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Amazon Kindle (2019) review: A cheap, barebones e-reader that works just fine

Thin and light • Less than $100 • Front-lit display • Supports Bluetooth headphones for audiobooks
Lowest resolution display of all Kindles • No USB-C port • No water-resistance
Amazon’s cheapest Kindle works fine for reading books, but the low resolution e-ink screen might be a turnoff.

⚡ Mashable Score
3.0

Amazon’s new entry-level Kindle e-reader is okay and that is also its biggest weakness — it’s just okay. 

The $89.99 e-reader is the cheapest in Amazon’s e-reader lineup and although it’s now got a new front-light system that makes the e-ink display more visible outdoors and in the dark, there’s not much else going for it.

The new 2019 Kindle is not Amazon’s most feature-packed e-reader (that’s the Kindle Oasis) and it’s not the best value (that’s the Kindle Paperwhite), but it is under $100.

Amazon’s newest e-reader is fine for reading books — the lower resolution screen might bother some people, though — but it’s hardly a groundbreaking, must-have device if you already own an older Kindle like I do.

Barebones e-reader

When you buy a Kindle, you know exactly what you’re getting: a small, thin, and super light e-reader made of uninspiring plastic.

It’s okay — Amazon products are generally barebones when it comes to design — but would it kill Amazon to give its Kindles a makeover? Give me an e-reader worth lusting for. Make me want to throw money at a device that’s so clearly a minor update over the previous model.

It pains me that I feel almost nothing when I use the new Kindle. It’s so blah (for lack of a better word)a mere vessel with a black-and-white screen to display text. Even the new iPad mini and its four-year-old design sparks more joy than the new Kindle.

The new Kindle is pure plastic.

The new Kindle is pure plastic.

Image: zlata ivleva / mashable

Ugh...can we stop using micro USB and switch completely to USB-C already?

Ugh…can we stop using micro USB and switch completely to USB-C already?

Image: ZLATA IVLEVA / MASHABLE

Basic design aside, the new Kindle is pretty average. The 6-inch e-ink screen is less sharp than the screens on the Kindle Paperwhite or Oasis, and that’s because the pixel density is 167 ppi (pixels per inch) compared to 300 ppi on the others.

Text on the new Kindle (2019) is blurrier than on the Paperwhite and Oasis.

Text on the new Kindle (2019) is blurrier than on the Paperwhite and Oasis.

Image: zlata ivleva / mashable

Text is readable on the new Kindle, but if your eyes are glued to it for several hours, the blurrier text can become a distraction. At the end of the day, I really don’t think it’ll bother most people.

Seeing the fuzziness around letters bothered me at first while reading Becoming Michelle Obama (totally worth the $15 e-book price in my opinion). But after a couple of chapters, I stopped noticing the poorer anti-aliasing.

Even without the display's lighting on, the screen is still visible.

Even without the display’s lighting on, the screen is still visible.

Image: zlata ivleva / mashable

The Kindle’s an e-reader. You’re using it to read text, not to watch movies or play games like you would on a smartphone or tablet, so pixel density is less important. The lower resolution screen doesn’t make the new Kindle any less functional, but as someone who’s using phones, tablets, and laptops with crispy screens, it’s still just a bit disappointing Amazon didn’t bump the sharpness.

The cheapest Kindle's e-ink screen finally has a front-light for use in the dark.

The cheapest Kindle’s e-ink screen finally has a front-light for use in the dark.

Image: zlata ivleva / mashable

New to the lowest-priced Kindle is a front-light system, which uses four LEDs, to illuminate the screen. The Paperwhite and Oasis have five LEDs and get a wee bit brighter, but after spending a few hours reading with the new Kindle in my well-lit living room, in my dark bedroom, and in the park, I can definitively say the new Kindle’s lighting is more than adequate, even in dark environments.

The e-ink screen is a touchscreen. Tap to advance, highlight, and navigate. It's not as fast as a tablet, though.

The e-ink screen is a touchscreen. Tap to advance, highlight, and navigate. It’s not as fast as a tablet, though.

Image: zlata ivleva / mashable

As far as using the Kindle goes… it works like any other Kindle. The e-ink screen’s a touchscreen and you tap on the left and right side to advance between pages. Tap on the top of the screen to bring up the menu, settings, store, search, etc.

If you own a Kindle or have used one before, there’s zero learning curve because the software is exactly the same. 

And also like other Kindles, the new e-reader comes in two versions (both WiFi-only): with and without “special offers” which is really with and without ads. You can fork over $109.99 to buy the model without ads at checkout, or you can disable the ads for $20 later.

The case is sold separately for $30.

The case is sold separately for $30.

Image: zlata ivleva / mashable

There’s no IPX8 water-resistance like there is on the Paperwhite and Oasis and I’m okay with that. I’m never reading with my Kindle in the bathtub, or at the beach, or near water. But I can see why other people might want it for protection from accidental spills.

The new Kindle also only has 4GB of storage for e-books instead of the 8GB or 32GB options on the Paperwhite and Oasis. If you buy a lot (and I mean a lot) of e-books or audiobooks, the storage might not be sufficient. 

Personally, my old 2014 Kindle Paperwhite has 2GB and I’ve never filled it up with e-books (2GB holds thousands of e-books), but then again I’m not devouring large quantities of books (maybe a dozen or so a year?).

To listen to audiobooks, you'll need Bluetooth headphones.

To listen to audiobooks, you’ll need Bluetooth headphones.

Image: zlata ivleva / mashable

On the plus side, the new e-reader works with Bluetooth headphones for audiobooks. I paired my second-generation AirPods and a pair of Beats Solo 3 on-hear Bluetooth headphones to the Kindle and had no issues listening to Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84.

Unlike a tablet, the battery lasts weeks not days.

Unlike a tablet, the battery lasts weeks not days.

Image: zlata ivleva / mashable

Amazon says the new Kindle’s battery lasts “weeks” on a single charge and I believe it. My old Paperwhite lasts weeks without a charge as well. Needless to say, you won’t need to charge the new Kindle every night, even if you spend hours reading e-books.

For the budget-strapped

The best thing the new Kindle has going for it is that it's less than $100.

The best thing the new Kindle has going for it is that it’s less than $100.

Image: zlata ivleva / mashable

There’s nothing remarkable about the new Kindle e-reader. It’s cheap, the front-lit screen is good, the addition of Bluetooth for audiobooks is nice, and the battery lasts seemingly forever.

For $90, the new Kindle is fine and does the job. The $130 Kindle Paperwhite has a slightly brighter-lit and sharper e-paper screen and water-resistance, but if neither of these features matter to you, the new Kindle will do the trick.

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