Kindles have often led the way in terms of new features - slender pocketable designs, touchscreen interfaces and page lighting have all proved popular.
Its current top-end device is the Kindle Voyage, which brings a bezel-less display, a high resolution screen and automatic brightness control.
Kindle Voyage E-reader, 6" High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Adaptive Built-in Light, PagePress Sensors, Wi-Fi
£169.99 Buy Now
All of these make the Voyage a more tablet-like device. The rear design reinforces this, much like the Kindle Fire tablets, with angular lines and a power button that falls neatly under your forefinger, if you’re holding the device in your left hand anyway. The angular rear panel, low weight of 180g and soft-touch finish combine to make this is the easiest Kindle to keep a hold of. It's slightly sleeker than previous models too.
At the front, a single pane covers the display from edge to edge with only the merest lip around the edge. It looks great compared to previous devices, with their thick, raised bezels; but more importantly it makes it far easier and more natural to make page turns using left and right swipes, as your finger doesn’t hit the bezel as it moves across.
The screen has a smoother surface, eradicating the rasping sound and sensation on previous Kindles when you swipe the screen. It’s also incredibly responsive, now an E Ink screen is never going to react like an LCD, but this is the best I’ve seen to date, with the screen starting to refresh instantaneously on your input.
On either side of the screen are pressure-sensitive buttons, which Amazon calls PagePress. I'm guessing that some Kindle users have bemoaned the lack of physical page turn buttons and this is Amazon’s attempt to placate them. The lower, larger buttons turn to the next page, while the upper ones turn back a page. There's a tiny amount of physical give in them, and you can set the sensitivity of the buttons, and the amount of haptic feedback you get when they’re pressed. They work fine, though I find the new touchscreen so good that I quickly disabled them altogether, letting me rest my thumb beside the screen without accidentally activating them.
The Voyage uses a 300 pixels-per-inch screen, with a 1,448x1,072 resolution, which was pretty impressive stuff at the original launch, but that's no longer the case today. Amazon has launched an updated Kindle Paperwhite 2015 that uses an equally-detailed screen, while Kobo has also launched a 300 PPI eReader in the form of the Kobo Glo HD. Both of these devices are available for around £60 less than the Voyage, and are genuine alternatives.
It may have more competition, but the screen on the Kindle Voyage is still fantastic and incredibly sharp.
With the screen being matched elsewhere, it’s the automatic brightness control that’s the wow factor. I simply haven’t realised just how little I adjusted the brightness to suit the lighting on my Kindle Paperwhite until I saw the Voyage in action. The brightness shifts smoothly up and down, in a way that didn’t distract my reading, and keeps the page in sharp contrast in any lighting conditions. You can turn it off of course, plus there’s an additional mode which slowly dims the light when you’re reading at night, as your eyes adjust to the dark.
However, at present the screen is being held back by the software on the device, it simply needs more font size increments to make the most of the higher resolution. We wanted more precise adjustment of text size in this area of the scale. We generally found the smallest size too small, but the next one up a touch too big. I understand that a small minority needs very large font sizes, but why not provide more choice for all?
Amazon has recently updated the interface on the Voyage which looks a lot better than the old one with refined icons that make the most of today's higher resolutions displays. The homescreen has been redesigned too, you can now see what you're currently reading, as well as current book samples and wishlist entries in a bar on the right, with the usual recommendations below. Settings has been streamlined with easy access to the ones we all use most, such as airplane mode and sync.
The update brings Amazon's new typesetting engine to sit alongside its new Bookerly font, which was specially designed for eReaders and is highly legible at all sizes. The new engine does position text more naturally along each line, with words split across lines by hyphens, rather than the fully justified layout with lots of extra spaces that we sufffered before. It's also possible to remove 'reading progress' for a cleaner appearance.
But, Amazon still lags behind, Kobo, in terms of text layout and font selection. The ePub based Kobo has more fonts, more font sizes and font weight tweaking; along with the ability to use custom fonts supplied with that specific book. Kobo has a book-like layout, with traditional elements such as the title always displayed at the top of the page, which some will like but I think is a waste of screen space. It also has text justification options, so you can choose how you like your text to appear.
The Voyage, is compatible with Amazon's new Family Sharing system. This lets two adults (along with up to four children) share eBooks freely between them, so you don't have to buy the same book twice. There's also parental controls, so you restrict parts of your library from your kids.
Speaking of sharing, the new interface also lets you share book excerpts via Facebook and Twitter, and even appends a free sample of the book with the post; which anyone can open and read in a web browser, even without an Amazon account.
The Voyage is still the best eReader hardware produced up to now. The automatic light is a real boon and it would be hard to go back to using older Kindles. The display is top-notch, and it could be better still if Amazon gave us yet more text options, in terms of both font size and page layout.
At £169 though it is a little expensive, costing £80 more than the current Kindle Paperwhite 2015 which has the same display. Most owners of older Kindles without built-in lights would be better off buying that model. If you have a relatively recent Paperwhite then the Voyage is tempting but it doesn't really provide enough to make it a must buy.
As usual there's a 3G model too, costing £229, though with the proliferation of Wi-Fi these days, I don't think it's worth the extra cash.
The price is higher than the competition, but if you are an avid reader and want top quality it would be hard to resist.