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Review: Kindle (2016)

white kindleThe first shipments of the new Kindle model started to arrive on doorsteps over the past few days. My loaner review unit showed up on Thursday morning, and I’ve spent the past three days playing with it (it makes for an awesome discus).

I choose the white model for the sake of trying something new, and I feel I have had it long enough to post my review.

It’s white.

It’s a Kindle.


Seriously, folks, it’s 2016 and we have long since reached the point where we speak about the Kindle  in much the same way that managers used to refer to IBM.

Do you know that phrase "Nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM"?

It referred to the general consensus that IBM was the safe choice for computer hardware, which was true at the time. And it is just as true today that the Kindle is the safe choice for ereaders, and that has been true for a couple years now.

The new Kindle is a very adequate replacement for what was already a very adequate ereader. The 2014 basic Kindle may have been big and blocky, but all that fell away when you use it to read.

That said, the new one is a lot prettier, and I’d say it’s even prettier than the Paperwhite. The 2016 Kindle is thinner and smaller in every way than its predecessor, and it sports smaller bezels, a flat back with curved edges (an improvement on the Paperwhite), and twice the RAM plus Bluetooth.

It is much prettier than the 2014 model and it is in every way an improvement, but my enthusiasm is tempered by the fact that I was satisfied with the 2014 model and that I don’t need the accessibility features (which are made possible by BT).

So should you buy it?

That depends.

I would not recommend upgrading to it, not unless your existing Kindle had died. But if I were buying one right now I might choose the 2016 model over the previous model. Amazon is selling both on its site right now, and the 2016 model only costs $10 more.

On the other hand, Amazon is also listing the 2014 Kindle as a refurb for $56.

Is the new Kindle worth the extra $24 over the price of the refurb?

You tell me. Is the Bluetooth and accessibility worth enough to you to justify the extra cost? What about the white shell?

Edit: The answer to the last question is no, because the Bluetooth doesn’t work properly.

So what do you think of the new Kindle?

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Nancy July 9, 2016 um 9:18 pm

Thanks for your useful hands-on research and comments, but I wouldn’t consider the unit without the standard light in a paperwhite. I can understand why some might prefer a slimmer device and the adaptive features, but the illumination is by far more important to me. Nice to have choices, isn’t it?

Nate Hoffelder July 9, 2016 um 9:25 pm

I like the frontlight on the Paperwhite as well as well. I kept instinctively trying to bring up the menu and turn on the light on the new Kindle so I could read in the dark.

RAD July 10, 2016 um 8:48 am

"It is much prettier than the 2014 model and it is in every way an improvement…" EXCEPT it removed the built-in light. Thanks for pointing out this key difference, Nancy.

Nate Hoffelder July 10, 2016 um 9:05 am

The 2014 basic Kindle didn’t have a frontlight.

DavidW July 9, 2016 um 9:18 pm

Thanks for the review. I guess the improvement in RAM is not noticeable when reading books? I suppose it’s only noticeable when dealing with pdf files?

I’m not sure which is the most subtle kindle improvement– PW1 to PW2 or basic 2014 to basic 2016.

Nate Hoffelder July 9, 2016 um 9:20 pm

I don’t think it’s any faster, no.

DavidW July 10, 2016 um 11:10 am

Oh I see. They doubled the RAM because either they needed a way to advertise it as being new and improved (instead of exactly the same) or they wanted the hardware to be more inline with the other Kindles since they’re running the same UI.

iBeth July 9, 2016 um 9:44 pm

Does the Bluetooth allow the kindle to connect with the Echo or something? What would you use the Bluetooth for?

Nate Hoffelder July 10, 2016 um 8:17 am

The Bluetooth is for connecting to BT speakers. It’s how the spoken voice accessibility works.

iBeth July 10, 2016 um 1:17 pm

Thanks. I was thinking people would use earbuds for the TTS, but of course Bluetooth speakers would be desirable too.

Nate Hoffelder July 10, 2016 um 1:46 pm

The 2016 Kindle doesn’t support the USB to earbuds option found on the Paperwhite.

iBeth July 10, 2016 um 4:17 pm

No earbuds? Wow.

Tangent: I just realized that Echo can already read TTS from a kindle book, even without Bluetooth on the kindle.

Muratcan Simsek July 10, 2016 um 1:49 am


Could you do a little recording of the new TTS, a page or two from a novel? I am interested in buying it just because of that, if it read well, even if they don’t sell books in Turkey.

JSWolf July 10, 2016 um 4:55 am

The dumbest thing Amazon did with the Basic Kindle is not have a light cover for it. It makes this Kindle rather worthless since you need an external light source to be able to read. Does anyone make a case that has a light that works with this Kindle?

DavidW July 10, 2016 um 11:08 am

Why is that dumb? They want you to buy one of the more expensive models with a built in light if that’s an issue. Sounds smart to me.

I don’t see a basic Kindle is worthless because I own lamps and pay my monthly electricity bill. Also there is a thing called sunlight.

On my Glo, Aura, PW etc. never used the built in lights.

poiboy July 10, 2016 um 8:41 pm

agreed.. if you want a light.. spend a couple bucks more and get a paperwhite. its a simple logical step. not everyone *wants* a light.

Sergegobli July 10, 2016 um 9:37 am

I do wish Amazon would use their market position to do something innovative. I get that they don’t have to, or that even it’s not their most profitable move, but I just wish they would do something different.

John Stanton July 10, 2016 um 11:39 am

Nate: So happy you are still posting; I have read you since my first Sony ereader. I would not wan to replace my Paper white.
I am writing to say I hate the very sensitive new page Turner in the update. Every touch sends me to mini pages.Can I turn off updates ?
Again that you for your thoughtful reviews with no sales pitch ! Best !

David H. Rothman July 10, 2016 um 3:31 pm

A $30 used Kindle Keyboard might be a better choice for some. The new $80 Kindle comes with screen contrast issues for many customers, and, of course, the TTS is sadistically limited. Shame on Amazon. . A recording of the crappy TTS voice is available via a link at What a disappointment! Fire tablets are not a solution for everyone, particularly those in need of a longer battery life and fewer social media distractions. I was rooting for Amazon to get the new basic model right to help close the digital divide. Perhaps in the near future, Jeff and friends can give us a better and cheaper variant.

Nate Hoffelder July 10, 2016 um 3:58 pm

"The new $80 Kindle comes with screen contrast issues for many customers"

That is a bullshit claim. You took a screen shot showing only 30 reviews have been left. Amazon shipped thousands if not tens of thousands of the model in the first few days, so 20 people rating it 3-stars or less is nothing.

And as for the audio, it’s worse than you think (I’m working on a post).

DavidW July 10, 2016 um 8:50 pm

The screen shots and videos make them look like typical pearl eink screens. There is a bit of a lottery involved in getting a good one. At least as of the Kindle 4 onwards. My Kindle 3, like yours is excellent but it was a premium device then. Amazon might have taken care to choose good screens, and the QC is not there on the basic kindle lineup.

The reviewers seem to be fools that were expecting either a Fire or a Paperwhite. I’m getting sick reviewers saying "I wish I could change the brightness/contrast/backlight." You’ve got to be kidding me. So stupid.

Nate Hoffelder July 10, 2016 um 9:26 pm

"My Kindle 3, like yours is excellent but it was a premium device then. Amazon might have taken care to choose good screens, and the QC is not there on the basic kindle lineup."

Who knows, Amazon may be using years-old screens from a stockpile which is running out. (I don’t see why E-ink would still be making Pearl screens, do you?)

David Rothman July 10, 2016 um 4:49 pm

But, Nate, while noting the number of reviews, 30 or so, I pointed out that the screen-contrast complaints jibed with my own impressions. Not everyone is the world is Nate. Empathy, please. Both my wife and I found the screen contrast to be inadequate. As for the audio, I hate voice at least as much as you do (if your word "audio" refers to the voice itself). Beyond that, how do you feel about Amazon dissing sighted people with print-related disabilities, including those on the wrong side of the digital divide. One woman self-identified as "Grandma1940" wrote in her two-star review: "As much as I love my old Kindle, I would like to upgrade. However, due to my macular degeneration I have to stick with the old Kindles with text-to-speach capabilities. Why can’t you come out with a new one with text to speach?" Poor woman. She didn’t even know the new model has TTS. Of course, since it’s for the blind rather than still-sighted people with challenges of their own, I’m not certain how much good the TTS would do her anyway. It’s time for bloggers and the rest of the media—not to mention Amazon itself!—to show a little compassion here. URL for Grandma1940’s comments:

Nate Hoffelder July 10, 2016 um 9:35 pm

"Both my wife and I found the screen contrast to be inadequate."

Then you should have bought the black 2016 Kindle. You did know that it’s a known fact that the white shell makes the E-ink screen look gray, right?

I think there’s a good chance that most if not all of the complaints about the contrast relate to white Kindles.

David Rothman July 10, 2016 um 11:04 pm

@Nate: Um, cover up the white shell with paper or whatnot and you’ll still notice the difference. Actually I kinda wonder if you’re being serious when you’re talking about the possibility of Amazon using ancient leftover screens 😉
@DavidW: Silly me. I’m actually expecting 2016 tech to be better than 2007 tech. Yes, I know: the Keyboard sold for more ($139 originally). But after all this time, you’d think production refinements would have driven down the cost of the screens.

DavidW July 15, 2016 um 5:54 pm

Yeah you’re right. I got my white kindle today and compared it side by side to my previous basic Kindle so that the bezel wouldn’t mess with my perception.

The screen is significantly darker on the new kindle. It crosses a line. Eink screens have always had poor contrast, but this is too much. It’s not that the screen looks gray it’s that it looks dark gray, almost black.

David Rothman July 10, 2016 um 11:10 pm

@DavidW: Actually 2010 tech. But still eons by the usual tech standards.

DavidW July 11, 2016 um 12:56 am

I think that alot of it is that the Kindle 3 does a better job rendering fonts than the newest Kindles. On the Kindle 3 on the same font settings it was bolder than the 2014 basic and there was no pixelation or aliasing. It looked smooth and bold, optimized for that resolution. On the 2014 basic Kindle the font is thin which makes it harder to read and shows pixelation. I haven’t seen the 2016 Kindle but it’s still the same software!

Sergegobli July 11, 2016 um 7:08 am

On reflection, you could have just copy and pasted the text from your previous reviews of any basic or PW review from the last several years, added its a bit thinner and has no light, and the review would have been fine. Boring Amazon.

Tom S July 11, 2016 um 3:32 pm

The new Kindle is considerably lighter and slightly more compact than the model it is replacing, which is reason enough to prefer it. It should be a mite faster as well given the increased RAM resources. It is actually lighter than any other Kindle except Kindle Oasis (without its cover). And even though it is not the latest e-ink screen, I find the text slightly darker and easier to read (in 'normal' lighting) as it does not have the front-lighting layers which tend to decrease both clarity and blackness. And it has Ember (which may or may not show up for the 7th gen devices that currently lack it.

Bluetooth is a bonus for me, but probably not a consideration for most 'sighted' people. It can only be used for VoiceView, which makes it more onerous for sighted people to navigate and disables a bunch of other features. VoiceView was designed solely for the requirements of people with visual impediments and is unlikely to appeal to many other people (except eccentrics like myself).

So sure, how exciting can it be? But if you want to save some money, don’t care about a front light, or you want a 'backup' Kindle to take to the beach instead of an expensive Oasis or Voyage, then it is perfectly fine.

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