Last year around this time I posted a list of the best ebook readers for 2019, and I wanted to update that list for 2020 but not much has changed this year.
The same Kindles, Kobos, and Nooks are still available without any changes, expect Kobo put the Kobo Aura 2 in a new case and renamed it the Kobo Nia. I suppose you could include Amazon adding two more colors to the Paperwhite as well, but that doesn’t change anything functionally.
Onyx released eight new ereaders in 2020 because that’s what Onyx does, but their older models are just as good if you can find them at a discount.
This year was the year of color E Ink, with a few new ereaders coming out with color E Ink screens, but neither the Pocketbook Color or Poke2 Color was good enough to make this list because regular E Ink screens are still better for reading text, and having low-resolution color on a small 6-inch screen doesn’t make sense when most color content is best-suited for larger screens.
If you’re new to ereaders, you’re probably better off spending less on a basic model, but for those that want the best reading device the Oasis is hard to beat unless you simply don’t like Amazon, in which case a Kobo or a Pocketbook would be a better choice.
Kindle Oasis 3 – Best Overall eBook Reader
I still think the Kindle Oasis 3 is best overall ebook reader in 2020. It’s not the best value with the higher price but it is one of the best when it comes to purely reading ebooks. With something like 20 different ebook readers laying around the house, it’s the one I choose the most when it comes to reading ebooks (away from home I prefer using the Kindle Voyage because of its smaller size, but I can’t recommend an ebook reader that was discontinued several years ago, now can I?).
It all comes down to personal preference, but for me having page buttons and a nice screen are high on the list, and the Kindle Oasis has the most evenly-lit frontlight of any ebook reader I’ve ever used for both the warm and cool color temperatures. I also find the lopsided design more comfortable to hold than a traditional design with tiny bezels.
The main problem with the Kindle Oasis is the high price, but you can get 20% off by trading in an old Kindle, even if it doesn’t work.
Price: $249 at Amazon
Kindle Oasis 3 Review »
Kindle – Best Budget eBook Reader
If you just want the cheapest ebook reader available, the entry-level Kindle isn’t a bad choice, and it’s an especially good bargain when it’s on sale.
I thought the lower resolution screen would be a problem, but honestly it’s not that big of a deal when using medium to large font sizes, and having a frontlight is a big advantage over previous entry-level Kindles.
You can upgrade to the Kindle Paperwhite if you want a higher resolution screen and waterproofing, but when it comes to just reading text the cheaper Kindle can get the job done just fine
Price: $89 at Amazon
Kindle Review »
Kobo Clara HD – Best Kindle Alternative
Kobo is a Canadian company that most people in the US have never heard of, but Kobo’s ereaders are a really good alternative to Kindles.
I consider the Kobo Clara HD the best introduction to the Kobo ecosystem because of its low price and combination of features. It’s similar to the Kindle Paperwhite in shape and size, but it adds a warm frontlight option and it costs $30 less than the equivalent Paperwhite without ads.
Plus the Kobo Clara HD has OverDrive support built-in to easily borrow ebooks from public libraries for free without having to use a separate device to checkout books like with Kindles.
I think the Clara HD is a better choice than the cheaper Kobo Nia because for only $20 more you get a better screen and a better frontlight.
Price: $119 at Kobo and Walmart
Kobo Clara HD Review »
Onyx Boox – Best Large eReaders
Onyx has released like 20 different large-screen ereaders over the past 3 years. It doesn’t really matter which one you choose—they all basically offer the same general features, with the exception of the largest 13.3-inch Max models that add an HDMI port for use as a secondary monitor.
The most recent Onyx models include the 7.8-inch Nova3, the 10.3-inch Note Air and Note3, and the 13.3-inch Max Lumi.
They are all multifunctional ereaders with advanced software and Wacom touchscreens for taking notes, and they run open Android 10 so you can install a number of different reading apps. Even the Kindle app works quite well on Onyx’s devices, making them the best option for a large screen Kindle since Amazon refuses to release one.
I posted a review of the Onyx Nova2 earlier this year if you’d like to see it in action. It’s almost exactly the same as the newer Nova3.
I haven’t reviewed the 13.3-inch Max Lumi because it’s just basically a Max3 with a frontlight, but here’s my Onyx Max3 review from last year for a closer look at Onyx’s largest option.
To me the 10.3-inch Note models are the best size, but if you read PDFs all day you might appreciate the larger screen on the Max models. I’ll have a review of the new Note Air posted soon. It’s a less expensive option to the Note3.
Pocketbook – Honorable Mention
Pocketbook ebook readers have been around for a long time but they stopped selling them in the US several years ago. Earlier this year Pocketbook started selling their ereaders in the US again through Newegg, and they’re a nice alternative for those that prefer having page buttons and a memory card slot, along with Adobe ePub support.
I really like the design of Pocketbook’s ereaders. With the page buttons located below the screen they’re still nice and portable and easily fit in a pocket unlike the lopsided design of the Oasis and button-equipped Kobo models.
Pocketbook sells a few different 6-inch ereaders, including the Pocketbook Color with a color E Ink screen, but the PocketBook Touch HD 3 has a better screen for reading regular ebooks. They also sell a 7.8-inch model, the InkPad 3 Pro, and a 10.3-inch model, the InkPad X.
I have a Pocketbook Color but I never got around to posting a review of it. The Linux-based software is pretty good but it’s not quite on the same level as Kobo and Kindle software. However, you can install KOReader to add some additional functionality.
The Kobo Forma is my favorite overall ereader. The Nook Glowlight Plus for favorite hardware. I find the Kindle Oasis uncomfortable to hold, and the screen seems small after being used to the others.
The Forma is a fine device. If Kobo could match the Oasis’s frontlight uniformity it would probably be my top choice too.
Max Lumi. Love love love it. Main uses are ereading large form and annotating.
I have the Kobo H2O that has the same characteristics of Kobo Oasis, but the price is much less. And I am very satisfied.
I meant the Kobo Libra H2O…
The Libra is a nice device for the price but the one I got had an awful frontlight so that’s what keeps me from recommending it.
I have a kobo Libra H2O but I am thinking of getting a 6 inch pocketbook after reading your review.
You say the software is not as sophisticated as Kobo and Amazon so does that also mean it does not handle images well ? I read a review online and some guy was claiming it is good if you just want to read novels but is not good for ebooks with images. For instance, with kobo kepub you can zoom in and out and flip around images I think if I remember correctly.
Honestly the handling of images isn’t something I pay much attention to considering how infrequently they appear in most ebooks. I don’t see any problem with the way Pocketbooks handle images. You can pinch to zoom in if you want, and select to view them in fullscreen. Pocketbook’s software is pretty good overall and you can install other apps like KOReader, but there’s just some little things I miss from Kobo and Kindle software, like the ability to finetune font thickness. They have a bold setting but it’s just way too thick and blocky for my taste. Another thing I don’t like is their frontlight is way too bright at the lowest setting.
Expecting anxiously your review of Note Air, specially whether it’s hard-wearing or too delicate for clumsy people like me XD
Steve H. says
Looking forward to that review also.
So far I think the Note Air is a really nice device. It has more of a premium feel with the aluminum housing than Onyx’s other devices, and I like the handle side to hold onto. But I don’t like the new stylus at all. Honestly I don’t know how Onyx could consider it acceptable. It makes obnoxious squeaking noises when using it, there’s no eraser, and the fine tip is much less responsive than their regular stylus. Luckily you can use any other Wacom stylus so it’s not a huge deal, but that’s just something else to purchase. I guess they expect you to use the included screen protector to improve the writing experience but I hate Onyx’s screen protectors.
Is it tough! I guess it’s not as any device whith mobius screen
There’s really no way to know without subjecting it to various stress tests, and I’m not looking for ways to destroy it just yet.
I agree about the screen protectors. If they want us to use them, they should come with them already installed.
It’s been a couple of weeks since you wrote this post… Have you already used it enough to write a review?
I have but it’ll have to wait until next week after Thanksgiving. I posted a video showing there’s no performance increase whatsoever for most tasks with the “upgraded” processor compared to the Note2, and once again Onyx half-assed the update for the previous models, only bringing over some of the new features, not all. After breaking in the stylus it works fine now so I’ll clear that up, but I still don’t like the lack of an eraser. The Note Air is a nice device with a great screen and I like the new design but it has some flaws because they didn’t think things through as much as they could have, like having your hand rest over the USB port and power button is not ideal. Battery life is noticeably worse than the Note2 and the added weight from the Carta screen makes a big difference even though it’s only 32 grams heavier than the Note. Knowing Onyx they’ll probably release an “upgraded” Note Air 2 in a few months to address some of the issues. I would like it a lot more if it had a lighter Mobius screen and a larger battery to match the other Note models. It feels like they’re skimping on the most important elements. Lighter is what’s important, not thinner, and the more you have to charge the battery the faster it’s going to wear out.
Thanks for all your help, but definitely I give up on eink readers.
Have you notice in reddit an user of Note 2 said its screen broke? I’m astonished because I thought it was indestructible as a Mobius screen.
They’re insanely expensive and I don’t need them because LCD, as you said, is not proven to damage eyesight if you turn down their brightness.
I’d better get a cheaper tablet because I don’t mind its huge battery drain or their lack of readability when reading outdoors.
Can yo believe an LG smart TV, 50″, 4k, etc. is 60% cheaper than a Note 2? Insane.
In 11 years I’ve never broken an E Ink screen. If you take care of your gear it isn’t going to spontaneously break. A lot of people read on LCD screens with no problem, but E Ink still provides a better reading experience.
I received the Onyx Note 3 and have read 4 books on it and love it! I am only using it to read – Kobo and Kindle books and I think the size is perfect – at least to me. Now I really don’t care what Kobo or Amazon comes out with. After spending money on every new release to try to find my perfect reader – I finally have. Well worth the money for someone who reads all of the time and does not watch tv.
Avid Reader says
My husband and I each have a Kobo Auro – not sure how many years we’ve had them. We have no complaints. They are light weight and very comfortable to hold. The light is great. Everything is easy to use. Battery life is good. Previous to these we had Kobo e-readers without a light. I think we used those for about five years before they wore out. But the Kobo Aura was a great update with it’s light. We use our e-readers daily and take them with us wherever we go.
These reviews are very helpful – thanks!
I purchased a Kindle Paperwhite (10th Generation) in 2020. From a reading perspective, appreciate the many lighting, font, layout, etc. options. What is not appreciated: reading progress option randomly resetting, overall slowness – particularly irksome with page advance which may decide not to work at all (not life or death here, but come on, Amazon – you can do better), randomly losing visual (Kindle is on but no display), the sensitivity of the on/off tab (or perhaps it’s the bottom of device location – even when cautiously setting device on the treadmill device holder, the Paperwhite will turn off), etc. Does the Oasis suffer from any of these afflictions? Would be disappointed to spend $200+ only to find out the device is no better than the Paperwhite.
Have purchased Fire tablets for reading in the past, but burn through those within a year of purchase (they no longer work). Didn’t want to throw any more $$ at those devices, which is why the Paperwhite was purchased. And, to be fair, I do read quite a bit – average about 4 novels/week.
I don’t experience most of those problems to begin with so it’s going to be hard to say if the Oasis is any different. Do you know there’s an option to disable the touchscreen expect for page swipes?
“The best entry-level ebook reader to start 2019 is the Kobo Aura for $99 from Walmart.
It’s by far and away a better option than the entry-level Kindle that sells for $79, which is really $99 once you pay to remove the obnoxious ads.
Amazon shouldn’t even be selling the entry-level $79 Kindle anymore.
With no frontlight and a low resolution Pearl screen that was released in 2010 (literally), the $79 Kindle is a disgrace to the ereading community. Amazon should be ashamed to sell such an outdated piece of hardware in 2019.”
Nathan, in your article from 2019 why are you hating hard on the Kindle and recommending the Clara over it, then posting a recommendation for it here? Is this a different Nathan?
I don’t follow your question but I was probably referring to a different Kindle. The previous entry-level Kindle didn’t have a frontlight. It was replaced by the current model which has a light and is a much better comparison to Kobos that also have a light.