I almost feel tempted to call Amazon’s latest base-model Kindle “the mini Paperwhite” — that’s how much of a major upgrade it represents over its predecessor. After all, it has a screen as sharp as the Paperwhite’s, USB-C charging, a dark mode, and even a fully adjustable front light. At 16GB, the base model even offers more storage than the Kindle Paperwhite, which starts at 8GB. And yet, starting at $99.99 for the ad-supported model and $119.99 for the ad-free version, it’s about $40 less. While it doesn’t boast all the features that make the Kindle Paperwhite so great — like waterproofing or an adjustable color temperature for its front light — it’s an otherwise terrific entry-level e-reader.
It’s the screen that first caught my eye. Whereas on the previous base-model Kindle, the display was so disappointing our complaints took up half of the review, this time, it is one of its best features. At 300dpi, the new Kindle’s display offers nearly twice the pixel density as its predecessor’s 167ppi resolution. For somebody who dons glasses, that sharper display made reading for longer periods of time easier. It helped, as well, that you can adjust the layout so you can, say, increase space between lines or margins in addition to text size, font, and more.
You can also quite comfortably read the new Kindle in all kinds of lighting. Amazon claims the Kindle is glare-free, and for the most part, the display is clear enough to read even while directly under the sun. While there was some reduction in contrast and sharpness levels, it doesn’t significantly interfere with the reading experience. Unfortunately, the Kindle lacks the Kindle Paperwhite’s adjustable warm light, which makes pages look a little more like real paper, and is front-lit with only four LEDs as opposed to 17. Nevertheless, that was bright enough for my needs, and while it would have been nice to adjust the screen’s warmth at night, the dark mode was still helpful in reducing the strain on my eye.
A big part of an e-reader’s magic lies in the fact that it’s a small, thin, and lightweight device that allows you to carry an entire library of books in your purse. The new Kindle does a fantastic job of performing that magic and even outshines the Kindle Paperwhite in this respect. At just 6.2 inches tall, it’s easy to slide the Kindle into your purse or pocket, whereas it’s more challenging to do that with the 6.8-inch Kindle Paperwhite. Weighing just 5.6 ounces (159 grams), it’s also light enough to forget it’s there and easy to hold with just one hand, which was something we found hard to do with the Kindle Paperwhite. It’s even lighter than some of the latest smartphones, like the iPhone 14 (6.07 ounces or 172 grams) and Google’s Pixel 7 (6.95 ounces or 197 grams), making it easy to hold for long reading sessions.
Strangely, the Kindle also starts at 16GB of storage, which is double what the base Kindle Paperwhite offers — in fact, you’d have to pay $10 extra for that amount of storage. Given ebooks barely take up much space, that gives you room for a ton of audiobooks and other content as well, so you can truly carry around an entire library of content.
You probably won’t need to worry too much about scratching the screen while carrying it about, either. So far, I have found no scratches on the display, even when I accidentally dropped the Kindle onto the tiled kitchen floor. Unfortunately, though, the bezels framing the screen have not remained free of scratches and fingerprints. It’s not something that directly interferes with the reading experience, but you’ll likely want a case to protect the Kindle. That’s especially true given it’s not waterproof like the Kindle Paperwhite, nor does it offer the $249.99 Kindle Oasis’ physical page turn buttons you can turn to in the event the screen gets damaged.
Battery life and USB-C support are other areas where the new Kindle outperforms its predecessor. The new Kindle’s USB-C makes it easy to charge faster than its predecessor, which only offered micro USB support. Amazon claims you should be able to charge it in four hours from your computer with the USB capable or within two hours if you use a 9-watt USB power adapter. I was able to charge the Kindle from my laptop from 55 percent to 100 percent within slightly less than two hours, which is actually slightly better than Amazon’s estimates.
According to Amazon, the Kindle’s battery life is better and should last up to six weeks based on 30 minutes of reading an ebook a day, Wi-Fi off, and the light setting at 13. That’s not as long as the Kindle Paperwhite’s, but it’s still good. I haven’t used the Kindle for six weeks, but I did notice the battery dropped roughly by about 5 percent after every 30-minute reading session with Wi-Fi on the light setting at about 18 (which was the setting I found the easiest to read at night or in low-light areas). When I turned the Wi-Fi off and lowered the light setting to 14, it dropped by about 2 percent. By that calculation, I estimate the battery would last close to three weeks at half brightness with Wi-Fi on and a higher brightness level and around six weeks with Wi-Fi off and a lower light setting.
Often, navigating an e-reader’s interface is a frustrating endeavor that takes more patience than I have. The Kindle isn’t exactly fast, but I didn’t feel like pulling out my hair while downloading books and turning pages, as the touchscreen was relatively quick to respond. Software updates from last year also mean the new Kindle is easy to quickly set up, which is a definite perk. Typing up credentials on an E-ink display typically takes a while, but Amazon lets you quickly share your login information from your smartphone’s Kindle app so you don’t have to. Combined with the high-resolution display, all of this made for a quick and easy setup and a better reading experience.
However, there is one downside I must remind you of when you buy a Kindle: only the ad-supported model starts at $99.99. I used the ad-free version, which costs $20 more, so I didn’t have to deal with ads on the lock screen. However, I imagine I would find constantly being bombarded by Amazon ads annoying and wonder if it would make the device more sluggish, so this is something to consider before making a purchase. After all, the Kindle exists in a market where there’s also the ad-free $99.99 Kobo Nia — though it lacks support for both Bluetooth and audiobooks and offers a lower 212dpi resolution.
Even without ads on the lockscreen, though, keep in mind Amazon will still try to sell you ebooks and audiobooks — and not discretely. The interface is fairly intuitive to navigate, and your library is easy to access from the homescreen as it’s right up at the top. Having said that, so are a bunch of other books, magazines, and other content Amazon’s constantly recommending you buy. In fact, most of the screen was cluttered with books I didn’t own, something that was confusing and made scrolling down take a little longer than I’d like. Some of these were Kindle Unlimited books, which both new and existing subscribers get four months free of when purchasing the Kindle — which admittedly is a very nice perk. But others are books you’ll have to buy from Amazon.
Amazon has finally made it easier to read books purchased from outside its store on the Kindle
Thankfully, at least, it’s much easier to read books outside of Amazon’s bookstore if you don’t want to. While purchasing Amazon books is still much faster and more intuitive, accessing ePub and a host of other files is simpler now, thanks to the new Send-to-Kindle email feature. After emailing my ePub files to the supplied Kindle email address, Amazon converted it into an Amazon-specific digital book film format the Kindle could read that quickly popped up on my device. I did have to wait about three minutes before the ebook showed up, but it’s still an incredibly welcome change, given you previously had to endure a long, complicated process involving the Calibre desktop app to read ePub files on the Kindle.
Amazon’s done a great job of improving on all of the base Kindle’s weaknesses while adding extra perks that make it even easier to read books outside of the Amazon ecosystem. As long as you don’t need a waterproof e-reader you can enjoy in the bath or a larger screen, the entry-level model offers good value for your money. For $40 less, you’ll get most of the features that made the Kindle Paperwhite terrific, like a sharp screen, USB-C support, and double the storage. Having said that, I would recommend forking over $20 for the ad-free model. It’ll still be cheaper than the Paperwhite, and given Amazon often offers discounts on its devices, it’s very possible you may be able to get it for a little less.
Photography by Sheena Vasani / The Verge