Scott Hanselman

Amazon Kindle vs. Amazon Kindle DX - The Final Word

August 29, 2009 Comment on this post [33] Posted in Reviews
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Amazon Kindle vs. Amazon Kindle DX

I'm absolutely thrilled with my Amazon Kindle. I read it every night and have probably bought a dozen books with it, several newspapers and I read many dozen PDFs. I own the standard-sized Amazon Kindle 2 - it's the little one in the picture on the right.

The Kindle 2 is 8" x 5.3" x 0.36" but the screen is 6" diagonally. It's got a 600x800 pixel display, so that's 167 dpi with 16 grays. As a comparison, you monitor is likely 96dpi, possible 120dpi. An iPhone is 163 dpi.

The Kindle DX is 10.4" x 7.2" x 0.38" and the screen is 9.7" (yes, nearly 10"!) diagonally. It's spendy, but the screen is MASSIVE. That's 1200 x 824 pixel resolution at 150 dpi. It's got 4gig internal storage which I've found is effectively unlimited.

The screen on a Kindle is EXTREMELY clear. It's not backlit and it's not an LCD. It's e-ink and it's totally unique when you see it. It's very very close to paper and once you've started reading you really do forget it's not paper. There's zero eye strain, or no more than a regular book.

Let's get serious on size and layout here. The real tragedy of the Kindle is the bezel. That's the space between the screen and the edge. I don't know what the technical limitations are and I don't really care. There's just WAY to too much "whitespace" between the edge of the kindle and the screen itself. It's distracting and it's wasteful. There's easily enough room on the Kindle 2 to make the screen a 7" screen just by tightening up that space. Also, the keyboard on the Kindle 2 uses far too much vertical space.

Here's a screenshot taking from the Kindle 2 of a book. Notice that it starts with the word "morning" and ends with "duration, so the."


Here's the same book, same point, starting with "morning" on the Kindle DX. The "so the" appears right in the middle of this screen. Effectively you can fit double the text on the page of the Kindle DX.


Also, the Kindle DX has native PDF support. That means you can just plug it in over USB, copy a PDF and boom, you're viewing it. It works for 95% of PDFs, but every once in a while I've had it fail. Rare, and usually it's because there's some advanced PDF feature being used that the Kindle doesn't support. The failures have only been on internal documents that have annotations and stuff. I don't know what the real limitations of the PDF support are, but I'm sure they're improving it constantly, and the Kindle can update it's OS over the 3G network, so those updates will presumably just happen.

Here's a screenshot of a PDF taken from the Kindle DX. It's totally readable. It would be totally NOT readable on the non-DX Kindle for two reasons. First, no PDF support built in, and two, if it was converted to Kindle-format, it'd be destroyed.


In English, this means if you're wanting to read technical books, you get a Kindle DX. Period. The small-size Kindle 2 is fantastic for prose and horrible for charts, graphs and code.

Kindle Thickness 

If you're torn between the two, it's understandable. After having used both for a week, I am also. The Kindle DX is too big and the Kindle is too small. By too small,I mean, the Kindle should have the SAME size and a larger screen. I could totally see another Kindle that's in between sizes, but I know that'll never happen, which is a shame.

Kindles Side By Side 

Bottom Line

If you're interested in a Kindle, and you read a lot of PDFs or non-Amazon eBooks, get the Kindle DX. If you read fiction and rarely, if ever, need PDF support (or only need the basics) then get the little Kindle.

While the DX is large, its PDF support is so nice that I'm compelled to prefer the DX over the little one, for myself. 

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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August 29, 2009 2:28
You've convinced me to get the small one. Your screenshots show that the large one is actually inappropriate for reading prose: the lines are way too wide. The small one looks about as wide as a regular pocket book, which is the ideal width as the eyes stop two or three times on each line. With the large one, it's four or five, which gets in the way of comfortable, fast reading and would probably become a strain.
August 29, 2009 2:33
I love my Kindle 2, but I completely agree that it handles prose much better than technical books.

I'd be more forgiving if they would give me a reader on my desktop too. That way, I could still access the charts, etc. someplace. But the way it is now - I've paid for books where substantial portions of the content are not readable and that just sucks.

As a OneNote/Tablet PC user, I also think the annotations on the Kindle are a joke. To me, written annotations are much more natural. I can't imagine using the annotations on the Kindle. The keyboard is lame and worse than trying to text on a cell phone. Ugh. But on the whole, I'm happy with my purchase.
August 29, 2009 2:34
The KindleDX has multiple "width" settings. If you find it too wide, you can narrow the column of text.
August 29, 2009 2:35
For me, I will not plan for a Kindle until it can support East Asian Language natively. Yes, there is a hack but everytime you wanna upgrade the os of the Kindle you have to hack it back to upgrade and hack it again to support the language you want.
For the pdf part, I work in chemistry and do read a lot pdf reference papers everyday everyhour. I am a bit concerned if Kindle can show those formulas and diagrams correctly.
A lot people are looking for e-ink to replace their newspapers. That does sounds great but so far I do not see if Kindle can replace the newspaper for many special task like being a packing material, cleaning windows, using as a disposable plates for food trash...

One more thing! Kindle cannot give me those Sunday newspaper coupons.
August 29, 2009 2:39
Yes, but the DX is so much more expensive and is just not the right format for what I'm going to do with it...
August 29, 2009 2:45
I love your choice of book to use for for an example - looks like you're a real True Blood fan after all :)
August 29, 2009 2:47
Hi Scott,

Just out of curiosity ... do you use all those buttons on the Kindle 2 ? I'm in the market for a Kindle(-like device) and I don't think I'll need more than 5 buttons. (Think IPod scroll wheel). IMHO, the buttons take waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much space on the device.

August 29, 2009 3:15
Thank you for doing this review - just a week ago my brother-in-law brought his Kindle to a family outing and I was able to take a look at it; I was very impressed and it strengthened my desire to have one. Then, just a few days ago a co-worker had his Kindle DX delivered to the office and I was able to check that out as well.

Because of your review, I became aware of differences I didn't realize existed, and I know that I would want to get the DX as well, since I spend a lot of time reading technical documents and less time with fiction or otherwise.

August 29, 2009 3:50
Great review, but you should include Sony ebook reader in it. I think its good competition to Amazon kindle!
August 29, 2009 3:56

I own a Sony EBook Reader which is similar to the Kindle 1 without the search and internet feature. But even in Kindle I think searching is tremendously slow process. I believe that these devices much better for linear reading. If I need to reference anything quickly then I usually open the PDF on my computer.

What do you think?
August 29, 2009 5:17
You know that you can set up a email address for your Kindle and just email PDFs to yourself right?

USB? What _is_ that?
August 29, 2009 5:17
Whatever your choice in Kindles, the true beauty of the Kindle to me is the ability to get a free sample chapter for any Kindle book from Amazon. This allows you to see if a book is right for you without buying it. It's both saved me a ton of money and allowed me to freely explore the works of many authors that are new to me. I <3 my Kindle!
August 29, 2009 6:04
From where do you subscribe to the blogs? Any blog? Specific blogs? What happens when you click on a link in the blogs? They need more colors. Perhaps pink. Pink is pimp, as my 14yd old often points out. :)
August 29, 2009 9:56
I want to say something about the DX, but the only thing thats coming to mind is wtf for the RBC pdf...? Is Kindle a Canadian company?

The e-ink is pretty sweet. They are putting them into two factor auth smart cards now for pins.
August 29, 2009 10:31
I have spent more time reading PDFs than any other format on the DX since it came out - I would have to say that, for me, many PDFs are not reasonable to read in portrait mode (the orientation in your screen shots). It really depends on the formatting of the PDF - I am pretty tolerant of small fonts, but I find myself frequently reading PDFs in landscape rather than portrait because of the size of the text. I did not think the auto-rotation from portrait to landscape would be an important feature - but without it many of the PDF books that I have would be tough to read on the DX and I would have been disappointed.

August 29, 2009 13:17
I'd get the Kindle DX if it weren't for several major letdowns: No memory card slot, price, lack of WiFi, and being US-only.
August 29, 2009 18:47
Hi Scott,

Can you include how the programming books appear on Kindle DX ? I am not much of a fiction reader, but I read a lot of programming books as well as blogs. Can you please tell me how they appear?

I own Sony Reader PRS 700, and though little less contrast, Programming PDFs are pretty much readable(when you crop out the margins using Acrobat).

However I hope Kindle DX's bigger screen might make reading more enjoyable vs PRS 700?
August 29, 2009 19:59
Thnaks Scott for sharing the results - was hoping you would since Kindles are not too common around here yet for me to get my hands on - does confirm what I was thinking - with all of the PDFs and geek books I buy the PDF version of - it would be silly for me to buy anything but DX - but still waiting to see what Plastic Logic and Sony got up their sleeves for their upcoming larger e-ink readers - that or a decent price drop by Amazon would make me pull the trigger and buy the DX but $490....whew, thats got little Wife Acceptance Factor
August 30, 2009 5:36
I like the Kindle, but every time I look at it I keep thinking that this is something our kids are going to be laughing at us for using in the future. Ugly interface, wasted space, black & white. "Seriously dad? You used THIS to read books?". Reminds me of those clunky 80's cell phones or first generation iPods.
August 30, 2009 6:07
Thank you for the review Scott. I recently decided to get the smaller Kindle over the DX. I admit being only 2 weeks into owning a Kindle, I am in a sort of honeymoon phase with it. I do share the pains reported, small keyboard, large margins on the side, but beyond those minor annoyances I still love it. A couple of reasons for my declared admiration for it; 1. I can get your blog on it which is great, would be nice if Amazon would make podcasts natively available with the blog subscription or at least a way to quickly get the pdf transcripts 2. The New York Times and Financial Times, great writing and information. 3. Free sample of books, this is a great feature that lets me take a peak before committing to the purchase. A digital book store experience of sorts. and finally 4. I have read tons more because of it. I enjoy reading, but with life and work making time for reading forced planning and scheduling time to read. With the Kindle, it compliments my schedule and is readily available when time arrives unplanned.

On a closing side note, my kids love it as well. In school they have a daily world events assignment, with the New York Times on the Kindle they can quickly find an article and complete there assignment.

August 30, 2009 13:01

Can you please elaborate on the non-usability of the Kindle with regard to East Asian languages and the "hack"? I have been considering a Kindle, but your comments do concern me. Excluding technical books, probably about 90% of what I read is in Japanese, with the rest split between English and Korean. Are such fonts not available? Can they easily be added? PDF files support font embedding, but only if you can control PDF creation.
August 30, 2009 20:16
Do you read any technical/programming books on the kindle (are these books even available for the kindle?), and if so, how is the experience, i.e. regarding pictures, diagrams, source code and so on contained in the books?
August 31, 2009 21:42
Why do you do me so Sookie?

Are the books any good? I love the show. Been thinking about the books.
August 31, 2009 21:47
Have you looked at the Sony Reader? That is where I'm leaning at the moment. They have a couple new models that were just introduced.
August 31, 2009 23:28
Kindle is awesome and I love mine.

However, Kindle is too expensive and Kindle DX is even more so. Kindle should be $199 and Kindle DX should be $299.
September 01, 2009 1:33
Still waiting for the kindle to come to the UK would really like a dx for reading programming books and alike.

Your absolutely right about the bezel, the design should be almost nothing but screen.

Hopefully the kindle 3 will be a touchscreen so no hardware keyboard wasting space and all those extra features you could put on it with this ability. Wifi would be good too so I could pull a pdf from my network easily.
September 01, 2009 19:13
I'm with PCM. How does your recent MVC 1.0 book look on the DX? I'm a K1 owner and have been considering the DX if it will let me shrink the physical space all of my development books take up.

Thanks, as always for the great info.

September 02, 2009 2:32
Hi Scott,

I decided to get the DX after seeing your 2 at NDC, I am supposed to get it next week, can't wait. Already bought 10 books from Amazon (through this really tedious gift card procedure, why not sell outside the US).

Ps have you seen:

September 02, 2009 22:20
MarkN - Slick! Yes, I've see the PlasticLogic...the name sucks. ;) We'll see if it's cool or not. I hear they have a color one in the works also.

BrianV - Yes, PDF technical books are totally readable on the DX and look as they should. They are a tiny bit smaller visually, but you can rotate the DX to make them larger width-wise.

Robert - I did a Sony Reader review a while back. It's fine, but not amazing. It's the wireless and flexibility (PDF, email to Kindle, etc) that makes the Kindle pure win.

ADB - The "Southern Vampire Mystery" books are fantastic. I'm on Book 4 and going through them like water. I need to just send the author a check.

One - Yes, the joystick is a little bit of a step back, but you'll use it when looking up words on the built in dictionary or surfing the web on the Kindle web browser.
TraumaPony - The memory card slot removal is a bummer, but it's got 4 Gigs and USB, do I need more?

SteveS - That was just an example of a complex PDF I had lying around.

Other Steve - You can subscribe to blog directly from the Amazon Website and they'll be delivered to the Kindle, or you can visit the Kindle Store from the Kindle itself.
September 03, 2009 15:58
Will Europe ever get some Kindle love? :(
September 04, 2009 2:27
This is a nice comparison. If you want to get even more interesting, try comparing the Amazon Kindle DX to a netbook. Other than the supposenly "book-like feel" of Kindle (which I personally could not notice), a netbook beats all versions of Kindle. If you need a very small device to read on then get an IPhone or some other smartphone. I think the Kindle is okay but not worth owning unless you got it as a gift.
November 26, 2009 13:57
I was thinking of buying something like this.
But I only read technical related books. So I am forced to the Kindle DX?
Problem is I live in Belgium and Kindle DX is only for US.

Any good alternatives?
What are my options?
March 15, 2010 2:08
If I were looking at buying an e-reader today I would hold out for the Notion Ink Adam. It's a tablet/slate device and not strictly an e-reader but with the Pixel Qi screen it will do both as good as any dedicated device. The only advantage I see remaining for dedicated e-readers using e-paper is the battery life, but Notion Ink is saying you can get over 72 hours in e-paper mode.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.