Best Amazon Devices 2020: Review of Kindle, Fire TV, Fire Tablet, Echo - Rolling Stone
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The Best Amazon Devices for Music, Reading, TV and Starting Your Smart Home

Some of the best tablets, e-readers, and smart speakers in the market right now come from the online retailer

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Amazon

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Amazon is best known as the “everything store,” where you can order a pair of speakers, a home safe, and a hundred twist ties in just a few clicks. But the company has built up a stable of really great in-house hardware too. Amazon’s Kindle and Echo helped kickstart mainstream interest in e-readers and smart speakers, and the Fire Tablet remains the only non-iPad tablet I’d recommend.

But there are multiple Kindles, a handful of Fire Tablets, and more than a dozen Amazon Echo smart speakers, which can be confusing if you’re simply looking for a good way to surf the web, read a digital book, listen to an audiobook, or make your place a little smarter. I’ve broken down the best Amazon devices below to help make it easy to get a quick answer. To be clear, there isn’t really a bad choice, but the models below stand out because of their features, performance, design, and execution.

1. Kindle Paperwhite

amazon kindle review paperwhite pros and cons

Courtesy Amazon

Amazon

The improvements Amazon made to create the latest generation Kindle Paperwhite make it the best e-reader based on price and performance. It has a six-inch 300dpi (dots per inch) e-ink display with a resolution high enough that text looks incredibly crisp. The screen technology Amazon uses also significantly reduces glare, so it’s a lot easier to read in broad daylight. Amazon designed the Kindle Paperwhite with five backlights, which illuminate the screen so you can read at night without a bedside lamp.

You can get the latest generation Kindle Paperwhite in two storage sizes: 8gb (gigabytes) or 32gb. If you’re only interested in reading e-books, you’ll be fine with the smaller storage option, which can hold hundreds of titles. If you plan on syncing audiobooks from Audible to your Kindle and listening to them via Bluetooth headphones, you’ll want the larger storage option.

In terms of battery life, Amazon says the Kindle Paperwhite should last for “weeks” on a single charge if you read for a half hour a day at medium brightness without WiFi turned on. Tweaking those settings may improve or reduce your battery life, but you should expect to get roughly 16 hours of reading done before you have to plug it in.

Finally, the Kindle Paperwhite has earned an IP67 durability rating, which means it’s dust-proof and waterproof enough to survive being in up to 1m (3.3ft) of water for up to 30 minutes. If you frequently read in the bathtub, or by the pool, you’ll appreciate this feature. If you’re looking to transition from paper to digital books, and want the most efficient way to carry your library with you, the Kindle Paperwhite is your best bet.

2. Kindle Oasis

Kindle Oasis

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Amazon

For a truly luxe digital reading experience, Amazon’s Kindle Oasis is the way to go. It has all of the same great features as the Paperwhite weeks of battery, a 300dpi e-ink display, two storage options, an IP67 durability rating plus a lot more.

Its screen size is seven inches instead of six, which allows you to increase the text size while having the same amount of words on the page. Instead of five back lights, the Oasis has 25, so the lighting can get brighter and illuminate the screen more easily. It also has sensors that can automatically adjust the screen’s color temperature to reduce the amount of blue light it emits at light. Blue light is given off by the screens in our technology (smartphones, tablets, TVs, etc.) and has been linked to restlessness when you’re trying to sleep.

The Kindle Oasis has two physical page turn buttons, so you don’t have to tap or swipe the screen to continue reading, and a built-in grip, which makes it easier to hold with one hand. All of these extras may not be essential, but they improve the experience of digital reading significantly, and you’ll appreciate them every time you pick your Kindle Oasis up.

3. Echo Dot

echo dot review

Courtesy Amazon

Amazon

Amazon’s Echo Dot (3rd Gen) succeeds in being an excellent entry point for people who want to start or expand their smart home because it has virtually no compromises, and comes in a small size.

The hockey puck-shaped smart speaker stands 1.7 inches tall and 3.9 wide, and is wrapped in a mesh fabric. It doesn’t scream “smart home,” which is good if you want your place to be futuristic without looking out of place.

The Dot’s key feature is its four microphones, which allow you to interact with Alexa, Amazon’s smart assistant. Alexa enables you to use the Echo Dot to control smart-home accessories like light bulbs, plugs, thermostats, and even robot vacuums. You can also use Alexa to set timers, get answers to questions, stream music or use the Echo Dot as an intercom throughout your home.

There’s only one downside to using an Echo Dot, and that’s its comparatively weak speaker, which is a result of its small size. The audio quality when streaming music won’t be bad, but there’s only so much it can do. You can solve this problem by connecting the Echo Dot to a larger stereo system via its 3.5mm audio out port, or Bluetooth, so it may not be an issue for you.

4. Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo

Courtesy Amazon

Amazon

If you’re interested in a smart-home hub that’s also a pretty good speaker, Amazon’s Echo (3rd Gen) is a really good choice. It has eight microphones instead of four, so it’ll be able to pick up your voice from further away, or isolate it in a louder room. It stands 5.8 inches wide and 3.9 inches across. Aesthetically, the Echo looks identical to the smaller Dot, and it has the same Alexa functionality, but Amazon used its extra height to build in a much better audio system.

The Echo has two drivers (the piece of a speaker that creates sound) inside: a 3-inch woofer that handles midrange and bass frequencies, and a .8 inch tweeter that handles treble frequencies. Amazon and Dolby worked together on the audio system inside the Echo, and by pointing the drivers downward it can achieve 360-degree sound, which means audio is evenly dispersed rather than coming from one direction. That means there’s no “sweet spot,” for listening to music on the Echo, and you don’t need to put it in one part of your room to appreciate listening to music.

If you want a more audiophile experience, you can step up to the Echo Studio, which has more drivers that are pointed in different directions to create “3D” sound, or connect this Echo to a larger stereo system. That won’t be necessary if you enjoy casually streaming music or podcasts as the Echo’s speaker system is more than equipped to handle that.

5. Fire Tablet HD 8

Fire HD 8

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Amazon

Apple’s iPad dominates the tablet landscape, but the Fire Tablet HD 8 is an excellent alternative, especially if you’re used to using Amazon services.

True to its name, the HD 8 has an eight-inch 16:9 display with a resolution of 1280 x 800, which is a little better than 720P. Video, pictures, and text will look pretty crisp on the screen, but not quite as nice as they would on a 4K TV or most smartphone screens. I’ve used a Fire HD 8, though, and didn’t really notice a difference in many situations. It had 32gb (gigabytes) of storage, which can be expanded via a MicroSD card.

This tablet’s biggest strength is its integration with Amazon’s large catalogue of digital services. During the setup process you’ll be prompted to enter your Amazon credentials so it can sync any content associated with your account. Your Kindle books, Audible audio books, Prime Music library, and Prime Video library will be instantly available from the moment you first get access to your device.

You can also download apps like Spotify, Pandora, or Netflix to stream more content, but this is definitely an Amazon-first device. One notable app omission is YouTube, which is not available on the Fire HD 8 tablet because of a dispute between Amazon and Google.

As a media and information consumption device, the Fire HD 8 is a very good choice tablet. You can use it to surf the web and check in on social media, or use Amazon’s Alexa to answer questions, open apps, and control smart-home accessories. The Fire HD 8 also allows you to watch a live video feed from any Alexa-enabled smart security camera just by using your voice.

If you’re plugged into the Amazon world, or want a tablet for casual use, you should strongly consider the Fire HD 8 before considering any other options.

6. Fire TV Stick 4K

Fire TV Stick 4K

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Amazon

Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K takes a lot of cues from the company’s Echo Dot: It has a lot of features in a really small package. Most importantly, it has a maximum resolution of 4K, so movies and TV shows will look really sharp if you have the right TV. It also supports Dolby Vision HDR (High Dynamic Range), which makes colors and shadows look more accurate, and Dolby Atmos, an audio technology that offers a more immersive experience than surround sound.

Again, you’ll need the right equipment to see HDR video or hear Dolby Atmos audio, but it’s great to have a media streamer that supports them once you do.

As I mentioned earlier, the Fire TV Stick is very small. At 3.9 inches, it resembles an oversized flash drive with an HDMI jack on one end that gets plugged directly into your TV. Once it’s connected to your TV, power, and WiFi network, you’ll be able to stream videos and music from popular services like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and Prime Video. If you want to know which services we think are best, check out our guide.

The Fire TV Stick 4K’s final feature is its remote, which has a microphone built in, so you can access Amazon’s Alexa. You can use the mic to bring up certain shows and movies with your voice, control your smart-home accessories, or get answers to questions. If you’re looking for a 4K media streamer that can also function as a smart-home hub, the Fire TV Stick 4K is the top choice.

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