If you’re looking for a new e-reader, whether you’re upgrading or buying your first device, you’ll find there are a lot of options. There are four big names in the e-book reader market and they each offer a range of e-readers to suit different budgets and requirements. There’s a reason these companies are dominating the e-reader scene, so if you want quality, great features, and reasonable prices, there’s no need to look beyond them.
We are going to focus on dedicated E Ink devices for reading e-books here, so we won’t delve into full-fledged tablets. We’ll also ignore discontinued lines, although there are bargains to be had out there in the secondhand market. Let’s take a look at the options and then we’ll compare at the end.
Barnes & Noble Nook
The popular Nook from Barnes & Noble comes in two flavors. There’s the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, and the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch Reader.
For the basic Reader you’ll need to shell out $100. It has an E Ink display, which is easy to read, even in direct sunlight. It also has a 6-inch touchscreen and can hold up to 1,000 books, magazines, or newspapers. A single charge will last you up to two months based on an average of 30 minutes reading per day.
The GlowLight version is $20 more at $120. It is essentially the same, but it has a backlit touchscreen so that you can read in the dark. The GlowLight reduces the battery life to a, still respectable, one month. That’s also based on an average of 30 minutes reading per day.
Both devices have a microSD card slot so you can expand memory by up to 32GB. That’s a lot of books.
For more details you can read our in-depth review.
A perfect marriage of content and hardware has allowed the Kindle range to really drive the widespread adoption of e-readers. You have quite a few choices if you want to buy an e-reader from Amazon. There’s the basic Kindle, the Kindle Keyboard 3G, the Kindle DX, the Kindle Paperwhite, and the Kindle Paperwhite 3G.
At just $70, the basic Kindle is a steal. It has a 6-inch e-ink display that’s easy to read, even in direct sunlight; it can hold up to 1,000 books, magazines, or newspapers; and a single charge will last you up to one month based on an average of 30 minutes reading per day.
The Kindle Keyboard 3G costs $140 and it adds a physical keyboard into the mix and 3G connectivity. It also has double the storage of the basic Kindle and it boasts stereo speakers. A single charge will last you up to two months based on an average of 30 minutes reading per day. It is also larger and heavier.
For anyone seeking something even bigger, there’s the Kindle DX. It has a 9.7-inch screen, free 3G, stereo speakers, 4GB of storage, and a physical keyboard. However, it costs a whopping $380 and battery life is just three weeks.
The Paperwhite is Amazon’s answer to the GlowLight Nook. It also allows you to read in the dark, but the screen is not backlit, instead there’s a light at the top. The basic Kindle Paperwhite is $120. It boasts an extremely sharp 6-inch touchscreen, can store over 1,000 books, and can also last up to two months on a single charge, once again, based on a half hour of daily reading.
The top of the range choice is the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 3G which costs $180. It simply adds free 3G to the basic Kindle Paperwhite.
You can pay an extra $20 for any of the entries in the Kindle range in order to avoid any advertising. The special offers take the form of adverts on your screensaver and at the bottom of your home screen. There is no intrusion on your actual reading.
For more details check out our full review of the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite.
It doesn’t have as big a name, but Kobo does offer a good e-reader range. There’s the Kobo Mini, the Kobo Glo, and the Kobo Touch.
The Kobo Mini costs $80. It has a 5-inch e-ink touchscreen. It can store 1,000 books and the battery can also last up to one month, but no usage estimates in terms of daily reading are provided. The one month battery claim is also contradicted in the Kobo FAQ which says two weeks.
As you might expect, the Kobo Glo allows you to read in the dark and it costs $130. It has a 6-inch E Ink touchscreen, can also hold around 1,000 books, and the battery will give you 55 hours of continuous use with the light on.
The Kobo Touch also costs $130, although you’ll find it discounted in a lot of places. It has a 6-inch E Ink touchscreen. It has the standard 2GB storage which is room for up to 1,000 books. The battery life is up to one month.
The Kobo Glo and the Kobo Touch also have microSD card slots so you can expand the storage by up to 32GB.
You current options are the Sony Reader PRST2HBC and the Sony Reader PRST2RC. As far as we can make out both devices are the same except for the color options. The Sony Reader PRST2HBC is standard grey/black while the PRST2RC comes in white or red.
The Sony Reader costs $130. It has a 6-inch E Ink touchscreen. There is just 1.3GB internal memory, but there is a microSD card slot so you can expand storage up to 32GB. It can also last up to two months on a single charge, once again, based on a half hour of daily reading.
What to buy?
If low price is your prime concern then you can’t beat the basic Kindle at $70. We’d give second place to the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch Reader at $100. You could also consider the Kobo Mini at $80 but it has a smaller screen and poorer battery life.
If you want to be able to read in the dark then it’s a head-to-head between the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight at $140 and the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite at $120. The Nook has expandable memory, but the Kindle has a sharper screen, and coupled with the lower price, it edges this one. The Kobo Glo could also be worth a look at $130 as it boasts superior battery life.
The presence of 3G, which will allow you to connect to a mobile network and download books even when you are out and about, is only available on selected Kindles now. Is it worth the premium? We think probably not. Most people will be happy to load up books using Wi-Fi and won’t feel the need to connect all the time.
As with any expensive purchase, we would strongly recommend that you try these out before you buy. The feel of an e-reader is very important. If you want something light then the Kobo Mini and the Sony Reader are actually the lightest, closely followed by the basic Kindle. The sharpest screen on the market is the Kindle Paperwhite at 212 ppi.
Ultimately, the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Amazon Kindle range get our strongest recommendation. You are unlikely to be disappointed with either.