Still reading paper books or, even worse, reading on a phone or tablet? What are you playing at? Everyone else has been virtually thumbing through books on Kindle for years now, and for good reason.
There’s no eyestrain, nothing that’ll clutter up your house, and an e-reader lets you carry hundreds of book around with you. You’ve probably heard this all before, right?
But do you know which are the very best e-readers you can buy right now? You will if you keep reading...
The Winner: Kindle Paperwhite - RM356 (RM608 with 3G)
One of the longest-standing e-readers out there is also one of the very best. The Amazon Paperwhite has been around since 2012, with just one upgrade since then, bumping up its screen tech from E Ink Pearl to Carta: nice, but not world-changing.
This is the old faithful of the e-reader scene, offering all of the most important parts of the Kindle Voyage without any of the flashy bits. For example, screen density is 212ppi rather than 300ppi. You’ll notice it if you get real up-close, but the Paperwhite screen is still great.
Compared to its flashy new sibling the Paperwhite is a bit thicker, but a lot simpler, with a smooth soft touch rear instead of one that tries to show off with multiple finish styles and angular seams.
That the Voyage has to resort to flashy extras beyond the screen to outdo the Paperwhite shows you what a rock solid design this already is. And for our money the Paperwhite’s front light is actually more solid than the Voyage’s. The new model may be better, but it doesn’t trample this old don of e-readers.
In fact, after a few days testing there was just one element that would make the expensive model worth the upgrade, and it’s not the screen (great though the screen is). It’s those Kindle Voyage buttons. Like most touchscreen readers, the Paperwhite makes you move a digit to flick pages, the Voyage doesn’t. So the question is: how lazy are your thumbs?
If you want the ultimate e-reader, the Voyage is it, but if you want the ultimate performance-per-ringgit e-reader, it's the venerable Paperwhite.
A modern classic and the best performance-per-pound e-reader around
Kindle Paperwhite in figures Screen: 6in E Ink Carta 212ppi with front light • Battery: Up to eight weeks normal use • Connectivity: Wi-Fi (optional 3G) • Storage: 4GB • Dimensions: 165 x 127 x 11mm
Kindle Voyage - RM715 (RM967 with 3G)
This is the big daddy of the e-reader world. It’s Amazon’s new flagship and has big shoes to fill. Amazon certainly hasn’t hit the hard rest button: the Kindle Voyage still operates and looks like Kindle, but there’s bags of new tech in here.
First there are the new pressure pads on the front. See the little line and dot markers on each side of the screens? These are page buttons for the post-button age.
Press on the line and you’ll go forward a page, press the dot and you’ll skip back a page. Naturally, you can also use the touchscreen.
And what a screen it is too. This is by far the sharpest Kindle screen so far, one definitely deserving of the Retina tag we normally attach to phones, because text is actually smoother than it is in most printed books.
The Kindle Voyage gets the latest Carta E Ink screen tech, and while the display size is the same as the £59 Kindle and Paperwhite, it’s the first to have an auto brightness front light setting. There’s an ambient light sensor on the Voyage, letting it gradually dim and brighten the screen’s light as you go from reading in a lit room to, perhaps, a dark bedroom.
We’ll admit to going manual with the light (also still an option) as the Auto setting likes to make the display a bit too bright in day-time. After all, wasn’t the whole point of E Ink that it used natural light when it’s available?
Still, not everyone’s likely to feel the same. Also a tiny bit contentious is the design. Kindle e-readers have historically had a pretty plain practical design, while the Voyage gets a bit flashy with a more angular rear with bits of glossy plastic: a look nabbed from the Kindle HD tablet range.
Whether convinced about these choices or not, they don’t stop the Voyage from being tremendously nice to use. Those new pressure buttons mean you don’t even need to move a finger while reading.
This is a corker of an e-reader, and the one to go for if you can afford it. That said, it really doesn’t come cheap at around RM715, or RM967 for the 3G edition. Ouch.
It’s the king of e-readers, but make sure you appreciate its bonus bits before buying over a Paperwhite
Kindle Voyage in figures Screen: 6in E Ink Carta 300ppi with front light • Battery: Six weeks normal use • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, optional 3G • Storage: 4GB • Dimensions: 162 x 115 x 7.6 mm, 180g
Kobo Aura H20 (RM646)
If you don’t want to follow the pack and get an Amazon Kindle, a Kobo e-reader is always a good shout these days. You’ll find them on the high street at WH Smith stores, and the Kobo Aura H20 is its top pick.
It’s also the only e-reader we’ve used to be completely primed for bath time. There’s nothing quite like relaxing with a good book in the bath, and thanks to the Aura H20’s rubber-sealed port on the bottom there’s no chance of a fried battery or sodden pages here.
It makes us wonder why we haven’t seen waterproof e-readers before.
In the trade-off, the Aura H20 isn’t quite as slim or slick as the top-end Kindle Voyage. Its super-soft finish plastic body feels great, but it’s chunkier and larger than any Kindle.
Part of this is deliberate, though. The Kobo Aura H2O has a 6.8in screen rather than a 6in Kindle-size one, but still offers great sharpness thanks to its 265ppi E Ink Carta display. Sure, the Voyage still has the edge for sharpness when you get up-close, but Kobo has enough tiny E Ink microcapsules to make even small text look crisp.
Its front light is also a bit more tonally consistent that the Kindle Voyage’s, which looked a lot bluer towards the bottom of the screen in our sample. This is a cracking piece of hardware that really appreciates what tech-loving readers are after.
We just wish it had Amazon’s software at times. Kobo has its highlights, like great tracking of your reading stats, but a Kindle feels that bit more friendly and simple to use.
Don’t want to be an Amazon Kindle sheep? The Kobo Aura H20 is a fine alternative, especially if you read in the bath
Kobo Aura H20 in figures Screen: 6.8in E Ink Carta 265ppi with front light • Battery: Up to eight weeks normal use • Connectivity: Wi-Fi • Storage: 4GB with microSD • Dimensions: 179 x 129 x 9.7mm, 233g
Don’t mind missing out on the latest tech? The basic RM212 Kindle gets you a similar experience to what what we saw a few years ago from the Kindle Touch, for less money. But let’s not forget that was once the top dog in the e-reader world.
What you’ll definitely miss if you have any experience with a Paperwhite is the front light: the basic Kindle doesn’t have one. That means no reading in the dark because, as ever, the E Ink screen itself supplies zero light.
It’s also not the glitziest-feeling device. There is a bit of texture to the plastic rear, but this is probably the cheapest-feeling Kindle to date, including the old non-touch RM323 model that has now been discontinued. The actual screen tech is a generation behind the competition too, with relatively low-res E Ink Pearl on-board rather than the latest Carta-generation screen.
It probably sounds like we’re really laying into the basic Kindle, but it’s actually a perfectly good e-reader if you’re happy to live with its cheapy cutbacks. In daylight, its screen is just about as comfortable to read from as the Kindle Voyage: contrast is still very good, only lacking the crispness and bold pitch-black text of the more expensive models. Surprisingly enough, it is just about as fast too.
And just like every other Kindle, the RM212 model benefits from Amazon’s fantastic book delivery system. You just log in with your Amazon account, then you can buy books directly from the reader, or even send ones to it from your laptop’s web browser.
Keen readers should probably consider a slightly higher-end model, mostly because of the front light, which we now find indispensable. But if you’re looking to read on the beach rather than in bed and want to save a few quid, this is a perfectly respectable e-reader.
It feels a bit cheap and isn’t great for night reading, but the Kindle gets the basics just right
Kindle in figures Screen: 6in E Ink Pearl 167ppi • Battery: Four week normal use • Connectivity: Wi-Fi • Storage: 4GB • Dimensions: 169 x 119 x 10.2 mm, 191g
Nook GlowLight (RM355)
Barnes & Noble may not be the sort of household name here that it is in the US, but the Nook series is still one of the main e-reader ranges. The GlowLight doesn’t cost anywhere near as much as the Aura H20 or Kindle Voyage, instead sticking under RM400 to lure in the book-reading masses.
In return, you get a nice front-lit e-reader screen that just loses out on a few of the flashier bits of the most expensive models. For example, the screen uses Pearl E Ink tech rather than the newer Carta, and offers decent sharpness of 212ppi, rather than searing Retina-grade stuff.
Carta gets you better blacks than Pearl, but it’s a minor improvement. The GlowLight still has a nice, clear screen. It’s also remarkably light — you really feel the difference when comparing one model to another.
The build quality, though, is a little bit dubious in places. The Nook GlowLight has a plastic body ringed with a rubbery siding that snakes around its sides. While this acts as a cushion, it’s also very liable to pull away from the body because it’s not really held in place properly. If you’re anything like us you’ll end up fiddling with it all too often, making it hang a bit loosely around the e-reader.
This is one of the comfiest readers to hold, but it doesn’t feel like it’s going to last forever.
The front light, while bright, was less consistent than either the Kindle or Kobo rivals. When you turn it up a bit, it’s quite clearly brighter at the sides and dimmer right up at the top.
Its biggest problem, though, is the Kindle Paperwhite. Yes it is a bit more expensive unless you buy refurbished from Amazon, but the more even backlight and better build justify the extra outlay.
It feels a little flaky in parts, but the GlowLight sure is slim and light
Nook GlowLight in figures Screen: 6in E Ink Carta 212ppi with front light • Battery: Up to eight weeks normal use • Connectivity: Wi-Fi • Storage: 4GB • Dimensions: 165 x 127 x 11mm
Bookeen Cybook Ocean (RM794)
Now for something completely different: the Bookeen Cybook Ocean has an 8in screen that is obviously, inescapably, much bigger than any other e-reader here. It feels like wielding the ebook equivalent of an iPad.
If you find Kindles that bit too tiddly, this reader should be of immediate interest. But this is a quirky option in more ways than simply size.
First, the Bookeen Cybook Ocean has pretty sharp edges. We often end up resting the edge of an ebook reader in the butt of a palm, but you wouldn’t want to do so here.
Then there’s the microSD slot. Most of the Bookeen Cybook Ocean’s back is a plate of aluminium that feels tough and expensive, but at the bottom is a plastic flap that hides the microSD slot. Removing it can feel as though you’re tearing the tablet apart. A few parts of the Ocean feel as though they’ve not been designed with quite enough attention to detail.
But the main event: the screen. Like the fanciest e-readers, there’s no ‘lip’ that blooms up around the screen and if your eyes don’t work so well, having that extra screen space may be a real winner.
We’re not convinced about the screen in other respects, though. You see, it’s not E Ink, but E-Paper. The screen doesn’t have the contrast of the best E Ink readers, with even greyer blacks than the RM212 budget Kindle. It’s also by far the most reflective screen here - despite having an anti-glare layer, it’s the only one with a glossy finish screen. That’s a real no-no for an e-reader, making it a pain to use on bright sunny days.
As you only get the same resolution as mid-range 6in e-readers, we’re not really sure of the benefits of such a big screen either. And let’s be clear: you wouldn’t want to look at complicated PDFs on this thing because it’s pretty slow compared with the latest from the big names. It seems as though the software optimisations Nook, Amazon and Kobo have made over the last few years haven’t made it to Bookeen’s readers.
It’s big and bold, but some strange design decisions make it a real oddball pick
Bookeen Cybook Ocean in figures Screen: 8in E Paper 160ppi with light • Battery: Four week normal use • Connectivity: Wi-Fi • Storage: 4GB, with microSD • Dimensions: 196 x 150 x 7 mm