EReaders offer undeniable appeal: They can hold an entire library’s worth of books within one lightweight and easily portable device. Some are also waterproof, suitable for safely reading in the bath or at the beach, and some have a built-in backlight for nighttime reading.
But can an eReader really replicate the experience of reading paper books (with added conveniences), or is it just another unnecessary device?
Amazon’s Kindle has been the cornerstone of the eReader industry for more than a decade, and its newest model offers a few updated features. The company claims that the adjustable brightness allows readers to comfortably see the screen both inside and outside, day or night. It also advertises a weeks-long battery life and a glare-free display that mimics real pages.
We tried out the latest-generation Kindle to find out if its page-like screen and additional features set it apart from other eReaders. Here’s what we found.
The first thing we noticed after unboxing the Kindle was its design. This eReader is thin, sleek and lightweight — a simple design with a slim profile. It’s easy to take on the go, whether you’re going to the park, heading out on a multi-day camping trip or biking around town. It’s also small enough to hold in one hand or to stow on a bedside table without taking up too much room.
As far as construction goes, the Kindle feels sturdy enough for its size, but we were still careful with it when we put it in a backpack or bike bag. You should plan on getting a protective cover for it, just like you would for any other tech gadget.
Look-wise, we liked the matte finish and paper-like screen. The glare-free display made it feel less like we were using a tablet or phone, which makes it easier to stay focused on reading and not get distracted (more on this later). The size of the device was also great: It’s small enough to carry around with you but big enough that you’re not flipping the page every couple seconds.
Kindle E Ink display
A big selling point of Amazon's Kindle is its glare-free display. To understand how it performs, we should take a step back and look at how E Ink works.
How does E Ink work?
With E Ink, what you’re seeing on the screen is actually a countless number of tiny microcapsules, all of which are suspended in a layer of liquid. There microcapsules come in two colors (white and black), with each color containing either a positive or a negative charge. Running a positive current through the screen makes the black microcapsules rise to the surface, so you see black; a negative charge will cause white microcapsules to rise, and the opposite happens. Selectively applying different currents to different areas of the screen allows things like pictures and words to form.
E Ink vs. LCD screens
The way these screens work is entirely different from the way LCD ones do, and that change is most noticeable in its refresh rate (about once per second for E Ink, as opposed to dozens of times per second for LCD). That means it won’t work well for things like video, but it’s great for eReaders where you’re just viewing static pages.
It also means E Ink displays much more closely mimic the appearance of actual paper pages compared to LCD screens because they don’t function by means of a backlight. Instead, E Ink screens are visible due to ambient light from your environment (just like the pages of a book). This means: almost no glare, a longer battery life, and no blue light-induced eye fatigue or headaches.
You do have the optional backlight that you can turn on if you’re reading the Kindle in dark or dim conditions, but the backlight isn’t necessary for seeing the screen as it is on LCD screens.
Amazon claims that the Kindle’s display is book-like, easy-to-read, and adjustable to a variety of settings, and we found all of this to be absolutely true. In our opinion, the display is what makes the device worth it, and even makes it preferable to reading on a tablet, phone, or laptop.
With the Kindle’s display, we were able to read in any light, including direct sunlight. When we switched from reading on the Kindle to an LCD device (our Fire Tablet), we noticed that we had trouble seeing the screen in anything but dark shade or dim indoor settings. The Kindle doesn’t have that problem at all.
For low-light situations, the device has an adjustable front light so you can read in the dark without turning on a lamp or light. We thought this was a great feature that’s really helpful for not disturbing a partner while they sleep or for reading outdoors (like on a camping trip) when you might not conveniently be able to use a lamp.
How to use a Kindle
Overall, we thought the Kindle was very user friendly, especially when compared to older versions of the device.
For one, the settings feel easier to tweak and customize. There aren’t that many changes you can make to the device’s interface, and the ones that are available are easy to adjust. For instance, upon browsing the menu you’ll find readily accessible options to change the font size, add a passcode, adjust the brightness and more.
Navigation was also easy to figure out, especially once you click around and get the hang of it. There’s only one button on the whole device: the wake-up and sleep button. Otherwise, you navigate the Kindle with the touchscreen. It took us a while to get used to this, but in the end we were sold — we liked the simplicity and worried less about the buttons failing (a common problem in older generation Kindles).
The Kindle in its most basic form retails for $90, and we think that’s a fair price. Every model comes with three free months of Kindle Unlimited, and for an extra $20 you can get a no-ads version. We didn’t find the ads to be too annoying, but if you don’t want your eReader trying to sell more ebooks to you, we recommend paying for the upgraded version.
True to its marketing, the Kindle is an easy-to-use, well-designed eReader. The newly introduced front light feature is a great addition to the device that allowed us to read in a variety of light situations without straining our eyes.
We loved the E Ink technology, which got rid of all the glare issues we were experiencing with other eReader devices and was high-res enough that the text looked crisp on the page. Beyond that, the menu was easy to navigate, shopping for and buying ebooks were easy, and the battery held an impressive four-week charge.
The new Kindle also has its downsides. For one, while we loved the adjustable front light, we thought it was a little too blue. It had a slightly disorienting effect, and we’d appreciate a mellower, warmer shade of light. We also didn’t like that the only way to add books to our “wishlist” or “to-read” list was to switch to the Amazon or Goodreads desktop app. A bit more integration between services would make the Kindle a lot easier to use as a standalone device.
We think it’s worth noting that due to the slow refresh rate, the screen has a slow response time and at times it can lag. For those who are used to lightning fast iPhone screens, this can be irritating. You also have to pay more for a model without advertisements.
Is the Kindle worth it?
In almost every way, Amazon’s newest Kindle is an upgrade to its previous iteration, and it blows just about every other eReader out of the water. The newly added front light means you can read in the dark without a lamp or flashlight, and the E Ink technology remains great.
While it has a few quirks, we think this device is still phenomenal, and we recommend it to readers young and old who are looking to move their library to a digital, easily transportable platform.
Landon Groves is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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