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Kindle Scribe review: not enough of what we want

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The Kindle Scribe is a return to large-screen Kindles, with a pen included. We wish the pen added more value and came with many more writing features, but the Scribe is still an excellent Kindle ereader, which means you get fantastic battery life; a sharp, bright screen and full access to the Amazon Kindle library of books and Audible audiobooks you already own.



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One-minute review

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Finally, a Kindle you can write on… said who, exactly? If you're a student or academic, you'll be disappointed by the limitations on how you can annotate books. If you're trying to be productive, this is far from a productivity tool. If you're into journaling, there are better options for writing tablets, though admittedly nothing handles reading ebooks quite like the best Kindle ereaders.  

That's the bottom line - the Kindle Scribe is a great, big Kindle, and Amazon doesn't try to take the device much further than adding a few basic writing features; less than you'll find on any competing E Ink tablet with a pen, like the Kobo Elipsa or the Onyx Boox Note Air2 series. For a dedicated note-taking E Ink tablet, it's perhaps the reMarkable 2 that stands out as having more writing templates and more robust pen options. And with the Onyx Boox running Android 11, it can even convert text to type as you write. 

The Kindle Scribe has its advantages though. The base model has plenty of storage (although the Kobo Elipsa comes with more) and amazing battery life, and it's one of the cheaper writing tablets when you factor the cost of the pen. Speaking of which, the way the stylus glides over the screen is hands down the best writing experience we've had on an E Ink tablet. 

Like other high-end ereaders, the Scribe also has a bright backlight that can adjust for night reading, and it can access the full Kindle book library, which is essential if you're an avid reader that's already embedded into Amazon's ecosystem. Still, it's hard to find a reason why folks who need an ereader with a pen should prefer the Kindle Scribe over alternatives, even at its relatively lower price point.

Kindle Scribe review: price and availability

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

It's hard to compare the pricing on tablets like the Kindle Scribe, considering different note-taking E Ink devices come with different feature sets. Overall, though, if you opt for the 16GB Kindle Scribe with the Basic Pen, there's decent value for what you get.

For example, the Kobo Elipsa comes in just one model that boasts 32GB of internal storage and ships with both the stylus and a sleepcover for $399.99 / £349.99 / AU$599.95 - so we're inclined to say the Elipsa offers more value, but the writing experience isn't as smooth.

On the other hand, the reMarkable 2 costs a deceptive $299 / £299 / AU$499. We say deceptive because reMarkable doesn't include a pen (which you will need to buy separately) and charges exorbitant fees. The reMarkable also doesn't have a backlight, so you need a light source to use it in the dark. It also cannot access the Kindle library, or any large eBook library easily.   

Kindle Scribe specs

Weight: 433g

Dimensions: 196 x 230 x 5.8mm

Display size: 10.2-inch

Storage: 16, 32, 64GB

Charging: USB-C charging

Backlight: LED (35 lights)

Pen Included: Yes

And the Onyx Boox Note Air2 series isn't widely available, but starts at $499 in the US for the base model. There are even more advanced E Ink tablets that use a pen, like the Onyx Boox Tab Ultra. That tablet is a more feature-packed device, and in its own class in terms of capability and price. It has a camera for document scanning and runs Android, for instance. For that reason, it's almost twice the price of Amazon's Kindle Scribe in the US.

Of course, let's not forget the iPad 10.2 (2021) which, incidentally only has a 264ppi resolution screen as compared to the Kindle Scribe's 300ppi slate, and prices start at $329 / £319 / AU$499 without a pen for 64GB of storage. Of course, comparing a colorful, extensible tablet like the iPad to the Kindle Scribe is like comparing apples to, er… Kindles. 

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

The more interesting price comparison is between the Kindle Scribe and other Kindle ereaders. The Scribe costs $90 / £110 / AU$150 more than the Kindle Oasis, which has only a 7-inch display, half the storage space, and no pen support. The only thing the Scribe cannot do is take a dip in the ocean, which the Kindle Oasis can legitimately handle, saltwater and all. 

Kindle Scribe review: design

The Amazon Kindle Scribe looks like a much larger version of the Kindle Oasis, thanks to the all-metal chassis. Where it differs, other than the obvious size, is the missing page-turn buttons and the asymmetric thickness that we love on the Oasis. 

The Kindle Scribe has rounded corners and smoothly curved edges with a wide, flat back, which interestingly has four tiny nubs for feet. It has a bezel all around, with a larger edge on the left side, if you hold the tablet Amazon smile-up. You can flip the Scribe and hold the larger edge with your right hand, but then the Amazon logo will be frowning. 

The USB-C port for charging, as well as the power button are both strangely placed on the side of the device, near the middle, but this isn't unique to the Scribe and can be seen on the Onyx Boox Note series tablets too.  

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

The pen, which is included, hangs on by a magnet on the opposite side edge of the Scribe. Even though it's stronger than what's found on the Onyx Boox Note Air2 Plus, this is our least favorite way of holding a pen. The strongest rare earth magnets cannot keep a pen in place when we slide a tablet in and out of a backpack sleeve. We lost the Scribe pen on day one and spent a half hour searching before we found it. Thankfully, an old Galaxy Note pen works just as well in a pinch. 

If you spring for the leather folio case - a nice addition that Amazon sent along with our review sample but you'll need to buy separately - the flap opens up over the top like a reporter's notebook, though much larger, similar to the sleepcover for the Kobo Elipsa (which ships with the tablet itself). The pen then slots into a holder on the edge of the flap. 

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Compared to the competition, the Kindle Scribe is a bit thicker than the reMarkable 2 tablet - which makes sense because the reMarkable lacks a backlight - but is slimmer and sleeker-looking compared to the plastic body of the Kobo Elipsa. The Kindle has a very bright LED backlit screen, and it can switch from a bluish-gray tint to a blue light-free tint that's better for nighttime reading. 

The Kindle Scribe is also wider than the reMarkable and Elipsa, and less tall, but has identical overall dimensions as the Onyx Boox Note Air2 tablets. The screens are all roughly the same size, it's just that the reMarkable puts its big bezel edge at the bottom instead of the side. 

For reading, we found the Kindle very comfortable to hold and use, even for such a large tablet. We'd love to see it shed some weight, but it isn't clumsy. 

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Kindle Scribe review: using it

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

If you want to read books on a large-screen Kindle, the Scribe is an easy ereader to recommend, although the price is high for the category. Still, the screen is much larger than the next-biggest Kindle Oasis' 7-inch display and there's no sacrifice of the remarkable pixel density, so everything is super sharp and glorious on screen. If you've been craving a gigantic reading screen for bigger fonts and larger images, the Scribe is a joy to use. 

On the other hand, if you've been excited about a Kindle that you can also use for journaling, note taking, and other writing tasks, the Kindle Scribe is a huge letdown. For most fans of notebooks and written tasks, the Scribe offers the bare minimum, and there are better options to be found in the competition. 

For students and academics, the Scribe only allows you to write notes as sticky notes appended to a book. You cannot actually write on the book page, in the margins, for instance. College students who buy their own books love the ability to interact directly with the text in writing, and it is a huge letdown that the Kindle Scribe cannot support this feature. 

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

For journaling and freewriting, the Kindle Scribe offers few template options, and none that work well with popular journal methods. We use bullet journaling and found some basic dots and lined pages, but nothing as organized or creative as the templates we enjoy on the reMarkable 2 tablet. Even the Kobo Elipsa offers a lot more when it comes to note-taking, including adding formulae and diagrams in between notes. If you keep a journal or take detailed notes, we're saying there are better options out there, and at a similar price point. 

If you were hoping to doodle and draw, the Kindle Scribe is not interested. There are no pen options beyond thick or thin. Pretty much every other E Ink tablet we've tested lets you do that - the reMarkable 2, Kobo Elipsa, the several Onyx Boox tablets.... yeah, it's disappointing to see Amazon fall so far short. All the aforementioned options give you numerous pen styles and thicknesses, including a calligraphy brush that reacts to direction and tilt. The Kindle Scribe gives you a pen, a highlighter and an eraser - that's it. 

It isn't difficult to use the Kindle Scribe for basic productivity. When we needed to sign a document, we simply sent it to a custom email address that we set up through our Amazon Kindle account. The PDF file arrived on our Scribe, and we could sign it and email it back with no trouble. But this will be difficult for anyone without a Kindle account. So, again, the Scribe is best served when you're embedded into the Amazon ecosystem. Even as an ereader, it's best used by customers already with existing Prime, Kindle Unlimited or Audible accounts.

Another disappointment is that there's no way to convert handwriting to typography, which is a real miss for the Scribe. This would be a great way to search through all of the sticky notes we take on a book, or a better way to send a written document via email. For note-taking alone, the Kindle Scribe needs to be able to make the conversion. 

That said, the writing experience on the Scribe with its Basic Pen is the best we've experienced to date. It is smooth as, and even that doesn't quite convey how good it really is to write on that screen. This is where the Kobo Elipsa was a letdown, but we were very impressed with the writing experience on the Onyx Booz Note Air2 Plus - the Kindle Scribe surpasses it all!

Kindle Scribe review: connectivity

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Amazon makes it easy to set up the Kindle Scribe and get all of your books and documents on and off the device. We had no trouble finding our Wi-Fi network, and the Kindle does not need a second device for setup. If you have a smartphone with the Kindle app, that helps speed the process along, but it isn't required. 

When we needed to sign documents with the Kindle Scribe, we found a dedicated email address @kindle.com was the easiest way. It is set up with a random username by default, but you can change this online, and we made it more convenient. As soon as we sent a document it appeared in our library, and we could email it to up to five recipients. So, as we said before, the Kindle Scribe will benefit those who are existing Amazon users or anyone willing to take the leap into getting tied down.

An Audible audiobook on the Kindle Scribe (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Of course, there are many more connectivity options we'd like to see, but at this price the options are fair. Some folks may want an LTE connection at least for downloading books or emailing simple black-and-white documents. Amazon sells a deluxe version of the Kindle Oasis with 4G LTE connectivity for downloads on the go, so it's a little strange to see the Scribe miss out... although we suspect the price alone for that privilege would be quite prohibitive for most potential users. 

We could also imagine a microSD card slot being very useful for transferring and signing documents. If this were a more serious productivity tool, that would be a top request, but we're yet to see an alternative E Ink note-taking tablet to offer this option, so Amazon is just sticking to the way things already are. 

Should I buy the Kindle Scribe?

Buy it if

Don't buy it if

Kindle Scribe review: also consider

If our Kindle Scribe review still has you on the fence then consider this trio of alternatives below:

Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, having reviewed his first device (the Sony D-EJ01 Discman) more than 20 years ago for eTown.com. He has been writing about phones and mobile technology, since before the iPhone, for a variety of sites including PCMag, infoSync, PhoneScoop, and Slashgear. He holds an M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University. 

Phil was the internal reviewer for Samsung Mobile, writing opinions and review predictions about top secret new devices months before launch. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. He has been a High School English teacher at Title I schools, and is a certified Lifeguard. His passion is smartphones and wearables, and he is sure that the next big thing will be phones we wear on our faces.

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