Amazon’s Kindle range has got a bit out of hand lately. If, like me, you already thought £110 was a lot to spend on a Kindle Paperwhite, then the prospect of forking out £170 for a Kindle Voyage or £270 for a Kindle Oasis probably isn’t very appealing. After all, why would anyone spend so much when the basic £60 Kindle does essentially the same thing?
Well, for the past two years the answer to that has been simple: Amazon’s 2014 Kindle was made of cheap, nasty plastic that really made it feel like a budget, cut-price device. Fortunately, Amazon’s now revamped its entry-level eReader, and the new 2016 version is better than ever
It’s still made out of plastic, but its thinner, lighter chassis goes a long way to make it feel more upmarket, particularly since its overall thickness of 9.1mm now matches the depth of the current Paperwhite. Likewise, its meagre weight of 161g makes it really easy to hold when you get sucked in for a long reading session.
It’s also the first time the basic Kindle has been available in two colours – black and white. However, I’d advise against opting for white, as it wasn’t long before my white review model starting looking a bit 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 if you want to keep signs of wear and tear to a minimum.
Budget design aside, the basic Kindle remains an excellent eReader. 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.
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 was 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 only downside to choosing the basic Kindle is that 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.
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You’ve also got to choose between the £60 “with special offers” Kindle and a £70 version “without special offers”. I reviewed the latter model, but the “with special offers” Kindle will bombard you with adverts on the lock and home screens every time you turn it on, so you may think an extra £10 a small price to pay.
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.
Amazon’s 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 to 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.
With so many features on board, it’s hard to begrudge the new Kindle, even if its overall design is still a little lacking. If you don’t mind the plastic finish and aren’t planning to read at night, 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’s stopped producing its entry-level Touch and Glo e-readers, the new Kindle is the only e-reader worth considering under £100.