A backlight can’t save Amazon’s base-model Kindle from its low-resolution screen

In a vacuum, the latest entry-level Kindle from Amazon is a solid update: finally there is a built-in light, it has support for Bluetooth headphones so you can listen to audiobooks, and it even has a slightly adjusted design that softens the corners and makes them more comfortable to hold. But Amazon's Kindle does not live in a vacuum. In a world where the Kindle Paperwhite is far superior, the new Kindle is simply not good enough to justify the small price difference.

The new Kindle starts at $ 89.99, while the latest Paperwhite starts at $ 129.99. Now, $ 40 savings is not the worst offer, but the basic Kindle model is not worth the money saved. It is a big flaw: the resolution of the screen.

a backlight cant save amazons base model kindle from its low resolution screen

Good Stuff

  • Still the cheapest Kindle
  • Backlight

Bad Stuff

  • Low resolution display
  • Non-waterproof
  • Embedded display

I have spent the last days reading in the new Kindle, and it has been a frustrating experience. Not because the screen is bad, per se, but because I have become accustomed to reading on better screens. So going back to blurry text in the basic Kindle model is like reading posters without my glasses: it's feasible, but why should you bother?


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While the Kindle and the Paperwhite have 6-inch screens, the Kindle's basic model shows the text at a much lower resolution, with a pixel density of 167 ppi. The Paperwhite pushes more pixels, at 300 ppi, and the difference is huge. Reading on the new Kindle is like reading on an old computer screen. Reading in Paperwhite is like reading.

To put that difference in another technological perspective, the differences in pixel density between the Kindle and the Paperwhite are similar to those of the iPhone 3GS (163 ppi) and the iPhone 4 (326 ppi). Nobody who used an iPhone 4 was clamoring to recover a 3GS, and the jump between the look of the text in a Paperwhite and a normal Kindle is so significant.

Once you've seen what the text looks like on a Paperwhite (and other high-resolution screens, like most modern phones and laptops), it's impossible to go back, even if it's to save $ 40 There is a reason why almost all electronic readers from Amazon and competitors like Kobo offer higher resolution screens: the only thing you will do on a Kindle is read text. It is what is at stake for the category, and it is disappointing to see that Amazon still offers the same old panel in the 2019 model when there are components that are almost twice as good.


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The new Kindle is not up to the paperwhite in other aspects too: the screen is still embedded instead of flush with the front of the panel, is not waterproof, has only 4 GB of storage and there are only 4 LEDs in the lighting system (instead of setting five LEDs in the Paperwhite). The new Paperwhite would already be worth the additional $ 40 just for the screen, but the rest is added, and there is practically no reason to consider the base model.

The Paperwhite goes on sale routinely for around $ 90, the same price as the basic Kindle model, so you'll be much better off waiting for an agreement and picking up one at that time. Your eyes will thank you.

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