10-hr. Kindle DX hands-on: $489 is worth it if you value a 9.7-inch screen and Amazon’s large book collection

stevewindwalkermay2009 I’m the publisher of the Kindle Nation newsletter, as well as author of books in the Kindle format. So I suppose I'm lucky to be able to rely at times on a useful hedge against buyer's remorse: I bought---insert latest gadget name here---out of duty to my readers! So, after putting my new Kindle DX through its paces, should I keep it? Read on. Ideally my comments below, on the display, PDF capabilities and other matters, will help Kindle 1 and 2 owners considering upgrades. Not just those who are thinking of buying their first Kindles. DX’s screen and related matters The Kindle DX display seems very easy on the eyes. After taking, magnifying, and comparing screen shots of the same page from my Kindle DX and my Kindle 2, I can say with some certainty that the font size, font clarity, background and contrast on the two models are similar. imageBut there is a specific and valuable kind of serious improvement in the display legibility of the Kindle DX compared with the earlier Kindle models. The new Kindle can better handle all of the non-adjustable fonts to which we have grown accustomed on Kindles. For those of us who tend to gravitate toward the larger font sizes whenever we are able with the Kindle, it can be frustrating to try to read the Kindle Home screen, the Kindle storefront, and other displays such as menus, bookmark listings, search results and the Settings page.

On the Kindle DX, all these non-adjustable pages are far more legible and easy on the eyes, especially in less than optimal light.

The actual dimensions of the Kindle DX display screen (5 3/8″ x 7 7/8″, 9.7″ on the diagonal) are a tiny bit smaller than the standard 6″ x 9″ of most trade paperbacks and allow for a printable page that is equal to the printable page in a standard hardcover book whose exterior dimensions are 6 1/4″ x 9 7/16″.

Although I am not impressed with the Kindle DX’s usefulness for viewing PDF documents, the larger display performs beautifully with graphic files embedded in Kindle editions such as those found on Amazon’s special page of Featured Books for the Kindle DX. These includes photographs and other art, graphic novels and cartoons, maps and charts, and more.

Side-by-side with the Kindle 2, the Kindle DX display is consistently a tiny bit slower to refresh. The good news is that the same situation that causes the DX e-Ink display to take a few milliseconds longer to refresh—the fact that it contains more than twice as much text per screen—more than offsets the cumulative effect of slower refreshes. By the time you finish reading any book on a DX you will have spent about half as much time waiting for refreshes as you would spend reading the same book on a Kindle 1 or Kindle 2.

Kindle DX File Management

There do not appear to be any new developments or features with regard to folders, labels, groupings, etc.

PDF on the Kindle DX

On the plus side:

  • The Kindle DX has native support for PDF files, so that you can transfer a PDF file directly from any computer to your Kindle DX via USB without relying on Amazon’s 15-cent-and-up conversion service.
  • The Kindle DX display has more than twice as much “printable space” as the previous Kindle models, so many PDF files display well.
  • Kindle DX PDF support allows you to search inside a PDF document and bookmark entire pages, if the document is unrestricted and has been created from a text-based rather than a graphic document.

On the negative side.

  • The Kindle DX does not support “zoom,” “pan,” or magnification for PDF files, so if the display size (about 70% the size of an 8×11 sheet) is too small, you are stuck. Based on my first impressions I’m not optimistic that the DX will be much a solution for technical PDFs, PDFs with charts, etc.
  • The highlighting, bookmarking, annotation and clipping features that provide important functionality for other Kindle documents in an academic setting are virtually useless with PDF files, so that the promise of being able to use PDF files for academic courseware is unfulfilled.
  • Despite claims at Location 670 of the Amazon’s Kindle DX User Guide, the Kindle DX does not consistently make optimal use of landscape-view rotation to magnify PDF files for easier viewing.
  • The weakness of the aforementioned features such as annotation and search is the same for PDF files regardless of whether you transfer them directly from computer to Kindle via USB or send them wirelessly via the Whispernet. When you send a PDF to your email address Amazon does not put the file through any conversion process, and it is impossible to have Amazon convert a PDF file to an .AZW Kindle file. Some technophiles will want to explore the potential for converting their own PDF files backward to .DOC, .TXT, or .MOBI files so as to convert them forward into a more useful format to take advantage of Kindle DX features. We will consult with friends who are more technologically advanced and revisit these possibilities in a future issue of Kindle Nation.

Portability, Use and Carrying Ease

image This is another highly subjective matter. The Kindle DX weighs a little less than twice as much as a Kindle 2, and its heft, feel, and solidness is much the same as the Kindle 2 across a larger mass. If you are used to carrying a hardcover book, or a briefcase or moderate-sized backpack or purse, or a 7 x 10 planner, the Kindle DX won’t bother you. It’s easier to lug around than any netbook, laptop, or tablet computer or most hardcover bestsellers. I like the way it carries, opens and performs both home and away, especially in the moleskine-like leather Kindle DX cover that Amazon manufactures and sells for it. I am finding it easy to use for one-handed reading.

image I also expect that some of these issues of weight and heft may be different to different users. I’m a big, strong guy, and the idea of exercise or walking with, say, 2- or 5-pound weights would seem silly to me. If you are someone who would find it useful to carry 2-pound weights on a power walk, the Kindle DX might seem more burdensome to you. I also suspect that, at least for a while, I might be annoyed by the right-side control placement if I were left-handed. The Amazon explanation that this annoyance would by mitigated by using the DX’s ability to rotate to an upside-down display strikes me as a YouTube parody video waiting to happen.


I lack the courage to put my new Kindle DX through any drop-testing research, but I will say this. The DX feels every bit as sturdy as the Kindle 2, but I am sure that buyers would do well to spring for the 2-year extended warranty. I did not purchase the extended warranty for my Kindle 2, and the difference is based on three things:

  • Since the Kindle DX is larger and heavier, I believe that the prospect of some mishap is naturally greater, assuming the same care.
  • I think the DX is likely to be my e-book reader of choice for the next three to five years, whereas I got the Kindle 2 with a strong expectation that there would be a compelling upgrade coming in behind it within a year.
  • For whatever reason associated with my household budget, there is a significant difference to me between $359 and $489.

The Kindle DX Web Browser

Primarily because of the size and automatic rotation of the Kindle DX display, it is far superior to its predecessors in its capacity to display web pages in an appealing and useful way. Whereas the Kindle 1 and Kindle 2 offered a choice between “basic mode” and “advanced mode” with the web browser, the Kindle DX toggles between “basic mode” and “desktop mode,” and the combination of “desktop mode” and landscape orientation (see below) shows most web pages in a relatively impressive and useful way compared with earlier Kindle models.


One of the first things I did with my new Kindle DX when it arrived was to transfer and listen to the MP3 of last week’s podcast of The Kindle Chronicles, and I noticed right away that the smarter placement of the two Kindle DX speakers on the bottom edge, where they are never covered by a Kindle cover or by laying the Kindle flat, makes for a greatly enhanced listening experience. Whether the audio is any different when conveyed over a headset or external speaker is a question I have yet to research.

Kindle DX Value: Is the DX worth $489?

It’s such a subjective question. If you are having trouble keeping the wolf from the door, nothing is worth $489. But let me put it this way: if the Kindle 2 is worth $359, the DX is definitely worth $489 for its serious enhancements in display and legibility—not to mention the hundreds of thousands of items in the Kindle format and the way they look on the DX. Originally I felt that I needed to purchase a Kindle DX because of my role here with Kindle Nation and my Kindle books, but I was frankly on the fence about whether I would keep it, given how much I like my Kindle 2. Although I have not made a final decision, after 10 hours with the DX I am leaning toward calling it a keeper.

About Stephen: He’s been writing about Amazon’s strategic innovations since his niche bestseller on online bookselling in 2002, and his latest Kindle guide, for the Kindle for iPhone app, is entitled No Kindle Required. Stephen is also publisher of the free weekly Kindle Nation email newsletter, where an earlier version of this review appeared in the daily blog edition.

11 Comments on 10-hr. Kindle DX hands-on: $489 is worth it if you value a 9.7-inch screen and Amazon’s large book collection

  1. Appreciate the early review Stephen! The PDF capabilities are one of the big items many folks are curious about, could you post any screenshots of some technical or graphically rich PDFs in portrait and landscape view?

    I’m curious what “the Kindle DX does not consistently make optimal use of landscape-view rotation to magnify PDF files for easier viewing.” looks like for some PDFs as this would be my primary reason for picking up the DX to go alongside my K1.

  2. Great review!

    Given the size of the DX, I can’t see it being used for much more than reading textbooks and/or newspaper feeds. Personally, I like my electronics portable, especially for an ebook reader. The DX is just too big to read a cozy novel on.

  3. Good review Stephen. I have all three Kindles and I must say that if I could only keep one it would be the DX.

    I haven’t noticed the problem you mention regarding the magnification of rotated pdf’s. Every pdf I have viewed (so far) has magnified when viewed in landscape. All of the pdf’s I have on mine were formatted for letter size printing. Perhaps pdf’s that were formatted for smaller print sizes won’t magnify when rotated since they may have already been displayed at “full size” when in portrait view.

    Although I shared some of your concerns about damaging the DX due to it’s larger size I didn’t get the extended warranty mainly because my Amazon account runs thru my AMEX card and AMEX automatically provides an extra year of warranty coverage which is all the warranty that is available from Amazon does. Others who purchase a Kindle might check to see if their charge card does or offers the same warranty deal.

  4. Thanks, and yes, Jon, I will post some PDF screen shots this weekend at Kindle Nation Daily –

    Brad, I think you are right with respect to many people. For some, the clarity of the display at this larger size will be compelling. And part of what makes it worthwhile for me is the fact that this one comes closer than anything I’ve seen to having tablet functionality, with free 3G connectivity.

  5. Alan Wallcraft // June 12, 2009 at 1:00 pm //

    It is very disappointing that Amazon did not add larger font sizes for AZW ebooks. Are the K2 and KDX fonts identical? If so they should be 10% bigger on the KDX (167 vs 150 ppi).

    I think they are stuck with these 6 font sizes because all their TOPAZ ebooks contain a font as bitmaps in these 6 sizes.

    The iRex DR1000S is much more expensive, but it supports larger font sizes for MOBI ebooks.

  6. Richard Askenase // June 12, 2009 at 1:39 pm //

    I have only played with my DX for a little bit. Some quick impressions-
    1) The larger screen size is a pleasure to read on. More on the page just works better.
    2) Using the “fewer words per line” choice (in the font menu), I put it on the middle range, which enlarged the side margins, giving a little less left to right reading room. I thought that worked better as my eyes didn,t go back and forth as far.
    3) The clarity of the screen was noticeable.
    4) I thought it was a little too big to handle with one hand (I am smaller than you, Stephen), and was best read leaning against my crossed over leg or against my pushed up thighs while in bed. The weight didn’t bother me.
    5) I bought the 3 year Square trade warranty with accident coverage for only $72. But call them to get the 20% discount.
    6) I haven’t done pdf’s yet and didn’t think to use landscape on internet stuff. Those are next.
    7) I am still debating DX vs K2, but am leaning DX in a big way.

  7. Felix Torres // June 12, 2009 at 2:02 pm //

    Richard Askenase, could you please measure the actual size, say in mm, of the largest font size?
    I have an application in mind (my mother) for which the large screen would be ideal *if* the font size (literally) measures up.

  8. I can’t believe that I’m the only person that has noticed the issue with locations–maybe I’m the only person that cares?

    No more number keys means having to hold down the ALT key with the number key. Why doesn’t the Kindle recognize that you’re going to a numbered location?

  9. Felix – I measure the largest size at:

    Cap height – a bit under 5mm

    X height – bit over 3mm

  10. I think this is the most useful DX review I’ve read. It’s amazing how different a review written by someone who knows the key issues like Stephen is from the pieces written by generic mainstream gadget reporters.

    The inability to annotate and clip from PDFs is a huge downer, speaking as a person who has to read and annotate a lot of PDFs for work. I’d say that maybe Amazon would remedy this with a future software update but their track record on software fixes even for glaring omissions (FOLDERS ANYONE??) doesn’t leave me with much confidence.

    Thanks for the review!

  11. Stephen,

    “…When you send a PDF to your email address Amazon does not put the file through any conversion process, and it is impossible to have Amazon convert a PDF file to an .AZW Kindle file….”

    I found this out by experience tonight, although my unsubstantiated belief is that PDF files ARE converted IF you have a Kindle 2 account instead of a Kindle DX account.

    Of course, this belief comes from hints within written Amazon documents, not a particularly trustworthy source.

    Are .AZW Kindle files identical for both K2 and KDX?

    Although I never would have bought a Kindle DX without its native PDF support, it turns out that the large screen normal files look so good that I have even paid $9.99 for books that I already had fully satisfactory free PDF files for. In general, the PDF file support is something of a crapshoot. Some files work very well, and others are abysmal, even with 100% text. It is ironic that I avoided the K2 because of no PDF support without conversion, and now I already miss the conversion.

    The keyboard is the worst-implemented feature ever installed on a consumer device, IMO. To advance to page 123, do the following:


    Even worse, the reliability of a keystroke is about 50%, especially the alt key. I have to use an unsharpened pencil as a stylus, pressing the key with the eraser as hard as possible.

    Regards, Don

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