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Amazon currently offers 8 different models of Kindles, and with so many options, choosing one can be a tad confusing for the average consumer. What exactly differentiates these devices from each other?

E-ink or LCD?

The first major division between these tablets is the e-ink and LCD screens. E-ink tablets have screens that resemble paper, making them great for reading eBooks, but limiting their ability to do much else. LCD tablets on the other hand are more like an iPad or Android tablet: they have bright screens that can be annoying to stare at for long periods of time, but they’re great for consuming all forms of media from books to movies to Web browsing.

Kindle-Glare

E-ink screens look great in direct sunlight, and are beyond comparison with the very glare-prone LCD screens. Plus, because the e-ink screens don’t need to be shooting light at your eyes constantly (they just render the text and then relax), the batteries can last for weeks or months depending on how much you use it. Not to mention that e-ink devices tend to be much lighter than their LCD counterparts, since they only have one purpose: reading books. This makes them much easier to hold in one hand for long reading sessions.

Once you’ve decided if you’d prefer a dedicated e-ink eReader or a multi-purpose LCD tablet, you’ve got a few more options to sift through.

E-ink Tablets

Amazon’s four e-ink tablets break down like this:

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Kindle:  $69

Kindle Paperwhite: $119

Kindle Paperwhite 3G: $189

Kindle DX: $199

All of these come with Special Offers, which is what Amazon calls the advertisements that it displays on the screensaver and main screen of the Kindle, although thankfully the ads stay out of the actual reading experience. The Special Offers can be removed by paying an extra $20.

For those on a budget:

On the lowest end of the spectrum is the regular Kindle. It doesn’t have a touch screen and is instead operated by a few buttons along the bottom as well as page-turning buttons along the sides. The keys along the bottom include a 4-way directional pad as well as buttons for back, keyboard, options, and home.

Unfortunately, the keyboard button simply brings up an on-screen keyboard which must be operated using the 4-way directional pad. It’s really a pain to use, so don’t plan on typing much if you get this Kindle.

Kindle

It’s the lightest of any of the Kindles at only 5.98oz, as well as the smallest physically, shaving off a few millimeters in every dimension in comparison to the Paperwhite.

For those who want a touchscreen and built-in light:

The Paperwhite, on the other hand, weighs 7.3oz for the WiFi version and 7.6oz for the 3G version. The main advantage of the Paperwhite is the built-in light which evenly distributes a soft glow across the screen, allowing you to read even in the dark, all while maintaining the easy-on-the-eyes e-ink display and long battery life. The Paperwhite’s light isn’t like a bright LCD that shines directly at you; instead, the light is passively reflected off the e-ink display to make for a much more natural reading experience, like a high-quality light you would clip onto your book.

Kindle-Glare-2

It also has a touch screen and no physical buttons aside from the power button. The higher pixel density on the Paperwhite (221 ppi vs. 167 ppi on the Kindle) should make the text a bit crisper as well.

KindlePaperwhite

The 3G option for the Paperwhite is a very interesting deal despite it’s high price, because you don’t have to pay a monthly fee for the 3G access. Since eBooks use such little data to download, Amazon is willing to pay for the data, meaning that you can download books from anywhere with no monthly cost.

The Kindle Paperwhite has gotten a slight refresh since we last reviewed it back in May Kindle Paperwhite Review & Giveaway Kindle Paperwhite Review & Giveaway The Kindle Paperwhite is Amazon's current flagship reader, and one that we've been wanting to review and give away for quite some time. If you already own a Kindle or a different eReader, you may... Read More , but it is still largely the same device.

For those who want a big screen:

The behemoth known as the Kindle DX fits into an odd place here, and I’m surprised that it has survived this long after Amazon has killed other versions of the Kindle like the Kindle Keyboard. In fact, it has been removed from the store in the past and then reappeared seemingly at random, so it is possible that the DX could be nearing the end of its days for good.

The Kindle DX has a massive 9.7″ screen (in comparison to the 6″ screen on the Kindle and Paperwhite), weighs 18.9oz, and is only sold as a 3G version — no WiFi. It’s marketed as being great for PDFs because the large screen allows it to display full PDFs without zooming ad mich, and the e-ink screen makes reading PDFs possible, even in direct sunlight.

KindleDX

Despite its high price, it actually has a lower pixel density than the Kindle (150 ppi) and only lasts 3 weeks with the wireless turned off, compared to 4 weeks for the Kindle and 8 weeks for the Paperwhite. There’s also no built-in light or touch screen for the DX, and it features a large physical keyboard at the bottom.

LCD Tablets

Amazon’s four LCD tablets break down like this:

Fire HD 7″: $139

Fire HD 8.9″: $229

Fire HDX 7″: $229

Fire HDX 8.9″: $379

The differentiation here is a bit easier than with the e-ink Kindles. The HDs are last years models offered at a cheaper price, whereas the HDXs are newer but of course cost a bit more.

The Fire tablets all come with the Amazon Appstore instead of Android’s usual Google Play. We’ve compared the two app stores in the past Google Play vs. Amazon Appstore: Which Is Better? Google Play vs. Amazon Appstore: Which Is Better? Android comes with Google Play, but that isn't the only app store you can use on Android. Android allows users to use third-party app stores, and Amazon has stepped up with a competitor of its... Read More , and found Amazon’s to have some advantages, but the Play Store to be generally superior. If you’re looking for an all-purpose Android tablet, the Fires are a great option, but so is the new Nexus 7 which has access to the Google Play Store. It costs the same as the HDX 7″ but doesn’t have any Special Offers and is much more customizable.

For those on a budget:

The HD 7″ got a refresh when the HDXs were announced, sporting a newer processor, better battery life, and a more angular physical design. For $139 for the 8GB version, it’s a great deal, but you may want to spring for the 16GB version that is $169 if you plan on storing any media locally. Apps, movies, and TV shows will quickly fill up those 8GB if you don’t have constant access to WiFi for streaming.

HD7

But if you need a bigger screen, look no further than the HD 8.9″. At $229, this is the cheapest, quality, large-screen device you can get. It didn’t get the same physical redesign as the 7″ model, so it still sports a more curvy, rounded look. But it has a nicer screen than the 7″, a front-facing camera, and its $229 model comes with 16GB of storage.

HD89

For those who want all the newest features:

The HDX 7″, which we’ve reviewed Amazon Kindle Fire HDX Review and Giveaway Amazon Kindle Fire HDX Review and Giveaway Is the Kindle Fire HDX worth owning if you haven't owned a Kindle before? To find out, we purchased a 16 GB Kindle Fire HDX 7" (Wi-Fi) without special offers for $244, and we're giving... Read More , is quite a capable device. It has a quad-core 2.2GHz processor compared to the HD’s 1.5GHz dual-core, it has a nicer screen than the HD, better battery life, a front-facing camera, 16GB of storage on the $229 model, and it’s skinnier and lighter than the HD. It also has options for 4G LTE and touts Amazon’s “Mayday” feature that allows you to reach a customer service representative on your device 24/7 for assistance.

HDX7

The HDX 8.9″ shares a lot of similarities with its little brother, but most notably, it has a better screen, longer battery life, a rear-facing 8MP camera, and manages to get even thinner at only 7.88mm. For $379, this big-screen tablet is cheaper than most other tablets in that size range, including the iPad Air, Nexus 10, and Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1.

HDX89

Conclusion

Obviously, which Kindle is right for you is a very subjective choice, but I do find that the $119 WiFi-only Paperwhite seems to strike the perfect balance between budget-conscious and feature-packed. It’s worth the upgrade from the $69 Kindle for the touchscreen, built-in light, and improved screen and battery life, but you probably don’t need to shell out $189 for the 3G version (especially if you can create your own WiFi hotspot 3 Foolproof Ways to Create Your Own Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot for Tethering in North America 3 Foolproof Ways to Create Your Own Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot for Tethering in North America Do you want to give multiple wireless gadgets on-the-go internet access? Are you sick of getting ripped off by wireless hotspot tethering? There’s a variety of technologies that can help you – the two most... Read More for the Kindle to connect to when on the go).

On the LCD tablet side of things, the HDX line represents a great amount of bang for your buck, whether you’re looking at the $229 7″ or the $379 8.9″. For a limited time, you can even get $30 off the 7″ model by using the code GameOn30 at checkout.

Kindle tablets aren’t the only way to read Kindle books, though. In fact, Amazon has some quality apps for a wide variety of platforms. We’ve taken a look at their iOS Setting Up Kindle On Your iPad & Other iOS Devices Setting Up Kindle On Your iPad & Other iOS Devices The iPad makes for an awesome paperless device, for reading eBooks, webpage articles, PDF documents and the like. Likewise, the Amazon Kindle Store offers probably the widest, relatively affordable selection of eBooks for iOS devices.... Read More Android Why Buy A Kindle When You Can Use The Kindle App For Android? Why Buy A Kindle When You Can Use The Kindle App For Android? There are many people who aren't keen to buy a Kindle or similar e-book reader simply because they already have a similar multi-purpose device like a tablet or smartphone. You might be one of these... Read More ,  and Windows 8 What's The Best eReader App For Windows 8? What's The Best eReader App For Windows 8? Does reading ebooks on your computer sound mad? Newer, lighter Windows 8 devices make this a much better experience. Let's take a look at the two top eReading apps from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Read More  apps, but they also have apps for Mac, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry devices.

Also, remember that downloading books from the Kindle Store usually (but not always — it depends on the publisher) means that they are locked with DRM, a digital means of preventing you from copying or changing the file in any way What Is DRM & Why Does It Exist If It's So Evil? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is DRM & Why Does It Exist If It's So Evil? [MakeUseOf Explains] Digital Rights Management is the latest evolution of copy protection. It’s the biggest cause of user frustration today, but is it justified? Is DRM a necessary evil in this digital age, or is the model... Read More aside from how Amazon dictates. There are ways to break this DRM How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere When you pay Amazon some money for a Kindle eBook, you probably think it’s yours now. I mean, you paid some money, you got some content, and now you have it, just like any other... Read More , but this goes against Amazon’s Terms of Service.

Which of the Kindle tablets is your favorite? Would you own both an e-ink tablet and an LCD tablet? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credits: Artotem Via Flickr

  1. John
    January 29, 2014 at 12:43 am

    I had an early Kindle then I upgraded to a Paperwhite which I use constantly. It was £109 last year. For the stuff it can't do I bought a ten inch 16Gb quad core Chinese tablet off ebay It goes like a rocket and works on a 3G dongle. It now has a 64Gb SD card. It was £120!! Recently WH Smith were giving away KOBO readers for £30. It is easily the equivalent of a standard Kindle so I bought it to leave in the car. It's not about the tech, it's all about the content. Save your flashy "branded" gadget money and buy more books!

  2. David Sutherland
    January 28, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    I was going to buy a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas, two things made me hesitate. The simplest first, I have a gmail account, can I download and read my email? Second is I'm getting older and I bought a half dozen books from Amazon, each is a brick and I'm getting arthritis in my hands, they (the books) are too heavy to hold for long periods of time and I read that if you purchased the Hard Cover book from Amazon you could download the Kindle version for $4.00 or less, perfect! Unfortunately, when I check my account they don't list all the titles I've purchased from them and those they show, as far as I can tell, don't offer that option. I'm OK with Amazon Prime and will gladly go that route but can't find a definitive answer as to whether that will solve my problems? Any help would be appreciated.

    • Justin D
      January 29, 2014 at 5:37 am

      1) I've never heard of downloading email to the Paperwhite to read, and it doesn't sound very possible. However, it does come with an experimental browser (not sure why after 3 generations it's still labeled "experimental") which you can use to look up your email and read.

      2) I believe you're talking about the Kindle MatchBook program. Find out more here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/digital/ep-landing-page Basically, only certain books are eligible (the publishers have to opt-in) and once you buy the digital book, you should be allowed to download the ebook for the reduced price by visiting the book's web page on Amazon.

  3. Donna
    January 28, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    Thank you for this article! I have been looking at replacing my Kindle Keyboard after 1. I broke the screen and the replacement isn't great though better than nothing and 2. I saw someone using the self lit one: want!
    I had pretty much decided on the Paperwhite and you have settled the matter for me :-)

    • Justin D
      January 29, 2014 at 5:32 am

      what a coincidence: I wrote this article because I broke the screen on my Kindle Keyboard. glad to have helped :) I hope to be getting a Paperwhite soon as well.

    • Tom S
      February 20, 2014 at 2:53 am

      Those screens are problematic. We started off with 2 K Keyboards, and the cat stepped on the screens and they broke. replacement screens used to be almost as expensive as a whole Kindle, but they've come down into the ~ $30 range, with YT instructions on replacing.

  4. DieSse
    January 28, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Kindle Paperwhite is far superior for reading books in all conditions. Other than that I find a Chromebook better than a tablet plus of course a desktop for serious work at home.

  5. Partha S
    January 28, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Can I read color pages in e ink reader?

    • Justin D
      January 29, 2014 at 5:31 am

      It will only display in grayscale, sorry!

  6. Tom S
    January 28, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Between my wife and myself, we have 5 Kindles ( !!! ), and can say honestly, the ONLY reason to buy the basic $69 Kindle is if you are strapped for cash.
    We both read a lot, both books and articles which we download from the net ( using Pocket or Send To Kindle ) to read later, also my wife reads a lot of PDFs, and she was using the basic Kindle for articles and books, a Fire HD for both books and game apps. The base Kindle is to put it kindly, SLOW. Slow to boot, slow to even turn pages.
    For her birthday I got her a Paper white, and it is much faster, and the touch screen and back light are a delight to use. ( I took the base Kindle for myself as I have a little more patience, and my Fire HD and Samsung tablet fill all my other needs )

    • Aibek E
      January 29, 2014 at 9:16 am

      wow, 5 Kindles for two people :)
      Amazon should send you guys the next release for free!

  7. Herb Coleman
    January 28, 2014 at 7:13 am

    Key thing to mention is that the Fire HD 7" no longer has a camera. the 2012 version did but the 2013 (current) version doesn't. this key for those who were thinking about using the tablet for Skype or capturing images.

    • Justin D
      January 29, 2014 at 5:37 am

      Oh, wow, I did not even notice that. Thanks for pointing that out!

  8. likefunbutnot
    January 27, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    BN's e-Ink Nook devices are significantly cheaper than the Kindle. They also support .EPUB files, which is the standard ebook data format, widely supported by almost every other service beside Amazon.

    Amazon's own Kindle Fire device are really phenomenal from a hardware standpoint. They have great screens and surprisingly nice speakers. But they're also crippled by lack of support for Google's licensed applications such as GMail, Youtube and the Play Store. Having an Android device that can't talk directly to the Play Store is a huge drag on the overall utility of the device.

    Any Android device, even something like a Nook HD, can load Amazon's Kindle app, and users who want to translate their Amazon purchase for reading in a non-Amazon reading application can use a program called Calibre to remove Amazon's DRM and translate their .mobi files to a more compatible format. So there's no reason anyone HAS to buy Amazon's tablets.

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