Amazon has updated it entire tablet and e-reader line, and the new, basic, iconically-named Kindle runs just $79 to start, and ships with touchscreen controls and twice the storage of the previous generation, plus a faster processor for quicker page turns. It’s $10 more than the fifth-generation Kindle with hardware controls, however, and while it’s still the best e-reader for the money in its price range, the design choices made here might have some people wishing the older model was still in service.
- 6-inch, Pearl e-paper display, 167 ppi
- 6.7 ounces
- 4GB internal storage
- Up to four weeks of battery life
- MSRP: $79 with special offers, $99 without
- Product info page
- Better processor means better performance
- Thin and light design
- Farewell to hardware page turn buttons
- Less comfortable and larger than 2013 Kindle
Amazon has gone more angular with the new Kindle, but surprisingly, despite its abandonment of physical controls, the gadget is actually heavier than its predecessor, and slightly larger in both horizontal and vertical dimensions. The case is made from a hard plastic that definitely doesn’t feel premium, either, and is actually somewhat uncomfortable in the hand compared to previous generations.[gallery ids="1065558,1065559,1065560,1065561,1065556"]
The basics are still all fine; it’s a rectangle that’s thin and light and easy to use one-handed. But Amazon seems to have put more effort into improving tech in this generation, making its touchscreen tech (which uses IR instead of capacitive glass to avoid glare) and better processor priorities over physical case improvements. As someone who misses the hardware buttons on the primary Kindle line (and is looking forward to their reintroduction on the Kindle Voyage), their absence is not a great trade-off for the introduction of touch, though that does make using the software keyboard for searching and browsing the Kindle Store much, much easier.
Design isn’t the new Kindle’s standout feature, but it does feel durable in the way kids’ toys seemed built to take abuse. Amazon is casting a wide net here with its entry-level device, and this does feel like a reader you won’t feel bad about stuffing in a purse or backpack unprotected, though that’s probably not a great idea for the screen. Amazon’s custom cases for the new Kindle also improve the feeling of the device in the hand, and offer a fold-over front cover protector that mitigates that risk.
Amazon’s new Kindle is a speedy e-reader, especially given its price, and the screen is very legible and high-contrast despite boasting the same specs as last year’s model. Touch input works flawlessly, without any hiccups or missed inputs, and as mentioned above, any time you have to do any text entry the on-screen keyboard is a life saver.
The Kindle now goes through plenty of page turns before doing a complete screen refresh, which is when it momentarily blacks out the entire display and then returns to its standard black text on white background appearance. It seems to only need a full refresh when it shifts chapters now, depending on how long you spend on each page, and that makes for a much more pleasant reading experience.
Combined with Amazon’s store and its existing ecosystem, which is the familiar home for many Kindle owners, the convenience that Amazon offers is unmatched in the e-reader industry. The gadget also has battery life that’s basically going to last you an entire month even with frequent use, and new and improved storage that will provide enough space for what amounts to the entire library of Alexandria.
Amazon has delivered a new Kindle that essentially adds up to a Paperwhite without the built-in lighting technology, for a price at which it’s a no-brainer holiday gift for the avid reader in your life. There’s a contingent of users like myself who will miss the hardware page turning buttons, despite the added text entry convenience of the touchscreen, but for most users, an added touchscreen probably outweighs the trade-offs.
I sense that some of the design decisions made here are in place to make the Paperwhite and the all-new Voyage more appealing options, but the fact remains that Amazon has delivered the best e-reader at this cost available anywhere. An e-reader may be a hard expense to justify in the age of giant smartphones with displays that render text beautifully, but at $79 with special offers or $99 without, Amazon’s entry-level Kindle is almost like a relatively cheap, and very useful smartphone accessory