One of the big trends in the e-reader industry is bigger is better. It is very common to find screen sizes ranging from 6.8 inches all the way to 13.3. Since screens are trending on the large size, this makes it impossible for them to fit in your pocket and bring them out into the world. This normally results in people reading on their smartphone, since its pocket friendly, even though staring at an LCD screen for long periods of time will cause eyestrain.
The benefits of an e-reader over a smartphone are immense. Typically e-readers have e-paper screens that do not cause strain, since there is no backlight. The light on these devices are positioned alongside the bezel, the project light evenly across the screen and not into your eyes. Battery life is also compelling, you will regularly be able to get 2-3 weeks of battery life, whereas a smartphone, you would be lucky with two days.
There are a small number of e-readers that are small and easily fit in your pocket. Some maintain the same clamshell design of a typical smartphone employs, which will easily fit in your front-pocket. Others, are a typical e-reader that has a six inch screen, which will fit in your back pocket or in a small handbag.
What are the best portable e-readers of 2022? We break down the best ones you can buy.
Hisense Hi Reader
The Hisense Hi Reader is the first dedicated e-reader that Hisense has ever released. The company typically focuses all of their e-paper energies towards Android smartphones with either black and white screens or color EINK. This makes the Hi Reader a very interesting product, it looks like a fully featured phone, upon first glance. However, in reality, it is a pocket friendly book reader with no phone functionality. It is great for not only for reading, but also audiobooks, podcasts and music. It has a candy bar design, which really makes it standout in a crowded market of e-readers that all look alike. You can buy the Hisense Hi Reader internationally, from the Good e-Reader Store. It retails for $399 and comes with a free case.
The Hisense Hi Reader features an E INK Carta HD 6.7-inch E Ink display with 300 PPI resolution and an 84 percent screen-to-body ratio. The display allows for 36 white LED lights, that allow you to adjust the brightness with a slider bar.
Underneath the hood lies a 1.8GHz UNISOC T610 Octa-core chipset that is coupled to 4 GB RAM and 64 GB of native storage. You can connect to the internet via WIFI and it has Bluetooth 5.1 to pair wireless headphones or earbuds to listen to audiobooks, podcasts or music. There is a single speaker on the bottom, which provides a bit of audio power, but headphones would be better. There are volume buttons on the side to adjust everything to your liking, I really like how there are physical keys for this sort of thing. Power comes from a 3000 mAh battery that should allow for decent run times, it has a USB-C port for charging. The Hi Reader runs Android 10 OS and you can sideload in your own apps or install an alternative app market to keep apps updated.
Xiaomi InkPalm Plus
The InkPalm Plus has a 5.84-inch E INK Carta HD touchscreen display with a resolution of 1440×720 with 212 PPI. The screen is flush with the bezel, protected by a layer of glass. The volume buttons on the side double as page turn buttons when using the stock reading app. You will be able to read in the dark via the front-lit display and color temperature system and they both have 24 levels of brightness. The InkPalm Plus is a great pick and it retails for $239 from the Good e-Reader Store.
Underneath the hood is a Rockchip RK3566 processor, which is based on the Allwinner B300 quad-core Cortex-A7 SoC. It has 2GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, which should provide enough juice to run any Android 11 app that you can throw at it. There isn’t any great app stores that are pre-loaded on it, but you can easily sideload in alternative app markets such as Amazon, Samsung Galaxy Store or even the Good e-Reader App Store. There are no speakers or a 3.5mm headphone jack, so the only way you will be able to listen to audiobooks, podcasts or music is via wireless headphones or earbuds. The Plus has Bluetooth 5.0, which is compatible with every wireless accessory you can think of. This device looks like a phone and performs like one, but there is no carrier capabilities, instead it simply has WIFI, so you can easily surf the net or access cloud storage. You can charge the device with the USB-C cable and also sideload in your own books. It supports EPUB, TXT and PDF. Xiaomi promises up to 30 days of battery life from its 2,200mAh battery. The battery is charged to 100% within 2.5 hours using a 5V charger. It weighs a paltry 0.14kg.
Hisense A9 Smartphone
The Hisense A9 features an E INK Carta 1200 e-paper display. This is brand new e-paper technology that is only available in a handful of products such as Kobo Libra,2 and Kobo Sage. Amazon employs this tech on their the 11th Generation Kindle Paperwhite 5. The technology provides 20% faster response time. You can buy this from the Good e-Reader Store for $409.99 and is the lone phone on this list.
The A9 features a 6.1-inch E Ink display with a resolution of 824×1648 with 300 PPI. It has an impressive 84% screen-to-body ratio. The screen flush with the bezel and protected by a layer of glass. The color scheme of the phone is black and the backplate is also black, however it has glitter sand texture, which makes it a joy to touch and hold. There is a rear facing camera with a slight bump on the screen it is 13 MP and LED flash, it can record at 1920×1080. The front facing camera is 5MP and has a resolution of 2592×1944. It is rare that any E INK devices have cameras, and these ones are mighty impressive. There are volume rockers on the right side an E INK button on the left and power button on the top. You can read and use the A9 during the night, thanks to the front-lit display and color temperature system. There is a total of 27 white and amber LED lights.
Underneath the hood is a Snapdragon 662 octa-core 2.0 GHz with Adreno 610 GPU. If you are a big fan of high quality sound, the A9 is utilizing the ES9318 chip which allows for HiFi quality sound output while having integrated support for the LDAC, AAC, SBC, and APTX Bluetooth audio codecs. This makes the new A9 great for not only listening to audiobooks but some quality music, as well. For the best sound possible, you will want to plugin wired headphones via the 3.4mm headphone jack. There is also a small speaker on the bottom and also a microphone. There is a grill on the top so you can hear voice communication in HD. There are two different variants for RAM; 4GB or 6GB. I would go with the 6GB version because it is running Android 11 and since you will be using apps, the more RAM you have, the better they will perform. It has 128 GB of storage and has dual SIM card tray, one can be used for an SD Card that is capable of an additional 128GB. You can transfer apps, books and other content via the USB-C port, this is also how you charge it. It is powered by a 4,000 mAh battery. You can keep your phone secure with the face unlock, fingerprint sensor or a passcode. It has GPS, WIFI 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and the frequencies are 2.4 5GHZ. It also has Beidou, NFC, A-GPS, WIFI Direct, Gravity Sensor and accelerometer. The dimensions are 159.00 x 79.50 x 7.80 mm and weighs 183 g.
Onyx Boox Poke 4 Lite
The Onyx Boox Poke 4 Lite is an e-reader that goes back to basics. It is a dedicated book reader with no note taking functionality and is totally geared towards the consumption of digital media. It might just be the biggest value for the money due to a number of key selling points. It is running Android 11 and has Google Play preinstalled, so you can download millions of free and paid apps. It also has optimizations for a number of apps, such as Kindle, which eliminated animated page turns. It has various speed modes to increase the performance of the entire software experience. It retails for $149 and you can get it from the Good e-Reader Store.
The Onyx Boox Poke 4 Lite features a 6-inch E INK Carta HD touchscreen display with a resolution of 1024×786 and 212 PPI. The screen is not flush with the bezel and does not have a layer of glass. The vast majority of e-readers have glass displays, which reflect light. The only way you can get around this is via a matte screen protector and no OEMS make their own anymore. Instead, it has a sunken screen and bezel design. This makes text pop, since the e-paper is totally visible and nothing abstracting between your eyes and the display. Despite the book reader only having 212 PPI, I think this is a good trade-off.
You will be able to use this reader in the dark or in other lowlight conditions, thanks to the front-lit display and color temperature system. It has a series of white and amber LED lights that project light evenly across the screen and not into your eyes. There are 64 levels of control via the slider bars, so it can be optimized for any lighting conditions.
A low price for a book reader, often means there are sacrifice’s that have to be made. I am happy to report this is not the case with the Poke 4 Lite. It is employing a Qualcomm Snapdragon 2.0 GHZ Quad-core with Arm Cortex-A53 processor. There is 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage for all of your books. You can transfer data via the USB-C port and also charge it, speaking of charging, it is powered by a 1500 mAh battery. There is no speaker or microphone, this is meant to keep costs low. However, it does have Bluetooth 5.0, so it is easy to use wireless headphones or earbuds to listen to audiobooks, music or podcasts. The dimensions are 153×107.2×7.1mm and weighs 150g.
Kobo Clara 2e
Kobo is currently taking pre-orders for the Clara 2e. This is a brand new e-reader that is made of 80% recycled plastic and has a number of new features. It is waterproof, which makes it the first six inch reader to have an IPX 8 rating, so it is good for 60 minutes submerged in fresh water. You can use it in the bathtub or at the beach. There is a new USB-C port and it has Bluetooth, so users can buy and listen to audiobooks, a new audiobook store is integrated into the Kobo Bookstore. Finally, it has an E INK Carta 1200 display panel, which should increase responsiveness by 30% and page turn speed enhanced by 25%. This might seriously compete against the Nook Glowlight 4 and Amazon Kindle Paperwhite.
The Kobo Clara 2e features a six inch E INK Carta 1200 display panel with a resolution of 1448×1072 with 300 PPI. The screen is not flush with the bezel, instead it has a small dip and does not have any glass. The exposed e-paper will be perfect for reading outdoors, since it will not reflect light. You will be able to read at night via the ComfortLight PRO adjustable brightness and color temperature system. The color scheme is deep ocean blue and is made of 85 per cent recycled plastic exterior— including 10 per cent ocean bound plastic, like water bottles or CDs.
Underneath the hood is a 1 GHZ dual core processor and 512MB of RAM. There is 16GB to house ebooks and audiobooks. You will be able to connect to the internet via WiFi 802.11 ac/b/g/n, and you can listen to audiobooks exclusively with Bluetooth. This is the first Clara model to have USB-C, which is users for transferring digital content from your computer to the reader or use for charging. Read in the bathtub or the beach, without worry about water, since it has IPX 8, which should be good for around 60 minutes in fresh water. It is powered by a 1,500 mAh battery and the dimensions are 112.05 x 159.02 x 8.66 mm and weighs 171 g.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.