Amazon Kindle (2016)
Let’s not mince our words – Amazon makes the best e-readers. The Kindle is nine years old, and in that time we have now arrived at this, the eighth iteration of everyone’s favourite, cheapest digital means of reading a book. The Kindle Oasis may have caused a stir by being incredibly expensive at £269, so what has Amazon changed on this, the ‘All-new’ Kindle?
Only those spoilt by the ridiculous luxury of the Kindle Oasis will baulk in any way at the build quality here. Sure, its cheaper plastic casing isn’t top of the line, but the Kindle’s simplicity is its secret weapon. There are no distractions; it has touchscreen input, no backlight and just one physical button (sleep/wake/ off). When you’re reading a book, you can’t get much simpler than the page and a blank white border. It’s just like (whisper it) a book.
At first we were sceptical about the white model, but it’s actually very inoffensive. If anything, it’s more comfortable to read as it is closer to the white of a page, whereas some black Kindles give the feeling of a boxed-in screen, which is best to avoid in order to get lost in the latest John Le Carré.
The new Kindle measures 160x115x9.1mm. This is actually smaller than the Kindle Paperwhite and only 1.4mm thicker than the Kindle Voyage. Like every one of Amazon’s e-readers, the screen measures six inches diagonally. It’s also the second lightest Kindle in the range at 161g – the only lighter model is the Oasis, and even that is heavier when you’ve got the battery cover attached.
The new Kindle is seriously svelte, with a flat back compared to the previous generation’s angled casing. We could fit the new model into the inside pocket of a coat, but it’s not phone sized, so don’t try shoving it in your jeans. In short, you’ll struggle to find a better-designed e-reader at this price. It is quite plasticy, though. Then again, it’s made of plastic.
As mentioned, the screen is six inches across diagonally, but where the Kindle’s low price point does show slightly is in the resolution. The pixel density is 167ppi, whereas all the other pricier Kindles have 300ppi. In reality though, this doesn’t matter. We powered through a novel with no legibility problems on the new e-reader.
It’s great to see Amazon keep the touchscreen functionality from the last generation on the 2016 model. Taking away the buttons from its design gives the Kindle one simple task – display the book. You can tap anywhere on the screen (bar the extreme left and top) to turn the page. Tapping on the far left, or swiping back like you might on
a tablet takes you back a page. It’s intuitive and works every time.
The touch input method is also necessary to use the Kindle Store and some of the e-readers’ features. Tap at the top of the screen at any time and you’re given a menu bar. From here you can go to the home screen, settings or the Kindle Store, as well as Goodreads, the feature where you can share and read reviews of books in your library with friends and the wider Kindle community.
You can also search through the book you have open. The touch controls make this far easier to do than on previous generations with buttons. It’s also easy to bookmark and fold over pages, which is handy if you’re the only one at book club with a Kindle and you want to earmark certain passages.
The Kindle keeps the price down again by only being available with Wi-Fi connectivity, so if you want to be able to download books on the go over 3G, you’ll have to opt for the Paperwhite at least. Here, Wi-Fi allows you to download books, and also share passages to Facebook and Twitter, though this feature is rather clunky.
The best reason to keep Wi-Fi on is because it syncs where in the book you’re up to with your other devices. If you forget your e-reader on the commute, the Kindle app on your smartphone will sync to the exact page you have reached.
Keeping Wi-Fi on will affect the battery life, though. With it turned off, the 2016 Kindle will last for at least a month between charges. This is standard for a Kindle, but remains outstanding given how we are all used to charging our phones at least once a day. Bookworms will be in heaven – you could go on a three-week holiday and not even take the charger with you.
There are other good features such as instant translation of words and the X-Ray feature that lets you, in some books, view character descriptions and important passages to remind you of events. It’s also the first Kindle to ship with built-in Bluetooth for the visually impaired. Called VoiceView, it’s good to see Amazon including it – unfortunately we couldn’t test it as we didn’t have the right accessories.
Weirdly, the biggest compliment we can pay the Kindle is that we didn’t really use any of these secondary features. Within minutes of taking our review unit out of the box we’d downloaded a book and were reading away without looking at any instructions. Its simplicity and cheap price (compared to the rest of the range) are the reasons it works so well.
If you are new to the e-reader game or if your battered five-year old Kindle is starting to show its age, then this is the perfect choice. The 2016 Kindle does the basics just as well as the Kindle Oasis, which costs £200 more. Why not spend £200 on books instead? We highly recommend the entry-level Kindle if you don’t need a backlight and you want a clean, easy reading experience.