E-reader Battle Royale: Kindle 2 vs. all the rest

The Amazon Kindle 2 bursts onto the scene with impressive new features, but it's not alone. There are already plenty of e-readers on the market — and even more coming — each with its own abilities, shape and pricing. So how does the new Kindle stack up (ouch!) against its peers?

The Kindle 2, with its ultra-thinness and tight integration with Amazon's vast array of e-books, is going to be hard to beat. It also stands alone with its free 3G connectivity, something no other e-reader has, letting you order books from anywhere there's a Sprint wireless connection.

Hit Continue for a comparison of the Kindle 2 to its predecessor and its major competitors, then jump to the bottom to see a tabular comparison.

sony_reader_01.jpg Sony Reader PRS-700 ($400)
Here's the Kindle 2's most worthy competitor. The touchscreen Reader has the same 6-inch screen size and 800 x 600 resolution, nearly identical weight, a touchscreen keyboard instead of the physical one of the Kindle, and the ability to handle a variety of document and graphics formats (unlike the Kindle's need for conversion). Sony gets clever with a couple of LED lights on each side of the screen for night reading (which diminish battery life).

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Astak EZ Reader ($287)
This e-reader seems to be popping up everywhere, and it's known by many names, including the Hanlin V3 in Europe, IBook V3, Endless Ideas BeBook, WalkBook, and Papyre 6.1. Except for the lack of connectivity, its specs are similar to the Amazon Kindle 2, with the same 6-inch 800 x 600 screen. However, it handles a whole lot more document types and graphics with no need for conversion, and it costs $72 less. Astak teases us with promises of a 9.7-inch "flexi-screen" model "during the first six months of 2009."

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iRex Digital Reader 1000S ($749)
Now we're getting fancy. Aimed at an upscale market, the pricey 1000S has a relatively huge 10.2-inch screen with considerably higher 1,280 x 1,024 resolution. For $110 more, you can get Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, or go bare-bones for $599 with the non-touchscreen iLiad "book edition." The 1000S is big, about the size of a piece of paper, but its main drawback is its weight, a hefty 20.1 ounces. Some hands-on reviewers have called its response "sluggish."

Foxit eSlick ($259, or $229 for early buyers)
This one looks exactly the same as the $350 CyBook Gen3 and Astak Mentor, all the size of a medium paperback. It's using that familiar 6-inch 800 x 600 screen, and at 0.4 inches deep, it's almost as thin as the Kindle 2. The eSlick's low price is matched by its featherweight heft, just 6.4 ounces. Foxit says its first eSlick readers have sold out, with the next batch due mid-to-late April.

Plastic Logic (no pricing announced yet)
This ultralight, all-plastic reader is just a prototype thus far, but it's looking good. Its touchscreen is the size of commonplace 8.5 x 11-inch piece of paper, and uses gestures to navigate from one page to the next. Able to read Microsoft Word, Excel and Adobe PDF files as well as newspapers, magazines and books, its makers claim it can display anything you can print. The company says it'll be shipping a few units later this year, but this e-reader won't be widely available until 2010. Also not mentioned yet: pricing, which could be steep with such advanced tech.

amazon_kindle_formula.jpg Amazon Kindle 1 ($359)
The Kindle 2 has 25% longer battery life, text-to-speech, is the thinnest reader on the market, is slightly lighter than its predecessor, and holds in its back pocket a formidable, if not devastating weapon: Amazon. The company offers more than 230,000 e-books for the Kindle 2, as well as numerous newspapers, magazines, and blogs — all downloadable anywhere. The downside? Those store-bought books are laden with DRM (digital rights management), preventing you from easily copying them anywhere else, and there's a clunky email-to-yourself routine for converting PDFs or other files.

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