Amazon Kindle 2 Vs. Kindle Original: We Compare

We break down the key differences between the Amazon Kindle 2 and the company’s original e-book reader.

The Kindle 1 Next to the Kindle 2

On the whole, even though the original Kindle (at left) and the Kindle 2 share the same matte white color and have the same-size display (6 inches diagonally), their keyboards and their navigation buttons are clearly different. Here, you can see buttons to the right and left on the original Kindle, and the much smaller buttons of the Kindle 2.

Smaller, More-Functional Keys

The keyboard for the Kindle 2 (at right) has been completely redesigned, and now it more closely resembles what you'd find on a cell phone with a QWERTY keyboard. The new model's circular keys are easy to press and incredibly handy. In my usage thus far, I’ve much preferred the closer spacing of the Kindle 2 to the angled spacing and more-rectangular keys of the Kindle 1.

The Kindle 2’s Redesigned Navigation

Note here the very different approaches to navigation taken by the Kindle 1 (at right) and the Kindle 2. The Kindle 1 relies on a scroll wheel and an awkwardly placed silver selector column located above the scroll wheel; the sliver of silver denotes which line of text on the display you're about to select. The Kindle 2 replaces that rigmarole with a new five-way navigation joystick, with Menu and Back buttons conveniently situated near the buttons.

Navigation in Real Time

The Kindle 1 (at left) needed the selector column on the right side of the screen so that the user could select content options. This kludgy approach was necessary on the original model because the display wasn’t fast enough to keep up with redrawing your options in real time. The Kindle 2 has no such problem. Navigate through options with the joystick; your chosen option will be underscored in real time as you page through.

New Navigation Keys

The navigation keys have been completely redone, too. On the original model (at left), the buttons were larger, ran the entire length of the display, and sloped outward; these attributes led to many incorrectly turned pages. The partial sliver of the Kindle 2 (at right) shows the new, smaller navigation buttons. The Kindle 2 has Previous and Next buttons on the left-hand side of the unit, with the former half the length of the latter...

Kindle 2 Buttons Redesigned Wholesale

…and on the right-hand side of the Kindle 2’s screen are a Home button and another Next button. The Next button ran the length of my thumb, and it was situated comfortably in relation to where my hands rested while holding the device at its midsection. You press this button inward, toward the screen, whereas with the Kindle 1 (beneath) you're supposed to press outward--hence the frequent, accidental page turns.

Kindle 2: Slim and Long

At 8 inches long, the Kindle 2 (rear) stands 0.5 inch taller than the original Kindle. The original Kindle had a rubberized back adorned with letters; the Kindle 2 has a smooth, unadorned, brushed-aluminum backing, instead.

The Kindle 2 Slims Down

The Kindle 2 (above) is also about half as thick as its predecessor: It measures 0.36 inch thick, versus the Kindle 1’s thickness of 0.7 inch. Visible here are the original Kindle's slew of ports along its bottom rim—headphone jack, mini-USB (for connecting to a PC), power, and volume controls. Those ports have been dispersed to other locations on the Kindle 2. In this photo you can see the Kindle 2’s micro-USB connector, which doubles as the power connection.

Volume Amps Up on the Kindle 2

The volume controls on the original Kindle (below) were awkwardly placed at the bottom of the unit. On the Kindle 2, a sleeker volume control appears in the upper right corner of the unit.

The Kindle 2's Power Slider

The Kindle 2 (at left) has a slider power switch at top, with a jack next to it to accommodate headphones. Slide and hold the switch to power off completely; or slide it without holding to release the unit from sleep mode. The original Kindle (at right) had two power switches, one each for the unit’s power and for its wireless connectivity. These switches were set inconveniently on the back of the unit. With the Kindle 2, if you’re flying, you have to press menu to turn the wireless off.

Kindle 2: Improved Screen

The Amazon Kindle 2 is distinctive, with its Chiclet-like keypad and super-thin design. Its electronic paper technology has evolved, too: The 600-by-800-resolution E-Ink display supports 165 shades of gray, versus the 4 shades available on the original Kindle. The difference is most obvious in images like the one of Mark Twain shown here (it's part of the Kindle’s screen-saver mode): Images now look much finer, with far more precise gradations.

Text on the Original Kindle

The improved E-Ink display on the Kindle 2 means that you’ll see an improvement in the way text is represented, too. Here is the National Best Sellers list as it appears on the original Kindle. Notice that the text appears fuzzy, and the background looks textured--almost like a newspaper itself.

Sharper Text on the Kindle 2

In contrast, thanks to its many shades of gray, the Kindle 2 produces text that looks slightly crisper and tighter, with less inklike bleed-in to the virtual page behind it. Here is the Kindle 2’s representation of the same National Best Sellers list shown in the previous slide. Certain details of the presentation have changed (for instance, what’s up with the list now being called simply “National Sellers”?), but overall the text has a more distinct look than on the Kindle 1. And notice the background that the newspaper-like texture in the background is significantly reduced.

Text-to-Speech on the Kindle 2

Unlike the Kindle 1 (at left), which could only change text sizes, the Kindle 2 has a text-to-speech capability. This feature, powered by technology from Nuance (makers of Dragon NaturallySpeaking) and accessible via either a menu option or a keyboard shortcut, offers two digital voices--Tom and Samantha--and up to 3X reading speed, in case you're fast-forwarding.

Read more about our initial take on the Kindle 2.