An Amazon Kindle provides readers with the ability to carry thousands of books, magazines, and comics with them, wherever they go. The fact that a Kindle has a display that can be read in any lighting conditions, outstanding battery life, and the ability to purchase and down books on-the-go is the icing on the cake. Unfortunately, while years of reading will have informed which books you enjoy the most, it won’t have prepared you to pick which Kindle is best. Don’t fret! The bookworms at Reviewed have your back.
We’ve spent years—in and out of the office—testing Amazon’s Kindle e-readers. Right now, the best Kindle for reading, for most people is the Kindle Paperwhite(available at Amazon for $99.99). With a design overhaul and a number of desirable new features, the latest version of this device will keep book lovers happy, for years to come. It offers a bright, crisp display, loads of storage, and can be used to read a great book downloaded from the Amazon Kindle Store or, through the use of a Bluetooth speaker or earphones, to listen to one via Amazon’s Audible audiobooks service.
While the Paperwhite might be the best Kindle for most people, there are more luxurious options and more affordable ones to consider which we've also reviewed for this guide. We also have a guide to [the best e-readers] if you prefer learning about other, similar devices.
These are the best Kindles we tested ranked, in order:
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2021)
Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019)
Amazon Kindle (2019)
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition (11th Gen, Without Ads)
At 6.9 x 4.9 by .32-inches in size, The 2021 (11th generation) Kindle Paperwhite is slightly larger and about an ounce heavier than its predecessor. However, it’s still light enough to hold with one hand, for a good, long reading session.
Thanks to its larger dimensions and thinner screen bezels, the 2021 Paperwhite is able to accommodate a 6.8-inch E Ink display: a significant upgrade over the six-inch display that had been the signature of the product line since 2012. This translates into more words on-screen at a time, making for a more immersive reading experience. Text and grayscale images appear crisp, thanks to the new display’s 300 dots per inch resolution and consistent side lighting, made possible by 17 strategically-placed LEDs.
For the first time, Paperwhite readers have the ability to change the color temperature of the device’s lighting which can help reduce eye strain (in my experience) and help to diminish the amount of blue light that you’re exposed to. All of this extra display real estate and lighting are backed up by a faster processor than the last version. If you own an older Kindle, you’ll find that books load faster on the 2021 Paperwhite and that the transition from page to page is smoother.
Charging has gotten faster, too, thanks to Amazon’s sunsetting of Micro USB in favor of a USB-C charging port. The latest version of the Paperwhite is capable of going up to 10 weeks between charges—although your mileage will vary, depending on your reading habits. Once its battery has been depleted, it can be recharged in five hours, when plugged into a computer or, 2.5 hours—which is a lot faster than older Paperwhites could manage—if it’s plugged into a nine-Watt power supply. Fast charging aside, being able to charge your e-reader with the same cable that powers your headphones, smartphone, and laptop is a significant win.
What hasn’t changed is that 2021 Paperwhite owners still have access to Amazon’s unrivaled collection of e-books, comics, newspapers, and periodicals as well as Audible audiobooks and podcasts. Additionally, it’s still tough enough to survive casual abuse of being knocked around in a book bag and other similar misadventures. And, as with the 2018 edition Paperwhite, the latest iteration has been awarded an IPX8 rating. This means that it will continue to function, even if it’s left in close to seven feet of freshwater, for up to an hour.
At the time this review was written, Amazon offered two different versions of the 2021 Kindle Paperwhite. The premium version of the device called the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition (available at Amazon), comes with 32GB of internal storage, a light sensor to automatically change the device’s display brightness to match exterior lighting conditions, and 10-Watt wireless Qi charging. The entry-level Paperwhite comes packing 8GB or 16GB of storage and forgoes the Signature Edition’s light sensor and Qi charging capabilities.
It’s our opinion that most people should invest in the entry-level Paperwhite. While 8GB or 16GB isn’t a lot of storage if you’re using a laptop full of software, it’s more than enough space to store thousands of e-books. Additionally, for a device that can go for weeks between charges, wireless charging isn’t so much a convenience as it is an absurdity. Charging your Kindle’s battery via USB-C is faster and more efficient.
I’m Séamus Bellamy. I’ve always been a voracious reader with a large library. A few years ago, my wife and I decided to invest in a nomadic lifestyle and moved into a 40-foot long motorhome, with the intention of traveling, full-time. This meant, in the name of space-saving, saying goodbye to scores of the paperback and hardcover books that we collected over the years. To feed our reading habits, we turned to using e-readers.
Over the past few years, I’ve tested and reviewed dozens of e-readers from a wide range of companies. I want to channel my passion for these devices into helping you find the perfect Kindle for the bookworm in your life—especially if that bookworm is you!
There’s only one way to test an e-reader like an Amazon Kindle: you’ve got to read a lot of books.
Over the years, we’ve spent months of quality time with Kindle e-readers, absorbed in good books for hours at a time. We used the products in this guide in direct sunlight, with the lights out in bed, and during the day in well-lit rooms to ensure that the ebooks we were devouring were legible no matter the conditions.
Where waterproofing was claimed, waterproofing was tested: We took waterproof Kindles into hot tubs, pools, and, for the sake of consistency, submerged them in a sink full of water for 45 minutes. Finally, we tested battery life. As everyone’s reading habits and preference for page illumination differ, we don’t feel comfortable quoting you exact figures on how long a Kindle will last between charges. We can tell you, however, that all of the devices in this roundup can go for a week or more before you’ll need to juice its battery up again.
What You Should Know About Kindles
Why Buy a Kindle When I Already Own a Tablet?
Tablets are a great choice for consuming content from services like Facebook, Twitter, and sites like USA Today or Reviewed. By installing Amazon’s free Kindle and Audible apps, you can even download ebooks and audiobooks to your tablet, just like you would on a Kindle. Given that a tablet can also be used to watch movies, stream music, chat with friends via a service like Signal or be used to plow through email and other productivity tasks, investing in a one-trick pony like a Kindle might feel like a waste of money to you. We’d argue, however, that the fact that a Kindle is designed to focus on one task—letting you read or listen to a good book—is what, for bookworms, makes it such a sound investment.
An Amazon Kindle is smaller and lighter than most tablets, making them easier to hold during hours-long reading sessions. As Kindles don’t come packing dozens of apps, designed to fracture your concentration with notifications and updates, you’ll find that using one allows you to become immersed in the books you love, in a way that a tablet simply can’t afford.
A tablet’s beautiful high-resolution display might be gorgeous for streaming Netflix with—provided you’re indoors. If you want to take the show outside, you’ll discover that your display is hard to enjoy in direct sunlight. Not so on a Kindle with its E-Ink display. No matter the lighting conditions, you’ll be able to read without difficulty. That studies have shown that blue spectrum light, like that produced by the display of a tablet or laptop, can disrupt your body’s melatonin production, makes reading on a tablet before bed, less than desirable. Amazon’s most recent Kindle, the All-New Kindle Oasis, features a display with adjustable color temperature; a feature that puts the fear of nighttime reading to bed.
Finally, there’s battery life: even with moderate use, a tablet-like an iPad needs to be charged every couple of days. A Kindle, with its low-powered display and front lighting, and processor, sips power by comparison. Depending on your reading habits, you may be able to go for weeks at a time between charges.
Subscription Options: What is Kindle Unlimited?
Kindle Unlimited is a relatively new subscription service offered by Amazon that is sort of like the Apple Music of reading material. For a subscription fee, users receive instantaneous access to a huge, ever-expanding library of books, audiobooks, and magazines.
Prime Reading and Kindle Unlimited both function in the same basic way: as subscription-based services that offer users access to books and periodicals. That said, it's worth understanding their differences.
Prime Reading is available to anyone with an active Amazon Prime subscription. It's not limited to Amazon Kindles and can be accessed on any device that supports Amazon’s Kindle app. This includes iPhones, Android phones, iPads, and Android tablets. Reading materials can be "checked out" of the Prime Reading library, but users are limited to 10 publications at once. Amazon claims that the Prime Reading library contains over 1,000 books and magazines.
Kindle Unlimited is a little different. It requires a monthly subscription. So, if you have an Amazon Prime account and want to access Kindle Unlimited, you’ll have to fork over an additional monthly fee for the privilege. For voracious readers, it could be a smart investment. While you’re only allowed to have 10 books downloaded from the service at any one time, Kindle Unlimited users have an incredible one million different books to choose from—that’s enough reading material to last a lifetime.
Which Kindles are Waterproof?
Right now, the only Kindles that are waterproof are the 2017 and 2019 editions of the Kindle Oasis and the 2021 Kindle Paperwhite. All three have an IPX8 water resistance rating, which means they can be submerged in up to 2 meters (about 6.5 feet) of freshwater for an hour at a time.
You should know, however, being waterproof doesn’t make your Kindle corrosion-proof. If you plan on using your Kindle in a saltwater pool or at the beach, try to avoid getting it wet as the salt can eat away at the device’s USB port and in the case of the Kindle Oasis, its aluminum body. If your device is exposed to saltwater, don’t panic: rinse it off as soon as you can with fresh water and you’re good to go.
What Does Amazon Mean By 'Special Offers?'
'Special offers' is a nice way of saying that while using your Kindle, you'll be fed occasional bits of advertising. If you opt for a Kindle that comes with special offers, you'll pay a little less than you would for one that ships without them. It is possible to pay Amazon to remove special offer content from your Kindle, down the road.
Other Kindles We Tested
Kindle Oasis (2019, 32 GB)
With its waterproof, aluminum body, physical page turn buttons, and glass display, the All-New Kindle Oasis’ form and features feel luxurious when compared to the dependable functionality of a Kindle Paperwhite. As with the last two generations of this device, the 2019 Oasis’ wedge-like design and page-turn buttons make one-handed reading super easy.
The latest iteration of the Oasis brings readers a minor reduction in weight and a small increase in battery capacity over previous iterations of the device. These changes are slight enough that users of the last generation of the device likely won't notice. More significant, is the introduction of front lighting with varying color temperatures on this flagship e-reader. Text read on the Oasis can be lit up with the traditional bright, blue spectrum light that Kindle users have become accustomed to, or with warmer, yellow hues that in testing, proved easier on our eyes. As blue-spectrum light can stymy melatonin production, this upgrade is a huge win for anyone that enjoys reading before they nod off for the night. The illumination level of the Oasis’ 12 LEDs can automatically change thanks to a built-in ambient light sensor, which makes this luxury buy feel all the more decadent. You won’t find better e-reader lighting, anywhere. Period. Additionally, if you love listening to podcasts and audiobooks, the Oasis has your back. As with the other Kindles in Amazon’s current lineup, it allows users, via a pair of Bluetooth headphones or a wireless speaker, to listen to content from Audible.
You’ve noticed that we use the word luxury in this review—as you may have guessed, the price of the All-New Kindle Oasis is steep. In fact, it can cost almost twice as much as a current-generation Kindle Paperwhite. Given that the Paperwhite performs almost as well and comes packing many of the same features as the Oasis, it’s hard to recommend this device to anyone but the staunchest of ebook aficionados.
The latest version of Amazon’s basic Kindle comes with a number of significant upgrades over its previous incarnations. That it now comes packing display lighting is a welcome feature. That this lighting comes from four adjustable LEDs—not so much.
While you’ll be able to see your Kindle’s display in a dark environment, the illumination provided by the four LEDs isn’t consistent across the whole of the device’s display. We found that, over time, this can lead to eye strain. By contrast, our favorite Kindle for most people, the Kindle Paperwhite, comes packing five LEDs. One additional light source might not seem like it would make a huge difference to readability, but it does. The Paperwhite’s lighting is more even resulting in a far more pleasant reading experience.
While we’re on the topic of readability, let’s talk about the Kindle’s display. At 167ppi, it offers almost half the display resolution of the 2018 Kindle Paperwhite or 2019 Kindle Oasis. Text is readable, but it’s far from crisp, which again, lends itself to eye strain. For a device that’s primarily designed to allow users to consume the written word, this is a serious shortcoming. Finally, and this will be our last display-related gripe, the Kindle’s raised bezels make swiping between pages more difficult and act as a collection point for dust, sand, and other debris.
The 2019 Kindle comes up lacking in other areas, as well. It’s the only Kindle that lacks waterproofing. Additionally, it only comes in a 4GB capacity. This latter point shouldn’t be a big deal for most people. With 4GB, there is enough space to store hundreds, if not thousands of ebooks.
Despite all of this, it’s still a capable e-reader that will allow you to read on the go no matter the lighting conditions. That said, unless your budget is severely restricted, we don’t recommend it. As the 2018 Kindle Paperwhite, which offers a number of desirable upgrades can be had for a few dollars more, we’d recommend saving your money until you can buy one.
It's worth noting that in late 2019, Amazon introduced the Kindle Kid's Edition—an Amazon Kindle wrapped up in a colorful, abuse-resistant case. If your child manages to break their Kids Edition Kindle—which as the device is neither drop nor waterproof is a realistic possibility—Amazon's two-year Amazon will ship you a new one for free, for up to two years from the date you purchased the original e-reader.
Every Kid's Edition Kindle comes with one year of FreeTime Unlimited, giving your young reader access to over a thousand kid-friendly books, including chapter books and award-winning titles like the full Harry Potter book series, Island of the Blue Dolphins, El Deafo, and Bridge to Terabithia. Kids can also enjoy a selection of Spanish language books or listen to their favorite Audible books via Bluetooth headphones or a speaker. It sounds like a deal that many parents may feel is worth investing in. We'd point out, however, that the base model Kindle's low-resolution display could prove hard on little eyes, over time. Additionally, many of the titles available through FreeTime Unlimited come with illustrations: the device's low-resolution display doesn't do them any favors.
Séamus Bellamy is a senior editor on Reviewed's Electronics Team. When he's not busy ensuring his team's The Best Right Now roundups are up-to-date, he spends his time reviewing, smartwatches, tablets, fringe tech, and writing how-to guides.
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