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.
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.
Amazon’s four e-ink tablets break down like this:
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
For those who want all the newest features:
The HDX 7″, which we’ve reviewed, 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.
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.
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 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, Android, and Windows 8 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 aside from how Amazon dictates. There are ways to break this DRM, 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