Finding which of the best Kindles and e-readers is right for you shouldn't be too tough. But Amazon had to complicate things. It now sells three Paperwhite Kindles and two other models, plus kid versions of the regular Kindle and the Paperwhite. What once was simple as reading a page-turner is now not so easy. And some news about the Kindle app experience on Android will make buying a physical Kindle all the more important to some.
We've reviewed all the major Kindles and e-readers for years, and our favorite e-reader and best Kindle overall is the basic Kindle Paperwhite. Truly the ideal model for most, it has a bigger and better display than before, plus USB-C charging and longer battery life. But what if you want physical buttons, or don't want to spend over $100? Read on for our expert guide to the best Kindles on the market.
We've also examined competitors trying to take Amazon's throne — none have made much of a dent.
If you want something to read on your new Kindle, check out our tips for how to get free ebooks. And if you absolutely, positively have to start reading right now (or just want an option to keep reading while your e-reader is charging) we've curated the best e-book reader apps for those who want to read on a smartphone or tablet.
The best Kindles you can buy today
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Small changes lead to great products staying great, and such is the case with the new Kindle Paperwhite (2021). It's got the same basic look as previous Kindles and Kindle Paperwhite models, a matte black shell and an e-ink screen, but this time it's larger, with a 6.8-inch panel. The bezels are also smaller, so the device didn't have to grow too much to accommodate the growth from a 6-inch panel.
While it's still a super-sharp 300-ppi display, it's now supported by an array of 17 LED backlights, for incredibly even lighting. And it's still got a great waterproofing (IPX8-rated) protection.
After the larger display, the big change this year is the move from microUSB charging to USB-C. It's a welcome change if only for the reversible port. Faster charging doesn't appear to be on the table, but the microUSB port has been around for way too long, and is often fragile, so we're happy to see it go.
The Paperwhite costs slightly more than half as much as the $250 Kindle Oasis, coming in at $139 ($10 more than in previous years). That said, it's gained one of the Oasis' once unique features: display warmth. Our testing of the Paperwhite 2021's waterproofing included a 20 minute bath in our sink. It worked just as well as it did before when we took it out.
Read our full Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2021) review.
The Amazon Kindle (2022) is nearly a perfect device for what it is, and some of its flaws are more down to Amazon than the device itself. Being locked into Amazon’s ecosystem is a drag, but you can’t really knock the Kindle for that.
That’s not to say there aren’t improvements that could be made. The fact that the Kindle 2022 isn’t waterproof is probably the biggest differentiator between it and the more expensive Paperwhite. Also, our reviewer missed having the option adjust the warmth of the display light, another minor but meaningful Paperwhite feature — though if you’re fine with using dark mode it’s easy to move past that shortcoming. Admittedly, if Amazon fixed those things there would be no reason to get the Paperwhite, so while we're disappointed we aren't shocked.
Ultimately though, the Kindle 2022 is probably the best Kindle for most people. It’s lightweight and comfortable to hold, the display is bright and crisp — a massive improvement over earlier models — and the battery lasts for ages. Unless you really need a waterproof Kindle, it’s tough to advocate spending more than the $100 you'll pay for a new Amazon Kindle (2022).
Read our full Amazon Kindle (2022) review.
Amazon's latest Kindle improves on the $90 Kindle by adding what's missing and chipping away at the cruft that fills up a regular Kindle. Kids will like it for the colored cases, while parents will love Amazon's 2-year no-questions-asked warranty. Even better, there are no lock screen ads. In fact, the Kids Edition is so close to our ideal Kindle interface, we wish Amazon would offer it as a mode for adults who just want to read the book, and not dabble in the Goodreads community.
Otherwise, the Kindle Kids Edition is the same tablet as the 2019 Kindle. You get the same 6-inch, 167 ppi display and front lighting, and the display is still inset, not flush with the frame. Oh and it's even got helpful vocabulary building tools and a free year (a $60 value) of Amazon's Amazon Kids+ (fka FreeTime Unlimited), which has thousands of titles. The Kindle Kids Edition was so popular that Amazon's making a Kindle Paperwhite Kids Edition, which we will review soon.
Read our full Amazon Kindle Kids Edition review.
What if you're tired of small, incremental change? Yes, the Kindle Paperwhite (2021) has lighting warmth and USB-C and a slightly larger screen, but for those who think this update's a bit slight, Amazon has the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition. It's got the same 6.8-inch, 300-ppi panel as the regular Paperwhite, with smaller bezels and fantastically-even backlighting plus IPX8-rated waterproofing protection. But there's more on top.
The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition can be charged via Qi-based wireless chargers, plus its backlighting is automatically-adjusting. Plus, 4x as much storage and no on-screen ads. Not all of those features may be huge for everyone, but we're betting at least one is interesting for all. But at $189, it's a pretty pricey tablet. It's sitting right between the normal Paperwhite and the Oasis, and a good option if you have the money.
Read our full Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review.
The new Kindle Oasis still offers Amazon's most luxurious reading experience, with its machined aluminum back, larger screen, physical buttons, automatic lighting adjustments and very well-lit screen (using 25 LEDs) — screams "first class." Its Oasis moniker is earned from its IPX8-rated water resistance, which allows it to survive hour-long baths. The device also supports Audible's audiobooks, as long as you've got a Bluetooth device handy.
The Oasis's curved back and physical buttons give you an easier way to get a grip and a way to read your book without tapping the screen. While the Oasis is the best Kindle for those who can splurge, we just wish it didn't cost nearly twice as much as the Kindle Paperwhite. It's the Kindle with more effort put into its design, losing the simple and utilitarian aesthetic of the regular Kindle and the Paperwhite.
Read our full Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019) review.
Amazon doesn't run the whole e-reader world, so we occasionally test competitors' e-readers. And while the Nook Glowlight 4 isn't better than any Kindle, it's got minor tweaks and updates that give us reason to give it some attention here. One of its best features is it's no-fuss reading interface, which gets out of your way when it's time to read (Amazon could do this, and we wish it would).
That said, for a $140 e-reader, it's lacking waterproofing, which the Paperwhite offers. Oh, and loading up library books, proved to be a frustrating process. But for the reader who doesn't want to use an Amazon-made device? The Glowlight 4 may be the best Kindle alternative for them. We're looking into testing more competitors to find them a better option.
Read our full Nook GlowLight 4 review.
How to choose the best Kindle for you
Let's start with your budget, as that's the easiest way to make this call. If you're running tight right now, the $90 Kindle is a solid recommendation. Its lighting is good enough for a handful of situations and its battery life is nothing to sneeze at.
If money is no option, then you're going to be choosing between the Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle Oasis, and this is sort of tough. If you prefer your devices to be built with a harder plastic, that still feels reliable, then you've probably got the Paperwhite in mind. It offers the same water resistance as the Oasis, and is similar in many regards.
But if you're tired of futzing with menus, and changing brightness, you will probably want the Kindle Oasis. Its display automatically adjusts to ambient lighting situations, maybe its best unique feature overall — as its metallic, not-symmetrical design is a bit divisive in our office.
How we test Kindles and e-readers
To start, we read a lot on these Kindles. We don't just do that to see how much battery life is drained in a set of time (and to then compare against the estimations these manufacturers provide), but to discover what we like and don't like about a given Kindle. We then keep reading. At home, on the bus, in the park and anywhere else where the lighting changes.
In addition to evaluating e-readers' size, weight, claimed battery life and design choices, we test their brightness using our light meter. The experience of reading on the device also plays a huge role in these reviews. For instance, we look at the intuitiveness of the interface, the size of the available library and how well the special features (such as web browsers or dictionaries) work.
We've also tried alternatives to the Kindle, such as the Kobo Nia. While it's not one of our best picks, its interface is great for those who want to stay focused on books, and isn't as focused on supplementary content as Amazon's Kindles are.
We even drop water-proof Kindles into our makeshift dunk tank, and watch as they survive — the first time it was surprising, and now it's become something we expect. Lastly, we try and see if Amazon's changed anything about how Kindles work with public libraries. It's the one thing we prefer about competitors.