Released in November, the 2018 Kindle Paperwhite is a lightweight ebook reader which features a lit, 6” touch screen, support for Amazon’s Audible audiobook service and a waterproof casing, making it easier to use in the bath or by the pool without worrying about splashes.
Like all Kindle ereaders, the Paperwhite is designed for buying and reading books from Amazon’s own ebook store which you can access direct from the device or via the Amazon website. Any books you buy on the website will automatically appear on your Kindle the next time it goes online.
While you can load some other content, the Kindle doesn’t support the Epub format used by other ebook sellers, meaning you can’t use it to read books bought from firms such as Kobo or Apple’s iBooks store.
The Paperwhite comes in several variants: a WiFi only model with a choice of either 8 or 32GB of on-board storage, and a more expensive version which, in addition to WiFi, has bundled 4G (limited to browsing the Kindle bookstore) and comes with 32GB of storage.
The Paperwhite is Amazon’s mid-range Kindle, sitting between the £59.99 entry-level model, which is saddled with a lower screen resolution and lacks the Paperwhite’s light and waterproofing, and the Kindle Oasis (starting price £229) which has a screen light that automatically adjusts itself as light around you changes, a new “ergonomic” design and dedicated page-turn buttons.
At the time of writing, the 4G model is priced at £219.99 while the WiFi only version is priced at £119.99 for the 8GB model and £159.99 for the 32GB model. Both of these last two prices include a £10 discount in return for accepting what Amazon calls ‘Special Offers’ – basically adverts on the lock screen.
If you don’t want to see these, you can opt to pay £10 more either at the time of your initial purchase or at any point during your ownership of the device.
Amazon also offers all models on monthly payment terms where the price is divided into 5 equal, interest-free, instalments.
Central to the Paperwhite’s reading experience is the greyscale, 6” E Ink Carta touch screen which boasts a 300 ppi (pixels per inch) resolution, ensuring you get smoothly rendered, easy to read text.
As you’d expect, you can change the font type, text size and bold level to personalise the reading experience and there’s also a built-in, fully adjustable light powered by 5 LEDs to ensure you can enjoy your latest book regardless of the surrounding lighting conditions.
The latest version of the Kindle’s software includes book recommendations on the home screen. While I’m sure many people will consider this a useful way to discover new books, personally I found it to be unwelcome clutter and quickly made use of the option to switch it off.
As well as ebooks, the Paperwhite can be used to listen to books bought through Amazon’s Audible service, however the lack of built-in speaker and absence of a headphone socket means you’ll need a pair of Bluetooth headphones.
If you’re planning to use this feature you’ll want to get the 32GB model to avoid having to regularly delete content from your library.
To help achieve its IPX8 waterproof rating – which means the Paperwhite can withstand fresh water in depths of up to 2 metres for a maximum of 60 minutes – the device features a smooth tablet-style screen rather than the recessed screen of some ereaders.
In addition to protecting the Paperwhite from water ingress, this also makes it easier to keep the screen clean as there are no tight, hard to wipe corners or angles.
The rear of the unit has rounded corners and a soft, rubbery finish which makes it comfortable to hold even for longer periods of time but does seem to act as a fingerprint and smudge magnet.
The Paperwhite is a speedy beast with near instant page turns, and also responds quickly when browsing the Kindle bookstore.
Amazon claims a battery life of “weeks on a single charge” however its detailed technical specs qualify this as being “based on half an hour of reading per day with wireless off and the light setting at 13”.
30 minutes of reading time per day isn’t much – you could easy clock up 2-3 times that in a single day’s commute and lunchtime so this feels quite a short time to use as benchmark.
On the other hand, the suggestion of turning off the wireless connection is perfectly fair given that, unlike a tablet where you’re likely to be carrying out mostly online activities, the Kindle only needs to be online when browsing Amazon’s bookstore or downloading a purchase.
Ultimately everyone’s real world experience will differ depending on how long they read per session, whether they have the light on and if so how high they set – for example, with the wireless switched off and light set to my preferred level of 16, I saw a battery drop of 2% every 30 minutes or so, which would give around 25 hours of use.
In my view, what’s more important than whether you get one or multiple weeks use is the fact that the Kindle will let you read for far longer than a tablet or smartphone, the main alternatives to a dedicated reader, from a single charge.
Charging the Kindle is done with a bundled micro-USB lead – the same type used to charge most Android smartphones and Bluetooth devices – but presumably in order to keep the packaging to a minimum (the Kindle ships in a thin, slimline box barely any wider or thicker than the device itself), Amazon doesn’t provide a plug so you’ll need to supply your own.
Even in this world of convergence, sometimes a dedicated device is still the best option and that’s the case here – for most people the Paperwhite’s E Ink screen will provide a more comfortable reading experience than a tablet or smartphone’s reflective LCD screen, and the size means it’s more comfortable to hold for longer periods than any 9+” tablet.
And, thanks to the inclusion of the lit screen and waterproofing it can be enjoyed anywhere, meaning keen readers will find it easy to get great value from their purchase.
The Kindle Paperwhite can be bought direct from Amazon.co.uk* and from selected online and highstreet retailers.