A great mid-range ereader that just misses out on ‘excellent’.
Kindle Paperwhite review
The Kindle Paperwhite is the perfect companion for your commute, travels or even nighttime bath, with a stunning display, slim, light and waterproof body and impressive battery life. On the downside, it’s missing .epub and audiobook compatibility, plus the location of the power button won’t suit everyone.
Kindle Paperwhite review
Witnessing the evolution of ereaders over the years has been a pretty interesting ride. From the very first (and very chunky) 1998 Rocket eBook to the compact, lightweight and highly connected devices we see today, they've certainly come a long way in terms of form factor and storage. However, at their core, modern ereaders aren't that much different from their ancestors - they just come with a lot more bells and whistles, and the more you spend, the more bells and whistles you get.
The Kindle Paperwhite is Amazon's mid-range model, sitting neatly between the cheaper Kindle and the premium Kindle Oasis. For your money, you'll get a slimmer, waterproof design than that found on the Kindle, but obviously, a few missing features when compared to the Oasis (namely page-turn buttons, an aluminium frame and warm light adjustment).
So, with these minor differences in mind, how does the Kindle Paperwhite stack up against the competition?
Kindle Paperwhite price
The Kindle Paperwhite’s price depends on a couple of factors - storage and connectivity. At its cheapest, the 8GB Wi-Fi only model will set you back a neat $199. That’s almost smack-bang in the middle of Kobo’s two mid-range devices.
Sticking with Wi-Fi but quadrupling the storage to a frankly unnecessary 32GB will cost you an extra $50 at $149, and upgrading to the top-of-the-line 32GB model with both Wi-Fi and free cellular connectivity will set you back $369 all up.
In our experience, the 8GB Wi-Fi only variant is more than enough, but those who like large, picture-heavy books and graphic novels or who don’t have Wi-Fi at home might see the value in paying more.
Kindle Paperwhite design
There’s lots to love about the look and feel of the Paperwhite. It’s about the same thickness as most smartphones (i.e. less than a centimetre) and measures 167mm in length and 116mm in width. It weighs just 182 grams (191 if you opt for the cellular variant), meaning it’s small and light enough to take just about anywhere.
The front of the Paperwhite is sleek and minimal, with the screen completely flush with the bezels instead of being recessed (something you tend to find on cheaper or older models which tends to attract so much dust and dirt). Around the back and sides of the Paperwhite, Amazon has opted for a smooth, grippy, rubberised plastic material embossed with their logo. It’s rated IP68 waterproof, too, so you don’t need to worry about accidentally dropping it in the bath or getting it splashed at the beach.
All in all, it’s a great size and super comfortable to hold, however, I do have one major gripe: the power button. You’re probably thinking I sound petty as hell, but when you spend as much time with your ereader as I do, holding it so that your pinky just so happens to rest on the Paperwhite’s unfortunately-located power button, believe me when I say it will drive you crazy. I can’t count the number of times I’ve accidentally put my device to sleep thanks to its annoying placement at the bottom of the device, slightly to the right of the middle. A cursory look at the reviews on Amazon’s Paperwhite product page tells me this is a pretty common complaint, with dozens of users mentioning the same issue.
Kindle Paperwhite display
Irritating power button aside, under the hood you’ll find one of the best displays Amazon have ever popped into a Kindle. Measuring 6 inches diagonally, the E-Ink Carta display boasts a screen resolution of 300ppi, almost double that of the base-model Kindle. As such, everything from book covers to the text itself is exceptionally clear and crisp.
Like all current Kindle and Kobo models, the Paperwhite comes with a backlight as standard. There are 24 notches of brightness to choose from, but keep in mind that the brighter you go, the more your device’s battery life will take a hit. It’s outside on a sunny day, though, that the Paperwhite really shines. No matter how much ambient light is around you, the display will be readable and glare-free as ever.
On the downside, there’s no automatic brightness setting, nor is there a warm light adjustment (also known as a blue-light filter). For these features, you’ll have to fork out an extra $200 for the Kindle Oasis, whereas the Kobo Clara HD, Libra H2O and Forma all come with it as standard.
Kindle Paperwhite content
The Kindle store is incredibly well-stocked. It’s got pretty much every bestseller, classic, new release and niche interest title you could want, not to mention millions of self-published titles by indie authors. But while there’s tons of stuff to read, you don’t have much choice as to where you can buy your reads - the Kindle Store is pretty much it.
Why? Sadly, none of the models in the current Kindle lineup support .epub files, which is by far the most popular and ubiquitous ebook format. There is support for .mobi files, if you can find a site that sells them, but other than that, you’re stuck with the Kindle Store and the proprietary .azw and .azw8 format those books come in. It’s a shame, because many public libraries allow ebook borrowing, but these books are almost always .epub files, so you’ll struggle to find a way to read for free on your Paperwhite.
That said, the Kindle does have one knock-out content option that you won’t find anywhere else - Kindle Unlimited. Priced at $13.99 per month, this subscription service gives you unlimited access to over a million titles. No, it doesn’t include every single ebook you’ll find in the Kindle Store, but it’s certainly enough to keep you well and truly occupied. Amazon Prime subscribers can benefit from a lite version of Kindle Unlimited with Prime Reading, which includes over 1,000 unlimited titles at no extra cost.
Kindle Paperwhite features
Unlike every Kobo model and the cheapest Kindle, the Kindle Paperwhite comes in two storage sizes: 8GB and 32GB. Realistically, 8GB is more than enough storage for thousands of books and will suit most readers. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend bothering with the 32GB unless you’re planning on reading lots of graphic novels or large documents.
Connectivity-wise, the Paperwhite is Wi-Fi enabled as standard, however, there is another option if you often find yourself away from a stable connection. It’ll cost you extra (of course), but Amazon also offers a variant that comes with free cellular connectivity. Basically, that means you can be connected to the internet at all times without having to pay extra for a SIM plan.
The battery life, like most ereaders on the market today, is simply amazing. According to the product page for the Kindle Paperwhite, it’s capable of lasting “up to six weeks, based on a half-hour of reading per day with wireless off and the light setting at 13” on a single charge. As a self-confessed binge reader, I never got six full weeks out of my Paperwhite as I like to read for hours at a time. That said, an average of one to two hours of reading per day kept me going for close to two weeks. When it is ready for a juice, you can do so in about two to three hours via the included USB 2.0 charging cable.
So far, so good, but there’s one thing Aussie shoppers need to be aware of. While the US Paperwhite allows for Audible integration (meaning you can listen to audiobooks by pairing a Bluetooth speaker or headphones to your device), the Australian model offers no such thing. Personally, it’s not a deal-breaker for me, but it’s something to keep in mind.
|$139 at Amazon
|$199 at Amazon
|$399 at Amazon
|8GB or 32GB
|8GB or 32GB
|Yes, 4 LEDs
|Yes, 5 LEDs
|Yes, 25 LEDs
|Page turn buttons
|Adjustable warm light
Is it worth it?
The Kindle Paperwhite is a fantastic all-rounder. It’s got some of its premium sibling’s best features (including waterproofing and a 300ppi screen resolution), the added goodies that come with an Amazon Prime subscription, and access to the only ebook subscription service we know of. However, the placement of its power button may get in your way, and the lack of audiobook and .epub compatibility isn’t ideal. That said, you’re not likely to get buyer’s remorse from the Paperwhite. It’s feature-packed, sports a beautiful display and won’t cost you the earth.