add notes and highlight sentences and passages as you're reading, because that functionality was built into previous Kindles along with a built-in dictionary and keyboard. Ideally, of course, the Kindle DX would be a touch-screen model, and you could mark up the "pages" themselves by writing on the screen. You can, however, access those notes on any Web browser.