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Amazon’s Basic Kindle Adds New Features, So Might Finally Be Pleasant to Use

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  • Posted on 15th Sep, 2022 14:38 PM
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Amazon has released a new edition of the Kindle Basic, which adds better charging features, a high-res screen, and more storage, which makes it more competitive with other ereaders.

  • The new entry-level Kindle has a hi-res screen and USB-C charging. 
  • It still lacks a warm front light and waterproofing.
  • The Kobo might be superior, but e-book lock-in is a huge factor.

Amazon

Amazon has finally updated its entry-level Kindle to not look like something that fell out of a cereal packet. 

Until this week, the basic Kindle, which is the lowest—and therefore, default—option in its e-reader lineup, had a pitifully low 167 PPI screen resolution and an old micro USB charging/syncing port. MicroUSB, for those who can't be bothered to keep track of the names, is the most annoying of all USBs, usually taking at least three tries to insert the right way around. The new model fixes these problems but is neither cheap enough nor good enough to beat the competition. 

"I purchased a Kindle Basic model last year, and despite its cheap price, it has provided an incredible experience; it has a built-in light that allows me to read at night," professional writer and Kindle user Millie Pham told Lifewire via email. "The Kobo has slightly superior hardware, while Amazon has a superior store experience and selection. However, the Kobo's e-ink screen is slightly larger and easier on the eyes than the Kindle's."

Kindle Confusion

The new Kindle has a 6-inch 300 PPI resolution screen, which is the standard for e-readers, and similar to the hi-resolution or Retina displays on phones and tablets. In short, you cannot see the pixels. It's like ink printed on a page, although it is quite a gray page in this case. It also has a USB-C charging port, doubles the storage to 16GB (which you will never fill with books but is good for audiobooks). The price is $120, although you can get a $20 discount if you allow Amazon to show you ads. 

Amazon

The basic Kindle's main rival is probably the Kindle Paperwhite, with a bigger screen, a warmer, more even front light, and which is waterproof (for bath and beach reading). The Paperwhite is $160 in its ad-free incarnation, and you're getting a lot for your extra $40. Alone, both the warm light or the waterproof body would be enough to justify that extra outlay. The cheapest Paperwhite does have just 8GB of storage, although it's only another $10 to double that to match the basic Kindle. 

However, $40 is $40, and there's a case to be made that cheaper gadgets are about to get a whole lot more important. 

Cheap and Good

Inflation is beginning to hit the tech market, which could mean that people who would usually buy the mid-range option (like the Paperwhite) will instead opt for the entry-level. And if that model is as lame as the previous-generation Kindle, then maybe they'll just stick with what they have. After all, a major reason for "upgrading" a perfectly good device is to get the new features.

In this case, it follows that gadget makers should make their cheaper models more compelling if they can do so without upping the manufacturing price too much. The new Kindle, perhaps coincidentally, follows this idea. It's a clear upgrade from the previous model, yet it still leaves room for the next one. 

Another way to improve a device without directly increasing its manufacturing costs is to improve its software. 

Amazon

Kobo

The Kobo range is the biggest international rival to the Kindle. The hardware is comparable and sometimes better, but the real difference is its software. From the home screen, through the store, to recommendations, and finally, the reading experience itself, everything is better on the Kobo.

For example, you can adjust the screen brightness on the Kobo by sliding a finger. On the Kindle, you still need to tap and/or swipe to access a menu for this adjustment. And the Kobo's typography is far superior. But is that enough?

"The Kobo has long had more interesting hardware and much better software. Is that enough to beat Amazon's lock-in?"  Oberon Copeland, tech writer, owner, and CEO of the Very Informed website, told Lifewire via email. "The short answer is no. The Kindle has a few things working in its favor. First, it's cheaper. Second, it's smaller and lighter. Third, the battery life is better. Fourth, the integration with Amazon's ecosystem is seamless. And fifth, Amazon has a huge marketing machine behind it."

If you're seriously into e-readers, then you might decide to switch to Kobo or another device and convert all your Kindle books to work on it. But for most people, it's probably best to just stay where you are. And if you're in the Kindle ecosystem, then it just got a little bit better to stay there.

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