Kindle Paperwhite (2018) review

Amazon’s new Kindle Paperwhite hides serious upgrades under a familiar cover

The 2018 refresh for the Kindle Paperwhite makes an already excellent ebook reader nearly perfect.
The 2018 refresh for the Kindle Paperwhite makes an already excellent ebook reader nearly perfect.
The 2018 refresh for the Kindle Paperwhite makes an already excellent ebook reader nearly perfect.

Highs

  • New IPX8 water-resistant design is great for tubs and pools
  • Access to massive bookstore
  • Good battery life
  • Bluetooth connectivity for audiobooks

Lows

  • Cannot customize page-turn gestures
  • No option to adjust color temperature

It’s has been three years since Amazon last updated its iconic Kindle Paperwhite. During that time, Amazon released two versions of its premium Kindle Oasis ebook reader, as well as a refresh to its entry-level Kindle, but it’s finally time for the Paperwhite to shine. At $130, it’s slightly more expensive than its predecessor, but this is the cheapest Kindle from Amazon with water resistance, and there’s Bluetooth now as well so you can listen to Audible audiobooks with wireless earbuds. It faces stiff competition, but the Paperwhite comes close to being the perfect ebook reader everyone needs.

Small, lightweight, and easy to hold

The Kindle Paperwhite is a near clone of its predecessor, and that’s not bad. It’s about as basic as any ebook reader can look, with a slim profile, matte finish, and a lightweight design that makes it easy to hold for extended periods of time.

Like earlier versions of the Paperwhite, you’ll find a six-inch E Ink screen packed with 300 pixels per inch (ppi), surrounded by chunky bezels. The bezels are flush with the screen this time around, which is a minor but thoughtful change that makes it a little easier to flip pages, as there are no page turn buttons.

On the bottom is the power button and a MicroUSB charging port. It’s a bit of a shame Amazon did not go with the more universal USB-C charging port in 2018, but we’ve yet to see another ebook reader with this charging port just yet.

Another nice addition to the Paperwhite is an iPX8 rating, allowing you to use it in the tub or at the pool.

Flip it over and you’ll find a rubberized back that’s slightly curved. Other than the small recessed Amazon logo on the top third of the Paperwhite, it’s unadorned, making it easy to hold in any position.

A major addition to this year’s Paperwhite is an iPX8 rating, allowing you to use it in the tub or at the pool. It should protect the ebook reader in up to two meters of water for 60 minutes. It’s a nice addition that makes the Paperwhite more versatile in a variety of reading conditions.

Crisp display

If you’re a fan of the crisp six-inch E Ink screen on the old Kindle Paperwhite you’re in luck: The 2018 Paperwhite has the exact same display. At 300 PPI, text and images look sharp, and perfect for reading.

Kindle Paperwhite review
Steven Winkelman/Digital Trends

The marquee feature that makes the Paperwhite so special however is its built-in LEDs that illuminate the display. It allows you to read in just about any condition. There’s also a black and white feature for readers who are light sensitive. The display is easy to read in all environments, though the automatic brightness doesn’t go low enough when reading in the dark — we had to manually adjust it to our liking.

We’re more disappointed at the lack of a blue-light filter, or any kind of option to adjust color temperature on the Paperwhite. The similarly-priced Kobo Clara HD also has a front-lit display along with an excellent blue-light filter called ComfortLight Pro. Filtering blue light at night can be beneficial for your health, as it can affect your sleep and therefore your health otherwise, and we’d have liked to see this option here.

Amazon sent us a leather and water-safe cover for the new Paperwhite. Both do a great job of protecting the display, but they also have an added bonus: They cause the screen to illuminate when opened, and put it to sleep when closed. It’s a lovely feature that means you don’t have to worry about pressing the power button to turn the screen on, or accidentally change pages when you’re done reading.

Fast and intuitive software

If you’ve ever used an ebook reader before, you should have no problem getting around the Kindle Paperwhite. When you turn the device on you’ll see the home screen. This is where you’ll find your current book, reading list, as well as books your friends have read on Goodreads. There’s a new option to swipe up, and you’ll be greeted with book recommendations, notable options in the Prime Reading program, and a list of Amazon best sellers. It’s easy to miss this feature unless you pay close attention to the bottom of the screen.

Kindle Paperwhite review
Steven Winkelman/Digital Trends

Across the top of the display are key system icons, such as the Wi-Fi / LTE indicator, battery icon, and time. Below that, you’ll find a menu with navigation options, a brightness setting icon, search bar, and links to Goodreads and the Kindle Store. While all of this information is on display on the home screen, you simply need to tap the top of the page in any book to access it.

In addition to supporting Kindle ebooks, this year’s Paperwhite has another trick up its sleeve. Amazon added Bluetooth connectivity to the reader, allowing you to pair Bluetooth headphones and listen to your favorite Audible audiobooks. It adds an extra level of usefulness to the ebook reader, though it may be simpler or easier to just use your smartphone. The 4GB storage option has also been replaced with 8GB and 32GB options this year to support larger Audible files.

Reading a book on the Kindle Paperwhite is as simple as tapping on its cover from the home screen. Once in a book you can alter its appearance by tapping the top of the display and selecting Page Display. From this menu you can adjust both the font and its size as well as text layout on the page. There’s also an option to create a profile of your chosen preferences so you can quickly select it for future books.

Kindle Paperwhite review
Steven Winkelman/Digital Trends

And while the Paperwhite now offers more screen customizations than ever, there’s one thing that’s missing: You cannot customize page turns. Since the Paperwhite doesn’t have page turn buttons, we wish we could have at least customized screen gestures. It’s a feature on Kobo ebook readers we’ve come to love. Instead, you can only tap the left or right edges of the screen, or drag the page across. It’s sounds simple, but it can be tough to reach the other side of the screen when reading one-handed.

Performance was excellent overall on the Paperwhite. Amazon did not share processor and memory specifications, but this ebook reader is nevertheless plenty powerful. We didn’t experience any lag when turning pages — in fact it felt instantaneous — and we didn’t run into ghosting issues.

Battery life

Battery life on the Kindle Paperwhite is on par with what you’ll find on other ebook readers. Amazon vaguely claims “weeks” from a single charge, which we found to be a little exaggerated, though it ultimately depends on your reading habits. In a period of four days with a total of around six hours of screen on time, the battery hit 23 percent. That’s with cellular and front-lighting on, which depletes the battery quicker.

It can easily last longer on the Wi-Fi only model, or if you don’t use the front-lighting all the time. It also loses very little battery life in standby mode, so you don’t really need to worry about turning the Paperwhite off when it’s not in use.

World’s Biggest Bookstore

Over the past decade, Amazon has managed to amass both the world’s largest bookstore and audio bookstore. From best sellers to self-published titles, you’ll have no problem finding content in its store. And while we’re not fans of a lot of its self-published content, there’s no denying it has the leg up compared to the Kobo Store.

In addition to offering the most ebook and audiobook titles, Amazon has another special feature for Kindle owners. The first is a subscription service called Kindle Unlimited that allows you read an unlimited number of pre-selected books in the Kindle Store for $10 a month. The selection ranges from bestsellers to public domain titles, though you’re not likely to find newly-released books.

Price, availability, and warranty information

The Kindle Paperwhite costs $130, and it’s available now from Amazon.

Amazon offers a one-year warranty on all its hardware. It’s limited to manufacturer defects, so any type of accidents will not be covered. If you’re worried about accidental damage, you may want to pick up Amazon’s two-year protection plan when you order the Kindle Paperwhite.

Our Take

The Kindle Paperwhite isn’t perfect, but an excellent ebook reader for people in the Amazon ecosystem. It’s portable, durable, and allows you to enjoy your favorite books in multiple formats.

Is there a better alternative?

It depends on your needs. If you want an inexpensive, water resistant ebook reader with audiobook support, the Kindle Paperwhite (2018) is your best bet — especially if you’re tied to Amazon’s ecosystem. However, if you just want a ebook reader that will get the job done of letting you read ebooks and not much else, get the base Kindle, which costs $80.

If you want an ebook reader with a blue-light filtering screen, we recommend the excellent Kobo Forma, though it will cost you a good deal more.

How long will it last?

With proper care, the Kindle Paperwhite should easily five or more years. We believe you’ll be more likely to upgrade the Paperwhite than wear it out since ebook reader technology doesn’t change much year over year.

Should you buy it?

Yes. The Kindle Paperwhite has long been one of our favorite ebook readers, and the refresh for 2018 makes it even better. Its new Bluetooth connectivity and water resistance makes it the perfect choice in just about every situation, from commuting to a day at the beach.

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