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Amazon Kindle (2016) review: The best low-cost e-reader you can buy

Jonathan Bray Katharine Byrne
19 Oct 2018
Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
60
inc VAT("With Special Offers")

The Amazon Kindle might lack audiobook playback and waterproofing but it's still a great e-reader

Pros 
Cheap
Does everything you need
Responsive touchscreen
Cons 
No light
No physical buttons
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The Amazon Kindle is an easy e-reader to recommend. It costs a mere £60 and it does everything you need an e-reader to do. You can read and store thousands of books on it, and access and purchase directly from Amazon's incredibly rich library of reasonably priced ebooks.

What more could you possibly want? Well, Amazon thinks you might want to pay more for a more "luxurious" reading experience. It's offering the Kindle Paperwhite for £119 – that's double the cost of the standard model – and the Kindle Oasis for £270. If, like me, you already thought the Kindle Paperwhite was expensive, you'd be well justified in asking who on earth would spend this much.

A few years ago, the answer to that question was simple: Amazon's 2014 Kindle was made of cheap, nasty plastic that really made it feel like a budget, cut-price device. Amazon's current entry-level e-reader is far from that. It's a well-made perfectly fit-for purpose e-reader that, for many will suffice.

READ NEXT: Which Kindle is right for you? We compare every model

Amazon Kindle review: Design

While the Kindle is still made out of plastic, its thinner, lighter chassis goes a long way to make it feel more upmarket to previous models. Likewise, its meagre weight of 161g makes it really easy to hold when you get sucked in for a long reading session.

The basic Kindle is available in two colours – black and white. However, I'd advise against opting for white, as it won't be long before it starts to look scruffy. After just three days in my backpack, there were visible grey marks where it had been pressed up against other things in my bag, and it even picked up a bit of red from my coat on the back. These aren't the type of marks you can just rub away with your thumb, either, so I'd recommend sticking with the regular black version or buying a case if you want to keep signs of wear and tear to a minimum.

Budget design aside, the basic Kindle remains an excellent e-reader. Its 6in touchscreen display is very responsive, and all you need to do to turn the page is tap either side of the screen. Using it single-handed isn't a problem, either, regardless of whether you're right- or left-handed. As long as you can reach the centre of the screen, the pages will keep turning.

Amazon Kindle review: Display and features

Admittedly, its pixel density of 167ppi can't match the rest of the Kindle range (all of which now have super-crisp pixel densities of 300ppi), but I never had any complaints about its general screen quality. Text remained sharp no matter what size font I used, and it was only when I really peered in close that I started to see a couple of jagged edges. From a normal reading distance, you shouldn't have any trouble at all.

The downsides to choosing the basic Kindle are a few now that Amazon has upgraded its basic Paperwhite e-reader. First, you don't get a built-in light. As a result, reading at night isn't really an option with this Kindle, so nocturnal bookworms should probably consider a more expensive e-reader, such as the Paperwhite or the Kobo Glo HD. Second, the basic Kindle isn't waterproof, like the 2018 Paperwhite (launching November 2018) and the 7in Oasis. And, third, there's no support for Audible audiobook playback over Bluetooth. Both the Paperwhite and Oasis can now boast that feature.

If it's just straight up reading you want to do, though, the regular Kindle is the easy choice, although you do have a couple of options to choose between. There's the £60 model "with special offers" Kindle and the £70 version "without special offers". I reviewed the latter model, but the "with special offers" Kindle will bombard you with adverts on the lock screen every time you turn it on; I think an extra £10 is a small price to pay to remove these.

The basic Kindle comes with 4GB of onboard storage, so you should have plenty of room for your burgeoning library of ebooks, but you can always delete and re-download them again should you happen to run out. Sadly though, as there’s no 3G option available you'll just need to connect to Wi-Fi every time you want to buy and download more books. Still, that’s no bad thing for battery life: Amazon states you should be able to get a month's worth of battery power out of it provided you have the Wi-Fi turned off and only read for 30 minutes each day.

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Amazon Kindle review: User interface

Amazon has recently revamped its Kindle interface, so the new basic Kindle feels bang up to date when it comes to additional features. Not only do you get the usual dictionary, highlight and translator options, but you can also explore and search key ideas, characters and places mentioned in a book with Amazon's X-Ray technology. Likewise, Page Flip now lets you view multiple pages at once, allowing you to dip in and out of key passages or refer to maps and pictures elsewhere in the book without losing your place. Keeping track of Frodo and his chums in Lord of the Rings, for example, has never been so easy on a digital e-reader.

^ With Page Flip, you can see several pages all at once, allowing you to zip back and forth between maps and diagrams or other sections of the book without losing your place

Social networks are also supported, with Facebook and Twitter users able to share highlighted passages, while Goodreads users can rate books and see what their friends are currently reading. Child profiles are available, too, and Amazon's Household and Family Sharing means you can add another adult and up to four children to the device to read books freely between them.

Finally, VoiceView Screen Reader lets blind or visually impaired users connect a pair of Bluetooth headphones to the Kindle, allowing them to get audio feedback to help with navigating the device, as well as have what's currently onscreen read aloud to them.

Amazon Kindle review: Verdict

With so many features it's hard to criticise the basic Amazon Kindle, even if its overall design is still a little lacking. If you don't mind the plastic finish and the lack of night light doesn't bother you, then the new Kindle has plenty to recommend it. It's definitely worth spending the extra £10 over the 2014 model, and now that Kobo has stopped producing entry-level e-readers, the Kindle is the only e-reader worth considering under £100.

Hardware
Screen size6in
Screen resolution800 x 600
Storage4GB
Memory cardNone
Dimensions160 x 115 x 9.1mm
Weight161g
Battery life1 month
Networking802.11n
Portsmicro-USB
Format support
ebook supportKindle Format 8 (AZW3), Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively
Other file supportHTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion

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