Premium performance in a low-price package. A minor 2012 refresh improved the Amazon Kindle's page rendering times beyond their already impressive speeds, and brought sharper and even easier-to-read text to the E Ink display. Beefed-up parental controls are also new. The icing on the cake is a $10 price cut. Otherwise, everything critics loved about the Amazon Kindle's performance remains intact, which makes reviews of last year's version still helpful in evaluating the e-reader.
The Kindle's major flaw is file support: It can't open books saved in the widely used ePub format, and books downloaded through Amazon's bookstore are saved in a proprietary format that can't be read by other e-book readers. The device's four-week battery life is impressive in its own right, although the Kindle can't hold a charge for as long as the more expensive Kindles or the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch (*Est. $100).
Stacked with value-adding extras. Amazon loads its e-book reader with lots of helpful additions. Kindle owners get free access to AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide, while Amazon Prime members can download a single free e-book at a time through the Kindle Owner's Lending Library. Kindle-to-Kindle lending is also on board, and Amazon's bookstore is the largest available. The Kindle even includes a built-in dictionary and a basic web browser, although they're clunky to navigate, especially with the e-reader's minimal controls.
One drawback is the Kindle's lack of expandable storage; most competing e-book readers include a micro-SD card slot. However, the Kindle's 2 GB hard drive can hold more than 1,100 e-books, and Amazon offers free cloud-based storage for any title bought through the Amazon.com bookstore. WhisperSync technology remembers your page if you want to pick up a book where you left off on another device.
Great for reading, but not for everything else. Ease of use is one area where reviewers aren't big fans of the Amazon Kindle. Flipping through a book is comfortable enough -- although experts say the page turn buttons could be bigger -- but typing information is a pain with the Kindle's minimal buttons. That makes browsing the web or searching for online books more of a headache than on touchscreen e-readers or the Amazon Kindle Keyboard 3G (*Est. $140 and up), which includes a full QWERTY keyboard and free 3G cellular data. You'll need to connect to a Wi-Fi network to go online with the basic Kindle. While reviewers say Barnes & Noble devices are slightly more comfortable in hand, the Kindle is nonetheless remarkably light and a pleasure to hold.
An undeniable value. The Amazon Kindle delivers a top-notch reading experience and tons of extra features for a price far lower than the competition. However, touchscreen e-book readers such as the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch and Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (*Est. $120 and up) deliver a user interface that's more conducive to typing.
The Amazon Kindle continues to outshine its competitors in performance and book selection while undercutting them on price thanks to cost-reducing and unobtrusive Special Offers lockscreen ads. Reviewers say if you're looking for a non-touchscreen e-book reader, the Kindle is the best option.
Review Credibility: Excellent ConsumerReports.org includes various versions of the latest Amazon Kindle in its current e-reader report. Testing is done and ratings are provided, but discussion is on the short side.
Review: E-book Reader Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not dated
2. Laptop Magazine
Review Credibility: Excellent This very thorough and lengthy review includes illustrations and a dissection of almost every aspect of the e-book reader. "What's not to like?" Attkisson asks, then answers, "just the lack of a usable keyboard and tiny page turn buttons." As such, the Kindle Keyboard 3G scores slightly higher here.
Review: Amazon Kindle E-reader (2011) Review, Anna Attkisson, Oct. 11, 2011
Review Credibility: Excellent Carnoy runs through the Amazon Kindle's design, features, display technology, specifications and performance in a direct, no-nonsense manner. His balanced, thorough and nicely comparative review is complemented by photographs of the e-reader and a brief video overview. An update -- but not a hands-on review -- details changes in the latest refresh.
Review: Amazon Kindle 2011 Review (with Special Offers, Wi-Fi), David Carnoy, Sept. 29, 2011
Review Credibility: Excellent The Amazon Kindle wins a 2011 Editors' Choice award for best e-reader at PCMag.com. Lendino wishes there was ePub support and a memory card slot, but otherwise comes away impressed. "If you don't need a touchscreen or hardware keyboard, and just want to read books, there's little reason to pay more," he writes.
Review: Amazon Kindle (2011), Jamie Lendino, Oct. 11, 2011
Review Credibility: Very Good Calore is fairly happy with this e-reader but is more bothered by its lack of a keyboard than most reviewers, finding it difficult to type much of anything. He recommends the Kindle Touch or Kindle Keyboard 3D over the base model because of their improved interfaces.
Review: Look, But Don't Touch, Michael Calore, Oct. 11, 2011
Review Credibility: Very Good Covering the Amazon Kindle in Engadget.com's typical in-depth fashion, Heater finds the device "snappy" and easy to read. While he bemoans the lack of a better keyboard interface and other bells and whistles, he says it's still a very good e-reader overall, especially for less than $100.
Review: Amazon Kindle Review (2011), Brian Heater, Oct. 3, 2011
Review Credibility: Good Morris is one of the few to conduct an in-depth review of the refreshed 2012 Amazon Kindle. He finds it a pleasure to read with and an absolute steal, and gives the e-reader 4.5 stars out of 5. The lack of audio support and Amazon's format support issues trouble him enough to withhold a perfect rating.
Review: Kindle 6-inch (2012) Review, Ian Morris, Oct. 5, 2012
Review Credibility: Good Williams' review of the Amazon Kindle at this British site is exhaustive, with three pages of hands-on testing, a comparison against an earlier model and a video review of the device. He gives the e-reader a score of 9 out of 10. "It misses out on a handful of periphery features, like MP3 playback, but as a device to simply read books and newspapers on, it can't be beaten…at any price," he writes.
Review: Amazon Kindle 2011 Review, Andrew Williams, Oct. 17, 2011