The new, slightly pricier basic Kindle is the perfect budget ebook reader
- Integrated reading light
- Audible audiobook compatibility
- Low price
- No water resistance
- No page turn buttons
- Half the storage of the Paperwhite
For a long time, the main argument against buying the basic Amazon Kindle was that, despite the low price, it was too simple. More specifically, that it wasn’t as well made as the Paperwhite and that it had no built-in reading light.
With the arrival of the 2019 model, however, those issues have finally been sorted out; you can happily splash £70 on Amazon’s cheapest ebook reader safe in the knowledge that it does pretty much everything its pricier stablemates can.
Amazon Kindle (2019) review: What you need to know
The front light isn’t the only new feature, either. Amazon has also added Bluetooth and, along with it, the ability to listen to download and listen to Audible audiobooks.
The core features haven’t been upgraded, though, despite a mild redesign. The new Kindle still has a 6in 167ppi E Ink touch-sensitive display, which is easier on the eye than smartphone and tablet screens. It’s still available in only black or white and it still hooks seamlessly into Amazon’s vast catalogue of ebooks, allowing you to search for and buy titles on the reader itself.
The basic Kindle still lacks some of the more advanced features of the Kindles further up the range (of course it does, otherwise Amazon wouldn’t be able to sell the more expensive ones) but nothing that would seriously get in the way of the enjoyment of a good book.
Amazon Kindle (2019) review: Price and competition
Like other Kindles, Amazon’s new ebook reader is available in two different flavours: “With special offers” and “Without special offers”. Essentially, “special offers” means adverts on the lockscreen, which in my opinion aren’t particularly intrusive. With these enabled, the Kindle costs £70; if you want to remove the ads, it’s £10 more expensive and will run you to £80.
At that price, the new Kindle has no significant rivals when it comes to value for money – not from other manufacturers, anyway. In fact, the only big rival manufacturer still selling dedicated ebook readers is Kobo, whose recent products have all been focused firmly at the luxury end of the market, leaving Amazon to mop up in the budget sector.
The only real choice you have to make, then, is between the various different models (with or without special offers) of basic Kindle and buying the slightly more expensive Kindle Paperwhite (£120), which has more storage space, a crisper display and a slightly sleeker design. Alternatively, if having a built-in light doesn’t bother you, you can save £20 and opt for the old eighth-generation Kindle, which is still on sale and costs £50.
Amazon Kindle (2019) review: Features and design
The good news is the basic Kindle is no longer as cheap-feeling and plasticky as the previous-generation device. Sure, it isn’t as nice to pick up and hold and read with as the Oasis is, but it gives the Paperwhite a run for its money.
The 2019 Kindle is solidly made, is light and feels comfortable to hold. The edges and front bezels are a little more rounded than the old model, but otherwise it’s a familiar design. The 6in E Ink screen dominates the front of the device, slightly inset to accommodate the infrared touch sensors that run around the edges, and broad bezels surround the screen giving you a good swathe of plastic to grip while you’re holding it one-handed.
The only other significant physical features remain the micro-USB port and power button located on the bottom edge, which to be honest I’d love for Amazon to reposition. It isn’t a huge problem but I find that, when resting the e-reader on a hand or a hard surface, I’ve turned off the device by accident, which wouldn’t happen if the button was position on the top edge or the the side.
Another small negative is that there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack on the 2019 Kindle, which means that if you want to listen to audiobooks on this Kindle, you have to connect a pair of headphones or a speaker to it via Bluetooth. That’s easy enough to do, fortunately, but if your preferred headphones are wired you’re not going to be able to use them with the new Kindle.
Lastly, you don’t get physical buttons for turning the page, either, another thing that might irk some potential buyers. In my experience, turning pages by tapping either side of the screen, or swiping across, isn’t a big deal and has the side benefit of improving reliability. With no physical buttons on the Kindle, there’s one (or two) fewer points of potential failure.
There aren’t many differences between this basic Kindle and the slightly pricier Paperwhite, but those that do exist are significant. First up – and probably the biggest – is the display, which is lower in resolution on the basic Kindle, at a pixel density of 256ppi (pixels per inch). This difference in sharpness isn’t major but if you pay attention, the text on the cheaper Kindle is clearly a little less crisp and well defined than on its more expensive sibling.
My eyes are certainly more comfortable with the Kindle Paperwhite’s cleaner sharper text and if you do a lot of reading, it’s the main reason to pay the extra to upgrade to the pricier e-reader.
Another difference is that the front light consists of four rather than the five LEDs of the Paperwhite. This is less of a deal breaker: the light on the Kindle is just as consistent as the Paperwhite’s, with no discernible bright or dark patches. The basic Kindle is also not IPX8 waterproof or available with cellular connectivity like the Paperwhite. Again, though, these aren’t serious shortcomings and I, for one, could certainly live without them.
Perhaps more of an issue is that there’s half the amount of storage inside the regular Kindle (4GB) than there is in the cheapest Paperwhite (8GB). This won’t be a problem if you plan on sticking with just text-based ebooks and you don’t want to store more than a few hundred titles. If you plan on using it to download and listen to audiobooks regularly, though, you’ll quickly chomp through that amount of storage. With no way to expand the internal storage via microSD card, you’ll have to manage your storage carefully if audiobooks are your main reason for buying this Kindle.
It’s also somewhat disappointing that Amazon still hasn’t found a place in its current range of ebook readers for a blue-light-reduction system as in the rather impressive Kobo Forma, or that Amazon hasn’t included an ambient light sensor. You have to adjust the reading light manually if you want to change the intensity.
Still, aside from these shortcomings, overall the new Kindle does the job admirably and, if you’ve used one before, you’ll be right at home. The software is no different from that on the most expensive Kindle Oasis and, at the end of the day, a book is a book is a book, whether your penchant is for trashy fantasy or more cerebral reads.
Amazon Kindle (2019) review: Verdict
To be brutally honest, however, none of the 2019 Amazon Kindle’s failings affect its overall appeal. Although it isn’t quite the cheapest Kindle, the addition of a front light and Bluetooth connectivity mean it’s clearly the best-value Kindle in the range.
If you’re looking for a cheap replacement for your ageing 5th-generation Kindle, then, or perhaps something even older, take my advice and just go out and buy yourself one of these new models. You most certainly will not regret it.