Amazon has dominated the relatively niche world of ebook readers thanks to solid hardware and by offering a bigger, better library than everyone else. The word Kindle has been synonymous with affordable hardware that's unlikely to score high on design. Given this background, the launch of the 'premium' Kindle Voyage was a bit of a surprise. Is the Voyage really the best Kindle till date? Let's find out.
Build and design
The first thing you notice about the Kindle Voyage is how thin and light it is. Compared to the Paperwhite, it's easier to hold the Voyage with one hand, and people with medium-to-large-sized hands will be able to get their fingers all the way across the Kindle and still have a secure grip. Of course, you are more likely to hold it from one of the bottom edges - left or right - and the new Kindle is light enough that doing so even for long durations is unlikely to cause any discomfort.
From left-to-right: The basic Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite (2013), and Kindle Voyage; all at full brightness.
The Kindle Voyage comes with the power button at the back, while Paperwhite has it at the bottom. If you use a cover with your Kindle, this change is unlikely to make much difference to your life since the ebook reader turns itself on or off as you open or close the cover. Others, however, will welcome this change, as the new position is certainly easier to access.
The Voyage is built out of premium plastic, and has a very nice feel overall. However, the back - which is sloped close to the left and right edges, ostensibly to make it easier to grip with one hand - is more prone to smudges than the predecessor.
Display and performance
Let's get this out of the way - we didn't really have any complaints about our Kindle Paperwhite - until the Kindle Voyage showed up. Not only is the device lighter and easier to hold, there are big improvements in the display as well. The Kindle Voyage comes with a brighter 300PPI display, which means the text is sharper and the difference between the Voyage and Paperwhite is especially clear when you hold the two e-book readers side-by-side.
Up close with the Kindle Voyage (top) and Paperwhite (below the black line)
The Voyage comes with an ambient light sensor - the first in a Kindle ebook reader - which means the device can automatically adjust the brightness of your display as the ambient lighting conditions change. It also has a Nightlight feature - turned off by default - that gradually reduces the screen brightness over time as your eyes adjust to the dark.
Kindle Voyage also comes with PagePress, which seems like a gimmick at first, but is surprisingly useful. The bottom part of the bezel to the left and right of the display has a small line, and the top part has a dot. When you are reading a book, you can tap near the line on either side to go to the next page or tap near the dot to go to previous page.
You can of course still flip pages by tapping on the left or right edge of the screen but PagePress is useful when you're holding the Kindle in one hand and want to go to the previous or next page without having to reach all the way to the other side of the screen.
PagePress also provides feedback by gently vibrating part of the Kindle. You can you can set the level of feedback you get to low, medium, or high; with the latter recommended for when you are using the Kindle inside a cover. You can also customise the amount of pressure required to trigger PagePress.
In terms of software, the Kindle Voyage is pretty similar to the Paperwhite, though Amazon is touting some new features. Chief amongst these is Family Library, which allows family members to share ebooks with each other. Unfortunately, this isn't available yet and will be rolled out via a software update. It's not clear if the feature will be available in India, since services like Kindle Unlimited are restricted to specific regions.
Rest of the features remain pretty similar to the Paperwhite, and if you are buying your first Kindle, you should also read our review of the Kindle Paperwhite (2013).
Kindle Voyage in bright sunlight
The Kindle Voyage is priced at Rs. 16,499 for the Wi-Fi variant and Rs. 20,499 for the 3G variant, which is a lot of money to pay for an ebook reader. While it's a significant improvement over the Paperwhite, Amazon's previous flagship ebook reader is still a great device that we wouldn't mind hanging on to for some more time. Since the physical dimensions of the device are different, you'll also have to invest in new accessories like covers.
Having said that, there's no doubt that the Kindle Voyage is the best ebook reader till date, and if you have the money to spare, this is definitely the Kindle you should get. For everyone else, the Paperwhite will do just fine.