Just a year ago, most e-readers used black-and-white E-Ink displays and could do little more than pop up a page of text. But this is a post-iPad world—today’s tablets can be used for a whole lot more than reading books. Here’s a look at some of the newest e-readers out there.
Amazon Kindle, $139-$189
Three years ago, the original Amazon Kindle ushered in the era of the modern e-reader. And while the latest version still lacks the flashy color screens or app-running abilities of its competitors, its epic battery life, easy-on-the-eyes 6-inch E-Ink screen and relatively low price keep the Kindle king of the pure e-readers. The latest model is more of an evolution than a revolution—it has slightly better battery life, a slightly better screen and stores slightly more books. But its remarkable light weight (it clocks in at under 9 ounces) makes it the most comfortable to hold for long periods of time or to grasp in one hand if you are, for example, grabbing a subway strap with the other. Still, the Kindle’s real killer app is its bookstore, which is, quite simply, the best on the block.
Barnes & Noble Nook Color, $249
The original Barnes & Noble Nook seemed like a device in the throes of an identity crisis. Although its face was dominated by a Kindle-like E-Ink screen, it also featured a smaller tablet-like color touchscreen that was designed to make it easy to flip through menus. The new Nook Color is more tablet than Kindle. Gone is the E-Ink screen and in its place is a 7-inch color touchscreen (an omission that leaves Amazon as the only major manufacturer still making E-Ink e-readers) and the ability to run apps. Just be warned: while the device’s price might make it seem like an appealing all-around tablet alternative to the iPad, its operating system, which is based on Google’s Android mobile OS, has been modified to only handle a small selection of purpose-built apps. So no Angry Birds—at least for now.
Apple iPad $499-$829
When it comes to running apps, playing movies and streaming music, nothing beats the iPad. But as an e-reader, the tablet leaves a lot to be desired—its 1.6-pound heft is too heavy to comfortably hold with one hand for long periods of time, and its brilliant color touchscreen can be jarring on the eyes (this is especially true if you’ve just spent a day staring at a computer screen at the office.) Still there is, quite simply, no better platform for digital magazines, and the Apple tablet has quickly become the leading platform for publishers looking to breathe life into their print publications. And while Apple’s iBook store may not have the largest selection of titles this shortcoming can easily be circumvented by using the Amazon Kindle app to download and read books on the device’s 10-inch touchscreen. Nothing has been announced as of press time, but Apple is widely expected to release a new version of the iPad this spring, with a higher-resolution screen and built-in cameras.
Samsung Galaxy Tab $400-$650
If the iPad is a bit too big to serve as a take-anywhere e-reader, the Samsung Galaxy Tab might have it just right. Its 7-inch screen and 13-ounce weight are more pocket-friendly than the iPad, and easier to grasp with one hand for marathon reading sessions. And, unlike the Nook Color, which can only tap into a limited number of curated apps, the Galaxy Tab has access to the entire Android app store (including Amazon’s Kindle app). One downside: The Galaxy Tab is a bit on the pricey side for a non-Apple tablet.
Motorola Xoom $600-$799
If you’re looking for a simple e-reader that can do little more than display text, the Motorola Xoom is not for you. Stuffed to the gills with power, the Xoom’s spec sheet rivals that of a decent laptop—it’s got a dual-core 1 GHz processor, a full gigabyte of RAM and a large 10-inch screen. It’s also one of the first devices that runs the new Honeycomb version of the Android operating system, which is specially designed to run on tablets (previous Android tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab, essentially shoehorned a phone’s operating system into the larger devices.) Sure, the whole thing might overkill for a leisurely poolside read, but that’s beside the point.