This review originally appeared on theverge.com as Kindle Touch review .
With so many new Kindles to choose from, it's important to make the right decision for you and your family. Do you go all-in with a Kindle Fire? Skate by with the bargain basement Kindle? Or, like Goldilocks, do you choose something in the middle? The $100 Kindle Touch ($139 without ads) is that middle option. While the touchscreen might feel like a "new and fresh" twist on the typical e-reader, in reality the device is still riffing on Amazon's original Kindle, with few tweaks to shake up that landmark experience. It's still about reading books. So, what's new, and how well does it work? Well, that's what the review is for.
Unlike some products (the Droid line, for instance), the Kindle seems more staid design-wise with every generational refresh. The last generation (now known as the Kindle Keyboard, still available for $99), a minimal, razor-thin work of art, might've been Amazon's peak. There's nothing wrong with the Kindle Touch's looks, they're just plain. Amazon might argue that this is all about making the device "disappear" while you read a book, which certainly still holds true, but there's minimal perfection and there's just bland.
Fun anecdote: my dad is sort of "gray blind," which means, among other things, that he sometimes has trouble seeing gray cars. I've been in a couple near-accidents with him driving because he simply didn't see the car in the intersection. If I threw the Kindle Touch at him, he might not be able to catch it. The device is coated with quality gray ("gunmetal") plastic, with the back's two-toned assembly reminiscent of the Nexus One, and it's easily unnoticed.
The front of the device is a screen and solitary home button. The button is just a series of ridges, ostensibly meant to represent the list of books they pull up. The screen is relatively deeply inset, thanks to the optical touch recognition (the same tech, and the same inset, is present on the Nook Simple Touch), and the surrounding gray bezel is just wide enough to be comfortably braced by a thumb when in the Standard Reading Position. The last Kindle's screen was almost exactly flush with the surrounding plastic, but to the Kindle Touch's credit, there's such a thing as too thin, and I actually find the slightly chunkier Touch more comfortable to hold for long periods of time.
The only other button on the device is the lock / unlock / power button on the bottom, which is situated right next to the headphone jack and USB plug. While tapping a button to unlock the device seems totally reasonable, the Nook's slide-to-unlock is much more intuitive to me. If I set the Kindle down for a couple minutes and the screen locks, it seems weird to have to go to the bottom of the device to be able to interact with my book again — a combination of the home button and the touchscreen should suffice.
As for the topic of battery life: there is no topic of battery life. It's not something I worry about with e-readers, even with the 3G review unit I have. Amazon predicts a couple months, with live ads being pushed and regular 3G use it might be closer to a week or two, but either way it's not something to worry about.
Overall, Amazon is right, the device does disappear in your hands. I just wish that when I am paying attention, it was a little more striking.
Read more on the hardware, display and software of the all-new Kindle Touch on theverge.com .