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Old 03-26-2009, 12:39 PM   #1
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Kindle 2 compared to Kindle 1, a review

Review of the Kindle 2 (K2) compared to the Kindle 1 (K1)--Part 1 of 4

By Catsittingstill

Layout:

A common complaint with the K1 was that people were pressing the page turn buttons by accident. The K2's redesign of these buttons makes them easy to press deliberately (press the inside edge) but hard to press by accident. The K2 keyboard has round buttons without a space between the two halves of the keyboard; this is a downgrade in my opinion, as they require close focus to use. The tilted buttons and greater separation between sides of the K1 keyboard let me know where to put my thumbs without having to read the letters printed on the keys; the new design eliminates those landmarks. In addition I find I keep hitting the return key when I meant to hit the backspace/delete key—which wreaks havoc with web browsing, so be warned. (To be fair, I had this problem with the K1 also.) The old system of having commonly used punctuation marks available as "alt-6" or "alt-8" etc, is gone, and so is the @ key. However the new symbol menu takes full advantage of the joystick, and commonly used punctuation marks are closer to the default position, while rarely used ones are farther away, so well done on that.

Buttons and menu choices are somewhat rearranged; there are two new buttons on the right side (menu and home) which used to be a roller click and a button below the keyboard respectively. This is a trifle confusing for a K1 user moving to K2 but wasn't a problem after a few days of use. I will say that trying to use both simultaneously for side-by-side comparison is a bit confusing.

The K2 keyboard has also lost the search key; now one begins a search simply by typing the desired word or phrase, which works admirably as long as one can remember to do it that way. Search is also one of the options you reach by pressing the menu button; I think this kind of redundancy would be annoying if carried too far, but is quite a good idea for this kind of "cryptic" function.

Screen:

The K2 has grayscale with 16 shades, the K1 greyscale with 4 shades; the difference means that pictures (for instance on websites and in blogs and magazines) are much more interpretable on K2. At close quarters the K1 screen seems to have a little bit of "speckling" in the "white" parts, which I didn't observe with the K2—this could be unique to my individual Kindle 1, of course. I recall noticing it particularly with text rather than pictures. On both screens the "whites" are grayish, not truly white. The "greyishness" seems roughly equal between the two screens.

Text quality and fonts

The K2 has slightly lighter text than the K1; I think the lines that draw the letters are a little thinner. I did not have a problem reading the lighter text, but wouldn't mind an "embolden" function.

The fonts of the book ("His Majesty's Dragon" in this case) look the same to me, aside from the slightly thinner lines of the K2. However the home screen of the K1 uses a sans serif font, and the home screen of the K2 uses a serif font that is noticeably less heavy. The menu on both is in a sans serif font; I think it's the same font on both, but can't be sure. Also the menu choices look slightly jaggy on the K1 and smoother on the K2—actually that's true of the underlining too. Interesting. I don't see this difference in books or blogs, just in the menus. I suppose it may be due to the greater possibilities for anti-aliasing on a screen with 16 greys. (Note that fonts in topaz books can be different from the standard Kindle fonts; as far as I can tell, "His Majesty's Dragon" is not a topaz book.)

Amount of text on screen

This comparison is complicated by the fact that the K2 allows the reader to change line spacing by (within a book) holding down the shift and alt keys together while pressing a number. Smaller numbers give more closely spaced lines. Alt-2 and Alt-1 give the same results as far as I can tell. Alt-3 and higher give more widely spaced lines. This means that the K2 generally displays more lines of text. This does not work in the home screen, worse luck; I sure wouldn't mind being able to display more than 10 titles at a time.

User Interface:

Home screen.

K1 shows 12 titles at a time, K2 only ten. But K2 shows how material is sorted, in addition to what (books, periodicals, all) is being shown. In addition, K2 has a new category "personal documents" which apparently consists of the documents you e-mail to Amazon and have loaded on your Kindle via whispernet. Documents loaded via USB apparently just show up as "books." Since the new category would seem to be just a software change, I'm surprised it hasn't shown up on Kindle 1, but my K1 shows no sign of it.

Joystick

The joystick is slower in vertical response than the roller; the roller can get from top to bottom of the home screen in about a second and a half; the joystick takes about 4 seconds if you hold it down continuously. (On a page of second-to-smallest text, it takes about 8 seconds to joystick from bottom to top if you hold it down.) It does not have much problem with overshooting, however, which I think helps. Where the joystick really shines is the ability to move left and right, instead of having to select a whole line, as the roller must. That means that several choices can be placed on a line, which makes the user interface much more efficient.

For example highlighting a title in the home screen gives a menu of choices that are much harder to get to on the K1. You can twitch the joystick left and have the option of deleting the item; (with the 1.2 update for K1 you can press the delete key on the keyboard to delete items with similar ease; before the update it was necessary to go into the content manager to delete and then back out again when you were done.) You can twitch the joystick to the right, and get a page-sized menu for that book that lets you go to the beginning of the book, or to a particular location (in addition to the last page read, which is redundant; there are quicker ways to get there from the home screen), or –what I think is really nice—you can search just that book for something. I don't know of any way to restrict a K1 search to just one book, (aside from the dictionary) and I really like this feature. Or you can go to "my notes and marks" for the book, or delete the book (again redundant; quicker to twitch left from the homescreen. But I don't mind the redundancy; you shouldn't have to remember too much to use a device). Didn't mean to delete, or to enter the book menu? Just twitch the joystick back the other way and you're back at the homescreen. I think this is a big improvement in ease-of-use.

Menus

Menus on the K1 all have a "close" choice at the top for backing out of the menu without picking any choices from it. Menus on the K2 are toggled from the menu button; a second press closes the menu without picking any of the choices.
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Old 03-26-2009, 12:44 PM   #2
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Review of the Kindle 2 (K2) compared to the Kindle 1 (K1)--Part 2 of 4


Reading and Reading Materials:

Page turning speed

The K2 is supposed to turn pages somewhat faster than K1. When I tried it (laying both Kindles side by side, displaying the same book and pressing the buttons simultaneously, one with each hand) Sometimes K1 was faster and sometimes K2. The page turning speed of the K1 didn't seem consistent to me; it was as though it had to think longer about some pages than others. Furthermore, on the slower page turns, the Kindle 1 was not "flashing black. It seemed to alternate flashing (faster) and non-flashing (slower) page turns, but pausing for 3 seconds between page turns make all page turns flash, and turn at the faster speed. With the next to largest font, the Kindles seem to be equally fast, even when I'm flipping through the book fast enough to trigger K1's "failure to flash." So I'm not sure what to think, except it's more complicated than "page turning is faster on the Kindle 2." The black flash is still present on the Kindle 2 when turning pages; I am quite used to it now and don't care, but I thought I'd mention it in case others find it bothersome.

Books

Instead of the row of dots that the K1 shows at the bottom of the page (bolded dots for "turned pages" and unbolded dots for "unturned pages"), the K1 has a hollow bar, with a line inside it showing your progress. There's also a percent read out (I'm presently 56% of the way through "His Majesty's Dragon" for example), and it shows not just the location(s) of the present page, but the last location in the book. So my current page is locations 2862-71 in a 5096 location book. I don't feel very strongly about that, but does give a lot more information about where I am in the text than the K1 did. The author's name doesn't display while reading the book anymore in K2 (K1 has it at the top right). The menu gives the option of reading the book description (at amazon, I think), which the K1 didn't offer, and, more interestingly, the option of searching within the book rather than all the Kindle content. One also has the option of adding a note or highlight from the menu, though this is so easy from the book page interface I wouldn't bother to trigger the menu for it. And last but not least is the text to speech option; which in "His Majesty's Dragon" is not disabled. More on that later.

Blogs

The user interface is much better on the K2; the progress bar below the text on the K1 has become more sophisticated, showing not just total length of the downloaded blog and where the reader is within that length, but having little squares for the beginning of each post within the blog, letting the reader judge article length as well as jump to the previous or next posts with a twitch of the joystick. In addition, the articles list is available through a highlighted button below the progress bar. On the K1 there is no simple way to jump to the previous or next posts, except for a "skip this article" link present at the start of some, but not all, articles, and going to the articles list requires clicking on the menu, running the cursor down to "go to articles list" and clicking on it .

Another nice feature; on the K2 you can save a whole article as a clipping, instead of having to save it page by page.

Web

The improved user interface makes it possible to pick one link out of a line, which means a lot less clicking and roller-using and clicking again. On the other hand, the joystick/screen slowness is noticeable here.

The Kindle is still kind of slow as a web browser. No big surprise there; it's made to sip data over the EVDO/3G, not gulp it. The novelty of having the web accessible from darn near anywhere is still with me, though. And being able to access mapquest from a moving car (no, I wasn't driving) has saved me a lot of time sometimes. I never was able to get the "locate yourself using cell phone towers" thing to work, but it's not that hard to pull an address off a nearby building.

However, I don't know if it's a cookie problem, a java problem or something else, but the Kindle can't stay logged in to sites like LiveJournal. I can respond to a public post as "me" but with the next page I'm logged out again. This means I can read public posts but not friends-locked ones, which is kind of a bummer. However as far as I can tell, that hasn't changed between K1 and K2.

Searching reading materials

Just start typing the search word/phrase. It appears at the bottom of the screen. If you're within a document the default option will be to search that document (very nice!). However with another twitch to the right of the joystick you have the option of searching all your items, the Amazon store, Google, Wikipedia or your dictionary: pick one.

If you're in the home screen and start typing, your default option is to search all your items, with store, Google, Wikipedia, dictionary and "go to" as options. "Go to" uses your search term as a url: for example I typed "interest" and picked "go to" and wound up at http://interest/ which was, of course, nothing, but at least you know how that works.

If you change your mind about a search in the middle, press the back button or twitch the joystick up to return to the book. You can also search by pressing the menu button and picking search; doing this from the home screen gets you a menu of options: items, store, Google, dictionary, Wikipedia, and web (I'm guessing the last option works like "go to"). Doing this from within a book works like just starting typing: searching within the document is the default option, twitching the joystick right brings up all items, store, google, wikipedia and dictionary.

However within a book, one theoretically has the option of searching "note" which supposedly searches annotations—I haven't been able to get it to work. It's greyed out, even in books that have annotations, even if the search term is in the annotation, and even if the search term is in both the annotation and the book. However searching the book searches both the text and the annotations. I wonder if note is intended specifically for searching footnotes?

Mode error note

When you are reading, the Kindle 2 cares where the cursor is. Most of the time while you are reading it's not visible on the page. In this condition, twitching the joystick down brings the cursor down from the top left (cursor appears left of the first word in the top line of reading material); twitching it up brings it up from the bottom left. Certain actions have different results depending on whether the cursor is visible on the page or not, so if you're not getting the actions you expected, check for that. For example if you type a phrase with the cursor in the document, you're inserting that phrase as a notation in the cursor location. If you type the same phrase with the cursor not in the document, you're getting ready to search for that phrase.
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Old 03-26-2009, 12:49 PM   #3
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Review of the Kindle 2 (K2) compared to the Kindle 1 (K1)--Part 3 of 4


Data Transfer:

SD card slot

No SD card slot. Bad 'Nuff said.

Kindle still shows up as a USB drive, like a thumb drive. Drag-and-drop still works fine as long as you remember to put the document in the documents folder. You can have all the subfolders you like, but they don't show in the home screen (though all the items in them do.)

Whispernet as per standard, except that it's now possible to synch content between devices linked to the same account. Turning Whispernet on and off is now a menu choice rather than a hardwired button. Actually, I kind of miss the button. USB has a different connector (micro instead of mini; a K1 USB cord won't work with K2 and vice versa).

Transferring Amazon books

When I first opened the Home screen on the Kindle 2 I had one item in the list marked "Archived books." Clicking on this opens a list of books purchased from Amazon (in my case for the Kindle 1) and not yet transferred to the K2. Clicking on one of the titles transfers it to the K2.

Transferring magazines

My Analog subscription was a different story. I have 10 issues of Analog in Kindle format, but only the last 3 were available to transfer over. I called Amazon support and reached a very nice, helpful person who tried everything she could think of to transfer the others; no dice. Oddly enough, though I expected the last 3 issues of Analog to disappear on my Kindle 1, since subscriptions are only supposed to go to one Kindle at a time, they didn't, or at least haven't so far.

Well, I was making bitter plans to learn how to strip the DRM off the other seven issues so I could put my own Analogs on my own Kindle 2, when I thought I'd try something else first. I hooked up both Kindles to the computer and just copied the Analog .azw files over from the old Kindle to the new. They worked fine. The Kindle issues of Analog don't have DRM.
Now if the Amazon customer support person had just known that, it would have saved both of us a lot of time. Furthermore, if she had known that, she could easily have kept me from finding out; all she would have had to do was say "Okay, I can't transfer the other seven from here because I don't have them available for download anymore. But if you give it a few minutes—say ten minutes to be safe, I can authorize your other Kindle to read them. Turn the EVDO on for me. In ten minutes you'll be able to copy the files across." I would never have known the difference. Oh well, an opportunity lost.
In the meantime, if you have a Kindle and want to buy Analog issue-by-issue, feel free. As of three months ago it had no DRM. (If you want a year's subscription, Fictionwise has a better deal.)

Transferring mbp files

For every e-book/document/whatever on the Kindle that you have actually opened, the Kindle has a little file with an .mpb extension that appears to contain information on where you are in the book, what spots you've bookmarked, what you've highlighted and what annotations you have made. I wanted to transfer one for On The Origin Of Species, because I was ¾ of the way through it on the Kindle 1 and Darwin, while a great man in many ways (and a pretty good writer too) is not a shortwinded kind of guy. I was a bit concerned about that, because I got my copy from Manybooks.net (I think) and thus the book (and the accompanying .mbp file) wasn't on the Kindle servers. Turns out to be no problem; I just copied the .mbp file across and it worked fine. I have not tried copying an .mpb file for an Amazon book across; just a sec… Oh, duh—if you copy an Amazon book across instead of re-downloading from the Amazon server, you get a "the selected item could not be opened" error. And presumably if you re-download from the server, you get the .mbp file as well… just a sec… Yes, you do. I suspect this is how the synch function works. However when I read a little farther in the book on the Kindle 1, and made an annotation, the .mbp file for the Amazon book can be deleted from the Kindle 2, then moved from the Kindle 1 to the Kindle 2 without any problem. The result is that the book on the Kindle 2 has the same reading location and annotations that it did on the Kindle 1. (Which also answers my simple question about annotations—are they synched when the pages are and the answer is yes.)

Synching multiple Kindles.

I happened to have an Amazon book (His Majesty's Dragon) on both Kindles, so I turned on Whispernet for both, and picked "sync and check for new items" from the menu on the Kindle where I'd read less of it (the K1). My position in the book didn't appear to change as a result. (If you're wondering how I knew this, on the home screens of the Kindles, each title has a row of dots beneath it. The length of the row gives a rough idea of the length of the book; the amount of the row that is bolded gives a rough idea of how far through the book you have gotten. The amount of the row that was bolded didn't change when I synched, so it looked like the synching hadn't worked.) However, when I clicked on the book, I got a message saying that the farthest read in the book was to location such-and-such in Hypatia (the other Kindle); did I want to open this book there? When I picked yes, the book opened to that location.

But it takes time for Amazon to realize you've changed places in a book, and you have to have Whispernet turned on, and it has to be an Amazon book. The quick-and-dirty method of synching would be to just transfer the .mbp file for the book from one Kindle to another using a computer and the USB cords. (Note that this probably won't work for an iPhone/iPod Kindle app; people apparently have much less access to their files from these.)

Transferring non-Amazon material

This you have to copy across yourself, using a computer and the USB cords in the standard way. I did make a point of downloading the MobileRead Mobipocket Download Guide and Feedbooks Kindle Download Guide and they work fine with K2.
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Old 03-26-2009, 01:01 PM   #4
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Review of the Kindle 2 (K2) compared to the Kindle 1(K1)--Part 4 of 4


Other details:

Battery

User-replaceable battery (a profoundly reassuring option that I have not yet actually had to use) gone. Bad

New power cord

The K1 has a power cord that plugs into the wall and a data (USB) cord that plugs into the computer. Charging via the USB, is either not possible or is very very slow (reports seem to differ.) The K2 charges via USB hookup, but other (standard) end of the USB cord has a 2 prong plug-in that it plugs to, allowing you to charge from the wall just like a K1 (good). However you can either charge from the wall or transfer data; pick one, though some (powered?) USB ports allow the K2 to charge and transfer data at the same time. However, the inconvenience of sometimes having to choose between charging the K2 and transferring data is arguably outweighed by the convenience of carrying only one cord. In fact, the longer I use the K2 the more I like having one cord instead of two, and the more I like the small wall plug of the K2 as opposed to the bigger "wall-wart" of the K1. I originally thought this was a bad idea but I was wrong about that; they implemented it much better than I thought they would, and it has worked out well.

Text to speech

I have used this several times while working out, driving or doing chores. The TTS is not perfect. It's good for a computer, which means it's a lot better than computer voices used to be, but you don't ever forget you're listening to a computer; it's not in the least like an audio book. A fiction book I know well (His Majesty's Dragon) I can follow easily, even though some words are mispronounced and the intonation is unexciting and predictable. Even an simple technical manual (the Kindle User's Guide) is much harder to follow, which I think is a combination of 1) not being able to see the illustrations and tables, 2) the material having less narrative flow, and 3) the TTS handling the transition from title to body text as one run-on sentence instead of pausing after the title as a human reader would. A science book (On the Origin of Species) was middling; I could catch most of it, but species names were mangled and very occasionally it would seem that a word had dropped out completely. It was interesting to go back over (read) the same text that Kindle had spoken to me—I had the definite sense of having read it before, but it made more sense the second time .

The K2 can "speak" fairly loudly, though I wouldn't mind having it a bit louder for in the car. My car is fairly noisy and I was using the external speakers rather than headphones, which I don't like to wear while driving. There is also no way I know of to disable the buttons on the K2, which meant that periodically during my workout the TTS would turn itself off when I bumped the bag the K2 was riding in. TTS also seems to run the battery down faster than normal reading.

The cover

K1 came with a cover. A lot of people didn't like it, because it doesn't always hold the K1 securely, but I got along with it okay and always used it, partly to ensure that the delicate e-ink screen had some reasonably rigid protection over it when I put my beloved Kindle in my backpack, and partly because it made it easier for me to pick up and hold the K1 without turning pages accidentally.

The K2 doesn't come with a cover. I promptly ordered a separate cover from Amazon and I am quite satisified with it. I'm comfortable that the screen is protected even without the elastic the old cover had to hold it shut, and the cover for the K2 seems to be a much more nicely finished, professional looking product than the K1 cover. The new "hinge" system for the K2 is quite a bit more secure than the "corners and tab" system for the K1.

Weird stuff the K2 does and doesn't

The K1 lets you use alt-T to look at the time (except when you're on the Web). The K2 displays the time in the top bar when you trigger the menu, along with a little "3G" by the Whispernet signal bars. For what it's worth, so far none of the K1 alt-shortcuts I've tried on the K2 have worked.
My particular K2 has a peculiarity with the menu button; sometimes the menu appears, flashes and disappears. I have since gotten in the habit of pushing the menu button more gently, and this almost never happens anymore.

K1 vs K2; the summary:

I love, love LOVE my new Kindle 2 and I'm very grateful to Mobileread for it. It would, in my opinion, be even better with an SD card slot and a user-replaceable battery, but the improvement in user interface and the TTS ability are so pleasing to me that I'm willing to overlook those shortcomings.

However when you get right down to it, 90% of the time I spend with either device is just reading. And while the K2's advances in user interface are very nice, when I read on the K1 I forget all about that; for just reading books, either Kindle is perfectly good. And I'm sure the other non-Kindle reading devices out there are perfectly good too.
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Old 03-26-2009, 01:08 PM   #5
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Great review, sent some karma to ya! I very much agree about missing the separation between the keys for easier typing.
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Old 03-26-2009, 01:20 PM   #6
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Sigh. Only downside is--I meant to put this in the main Kindle forum, rather than the forum on Kindle content. Oops...
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Old 03-26-2009, 01:52 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by catsittingstill View Post
Sigh. Only downside is--I meant to put this in the main Kindle forum, rather than the forum on Kindle content. Oops...
Send a shout-out to one of the mods. I'm sure they'll move it for you.
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Old 03-26-2009, 02:10 PM   #8
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Sigh. Only downside is--I meant to put this in the main Kindle forum, rather than the forum on Kindle content. Oops...
Moved.

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Old 03-26-2009, 02:34 PM   #9
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You really earned the kindle 2 with this great review! Thank you so much. I decided not to get the kindle 2 because it doesn't have what I really, really want - folders.
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Old 03-26-2009, 04:08 PM   #10
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A question. The page turning is dependent on font size in my experience. Could you try the page turning comparison with several different font sizes? Thanks!
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Old 03-26-2009, 04:49 PM   #11
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Moved.

BOb
Thank you, BOb!
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Old 03-26-2009, 04:53 PM   #12
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You really earned the kindle 2 with this great review! Thank you so much. I decided not to get the kindle 2 because it doesn't have what I really, really want - folders.
(blush) Thank you; I'm glad you think so.

I understand your point about the folders; I would really, really like that too. If the Kindle 2 had had them, I would have trumpeted them to the skies in my review

Maybe in the Kindle 3 (hoping).
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Old 03-26-2009, 04:57 PM   #13
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If you feel like it, you might also try page-turning in a TOPAZ book, comparing the K1 vs K2. The K2 preloads the next page, so if you are actually READING the book (not just flipping through pages) page turns feel just as fast as non-topaz page turns. True for forward turns only! Maybe the latest update gave that to the K1 too; I dunno.
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Old 03-26-2009, 05:52 PM   #14
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A question. The page turning is dependent on font size in my experience. Could you try the page turning comparison with several different font sizes? Thanks!
Whuf. The problem is that changing the line spacing on the K2 changes how much text shows on the page, which might reasonably affect the page turn speed. I will run a series of tests with the different combinations, but it might take me a little while.
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Old 03-26-2009, 05:56 PM   #15
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If you feel like it, you might also try page-turning in a TOPAZ book, comparing the K1 vs K2. The K2 preloads the next page, so if you are actually READING the book (not just flipping through pages) page turns feel just as fast as non-topaz page turns. True for forward turns only! Maybe the latest update gave that to the K1 too; I dunno.
Double whuf!

Maybe. I make no promises. If I were to do such a thing, do you have an inexpensive Topaz book to recommend? I have been avoiding them because of the poor text-quality / slow page-turn issues I have had with them in the past, so I returned any topaz book I bought, and thus have none with which to make these tests.
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