Why the Cheapest Kindle Is the Best

Plastic rules

Key Takeaways

  • As a longtime Kindle owner, I was convinced that I would appreciate the more expensive Kindle Oasis over the basic Kindle.
  • After spending time using the basic Kindle on a recent trip, I was surprised to find that I liked it more than the Oasis. 
  • The plastic frame of the basic Kindle is very comfortable, and I like the plain backlight.
Someone reading an e-book on a Kindle device at the bar in a café.


There’s no need to spend a lot of money on an Amazon Kindle.

The retail giant wants to sell you the top-end model, the Kindle Oasis, for $279.99. But I’m a longtime Kindle owner and recently purchased the bargain basement model, the basic Kindle that retails for $89.99 because I wanted something cheaper that I could throw in my luggage when I was going on a trip.

I was expecting to be longing for the bigger screen and warm backlight of the Kindle Oasis when I got home. After all, I spend several hours a day reading. The basic Kindle would strain my eyes, I thought. But that’s not what happened.   

I own both the lowest-end Kindle reader and the most expensive Kindle Oasis. Even though the Oasis is three times the price of the Kindle, I end up using the cheaper one more.

Big and Bold

I bought the Kindle Oasis last year, convinced that it would change my life. I drooled over the descriptions of the upgrades this model offered over my dearly departed Kindle Paperwhite. 

After all, Amazon says that the Oasis has a 7-inch screen that’s about an inch larger than what the Paperwhite boasts. The screen is also very easy to read with a resolution of 300 PPI and a new technology that leaves it flush against the front. 

Best of all, the Oasis isn’t stuck with the same cold white lighting. Instead, it’s got a relatively new innovation that lets you shift the screen lighting from white to amber-colored. 

In case you read in the bath or next to a pool, the new Oasis has got you covered. This e-reader is waterproof to a level IPX8, so it’s been tested to withstand accidental immersion in water.

I also loved the metal frame of the Oasis, which makes it feel more like a premium gadget like an iPad. The Oasis also has page turn buttons, which I reasoned would make it feel like I was reading an actual book. 

I own both the lowest-end Kindle reader and the most expensive Kindle Oasis. Even though the Oasis is three times the price of the Kindle, I end up using the cheaper one more. It's more ergonomic and less fussy.

I did enjoy many of the features of the Kindle Oasis and happily spent hundreds of hours reading on it. It was a revelation to use the 7-inch screen on the Oasis, which made me long for even bigger Kindles like the discontinued Kindle DX. 

Cheap and Cheerful

I expected to despise the much cheaper basic Kindle that I picked up for my trip. I figured it would be suitable only for quick reading sessions while I was on the road.

After all, the specs on the basic Kindle seem like a giant leap backward on paper from the Oasis. The screen is smaller and instead of the high resolution on the Kindle Oasis, the basic Kindle offers only a DPI of 167, nearly half of that on its more expensive cousin. 

Don’t try scuba diving with the basic Kindle. It’s got no water resistance rating at all. 

Most damningly, the basic Kindle feels like the cheap e-reader it is. This model is made entirely of plastic instead of the sleek aluminum on the Kindle Oasis. 

A Kindle e-reader next to a Kindle Oasis e-reader.

Lifewire / Sascha Brodsky

But after using the basic Kindle exclusively for several weeks, I was in for a surprise. Even though the basic Kindle was about a third the price of the Kindle Oasis I ended up enjoying using it a lot. 

In fact, when I returned from my trip it was the basic Kindle that I reached for time after time instead of the pricier Kindle Oasis. 

Even though Amazon touts the aluminum frame of the Kindle Oasis, I actually found the plastic of the basic Kindle more comfortable to handle for hours at a time. The plastic, it turns out, is a warmer and less slippy experience than metal. 

The cold white light of the basic Kindle actually turns out to be a benefit as it makes the screen easier to read. I didn’t miss the warm backlighting options of the Kindle Oasis and I never noticed the lower resolution on the basic Kindle. 

I've learned that the more expensive options aren’t always the best. I’m sticking with the basic Kindle as my go-to e-reader.

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