Review Price £69.00
The one reason why ereaders like the 2012 Kindle can continue to lighten wallets in a world saturated with low-cost tablets like the Google Nexus 7 and large-screen phones like the Samsung Galaxy S3 is the E-ink screen. As it doesn't use a backlight, or traditional pixels, it is much easier on the eye than an LCD screen.
The Kindle 2012 screen is monochrome, using black and white charged microcapsules to form text and images. The screen has not moved on since the 2011 Kindle, though, with 800 x 600 resolution, 6in of screen space and E-ink Pearl tech at its core. Next to the Kindle Paperwhite, it is starting to look a little dated. Top-end ereaders these days offer higher resolution, meaning sharper text, and use ingenious front-firing "glow" lights that let you read in the dark with a more relaxing look than an LCD ereader.
The change from a grey to black screen surround does have a noticeable downside too. It shows up that blacks are grey-ish, and the white background too is a paler shade of grey. However, once you've trained your eyes to accept the limitations of E-ink, the 2012 Kindle offers an excellent reading experience, albeit one that's not quite as good as the Paperwhite's.
Compared to most other ereaders, the 2012 Kindle gives you very limited control over what your books look like. There are eight font sizes - which is sufficient for just about anyone - but only three font styles and a trio of line spacing and margin options.
Other ereaders like the Kobo eReader Touch give you far more options on this front, and there's also no control over how often the E-ink screen performs a full refresh. E-ink screens use charged capsules that move forwards and back from the front of the screen to form text, and until the screen is "flushed" these can stick, producing a ghostly afterimage.
Most ereaders let you choose how many page turns the ereader cycles through before performing a full refresh, but the 2012 Kindle appears to use a dynamic system that judges refresh timing on what has been on-screen. If it's a full-page image, it'll refresh with near-enough every page, but with plain text it'll be up to five page turns before a refresh. Tech heads may miss having full control over the refresh cycle, but it works extremely well. Text residue rarely becomes too noticeable while you're reading.
The main improvement to the general reading experience in the 2012 Kindle is page turn speed - it's extremely quick, almost as fast as your thumb will allow. As with the 2011 Kindle, there is an inbuilt dictionary too.
Use the D-pad to move an on-screen cursor over a word in a novel and its Oxford English Dictionary definition will pop up at the bottom of the screen - and you can bring up its full definition if you want more information. This is the part where we miss the touchscreen of the Kindle Paperwhite the most, though, as using the D-pad feels much less intuitive than simply pressing on a word.
The 2012 Kindle also misses out on the X-ray feature of the more expensive model. This pulls more information about characters and locations in books from Wikipedia. To get the same information here, you'd have to laboriously tap in web addresses in the "experimental browser". Like most previous Kindles, the 2012 edition has a basic internet browser, but using it is too slow and clumsy to make it useful in any situation other than a dire emergency.
Amazon reworked its Kindle interface in the new front-lit Paperwhite model, but the interface of this budget £69 is a little simpler. If you owned a Kindle 3 or 2011 Kindle, it's more-or-less identical to those models.
Your home screen is a simple text list of books in your library, arranged by how recently they were accessed. It's not fancy, but it is about as effectively functional as you could hope for. You're never more than a button press or two away from sinking back into a novel.
The ultra-simple interface and the lack of connected features like X-ray does make the 2012 Kindle feel like a much more insular device than either the Paperwhite or an alternative like the Kobo Mini. A world of books may be just a few taps away, but this ereader highlights your own collection over the wares of the Kindle Store.
Trusted Reviews is part of the Time Inc. (UK) Ltd Technology Network