The best Kindles in 2021
Grabbing one of the best Kindles is more important than ever, as many users just got a reason to upgrade. While Kindles can last a long time — a great investment for those going back to school — some of them are about to lose internet connectivity (check out our guide on how to check if your Kindle will lose internet access to learn more). All of the current best Kindles don’t have that issue, and make it a heck of a lot easier to carry every book you need. Yes, you can read e-books on your phone or tablet, but some just want a device focused on reading — and one that’s easier on the eyes.
But once you know you want a Kindle, how do you decide on the right one for you?This is why we’ve tested them all to find the best Kindles for all kinds of readers. The best Kindle overall is the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. It’s got a sharp 6-inch, 300-ppi backlit display, 8GB of storage, and can withstand a dunk in the water. It may cost a little more than the basic Kindle, but it’s worth it. You’ll probably rule out the Kindle Oasis for its expensive price, but its metallic design will lure some in.
We’ve even examined competitors trying to take Amazon’s throne (none have made much of a dent). Yes, while Amazon’s Kindles own the market, other do try and compete. We’re excited to test the new Kobo Elipsa, which packs a stylus for physical note-taking, once it comes to our lab.
Latest Kindle News (updated August 26)
• Amazon’s just revealed a new firmware update, version 5.13.7. This new version changes the home screen, swapping out the toolbar for a search bar, and adding Home and Library tabs at the bottom.
• Older Kindles (as recent as the 2015 Kindle Paperwhite 7th Gen) with built-in 3G connections will lose cellular connectivity, and not all have Wi-Fi. Amazon is offering a $50 coupon for a new Paperwhite or Oasis, with $15 in eBook credits, to incentivize upgrading.
• Check out our Ultimate Back To School Guide to find deals on tablets and other tech.
Amazon wasn’t the first company to release an E Ink e-reader (that was Sony, which launched the Librie in 2004), but when the first Kindle was released in 2007, it sold out in five hours. That initial success was likely due to Amazon’s huge library of e-content.
We keep raving to folks looking for a good read to check out A Certain Hunger, provided that they’re adult enough to take on its unique tale of cannibalism. Debut novelist Chelsea G. Summers has wowed readers (and critics) with this fantastic tale of Dorothy Daniels, a food critic whose taste for lovers takes place in the bedroom and the kitchen. Want more macabre? Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is definitely worth checking out.
We’ve pulled together the best e-book reader apps, but since your phone or tablet’s screen is probably harsher on your eyes than an e-ink-based e-reader is, you’ll probably want to check out these picks.
What are the best Kindles and e-readers?
The best Kindle overall is the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, and it’s right for most users, without a doubt. It costs $130, sports a sharp 6-inch, 300-ppi backlit display, packs 8GB of storage and can withstand a dunk in the water. It’s basically the Goldilocks pick: it’s not too expensive, and not too sparse with features, and gives you most everything you could ask for in a Kindle, in the design most people like.
We would love the Paperwhite if it were a little more affordable, but it’s plain to see that it’s the optimal device for reading in any condition. No matter if your vacation is in the sun or shade, or if you’re just on a day trip at the beach, or consuming a gripping page-turner in the bath — it’s a great way to devour a new book, or re-read a favorite.
The best Kindle under $100 is the Amazon Kindle (2019), which at $90 has display lighting and the same size screen, but half the resolution and half the storage. That being said, its design is nothing to scoff at, as it’s easy to use whilst perusing the Amazon store. Read on to find out which is the best Kindle for you.
The best Kindles you can buy today
In terms of bang for your buck, the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite reigns supreme as the flat-out best Kindle. Not only is its display still a crisp 300-ppi panel supported by solid backlighting, but it also offers waterproof (IPX8-rated) protection and 8GB of storage.
Its 6-inch screen is pretty much the standard for the industry, and we appreciated its even backlighting, an improvement over previous models which don’t look as fully lit when you’re reading a book at night. Another design change we appreciate is how its screen is set flush with the bezel, ditching the awkward design that looks even chunkier.
The device costs a little more than half as much as the $250 Kindle Oasis, coming in at $129. It’s also thinner and lighter than the third-gen Paperwhite, and its display is more flush to its body. While the Paperwhite is not the best Kindle ever (that’s still the Oasis), you get more for your money with this model.
Our testing of the Paperwhite included a 20 minute bath in our dunk-tank, and it worked perfectly fine the second it came out. It’s rated to last another 40 minutes, but who leaves a Kindle underwater for a whole hour?
Read our full Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2018) review.
Rather spend your money on more books? The cheapest Kindle e-reader is $89, and a new perk makes it more interesting for bookworms on tight budgets. This E Ink device is lightweight and easy to use for hours, and its chassis is no weaker than that of our top pick, the Paperwhite. The regular Kindle also has a touch-screen display, and those ensconced in the Amazon ecosystem can benefit from Goodreads integration and FreeTime Unlimited.
The Kindle’s front-facing lighting finally brings it closer to parity with the Paperwhite. We’re guessing most bookworms also like to read in the dark and may not want to disturb a sleeping partner by turning on a bedroom light. Overall, this is the best Kindle for those on a budget, as well as those voracious readers who would rather spend on books themselves, and not hardware. Now that some folks are moving from physical books, these things don’t grow on trees anymore.
Read our full Amazon Kindle (2019) review.
Amazon’s latest Kindle improves on the $90 Kindle by adding what’s missing and chipping away at the cruft that fills up a regular Kindle. Kids will like it for the colored cases, while parents will love Amazon’s 2-year no-questions-asked warranty. Even better, there are no lock screen ads. In fact, the Kids Edition is so close to our ideal Kindle interface, we wish Amazon would offer it as a mode for adults who just want to read the book, and not dabble in the Goodreads community.
Otherwise, the Kindle Kids Edition is the same tablet as the 2019 Kindle. You get the same 6-inch, 167 ppi display and front lighting, and the display is still inset, not flush with the frame. Oh and it’s even got helpful vocabulary building tools and a free year (a $60 value) of Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited, which has thousands of titles.
Read our full Amazon Kindle Kids Edition review.
The new Kindle Oasis still offers Amazon’s most luxurious reading experience, with its machined aluminum back, larger screen, physical buttons, automatic lighting adjustments and very well-lit screen (using 25 LEDs) — screams “first class.” Its Oasis moniker is earned from its IPX8-rated water resistance, which allows it to survive hour-long baths. The device also supports Audible’s audiobooks, as long as you’ve got a Bluetooth device handy.
The Oasis’s curved back and physical buttons give you an easier way to get a grip and a way to read your book without tapping the screen. While the Oasis is the best Kindle for those who can splurge, we just wish it didn’t cost nearly twice as much as the Kindle Paperwhite. It’s the Kindle with more effort put into its design, losing the simple and utilitarian aesthetic of the regular Kindle and the Paperwhite.
Read our full Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019) review.
How to choose the best Kindle for you
Let’s start with your budget, as that’s the easiest way to make this call. If you’re running tight right now, the $90 Kindle is a solid recommendation. Its lighting is good enough for a handful of situations and its battery life is nothing to sneeze at.
If money is no option, then you’re going to be choosing between the Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle Oasis, and this is sort of tough. If you prefer your devices to be built with a harder plastic, that still feels reliable, then you’ve probably got the Paperwhite in mind. It offers the same water resistance as the Oasis, and is similar in many regards.
But if you’re tired of futzing with menus, and changing brightness, you will probably want the Kindle Oasis. Its display automatically adjusts to ambient lighting situations, maybe its best unique feature overall — as its metallic, not-symmetrical design is a bit divisive in our office.
How we test Kindles and e-readers
In addition to evaluating e-readers’ size, weight, claimed battery life and design choices, we test their brightness using our light meter. The experience of reading on the device also plays a huge role in these reviews. For instance, we look at the intuitiveness of the interface, the size of the available library and how well the special features (such as web browsers or dictionaries) work.
We’ve also tried alternatives to the Kindle, such as the Kobo Nia. While it’s not one of our best picks, its interface is great for those who want to stay focused on books, and isn’t as focused on supplementary content as Amazon’s Kindles are.
We also track how many hours we spent reading on the Kindle, and the percentage of remaining battery life, and compare that against the company’s estimations. And then, naturally, we read and read and read. At home, on the bus, in the park and anywhere else where the lighting changes.
We even drop water-proof Kindles into our makeshift dunk tank, and watch as they survive — the first time it was surprising, and now it’s become something we expect. Lastly, we try and see if Amazon’s changed anything about how Kindles work with public libraries. It’s the one thing we prefer about competitors.
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