It’s been a few years since e-ink Kindles took a big step forward. 2012’s Kindle Paperwhite was the last big splash. But now Amazon’s got a new, beautiful, premium e-reader for you to read words off of. This is the Kindle Voyage.
The first thing to note about the Kindle Voyage is the design. Unlike every single Kindle before it, the Voyage has a glass screen, one that’s micro-etched to help diffuse light. Amazingly, it works; in our time with the device we saw no more glare than you’d find on a Paperwhite. There’s also no vertical lip around the edges of the screen; this is just one flat expanse of glass, like a normal tablet. From the back, it almost looks like a Kindle Fire HDX, complete with the circle-shaped off button.
You’ll notice the Kindle’s front bezels now have a pair of lines and dots, and those aren’t just for show. The lines are part of what Amazon’s calling PagePress. Hate reaching over the your Kindle’s bezel with your thumb to tap the screen and turn the page? No problem. PagePress lets you just squeeze the side to flip, complete with haptic feedback when the page turns. It’s a very subtle little pulse, pleasant and not at all distracting. You can also disable it if you want, and even change how much pressure it requires to turn the pages of your books.
The dots above them are ambient light sensors for the Voyage’s adaptive front light. You can still set the brightness yourself, of course, but the Voyage comes with the option to let the Kindle worry about it for you. If you do, the Voyage will not only adjust the front light intensity based on how bright your surroundings are, but also slowly step it down over the course of a long, dark reading session, which Amazon claims is designed to match the way your eyes adjust to darkness.
And that screen. At a whopping (and maybe overkill) 300 DPI, the Voyage’s display trounces not only the Kindle Paperwhite’s 212 DPI screen, but also the previously record-holding (and beautiful) 265 DPI screens that live in Kobo’s Aura line. It’s like looking at paper, full-stop. Considering we’re just looking at text-on-white here, you kind of have to ask yourself if it actually needs to be this good.
That said, the Voyage is clearly out to be premium as hell, so sure why not! It’s sleek, it’s thinner and lighter than the Paperwhite (by a few millimeters and an ounce and a half). It’s slight, but still feels incredibly solid and durable, even with the glass screen. The time-tested 6-inch size is still as perfect for one-handing as ever, especially with the bezel-based page turns. It’s a beautiful little gadget and a pleasure to hold, but at $200 you’re paying for every bit of that luxury.
For folks who don’t want to drop $200 on a Kindle, there are still other options. The Kindle Paperwhite will stick around for $120, pretty much untouched since 2013 but now with twice the storage, which was already more than you knew what to do with.
The lowest-grade, plain-jane Kindle is also getting an upgrade. Where the previous Kindle was $70 and came with buttons on the side and a little square D-Pad at the bottom for navigating menus, the new Kindle replaces that all with just a touchscreen and $10 more on the price tag. Amazon says the new $80 option also includes a 20 percent faster processor, and twice the storage in addition to its touch powers. So sorry, button-lovers, turning pages without touching the screen just became a premium feature.
All in all, the new Kindle e-reader family is three members strong, with the $80 Kindle bringing up the rear, the $120 Kindle Paperwhite repping the reasonable middle, and the Kindle Voyage striking out into the $200 range.
Other e-reader makers like Kobo have poked their heads into the $150+ range before but with understandably limited success. (The original Kindle cost $400, but that was in 2007.) Not only does Amazon have a pretty effective stranglehold on the ebook market, but displaying words on an e-ink screen is not especially hard. Once you reach a readable resolution and have built-in lighting, everything else is just gravy. And at $80 more than the Kindle Paperwhite, the Voyage has a lot of gravy to account for.
We’ll find out whether or not the Voyage can be slick enough to be appealing to the average reader once we get our hands on a review unit and spend a little more time with it. But for the time being, damn, it sure is beautiful.