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Amazon Kindle 2016, First Take: Affordable, but backlight-free

Written by Sandra Vogel, Contributor
  • Editors' review
  • Specs

Amazon's latest Kindle is being presented as the company's most affordable e-reader ever. At £59.99 (inc. VAT, or £69.99 to remove 'special offers' which are essentially advertising and sponsored screensavers), it's considerably cheaper than any of the current lineup. The next most expensive model, the Paperwhite, starts at £109.99, while the Voyage costs from £169.99 and the Oasis that I recently reviewed starts at £269.99.

This new model replaces the previous entry-level Kindle, and is relatively basic. Certainly, having used the top-of-the-range Oasis for a while now, reverting to the Kindle 2016 felt like a big step backwards. That said, what you you get here is perfectly adequate for general e-reading -- with one big caveat: the lack of a backlight.


The new entry-level Kindle has a 167ppi E Ink screen, compared to 300ppi in the more expensive Paperwhite, Voyage and Oasis models. It also lacks a backlight.

Images: Amazon

I found this really debilitating. It's irritating to have to find a light source as natural light fades, and remarkable how much I've got used to the presence of a backlight since getting my first Paperwhite.

The build quality isn't the greatest. This is a reasonably slim and light e-reader measuring 115mm wide by 160mm deep by 9.1mm thick, and weighing 161g. But the plastic material feels a little bit low grade. Amazon emphasises the new Kindle's rounded edges as an aid to grip, but it's hardly a ground-breaking advance.

The technical specifications -- apart from the lack of a backlight -- are all good enough. There is 4GB of internal storage, which is enough to hold thousands of books. Usability is fine: tapping the screen for page turns and to access settings felt speedy enough. Text is clear enough on the 6-inch 167ppi E Ink screen, although I did miss the 300ppi resolution found across the rest of the line-up.

A quick comparison between this Kindle and the Oasis suggest that options and settings are the same on each. For example, there are nine fonts and eight text sizes on both devices. One big difference between this and other Kindles is the absence of 3G connectivity: there's only wi-fi for downloading new books, which might prove a turn-off if you like to refresh your library while you're out of the home or office.

As far as battery life is concerned, Amazon claims the same longevity for the new Kindle as for the Paperwhite and Voyage models -- "weeks on a single charge". Obviously this will depend on usage, and I find turning wi-fi off by going into Aeroplane mode really helps conserve battery life on all Kindles. It does take a while to charge, though, and will need four hours to go from flat to full.

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If you have yet to try an e-reader and want to do so for relatively little outlay, this new Kindle should deliver a perfectly acceptable experience. However, it could also be worth looking at what's available second-hand. I found Paperwhites available for a similar price, and these models have that all-important backlight.

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