Ebook readers: Which Kindle should I buy?
- Kindle Fire tablets and Kindle ebooks explained
- Do I need a 3G model?
- Do I need a keyboard or touchscreen?
Amazon's Kindle range is the leading name in ebook readers, but there are a number of Kindle models at different price points. Read on as we explain which Kindle is best for you.
Currently there are five headline models of the Kindle available, and these are split between models which are designed primarily as ebook readers, and models which work as tablets. They may all share a brand name, but the Kindle ebook readers and Kindle tablets are entirely different devices.
Kindle ebook readers:
- Kindle (basic) - £69, e-ink screen, no light, wi-fi only
- Kindle Paperwhite - £109, e-ink touchscreen, built-in light, wi-fi only
- Kindle Paperwhite 3G - £169, e-ink touchscreen, built-in light, wi-fi and 3G
- Kindle Fire - £129, colour touchscreen, wi-fi only, 8GB storage
- Kindle Fire HD - £159, higher resolution colour touchscreen, wi-fi only, 16GB or 32GB storage
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Should I buy a Kindle Fire tablet or a Kindle ebook reader?
Tablets and ebook readers both let you read digital books, but they are built around very different screen technologies. For this reason, the Kindle Fire tablets and the Kindle ebook readers are very different devices.
Kindle ebook readers
The Kindle ebook readers use e-ink screens, which imitate the look of a paper screen closely.
This means that they don't reflect sunlight the way a shiny tablet LCD screen can, and they typically use no power when a page is displayed, and only require power when you turn from one page to the next or download books.
Traditionally, Kindle ebook readers have had no built-in lights, but the latest Paperwhite range lets you illuminate the page for reading in the dark.
These e-ink screens are easy on the eye when you're reading for long periods, and they're energy efficient. However, they're black-and-white only, and you can't play back videos on them.
What we think: The e-ink screens are better suited to bright light and reading for long periods, and the battery life beats a tablet's. If you're purely looking to read books, this is the style to go for.
Read our Best Buy ebook reader reviews
Kindle Fire tablets
The Kindle Fire tablets use full-colour, high resolution LCD touchscreens. This means you can watch videos, play games, read full-colour magazines and browse websites just as you can on other iPad-style tablets.
The downside is screens like this aren't as comfortable to use for prolonged periods of reading, as it can be a strain on the eye to stare at a glowing LCD screen for so long.
Battery life can be another issue. While displaying an ebook isn't particularly taxing on a tablet's screen, it can't compare to the zero power use of an e-ink page.
What we think: The colour screens let you do much more than just read books, though you may not find this style of screen as easy to read in bright light or for long periods.
Read our reviews of the best tablets
Do I need a 3G Kindle?
If you're buying a Kindle ebook reader, like the Paperwhite range, you can choose from wi-fi only models, or models with wi-fi and 3G internet.
3G means you you can download books wherever you are using mobile data, and you won't have to pay each time. Instead, you pay more for the initial cost of the ebook reader itself.
The £60 extra fee for 3G connectivity isn't to be sniffed at. This is a high premium to pay given that the only things you can do on Amazon's 3G network are downloading books or accessing Wikipedia.
It's only really worth it if you know you'll buy lots of books when on the move, or if the recipient - if giving as a gift - doesn't have wi-fi in their home.
3G is only available on the Kindle Paperwhite 3G, and the older Kindle Touch 3G and Kindle Keyboard 3G.
What we think: If you have wi-fi at home, there's little reason to pay extra for 3G as well.
Do I need a keyboard or touchscreen?
All of the models in Amazon's latest line-up have a touchscreen, with the exception of the basic Kindle.
The Kindle Fire tablets are built around their touchscreen approaches, but the Paperwhite ebook readers also find good uses for touchscreen control. The older generation Kindle Touch also has a touchscreen.
A touchscreen makes it easy to type in the name of the book or author on the on-screen keyboard. Changing pages with a touchscreen can feel more natural than pressing the button on an ebook reader, and it's easy to select words or passages to look up definitions.
The older Kindle Keyboard 3G model is worth considering. The keyboard is useful if you add a lot of annotations as you read, or when you're typing the names of books or authors in the Kindle store.
Verdict: Most new models now have touchscreens, but if you're determined to have a keyboard, you'll have to buy a slightly older Kindle at present.
Can I listen to music or audio books on a Kindle?
The new Kindle Paperwhite and best-selling basic Kindle don't support MP3 playback. So if you want to listen to music or audio books then you'll need to buy an older Kindle Touch or Kindle Keyboard.
These models can also read English language texts out loud to the user, though in a rather robotic voice.
What we think: You can only listen to MP3 files on older Kindles and even then this is arguably easier to do with a smartphone or MP3 player, which will be pocket-sized.
Can I just get an app for my phone or tablet instead?
With smartphones and tablets becoming more popular and including larger higher resolution screens you might be tempted to opt for an ebook reader app rather than forking out for a whole new device.
With free Kindle apps available for most devices it is a much cheaper option than buying a new device, though tablets and smartphones aren't as suited to long periods of reading as an e-ink screen.
What we think: It's free to download an app to your tablet or smartphone, but using these screens for long periods may not be as appealing as an e-ink display.