Which Kindle? Kindle Buying Guide

With Kindle Touch, Kindle Fire, and the new Kindle, Amazon now has a confusing number of Kindles to choose from.

This ‘Which Kindle?’ Kindle Buying Guide will help you pick the right Kindle for your needs.

Which Kindle – The Top 3 Choices

This section is the conclusion of the entire Kindle Buying Guide (so you don’t have to go through the entire Kindle Buying Guide if you don’t want to). The three best Kindles and the ones we recommend are –

  1. Kindle Fire (if you want a Tablet).
  2. Kindle Touch (best Kindle eReader with touch).
  3. Kindle Keyboard (best Kindle eReader with keyboard).

Please Note: Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch are not yet out. So the recommendation is with the Qualifier that these devices might not be as good as expected. With Kindle Touch it’s quite likely (given past Kindles) that it will be a very safe and solid bet. With Kindle Fire, we will only know when it’s actually released.

A little on why these were the winners.

Kindle Fire – A good choice if you are looking for a Tablet

Kindle Fire is a Kindle Tablet. It is optimized for consuming content (movies, books, TV shows, music), for surfing the web (with a fast browser), and for games (thousands of apps and games from Amazon’s Android App Store).

The combination of low price, good features, and multi-purposeness make it a good Tablet. It offers a lot of value for money and lets you both read books and also do lots of other things. It has a good-sized 7″LCD screen with IPS and color and two-finger touch.

Kindle Fire can be used as a reading tablet but does not have the eInk screen that is great for reading and is not focused on reading. It does have a reading light. It will not work in direct sunlight (you won’t be able to read off of it in direct sunlight).

It seems to be a very good choice (once it is out we’ll know for sure). If your budget is higher than $199 (the Kindle Fire’s price) then also consider iPad 2 (around $499) and Nook Color ($249, $170 for refurbished). Nook Color 2 is rumored to launch soon and iPad 3 and a 10″ Kindle Fire are rumored to launch in early 2012.

Touch Kindle – The best eReader choice if you don’t need a physical keyboard

Touch Kindle is just $99 for the version with ads and with WiFi only (ads are not in books, only in screensavers and on home page). It has a 6″ eInk Pearl that is great for reading. There is no color. There is touch. The touch is via IR so there is no layer over the eInk and no glare.

It is the 4th generation Kindle (though there aren’t very many advances over the 3rd generation Kindle) and thus offers the latest features. You get a focus on reading, the great eInk Pearl screen, and the convenience/appeal of touch. There is no backlight so you have to use a reading light. You can read it in sunlight. The eInk screen is great for reading and easy on the eyes.

The Kindle Touch and the Kindle Keyboard (Kindle 3) are the best choices if you are looking for a device for reading.

Kindle 3 aka Kindle Keyboard (WiFi only version)

Amazon has continued the Kindle 3 and it’s a good decision given the benefits of having a physical keyboard and the good, solid design and ease of use of Kindle 3.

Kindle 3 has a 6″ eInk Pearl screen (same as Kindle Touch) but doesn’t have a touch screen. Just like Kindle Touch, the Kindle 3 is great for reading and is readable in sunlight but doesn’t have a backlight for reading at night.

It has a physical keyboard which makes note-taking and highlighting and searching much easier. It also allows for lots of keyboard shortcuts (Alt+B to add a bookmark) and makes things convenient.

Kindle 3 is a good, solid choice.

Which Kindle – the Full List

Let’s look at every Kindle available and at what makes it unique and what situations and uses each is optimal for.

Please Note: There are sections later on that cover ‘Kindle WiFi or 3G’ and ‘Kindle with Ads or Kindle with No Ads’.

$79 New Kindle (Kindle 4 with Ads)

This is a very solid Kindle and incredible value for money. The downside is that there is no keyboard and no touchscreen – which makes things like taking notes very difficult and some other things awkward. There is also no text to speech and no music since it doesn’t have speakers. It has less storage space and less battery life than the $99 Kindles – However, it shouldn’t matter very much as there’s still space for 1,400 books and there is still 3 weeks battery life with WiFi on.

My recommendation: Add on $20 and get Touch Kindle or Kindle 3 Keyboard.

$79 Kindle 4 Review – Kindle 4 Review, Photos.

Thoughts on Ads: Not a problem. You get ads instead of screensavers and ads on the main page. No Ads in Books so it doesn’t hurt the book reading experience.

$109 New Kindle (Kindle 4 with no Ads)

Same as above. Just with no Ads. Don’t really see any reason to buy this instead of the $79 version.

$99 Kindle Touch (with WiFi only, with Ads)

Probably the best Kindle option.

For $99 you get – 6″ eInk Pearl screen that is great for reading, touch screen, ease of use and simplicity, access to Kindle Store (the best ebook store), text to speech, great battery life (2 months with WiFi off – assuming half an hour of reading per day). It is the latest generation Kindle (Kindle 4 Touch) so you get the benefit of all the lessons from the past 3 Kindle generations.

You don’t get – Color, Ability to do things other than read.

My recommendation: Best Kindle available (alongside Kindle Keyboard). If you prefer touch over a physical keyboard then this is the best choice.

$99 Kindle Touch Review – Kindle Touch Review.

Thought on Ads: Same as earlier, or please see Section later on ‘Kindle with Ads or Kindle with No Ads’.

$139 Kindle Touch (with WiFi only, no Ads)

Same Kindle Touch as Above. You pay $40 extra to be freed of ads in your screensaver and on your Home Page.

$139 Kindle Touch 3G (with 3G and WiFi, with Ads)

This is the same as the $99 Kindle Touch except $50 more expensive and with 3G.

WiFi and 3G are types of wireless technology. 3G means you can use AT&T’s cellphone towers and get wireless anywhere there is wireless coverage from AT&T. WiFi means you either have to have your own home wireless network or use a WiFi network at Starbucks or MacDonald’s or a Coffee Shop or at your work. Note: With any Kindle you get free WiFi access to all AT&T WiFi hotspots.

3G is more convenient. With 3G you get free Internet browsing and can browse the Kindle Store and buy and download books. It also extends (provided you are a US Kindle owner) to 100+ countries. You can be in England and still shop the Kindle Store and surf the Internet on your Kindle – as long as there is 3G coverage (from AT&T or a partner).

When do you need Wireless: You only need wireless when buying a book or downloading a book or surfing the Internet. You DO NOT need wireless when reading a book.

My Recommendation: Get this if you travel a lot OR don’t have a home wireless network OR will be reading on your commute or at work and won’t have WiFi access. Do get this is you travel internationally.

Quick Thought: If $50 isn’t a big deal to you, then always get Kindle Touch 3G instead of the WiFi-only Kindle Touch. The convenience more than makes up for it.

Thought on Ads: Same as earlier. Not a big deal.

$189 Kindle Touch 3G (with 3G and WiFi, no Ads)

This is the Kindle Touch 3G with no Ads. Same as above except no Ads.

$99 Kindle Keyboard (Kindle WiFi with WiFi only, Ads)

This is the Kindle 3. This is a really good Kindle and neck to neck with Kindle Touch.

For people who prefer a Keyboard this is the best choice. For people who prefer a touchscreen the Kindle Touch is the best choice.

For your $99 you get – 6″ eInk Pearl Screen, all the improvements learnt from Kindle 1 and Kindle 2, text to speech, very good usability, good operating system that’s easy to use, lots of options for font size, access to Kindle Store (the best ebook prices and the widest range of new ebooks), same 2 month battery life as on the Kindle Touch.

What you don’t get – the latest Kindle, touch screen, color, ability to do more than read.

My Recommendation – If you want a physical keyboard, then the Kindle 3 is the best choice.

Kindle Keyboard Review – Kindle 3 Review.

Quick Thought – A very safe choice. This is the third generation Kindle and third generation devices tend to be very solid.

Ads – Not a big deal. Saves you $40 if you are OK having Ads as screensavers. No ads when reading books.

$139 Kindle Keyboard (Kindle WiFi with WiFi only, no Ads)

Pay $40 extra and get the Kindle 3 without Ads.

$149 Kindle Keyboard 3G (Kindle 3 with WiFi and 3G, Ads).

This is identical to Kindle 3 except that you pay $50 extra to get 3G capability.

The exact same benefits as we discussed with Kindle Touch 3G – free 3G Kindle Store browsing, free 3G Internet, more convenient (works wherever there’s AT&T coverage), get free 3G in 100+ countries.

My Recommendation: If you travel often, or don’t get WiFi at home and work, or don’t want to bother with WiFi, then Kindle 3 with 3G is a great choice.

Convenience vs $50: If $50 isn’t much to you, then always get the 3G.

Wireless only needed for buying and surfing: You can read a book without wireless.

Ads: Not an annoyance.

$189 Kindle Keyboard 3G (Kindle 3 with WiFi and 3G, No Ads)

This is Kindle 3 with 3G and No Ads. Pay $40 extra and get back your screensaver and the bottom 20% of your home screen.

$199 Kindle Fire – The Kindle Tablet

A very good choice if you are looking for a low-priced Tablet that lets you do a lot more than just read.

The Kindle Fire is a 7″ Tablet. It has a color IPS LCD screen which makes it great for photos and movies and TV and games. It’s decent for reading and Amazon is doing some things like adding an anti-glare layer/treatment to make it a good reading tablet.

There is a gorilla glass display to make it tougher.

It’s a steal since the components alone cost $191. Add on manufacturing and software development and marketing and it’s probably costing more than the price Amazon is selling it for – perhaps as much as $50 more. Amazon is subsidizing it against the hope of future content sales.

That means you get a $250 to $300 Tablet for $199.

Kindle Fire vs Nook Color 2: Since Nook Color 2 is not out or announced, we don’t know what it will be. It is, however, a good idea to wait and see. You can still preorder a Kindle Fire to book your place. Then, if you find you like the Nook Color 2 more, just cancel the order.

Kindle Fire vs iPad 2: They are different devices. Can’t really compare a $199 Tablet with a $499 Tablet.

Kindle Fire Review: Not up yet. Here’s a post on Kindle Fire Specifications & Details.

My Recommendation: If you want a device for more than just reading, then Kindle Fire seems promising. Preorder one to book up a spot. If Nook Color 2 ends up being more tempting, you can always switch.

$379 Kindle DX 2 – The large-screen Kindle

Kindle DX 2 is the large screen Kindle. It has a 9.7″ eInk Pearl screen which is great for reading and offers all the benefits the smaller eInk Pearl screen offers – easy on the eyes, optimized for reading, readable in sunlight. It doesn’t have a backlight.

Kindle DX 2 is OK but not great for PDFs. The larger screen size is great and you can use landscape mode to get even better views. However, the PDF support is a bit limited – There is no text to speech for PDFs and highlights don’t always work.

In fact, something like the Kindle Fire or the Nook Color might be a better PDF reader due to color and touch and better PDF software.

Value for Money: When you can get a $79 Kindle 4 and a $99 Kindle Touch, the $379 price of the Kindle DX 2 becomes really unappealing.

My Recommendation: Wait for Kindle DX 3 or buy a Reading Tablet.

Kindle DX 2 Review: Here’s my Kindle DX 2 Review.

Thought on All the Kindle Choices

The introduction of the WiFi or 3G choice with Kindle 3 in 2010 made things confusing.

Now, with Ads or No Ads and 2 new models of Kindles, Amazon has made choosing a Kindle a royal mess. Hopefully this post (including the sections below) clears up the choice for you.

My recommendation would be –

  1. Kindle Tablet (Kindle Fire) – preorder one and then wait to see what Nook Color 2 is like.
  2. Kindle Touch – Best Choice if you’re looking for a touchscreen Kindle and want the latest model.
  3. Kindle 3 – Best Choice if you want a keyboard and the most stable, battle-tested Kindle.

Between Ads and No Ads – The Ads version is OK as Ads are not in the actual books.

Between 3G and no 3G – If you can afford it, or if you travel, or if you don’t have WiFi at places where you will want to buy books or surf the Net, then do get the 3G variant.

Which Kindle – eInk or LCD?

Kindle Fire is the only Kindle with a LCD screen. It is also a Tablet and not an eReader.

Kindle Fire Tablet with LCD screen – 7″ screen, usable for movies and TV shows and color games, two finger touch, IPS panel for great viewing angles, can be used for more than just reading, backlight so readable at night.

Kindle eReader with eInk screen – 6″ screen, eInk (with Touch if you get Kindle Touch), no color, no backlight, readable in sunlight, easier on the eyes, optimized for reading.

They really are two completely different devices.

If you read 2 or more books a month, or would like to read more

Then a Kindle eReader with an eInk screen is the best choice. Even if you get a Kindle Fire you should consider getting a $100 Kindle Touch or Kindle 3 for your reading.

Which Kindle – 3G or WiFi

Firstly, wireless is only needed when buying and downloading a book and when surfing the Internet. You don’t need wireless to read a book that’s already on your Kindle.

Secondly, if you can afford the extra $50 then it’s almost always a great idea to get the 3G version. It’s a lot more convenient, it works in 100+ countries (if you are a US Kindle owner), and it gets you free Internet browsing.

Thirdly, here’s the difference:

WiFi – A wireless technology where a router creates a wireless network in a particular spot (like a cafe or a house or a store). So your Kindle (both WiFi-only model and 3G model) can connect to this network and then connect to the internet through the router.

3G – A wireless technology where cellphone towers create a large wireless network over huge areas (like an entire city, or large areas of a city). So you Kindle (only the 3G model) can connect to this network and then connect to the Internet through the cellphone tower.

They are both ways to connect to a wireless network and then to the Internet. However, the latter (3G) is much more expansive as it works wherever an AT&T cellphone would work. It also works in 100+ countries where there is an AT&T partner 3G network.

WiFi will only work if there is an accessible WiFi network. You might have one at home. There are 10,000 AT&T hotspots in the US that your WiFi-only Kindle can access.

However, WiFi won’t work in a lot of cases like when driving around or when travelling. 3G will work much more often.

My Recommendation: It’s better to get the 3G Kindle but you can get by on the WiFi Kindle if you have WiFi at home or are OK downloading books to your PC and then transferring to Kindle via USB.

Which Kindle – Touch or Keyboard or Neither

This is usually a clear preference – If you like typing notes and prefer a physical keyboard then the Kindle 3 is the clear choice. If you fall into the camp of ‘touch is so cool and I can type faster/as fast on a touch keyboard as on a physical keyboard’ then the Touch Kindle is the clear choice.

Please keep in mind that the Touch Kindle isn’t here yet so we don’t know how well that on-screen keyboard works.

Which Kindle – 6″ eInk screen or 9.7″ eInk screen

At $379 the Kindle DX 2 is too expensive to consider. If Kindle Fire is just $199 and Kindle Touch is just $99 then the Kindle DX 2 at $379 becomes a puzzling choice. Just buy a Kindle Fire and a Kindle Touch instead and still have $80 left over.

Which Kindle – Should You get a Refurbished Kindle? What about a used Kindle?

Not a fan of all the refurbished Kindles and used Kindles.

Kindle Touch is $99. Kindle 4 is $79. Kindle 3 is $99.

There really isn’t a strong argument for buying a refurbished Kindle. The two exceptions would be:

A refurbished Kindle DX 2 if it is significantly cheaper than the $379 price of a new Kindle DX 2. My thought: Yes, as long as you don’t expect it to be a fantastic PDF reader.

A refurbished Kindle 3 with 3G and no Ads if it is in the $100 to $120 range. My thought: Yes, this is a good deal.

In nearly every other case it makes no sense to pick a refurbished Kindle over the latest generation, super-low-priced Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch.

Which Kindle – Reading Experience

One thing worth pointing out, especially if you are looking primarily for a reading device, is the core reading experience. My rough ranking would be:

Please Note: Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch are not out yet.

  1. Tie between Kindle 3 and Kindle Touch.
  2. All variants of Kindle 3 and Kindle Touch.
  3. Kindle 4 and variants. The lack of both keyboard and touch screen takes away from the reading experience.
  4. Kindle DX 2. The large size gets in the way.
  5. Kindle Fire. Equivalent to other reading tablets like Nook Color. Slightly better than general Tablets like iPad 2.

All Kindles have a very good core reading experience. Kindle 3 and Kindle DX 2 and Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch have the same identical eInk Pearl screens with very minor improvements in the latest generation Kindles.

Kindle Fire’s LCD screen is neither optimized for reading (apart from the anti-glare treatment) nor is it easy on the eyes. It will still be fine for reading – just not as good as dedicated reading devices like the eInk Kindles.

Which Kindle – Closing Thoughts

The answer to Which Kindle? is –

  • Kindle Fire (if you want a Tablet that can do more than just read). Do compare with Nook Color 2.
  • Kindle Touch (best Kindle eReader with touch). Can’t go wrong with the $99 WiFi-only model with Ads.
  • Kindle 3 (best Kindle eReader with keyboard). Again, the $99 WiFi-only model with Ads is something you can’t go wrong with.

If you want a device dedicated to reading, you are pretty safe if you go with the Kindle 3 or Kindle Touch. Based on what Kindle 4 is like, and assuming that Kindle Touch will basically be Kindle 4 with a touchscreen, I’m pretty comfortable giving it a strong recommendation in advance of actual release. A touchscreen really would address most of the shortcomings of the Kindle 4 (apart from the lack of a physical keyboard).