Amazon Kindle (2016) review: The best value e-reader
The Amazon Kindle (2016) sits at the bottom of a range that, for some years now, has dominated the world of e-readers. In fact, Amazon’s devices, with their combination of useful software features, top quality hardware and exclusive access to Amazon’s huge range of reasonably priced ebooks, have pretty much seen off all rivals over the recent years.
It’s reached the point, today, where the only choice you’re likely to face when it comes to buying a new e-reader is which Kindle to buy and, besides this regular model, Amazon has plenty of choice for potential customers.
The Amazon Kindle 2016 is one of no fewer than four e-readers on sale.
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It’s the cheapest in Amazon’s range, costing a mere £60 (or £70 if you want to avoid being confronted with “special offers” on the lockscreen), and it sits below the Kindle Paperwhite (£110), the Kindle Voyage (£170) and the Kindle Oasis (£270). Given that an e-reader is a simple thing, you could be forgiven for wondering what could justify such a wide spread of prices.
To summarise, I’ve put together a quick table comparing key features across the range:
|Amazon Kindle 2016||Amazon Kindle Paperwhite||Amazon Kindle Voyage||Amazon Kindle Oasis|
|Buy now from Amazon||Buy now from Amazon||Buy now from Amazon||Buy now from Amazon|
|Size||115 x 9.1 x 160mm, 161g||117 x 9.1 x 169mm, 205g (Wi-Fi)/217g (3G)||115 x 7.6 x 162mm, 180g (Wi-Fi)/188g (3G)||143 mm x 122 mm x 3.4-8.5 mm, 238g (Wi-Fi)/240g (3G) – with cover|
|Screen||6in E Ink Pearl, 167ppi||6in E Ink Carta, 300ppi||6in E Ink Carta, 300ppi||6in E Ink Carta, 300ppi|
|Front light?||No||Yes||Yes (adaptive)||Yes|
|Page turns||Optical touchscreen||Capacitive touchscreen||Capacitive touchscreen and haptic, touch-sensitive buttons||Capacitive touchscreen and physical buttons|
However, if price is a big deciding factor for you, you should probably wait until Amazon’s big Black Friday sales later this month to see which Kindles the retail giant decides to discount. It’s very likely that one or more of Amazon’s ereaders will be slashed in price as – traditionally – Amazon devices are some of the most popular items to feature big discounts on Black Friday, so it’s definitely worth keeping your eyes peeled.
This year, Black Friday is taking place on Friday, 24 November. You can check Amazon’s Black Friday deals page here closer to the time. It could help you decide which Kindle to go for if one is much cheaper than the other.
If price i not really what drives your decision, you should know there are some key differences between all of Amazon’s Kindles. For example, do you really need an e-reader as thin as light as the Oasis, when, for the most part, this standard Kindle does exactly the same job?
Well, if you like nice things, it’s definitely worth looking up the range, since – as befits a product costing less than a quarter the price of the top-spec Kindle Oasis – the regular Kindle isn’t anywhere near as slender or as well knitted together.
In fact, it’s a surprisingly cheap-feeling device. The matte-finish plastic is available in white or black, but whichever you choose, the lightweight construction means this Kindle feels every bit the budget e-reader.
Tap the rear of the device and it sounds hollow; apply pressure and it bends disconcertingly; the plastic power button on the bottom edge feels far from hard-wearing.[gallery:2]
I wasn’t impressed with the finish on the white version I was sent for review, either. After only a few days of being carried around in my bag, it was already looking dirty and scruffy. In fact, overall, it appears to be less well made than Amazon’s £50 Kindle Fire tablet, which is somewhat of a surprise given the e-reader is more expensive.
The one high spot is that it’s an extremely light device, tipping the scales at a featherlight 161g.[gallery:5]
Amazon Kindle 2016 review: Display, performance and features
Still, once you’ve switched it on, there’s every chance you’ll completely forget about the cheapness, and that’s mainly down to it’s excellent E-Ink Pearl screen and slick performance.
Sure, its 600 x 800, 167ppi resolution isn’t as high as the Paperwhite, Voyage and Oasis – which all have the latest, far sharper, 300ppi E Ink Carta panel – but you’d need pretty sharp eyesight for the lower-resolution screen here to bother you. And the contrast between page background and text is almost as good. Set alongside the far more expensive Oasis with its light turned down, I found it tough to separate the two.
What’s likely to cause more annoyance is that the Amazon Kindle 2016 comes with neither a light – making reading in the dark more difficult – nor an alternative to the touchscreen for turning pages. This isn’t something that bothers me, but some folk simply prefer pressing buttons. I’d recommend you learn to live with this if money is tight, though, since you’d have to spend £100 more to get a Kindle with buttons (the Kindle Paperwhite is also touchscreen-only).[gallery:7]
The only other major omission is that there’s no 3G version of the basic Kindle, but with Wi-Fi hotspots so prevalent these days, that’s not a major concern. Just make sure you plan ahead and you’ll never be short of books to read.
Elsewhere, the basic Kindle is very similar to its more expensive counterparts. It has a touchscreen and, although this is optical rather than capacitive, it works perfectly. Performance is quick and slick, and battery life is a claimed “up to four weeks” – although note that this is with wireless turned off, and reading limited to 30 minutes a day.
There’s even Bluetooth audio connectivity, so those who need a screen reader can both navigate the Kindle interface and have their ebooks read out to them through headphones.
And, don’t forget, the Kindle also benefits from the same software and service offering as the rest of the Kindles. That means the same slick UI, complete with recently introduced Bookerly font and type-setting engine, which makes text more print-like in appearance. It also means the same access to Amazon’s huge library of ebooks and magazines and its family sharing features, while Prime subscribers also get access to the Kindle Lending Library and free books and magazines via Prime Reading.[gallery:3]
Amazon Kindle 2016 review: Verdict
This is a basic e-reader, that much is obvious from the design and build of 2016’s Kindle. So, if you value such things, shift your sights higher to the Paperwhite, Voyage or Oasis. Those devices have more features and better build quality. You’ll almost certainly enjoy owning them more than the functional, standard Kindle.
Once you look past the features the basic Kindle lacks, however, a highly capable e-reader emerges. It’s responsive, lightweight, reads well, and when it comes to the most important things – usability and content – it’s just as good as any of its pricier rivals. Simply put, the Amazon Kindle remains the best e-reader you can buy if you can’t – or don’t want to – spend more on your next e-reader.