The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2018) is thinner, lighter and more comfortable to use.
It offers familiar design but is now also waterproof.
It lacks Audible support but can last for weeks on a single charge.
In technology, if there is one gadget that has stayed constant over a long period of time, then it has to be the Amazon Kindle. The Kindle, which celebrated a decade of being a thing recently, has been a constant, and has largely remained the same in form and function as well. Whether you take the first generation device with the keyboard or a modern metallic Oasis, they do one thing: read a digital book as if you were reading a physical one. And while the changes are small, they are making small but meaningful improvements to the concept.
If you look at consumer electronics over the past decade then they have all become multi-functional devices. Take the example of the iPhone; it started as an iPod that can also be used to make calls. Now, it is basically a computer on your palm; one that can beat your classic computer in terms of performance. Portable speakers now come equipped with digital assistants like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. The reform has happened even in the case of a USB drive which can now connect wirelessly to your devices. But the Kindle has stayed the same – a single function device that is largely the same as it was a decade ago.
In 2013, I bought the Kindle Paperwhite as an impulse purchase and not because I needed it. Almost five years later, I still don’t see why that device needs an update but Amazon definitely sees an opportunity to improve on the successful device. The Kindle lineup now includes three devices – a standard Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Oasis. Consider it as equivalents of Mercedes C-class, E-class and S-class. They all drive the same , but with different powertrains under them and a few more bells and whistles as you go up the range.
All Kindles let you read books but do so little bit differently. Last month, Amazon launched the fourth generation Kindle Paperwhite in India and I have been reading on it for a good few weeks now. Here are my thoughts on whether it is the best Kindle yet and should you upgrade if you already have a Kindle.
Design and Display
With the new Kindle Paperwhite, Amazon has focused entirely on enriching the user experience and hence, the device looks exactly the same as its predecessor. It is clad in a soft plastic casing, which allows for a comfortable grip whether you are reading for few minutes or several hours. Yes, it lacks the premium metal build and angular curves of the Oasis, but the Paperwhite stands apart with its mid-tier price and overall finish.
In fact, this year the new Paperwhite feels a bit lighter than its predecessor but the overall distribution of weight is so even that the device feels the same whether you hold at the bottom side or midway. The back of the device is matte black and thus it is prone to catching fingerprints and if you have oily hands then it is recommended that you put a case right away.
One major design change this year is that the Paperwhite is water resistant like its premium sibling, the Kindle Oasis. The Paperwhite is the best-selling product in the Kindle lineup and if you are someone who reads while in the pool or on a beach vacation then you need not worry about spilling liquids on it or dropping it in water. The new Kindle Paperwhite will survive such scenarios with water resistance rated for submerging up to two meters deep for up to 60 minutes.
Like all the previous Kindle Paperwhite devices, there is a power button and micro-USB port at the bottom. In contrast to rest of the design, the power button has a darker finish, which is a neat distinction from older models, which had a matte black power button. All the other three edges of the Paperwhite (2018) are clear of buttons and allow for a firm grip. The display, which is still a 6-inch E-Ink affair, now sits flush to the glass on top of it. It is rather difficult to distinguish the glass from the E-Ink panel, which Amazon says will eliminate reflection and allow for a reading experience similar to what you get from a physical book.
When you compare this display next to a previous Kindle Paperwhite, you notice the difference almost immediately. It feels as if text pops a bit more than it does on older models. The display has a resolution of 300 pixels per inch and is also much brighter than its predecessor. With the 2018 model of the Kindle Paperwhite, Amazon has packed five LEDs as opposed to four on the previous model.
When you increase the brightness all the way to 24 – the maximum possible level – you can see the difference. As someone coming from the second generation Kindle Paperwhite, I did not see any need for additional LEDs but after using the new Paperwhite for over a month now, I must say that it is a solid addition. One last change comes in the form of accessibility where Amazon has added an option to invert colors.
A typical page on the Kindle is represented by a white background with black text. On the new Kindle Paperwhite, you can enable a mode with black text on a black background. It is a kind of night mode that seems appealing at first but I only grew to dislike it over time. For me, the standard mode works best, whether it’s day or night.
How does the Kindle Paperwhite (2018) perform?
An Amazon Kindle is the kind of device where even a major specification bump will not be immediately perceived. WIth the 2018 iteration of Paperwhite, Amazon has tweaked few elements under the hood that don’t necessarily make it faster but eliminate some of the issues seen on its predecessor. For instance, the base model of Kindle Paperwhite now ships with a minimum of 8GB of internal storage.
This is double of what Amazon offered on the older model and if you are someone who reads a lot of anime or books with lots of photos then you can get the version with 32GB of storage. Amazon says you can store “thousands of books” and honestly, I don’t even have that many e-books to test that claim.
Amazon says the new Kindle Paperwhite comes with same amount of low-power RAM as its predecessor but the processor has been updated. However, I did not seen any visible improvements when it comes to loading a book or flipping pages. The new Kindle works just like any other Kindle before it. However, there are areas where the Kindle Paperwhite stutters and it can be frustrating at times. If you leave the Kindle unattended for a long time then it will take good few seconds to wake. If you are someone who has been reading on the Kindle app on an iPad then this is rather slow since the tablet version starts instantaneously.
The new Kindle Paperwhite seems fast when it comes to turning pages but the sluggishness becomes apparent when you start typing on it. The very first step which involves signing into your Amazon account by typing in your credentials can seem slow. Web browsing on the Silk browser is something that should be ruled out altogether; use your smartphone for that instead.
Soon before we published this review, Amazon pushed out a software update that significantly enhances the user experience. The home page is now scrollable, which means you can see more recommendations or bestsellers in prime reading without going to the Kindle Store. When inside a page, tapping on top of the book shows a redesigned toolbar and from the new Page Display drop-down menu, you can even set a custom theme. You can create five such themes but the process of creating themes isn’t too easy.
Amazon claims the new Paperwhite, despite being thinner and lighter, can last six weeks on single charge. While there is no definite way to put this to test since we all read differently, I can say that if you read for an hour everyday at maximum brightness then the Paperwhite should last for at least four weeks on a single charge. The battery drops faster on the 3G/4G version with an active data connection, but you can always enable airplane mode to conserve battery. In terms of real-life usage, I think the new Kindle Paperwhite delivers the same battery life as its predecessor.
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Should you buy?
As I wrote before, the new Kindle Paperwhite, like every Kindle before it, does the job of making e-books readable better than any other e-reader on the market. It does not quite match the Kindle Oasis, which not only has the largest and brightest display but also has an ambient light sensor for auto-brightness, a premium metal back and button for flipping pages. However, its compact form factor with comfortable grip, affordable price (starts at Rs 12,999) and waterproof design this time around makes it an easy recommendation.
If you are in the market for a new Kindle then this new Paperwhite should be your default choice. However, if you have an older Paperwhite then the only reason to upgrade would be if you need the waterproof design. Amazon says it always finds a way to improve and so, I won’t go as far as to call it perfect. However, a faster typing experience and support for Audible in India could definitely make it the Kindle to buy, assuming Amazon is able to push out improvements on those lines.