Buying an e-reader can be a tricky task, especially when there are various models available that all seem fairly similar but carry very different prices.
Our expert reviewers test out the majority of the big e-readers that arrive each year, putting them through their paces in various everyday situations to fairly judge each one.
Unlike many other devices, especially phones and tablets, e-readers have a much longer life cycle and might only be updated every few years. That’s why you’ll find some slightly older devices than you might expect on our list.
An e-reader stands out as being a very simple device. Most of those listed below are focused purely on reading, rather than trying to accomplish all your tasks, like a tablet. They all have an e-ink monochrome screen, which is much easier on the eyes than an LCD or an OLED. That can make them something of a luxury item, but they’re certainly a worthy addition to your tech arsenal if you’re an avid fan of reading.
We have decided to leave off recommending the current budget Kindle, as Amazon has just announced a new model – with far better features, including a sharper display and USB-C charging – that will arrive in October. We’ll re-assess this list when we’ve fully reviewed the 2022 Kindle.
How we test
E-readers are focused devices and so we review them differently to tablets. There’s much less of a focus on performance and having a long list of features, instead what’s important here is a great screen that’s easy on the eyes, a portable form-factor that’s easy to leave in a bag and a long battery life.
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2021)
The best e-reader
- Excellent screen
- Durable design
- Not much support for content that isn’t from Amazon
- Physical buttons for flipping pages would be welcome
Out of all the e-readers we’ve reviewed, the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is the best pick for most people.
It has a roomy 7-inch display that produces sharp text, a waterproof body ideal for pool or bathtub reading and, unlike the far more expensive Kindle Oasis, it sports USB-C charging. This means you can use the same charger you would for any recent Android phone or laptop. The Paperwhite really just ticks all the boxes our reviewer looked for during testing, including lasting for multiple weeks on a single charge.
Amazon expanded the screen slightly when compared to the previous model and we think for most people, the slightly bigger display makes reading easier and more engaging. If you want a smaller Kindle then the base model is the one to plump for.
The rest of the features are fairly similar to the rest of the Kindle range. They all have access to Amazon’s book store, support Audible audiobooks and services like Prime Reader and Kindle Unlimited. If you don’t want to be stuck in the Amazon ecosystem, we’d suggest the Kobo or Onyx Boox Note Air 2 Plus as they work with a wider range of services.
Amazon also sells a Signature Edition of the Paperwhite, which packs in 32GB as opposed to 8GB of storage making it a smarter pick for those who want to load in with audiobooks. There’s an auto dimming display too, and wireless charging.
Reviewer: Max Parker
Full Review: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Review
Onyx Boox Note Air 2 Plus
The best e-reader for notes
- Great build quality
- Support for Amazon Kindle
- Decent battery life
- Responsive touchscreen
- E-Ink display is easy on the eyes
The Onyx Boox Note Air 2 Plus is a little different to the other options we’ve listed here as it doubles as a pretty decent tablet thanks to the addition of the Google Play Store for apps. This also means that while you can download the Kindle app to read, you can also get books and audiobooks from other sources.
Our reviewer found the slightly textured display to be nice to read on. At 10.3-inches it’s also much larger than any other e-reader, making it a strong choice for reading comics, magazines and graphic novels.
The bundled stylus is accurate and ideal for taking notes and doodling, while the cover keeps the device safe from damage.
However, the far more power-hungry operating system and larger display does mean the battery here isn’t measured in multiple weeks, but rather days. Our reviewer said it lasted a week without about 30 minutes of use per day.
Reviewer: Gemma Ryles
Full Review: Onyx Boox Note Air 2 Plus review
- Big and sharp display
- Page-turning buttons are great
- New “warmth” display setting is nice on the eyes
- With the Paperwhite being so good, the oasis is a hard sell
- Lack of USB-C is annoying
- Minimal updates from the previous model
The Kindle Oasis is a luxury e-reader, but one that’s crying out for a hardware refresh after many years. With that being said, we’d only recommend this to someone who really wants physical buttons for flipping through pages – for everyone else the Kindle Paperwhite is a better pick.
Where the Oasis shines is in its design. This is the only metal e-reader from Amazon and it feels great, especially with the slim tapered design. It’s also the only Amazon reader, and the only one on this list, to come in a 4G option – ideal for those who travel a lot and want to download books away from Wi-Fi.
Like the Paperwhite, the Oasis is waterproof and can survive an accidental drop in a bath, has a sharp 7-inch display with a strong light and a battery that’ll last a few weeks depending on how often you read.
It misses out on wireless charging, sticks with the older Micro USB charging and is a little too expensive for our liking, however, which is why it’s not the one we recommend to most people.
Reviewer: Max Parker
Full Review: Kindle Oasis
The best e-reader if you want to avoid Amazon
- An e-reader that isn’t locked into Amazon
- Small and light
- Native ePub support
- Not waterproof
- UI can be slow
- Boring design
There’s really only one reason to buy the Kobo Nia – but that reason could be big enough to make this dinky reader a worthwhile purchase. And the reason is that it’s free from Amazon, using Kobo’s store instead. You can also borrow books from certain local libraries and load it up with ePub files you’ve downloaded elsewhere.
Outside of this, the device is comparable with the budget Kindle. It’s small and light, with a decent display and good battery life. It is missing waterproofing though, and still charges via Micro USB.
Reviewer: Max Parker
Full Review: Kobo Nia Review
We also considered…
The Kobo Libra H20 offers a cut-price alternative to the Kindle Oasis, but it’s mixed news on the new UI front
Can this pricey reader rival the Kindle Oasis?
Books bought from the Amazon Kindle Store have DRM, and can only be read through the Amazon Kindle app or on a Kindle device.
No, there is a Kindle app available for various platforms that allows you to read books downloaded