Amazon Kindle 5 (2012) full review

More people own Amazon Kindles than any other type of eReader, and it's hardly surprising. Amazon has one of the largest eBook libraries available, and just about everyone has an Amazon account already, having bought paperbacks along with other products from its website. See also: Group test: what's the best e-reader?

Until recently, when Amazon announced its tablets - the Kindle Fire devices - plus the Paperwhite (which adds a backlight so you can read books in the dark), you had only a choice of a touchscreen Kindle or the basic non-touchscreen one.

While the fancy new models provide extra features, the all-new Kindle (as Amazon calls it - we'll call it the Kindle 5 to avoid confusion) is by far the cheapest at £69. It's easy to confuse it with the previous model, the Kindle 4, as it looks identical - and is identical, to all intents and purposes.

Kindle 5 (2012): What's new?

In fact, 'all-new' stretches the definition to breaking point as the biggest difference between the two is the colour change from grey to black. Weight, dimensions, memory and battery life all remain the same.

If you're new to eReaders, the Kindle is nothing short of revolutionary. It will fit in the back pocket of your jeans, and weighs far less than the average paperback as just under 170g. You can store over 1,000 books and read for a month before you have to recharge the battery.

The 6in E-ink Pearl screen is unchanged from the Kindle 4. That means it has the same high contrast as a real page in a book, and is just as readable in bright sunlight. Of course, it's also just as difficult to read in dim light - so consider the £109 Kindle Paperwhite if you want a backlit screen.

Amazon Kindle (2012)

A minor improvement is faster page turns. Amazon says they're 15% quicker and putting the Kindle 5 next to a Kindle 4, it's obvious to see the speed improvement. Not that the older Kindle was a slouch, mind, but we're not going to complain about better performance.

There's a new feature in the menu, too. Parental controls allow you to turn off the experimental web browser, the Kindle store and archived items. Fonts have also been improved slightly and appear a little sharper. UPDATE 29/11/2012: The same features are also included in the 4.1.0 update for the KIndle 4.

Buttons are identical to the old model, so you get page turn buttons on the left and right edges, a power button and micro USB charging port on the bottom, and more buttons and a navigation pad on the front panel.

As we noted in our Kindle 4 review, navigating menus is more cumbersome than with a touchscreen, but as you need to delve into the menus so rarely, it's not a big deal.

Kindle 5 (2012): Kindle store and buying books

Some people moan that Amazon locks you into its proprietary system, but what a system. There's a choice of over a million eBooks in the UK Kindle store, which is most easily browsed on a PC rather than the Kindle itself, although you can if you need to.

Many books are cheap, but top-priced bestsellers are also available. You can use Amazon's clever One-click payment system to buy books and, as long as your Kindle is connected to Wi-Fi, books download automatically within a minute or two.

You can re-download any book you've bought even if you delete it from your Kindle, and there's more than just books on offer. The Kindle can automatically download new issues of newspapers and magazines to which you subscribe (via the Kindle store) and there are also children's books and comics.

Amazon Kindle (2012) store

It's easy to set bookmarks, and Amazon's Whispersync function means these, annotations and your last-read page in each book are synchronised across all your devices, be it an iPad, iPhone, laptop or Android device with the Kindle software installed.

The disadvantages of the system are primarily that you can't lend a fellow Kindle user a book, nor can you yet buy said user a book as a gift.

It also means you can't buy an eBook from a different provider to read on your Kindle, at least not without more hassle. The Kindle supports PDF and TXT files, and you can email other types, such as Word documents and images to your Kindle.

There's no native support for the popular ePub format, but you can get them onto your Kindle if you're determined.

Given that last year, the Kindle 4 cost £89, the new version is great value at £69.You can still buy Graphite model - the price has now dropped to £69 to bring it in line with the new black version.

Yes, you're effectively locked into Amazon's system, but that's like being locked into Willy Wonka's chocolate factory: no-one is going to mind. The choice of books is first-class, as is the reading experience.

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Amazon Kindle 5 (2012): Specs

  • 6in E-InK Pearl 600x800-pixel screen, 16 levels of greyscale
  • 2GB internal memory
  • Wi-Fi
  • 1-month battery life
  • WebKit web browser
  • Dimensions: 166x114x8.7mm
  • Weight: 168g
  • micro-USB charging
  • 12-month warranty