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Amazon Kindle review

The cheapest Kindle has learnt some tricks from its pricier siblings

Amazon Kindle
(Image: © Amazon)

Our Verdict

The upgraded Amazon Kindle is quite simply the very best affordable ereader money can buy. Amazon has added a backlight – something previously reserved for the pricier Kindle Paperwhite. And you still get access to the unrivalled Kindle eBook store, and the phenomenal Kindle software, which has a truck load of features that make reading digital books genuinely preferable to the printed version. If you don’t care about a waterproof design, or a premium aluminium unibody design, it’s tough to justify the more expensive Kindles now.

For

  • Features a backlight
  • Clear display
  • Can listen to audiobooks

Against

  • Not waterproof
  • Still uses micro USB
  • Limited storage for audiobooks

If you’re not a fan of lugging around a hefty hardback or a weight paperback on your commute each day, or want pack thousands of fiction and non-fiction books on your next beach holiday, an e-reader can be a brilliant buy. And if you’re looking for the most expansive eBook library and mature operating system, you’ll definitely want to get something from Amazon’s Kindle range.

As it stands, Seattle-based company currently has three devices in the Kindle range – the all-singing, all-dancing Kindle Oasis – comfortably the priciest, the mid-range Kindle Paperwhite, which has a backlit screen and water-resistant design, and finally, the most affordable Amazon Kindle. The latter used to be a pretty barebones offering, but in recent years, hardware features that used to be reserved for the pricier models have trickled down to the entry-level e-reader.

The latest generation Amazon Kindle, which debuted in early 2019, is the most capable yet.

Amazon Kindle: Release Date, Price

  • Starts from $89.99 (£69.99) for the entry-level model
  • Pay an extra $10 to avoid advertisements on the e-ink display

The latest-generation Kindle debuted on April 10, 2019 and can bought from (surprise, surprise) Amazon itself, as well as a number of popular high street stores and third-party online retailers. 

It starts from $89.99 (£69.99) for the entry-level model. Since there’s no choice in the amount of storage in this model of Kindle, the difference in price only determines whether or not you will be served-up with advertisements on the e-ink display whenever the Kindle is asleep.

If you want to avoid those pesky adverts, you’ll have to cough-up an extra £10 ($20) for a model that swaps the lockscreen ads in favour of a number of generic screensavers.

If that seems a little pricier than you were expecting, it’s not your imagination. With the latest iteration of its entry-level Kindle, Amazon has bumped the price up $10 (£10). It’s not a huge deal, especially when you consider this includes a backlit, something previously reserved for the Paperwhite, which was a lot more than $10 (£10) dearer.

Amazon Kindle 2019 review

(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon Kindle: Design

  • Not a flashy or showy design
  • Solidly built

If you’re even vaguely familiar with the design of the Amazon Kindle, there’s not much here to surprise you. That’s not a criticism – the design language consistency between the generations is nice to have. And more importantly, the Kindle is designed to help you lose yourself in whatever you’re reading on the e-ink screen. The design of the e-reader itself is not supposedly to be flashy or showy in the way of a brand-new supercar, or a $1,000 smartphone.

From the moment you pick it up, it’s clear that the Kindle is solidly built. That said, it doesn’t feel premium in the same manner as the Kindle Paperwhite, or the stunning Kindle Oasis.

The lightweight design is easy to hold one-handed with amble space to grip the Kindle on either side of the 6-inch e-ink display – something that’s not possible with the Kindle Oasis without rotating the whole device around every time you want to swap hands. 

The exact dimensions are 160 x 113 x 8.7mm. That’s a little thicker than some of the costlier competition, but it’s much, much svelter than the latest Stephen King paperback tome. The body itself is built entirely from plastic, which is largely why it doesn’t carry the same premium heft as the flagship all-aluminium Kindle Oasis.

The chunky bezels around the black-and-white display are raised with a sizeable rim raised above the screen. This makes the Kindle feel a little cheaper than every other model in the range, which all have an e-ink screen that sits flush with the body, but it does mean you’re less likely to scratch the display when throwing the Kindle into your backpack when the train pulls into your station.

When it comes to hardware buttons, the latest Kindle is pretty sparse. There is a small sleep/wake button to on the underside of the device, next to the microUSB port, which handles charging. Unlike the Kindle Oasis – which as physical buttons to turn the pages – there are no other buttons anywhere on the device, meaning you’re never at risk of accidentally hitting something when you’re being throw around on public transport in the morning.

Amazon Kindle 2019 review

(Image credit: Amazon)

It’s frustrating that Amazon still hasn’t made the jump to USB-C on the latest generation Kindle. If you travel with any remotely modern Android smartphone, an iPad Pro, or recent Apple Mac notebook, it’s deeply irritating that you can’t pack single charging cable and wall plug for all of your devices.

Thankfully, unless you’re emigrating you shouldn’t really need to pack your micro USB charging cable for the Kindle, since the battery life is absolutely stunning. 

However, USB-C could’ve enabled faster charging speeds as well, which is disappointing. It’s not a dealbreaker by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s an irksome omission.

You’ve got the choice of either black or white colours for the entry-level Kindle, which hasn’t changed from the last iteration. However, if you’re looking for something jazzier here are plenty of third-party protective cases – as well as some designed by Amazon itself – with some brighter patterns, and colours.

Speaking of protection, there’s no water resistance to be found here. Unlike the latest Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Oasis, the entry-level e-reader doesn’t come with any IP rating – so if you’re prone to a chronic case of butterfingers, it might be worth investing in a splash-proof case for the Kindle before you hit the pool, bath or beach with a new bestseller.

Amazon Kindle: Display

  • 6-inch screen size
  • Isn’t the sharpest screen around

The biggest draw of any Kindle e-reader is the glare-free e-ink screen. This model keeps the 6-inch screen size – that’s the same as its predecessor and the latest Paperwhite model. Those looking for more screen real estate will have to cough-up a little more for the Kindle Oasis, which has a 7-inch e-ink touchscreen display.

For our money, the 6-inch screen is an ideal compromise between portability and legibility – you’re not going to be constantly turning the pages, and the Kindle is still small enough to fit into your back pocket when you’ve finished reading.

At 167 pixels per inch, this isn’t the sharpest screen around. In fact, it’s almost exactly half the resolution seen on the Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Oasis, which have 300 pixels per inch. When reading most books, the lower resolution wouldn’t even register, but move to a magazine, comic book or even flickering through the covers listed in the Kindle Store and it’s more noticeable. 

Whether the 167 pixels per inch display on the Kindle will bother you largely depends on what you’re going to be doing with the e-reader.

Easily the biggest draw of the updated Kindle is the addition of a backlight to the e-ink screen.No longer will you have to wake your partner whenever you want to just finish the next chapter of your latest Richard and Judy-approved pageturner.

Granted, the backlighting is not as pleasant or evenly distributed on the page as what you get with the Paperwhite, or Oasis since it only has 4 LEDs (the former has 5, the latter has 25), but it’s more than enough to read in the dark. Of course, this is the primary scenario that you’ll want a backlight for, but it also makes reading in direct sunlight much more comfortable, too.

Amazon Kindle 2019 review

(Image credit: Amazon)

Since there’s no ambient light sensor to judge the brightness levels around you and automatically adjust the backlight to fit – that’s reserved for the Kindle Oasis – you’ll have to tap on the touchscreen and manually toggle the brightness yourself the old fashioned way.

Still, it’s great that Amazon has finally brought this feature to the entry-level Kindle. The backlight was a strong impetus to upgrade to the Kindle Paperwhite, so it’s a bold move. But for those who don’t want to spend a lot on their e-reader, but want the flexibility to read inside and outside in the dark and light, it’s a massive win.

The new entry-level Kindle comes with 4GB of built-in storage, which is half of what you’ll finding the Kindle Paperwhite and Oasis. In fact, those models ship with a massive 32GB if you need it.

For most people, 4GB will be absolutely plenty. Ebooks are minuscule, so you’ll be abletokeep thousands on your Kindle at any one time. However, if you want to start dabbling in audiobooks, listening via Bluetooth headphones paired with the Kindle that 4GB could soon disappear.

Amazon Kindle: Battery

  • Battery life is superb
  • Weeks between charges on the Kindle

Like every model in the Amazon Kindle range, the battery life is superb. After four hours solid of reading, browsing the Kindle Store for the next book to put on the (digital) shelf, the battery life indicator only dropped from 100% to 80%.

Even with a lengthy hour-long commute to and from work on the train, you’ll still be able to go weeks between charges on the Kindle.

Amazon Kindle 2019 review

(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon Kindle: Store

  • The best ebook store on the planet right now
  • Purchase and download books directly from the store on the Kindle

It’s not controversial to say the Amazon Kindle Store is easily the best ebook store on the planet right now. If you’re looking for an ebook, it’s almost certainly going to be here. Amazon has a phenomenal selection of fiction and non-fiction titles, as well as constantly refreshing carousel of books on-sale for 99p or less.

If you’re unsure of where to start with the vast number of titles available, Amazon is pretty good at personalising recommendations for you. There’s also integration with GoodReads, if you want to see what friends on the book-centric social network are reading at the moment.

You can purchase and download books directly from the store on the Kindle, or send them to your device from any web browser, as well as your smartphone or tablet app.

One of the biggest benefits is tight integration with the Kindle Store and Amazon’s other services. So, if you’re a Prime subscriber, you’ll get access to a service dubbed Prime Reading, which gives you a rotating carousel of free books and magazines to read. There’s also Kindle Unlimited, which costs an additional $9.99 (£7.99) a month. 

Think of it like Spotify or Apple Music for books, so for the flat subscription fee you’ll get access to a variety of titles. It’s worth noting that you won’t be able to access these books once your subscription is over, so it may not be the most affordable way for you to access the titles you want to read.

Amazon Kindle: Software

  • A joy to use
  • Plenty of choice when it comes to the spacing and justification of the text

Amazon has the most mature and feature-rich operating system on any e-reader. It’s a joy to use, with recommendations to other books that you might like right on the home screen as you as you wake the device. There’s also a list of books on your Wish List, which will take you straight to the listing on the Kindle Store when tapped – perfect for spontaneous purchases.

There’s plenty of choice when it comes to the spacing and justification of the text on the page and the font, including a custom typeface designed from the ground-up by the Kindle team to be legible on an e-ink display.

It also comes with OpenDyslexic, a font designed to mitigate some of the common reading errors caused by dyslexia, which is a really cool feature. Word Wise is an awesome feature for any readers slogging through a particularly challenging read since it automatically loads concise definitions beneath difficult words within the text, so you can continue reading with fewer interruptions. 

Unlike a traditional paperback, you’ll also get an intelligent prediction of how much time you’ve got left in the chapter or the book at the bottom of the page at all times.

Amazon Kindle 2019 review

(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon Kindle: Verdict

The new Amazon Kindle is the best affordable e-reader that money can buy.

If benefits from the unrivalled Kindle Store, as well as the feature-drenched Kindle operating system that Amazon has been tweaking and improving for years. 

The backlight is a brilliant addition and means you’ll be able to keep reading uninterrupted in more places than ever before. Those looking for a waterproof design, premium all-metal design, or more built-in storage, it’s worth plumping for the pricier models, but for everyone else – there’s not much missing from the entry-level Amazon Kindle.