Mobile Technology

2013 eReader Comparison Guide

2013 eReader Comparison Guide
Gizmag breaks down the top e-readers of the 2013 shopping season
Gizmag breaks down the top e-readers of the 2013 shopping season
View 16 Images
Battery life is excellent on all five readers
1/16
Battery life is excellent on all five readers
The Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Aura HD have the fastest processors in this crop
2/16
The Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Aura HD have the fastest processors in this crop
The two Kindles are the smallest in this group
3/16
The two Kindles are the smallest in this group
6-in displays are the norm, but Kobo is trying something new with its 6.8-in Aura HD
4/16
6-in displays are the norm, but Kobo is trying something new with its 6.8-in Aura HD
Each reader offers multiple fonts, as well as the ability to sideload your own onto the Kindles and the Kobo
5/16
Each reader offers multiple fonts, as well as the ability to sideload your own onto the Kindles and the Kobo
The frontlit displays in the Paperwhite, GlowLight, and Aura HD can really enhance your reading experience
6/16
The frontlit displays in the Paperwhite, GlowLight, and Aura HD can really enhance your reading experience
Gizmag breaks down the top e-readers of the 2013 shopping season
7/16
Gizmag breaks down the top e-readers of the 2013 shopping season
If you live near a Barnes & Noble store, you can take it in for customer service or a free read
8/16
If you live near a Barnes & Noble store, you can take it in for customer service or a free read
The 2011 Nook Simple Touch can be had for a scant $60, while the Kobo Aura HD rings up at a relatively hefty $170
9/16
The 2011 Nook Simple Touch can be had for a scant $60, while the Kobo Aura HD rings up at a relatively hefty $170
Original release dates for the current model of each of these readers
10/16
Original release dates for the current model of each of these readers
Unless you hoard countless e-books and refuse to take advantage of the cloud, 2 GB should be more than enough storage
11/16
Unless you hoard countless e-books and refuse to take advantage of the cloud, 2 GB should be more than enough storage
All but the standard Kindle feature touch screens
12/16
All but the standard Kindle feature touch screens
The standard Kindle is the lightest in the bunch, but the Nook GlowLight offers much more advanced hardware with only a little more weight
13/16
The standard Kindle is the lightest in the bunch, but the Nook GlowLight offers much more advanced hardware with only a little more weight
Only the Kindle Paperwhite is sold in a Wi-Fi + cellular model these days
14/16
Only the Kindle Paperwhite is sold in a Wi-Fi + cellular model these days
Three of the five devices directly support the epub file format
15/16
Three of the five devices directly support the epub file format
Only the standard Kindle (sans touch screen) and Nook Simple Touch feature physical page-turn buttons
16/16
Only the standard Kindle (sans touch screen) and Nook Simple Touch feature physical page-turn buttons

Remember when everyone asked if the first iPad was a "Kindle killer?" Well, although tablets have certainly put the brakes on e-readers' momentum, the Kindle is still alive and kicking. Is it your best e-reader option this holiday season? Join Gizmag, as we break down several of the top e-readers you can buy today.

Meet the e-readers

The Kindle is still the dominant player in this field, but Barnes & Noble's Nook and Rakuten's Kobo are still churning out some quality products. We focused our group on those three brands:

There's also a standard (non-HD) Kobo Aura, but we chose the Aura HD because it differentiates itself more from the other readers in this group. The Kobo Aura, though, is another solid choice if you want a 6-in e-reader with a high-resolution display.

Size

The two Kindles are the smallest in this group
The two Kindles are the smallest in this group

Sizes are pretty similar, though the Nooks stand out for their beefy side bezels. The Kobo also has a bigger frame to house its bigger screen. All of these e-readers are much smaller than tablets though, including miniature ones like the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire.

Weight

The standard Kindle is the lightest in the bunch, but the Nook GlowLight offers much more advanced hardware with only a little more weight
The standard Kindle is the lightest in the bunch, but the Nook GlowLight offers much more advanced hardware with only a little more weight

All of our e-readers are pretty light, with the standard Kindle taking the prize for lightest. The Nook GlowLight is particularly light for a frontlit reader, and its feathery weight is probably the biggest reason to consider it over the Paperwhite.

Display (size and resolution)

6-in displays are the norm, but Kobo is trying something new with its 6.8-in Aura HD
6-in displays are the norm, but Kobo is trying something new with its 6.8-in Aura HD

Four of our five readers have 6-in screens, the de facto standard in this field. The Aura HD mixes that up with a 28 percent bigger (6.8-in) screen. The Aura's screen is also much sharper than the others, though the Paperwhite and Nook GlowLight are also pretty crisp.

Though several media outlets have reported that the Paperwhite has a 1024 x 768 screen, we confirmed with Amazon that it's in fact 1024 x 758. Makes no difference in your experience, but sometimes it's nice to set the record straight on tiny details like that.

Frontlit display

The frontlit displays in the Paperwhite, GlowLight, and Aura HD can really enhance your reading experience
The frontlit displays in the Paperwhite, GlowLight, and Aura HD can really enhance your reading experience

The big innovation in e-readers during the last couple of years has been frontlit displays. They eliminate the need to sit in a brightly-lit room or clip a bulky book light onto your svelte e-reader. The frontlit displays of the Paperwhite, GlowLight, and Aura HD let you read in darker lighting conditions, while also simulating the look of white paper.

Touchscreen

All but the standard Kindle feature touch screens
All but the standard Kindle feature touch screens

All but the old-school Kindle rely on touchscreens for navigation. Navigating them is a lot like a tablet, only you have a black & white e-ink screen instead of a color LCD.

Physical page-turning buttons

Only the standard Kindle (sans touch screen) and Nook Simple Touch feature physical page-turn buttons
Only the standard Kindle (sans touch screen) and Nook Simple Touch feature physical page-turn buttons

The standard Kindle and the Nook Simple Touch are the only readers in this bunch to include physical page-turning buttons.

Fonts

Each reader offers multiple fonts, as well as the ability to sideload your own onto the Kindles and the Kobo
Each reader offers multiple fonts, as well as the ability to sideload your own onto the Kindles and the Kobo

Each e-reader offers a handful of font styles to choose from. You can also sideload your own custom fonts onto the Kindles and the Kobo (you'll have to root your Nook to add your own fonts).

Storage

Unless you hoard countless e-books and refuse to take advantage of the cloud, 2 GB should be more than enough storage
Unless you hoard countless e-books and refuse to take advantage of the cloud, 2 GB should be more than enough storage

Each of our devices gives you at least 2 GB of storage. If that doesn't sound like much, just remember that e-books don't take up much space (they're usually less than 1 MB each). You also only need to keep the books you're currently reading on the device; everything else can hang out in the cloud.

Battery life

Battery life is excellent on all five readers
Battery life is excellent on all five readers

Battery life isn't going to be a concern with any e-reader. These estimates are from the manufacturers, and are measured with wireless turned off.

Processor

The Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Aura HD have the fastest processors in this crop
The Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Aura HD have the fastest processors in this crop

The Kindle Paperwhite and Aura HD give you the fastest processors, which should translate to slightly faster page-turns.

In-store customer service

If you live near a Barnes & Noble store, you can take it in for customer service or a free read
If you live near a Barnes & Noble store, you can take it in for customer service or a free read

If you live near a Barnes & Noble retail store, then you can take either of the Nooks in to get serviced. B&N also lets you read an hour of any Nook e-book for free when you're on the store's Wi-Fi network. Neither Amazon or Kobo can offer such a perk.

Epub sideloading

Three of the five devices directly support the epub file format
Three of the five devices directly support the epub file format

If you have DRM-free e-book files or documents in epub format, then the Nooks and the Kobo will directly serve your needs. On the Kindle, you'll need to use an app like Calibre to convert them into a Kindle-friendly file format.

All five of the devices directly support PDFs.

Wireless

Only the Kindle Paperwhite is sold in a Wi-Fi + cellular model these days
Only the Kindle Paperwhite is sold in a Wi-Fi + cellular model these days

Only the Kindle Paperwhite is sold in a 3G-capable model. Since you'll probably only need data for buying and downloading new books, cellular capabilities probably aren't essential on an e-reader (as long as you're often near a Wi-Fi network).

Original release dates

Original release dates for the current model of each of these readers
Original release dates for the current model of each of these readers

Only three of these readers launched in 2013, with B&N's Nook Simple Touch hanging around for a third straight year.

Starting prices

The 2011 Nook Simple Touch can be had for a scant $60, while the Kobo Aura HD rings up at a relatively hefty $170
The 2011 Nook Simple Touch can be had for a scant $60, while the Kobo Aura HD rings up at a relatively hefty $170

The oldest model is also the cheapest, with the Nook Simple Touch ringing up for a rock-bottom US$60. The non-frontlit Kindle isn't far behind, but remember that both Kindles include Amazon's "Special Offers." They won't interfere with your reading, but the ads will show as screensavers and at the bottom of your home screen. You can pay $20 (at checkout or anytime after) to do away with them.

The Kobo Aura HD is the priciest in the bunch, at $30 more than the ad-free version of the Kindle Paperwhite. The Aura does, however, give you that bigger, sharper display (and very solid all-around hardware) in return. The standard Kobo Aura (not pictured), meanwhile, matches the Paperwhite and GlowLight with a 6-in 1024 x 758 frontlit display, and rings up for $150.

If you're wanting a more versatile device (and don't mind sacrificing some readability in direct sunlight), then you can check out our 2013 Tablet Comparison Guide.

6 comments
Jo Rodrigues
Perhaps you should list less Kindles and a few real alternatives who don't have shady business practices such as Amazon and their Kindle. http://www.bookeen.com/en/
Waldemar Stelmach
Anyone has some more alternatives for a bigger eReader? Just seen bookeen, need some more, please.
Jo Rodrigues
For some reason E-ink screens are just not moving to 7 inch. I think it would be ideal. Any bigger and it becomes so large to use as a book.
Kris Lee
These comparisions are wonderful! Keep them coming! @Jo Rodrigues, thanks for the tip, this 8" reader looks very interesting if it will have high resolution and reasonable price.
Bob Pegram
Ok, so which readers can read which DRM (paid) formats? Nooks read Barnes and Nobles books and if you root them, can load an app to read Amazon books. Amazon's readers read Amazon books, can they read other DRM formats, even with an app? What formats does Kobo support? Frankly, I'd think this info should be in ANY e-reader review! Come to think of it, are there any other formats (other than e-pub) that people sell books in?
Jo Rodrigues
@ Kris Lee: I would avoid going bigger than 7 inch for reading books. The reason is that the machine becomes too big to carry around and to hold while you read for a few hours. Think of it as holding a heavy, large format book. It gets uncomfortable. Another important aspect is that a normal screen is active, the E-ink isn't. The screen emits no more radiation than a normal page. If you plan on reading books, E-ink is for you. If you plan on reading magazines then go for the larger format LCD type screen. Don't make the mistake of thinking you will be reading for hours on anything other than E-ink. You won't, your eyes will tire a lot quicker. Unfortunately at this point in time there is no real compromise between the two. If you want to do more than flip through a glossy magazine you need to get E-ink technology.