How Amazon Kindle Wins Over the iPad Air

What is grayscale shall never die

Key Takeaways

  • The iPad Air 2020 offers a glorious screen and fast processor, but Amazon’s Kindle wins out for reading. 
  • The Kindle is an exercise in minimalism; it does one thing and does it well. 
  • The Kindle Oasis has a 7-inch screen with 300 PPI; it's large enough to display text for reading without being too big to hold in one hand.
Someone curled up in a chair, reading a Kindle device.

Tim Robberts / Getty images

By any measure, the specs of my iPad Air 2020 beat the pitiful processor and display on Amazon’s top-of-the-line Kindle Oasis, but it’s the e-reader I turn to for most reading.

Screen technologies have advanced to the point where tablets are outstanding devices for most purposes. The iPad is a clear winner for watching movies or browsing the web. But a single-use machine still wins out when you want to concentrate. 

I have a Kindle app on the iPad, and I’ve tried reading books on it, but it never works. When I’m using the iPad, I’m constantly subject to distractions like emails and the need to check breaking news. By contrast, the Kindle is an "oasis" of calm in a technological world competing for my attention. 

I’ve owned both the Kindle Oasis and the iPad Air 2020 for about six months and putting them head to head, I can’t help but feel that the Kindle is the better device.

Kindle vs. iPad

The flagship Kindle Oasis I own offers tiny but significant improvements over previous models. I’ve owned both the Kindle Oasis and the iPad Air 2020 for about six months, and putting them head to head, I can’t help but feel that the Kindle is the better device.

The Kindle has the advantage because it’s tasked with doing only one job. It’s pretty much only suitable for reading books from Amazon’s vast collection. There’s a primitive web browser, but it’s only eager to re-live the dark and slow days of 1993 and Netscape Navigator. 

Despite, or perhaps because of its limitations, the Kindle functions brilliantly at its single task. The Kindle Oasis has a 7-inch screen, which is bigger than previous models and is just big enough to display a decent amount of text without being too big to hold in one hand. The screen’s 300 PPI means that text shows up clearly. 

The screen also now has a nifty new trick where its backlight is adjustable to shift screen shade from white to amber. The adjustable backlight is nearly enough reason to upgrade your Kindle by itself. It makes reading for long stretches a much more pleasant experience, and the warmer color is easier on the eyes. 

An amazon Kindle Oasis laying on a tabletop.

Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images

In some ways, the Kindle hasn’t changed much from its first incarnation in 2007. The screen was primitive then, and it’s still stuck in an era of grayscale. The processor is faster now, but I owned the first model, and it was just fine 14 years ago. The Kindle is now waterproof, but I don’t know anyone who reads in the bathtub. 

iPad Does Everything 

By contrast, the iPad Air 2020 feels like a vast leap beyond the first model released in 2010. The first iPad was sluggish, and even watching movies was at times a frustrating experience. The latest crop of iPads also has expanded their capabilities to the point where they have become as capable as full-fledged laptops when equipped with Apple’s Magic Keyboard for iPad

The astonishing number of things that you can now do with an iPad, anything from editing movies to writing a novel, makes this tablet the best on the market. As an e-reader, however, the iPad falls short. 

A hand holding the iPad Air 4 to show sizing.

The incredibly crisp and bright 11-inch inch screen that is the pride and joy of the iPad detracts from the reading experience. The sheer wonderfulness of this screen makes me think about images and begs to be touched instead of allowing me to concentrate on the text on the page. 

From a sheer value proposition, the Kindle seems ludicrously overpriced.  A 32-gigabyte Oasis without ads costs $299.99. I paid less than twice that amount on sale for the iPad Air 2020 with double the storage, and it’s a device with a million uses compared to the Kindle’s one. 

The Kindle was easily worth the cost. I’ve spent hundreds of hours lost in books in the Oasis in a way that I could never experience on the iPad. Of course, when it’s time to get work done, the iPad easily wins out. I just hope that Amazon never discontinues its line of dedicated grayscale readers.

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