Amazon Kindle vs. Kindle Paperwhite: Battle of the budget ebook readers

amazon kindle
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

If you’re looking to pick up a cheap ebook reader to take on vacation or as your daily driver, then there are several options. Most of the top ebook readers are made by Amazon, but it can be tricky to identify the right model for you. If you have a limited budget then the latest Amazon Kindle is sure to figure on your shortlist, but it may be worth stretching that budget just a little further to secure a Kindle Paperwhite. We break down all the differences between these two devices and pick a winner in each category, so read on to find out which Kindle will suit you best.

Specs

Kindle (2019) Kindle Paperwhite (2018)
Size 160 × 113 × 8.7 mm (6.3 × 4.5 × 0.34 inches) 167 × 116 × 8.18 mm (6.6 × 4.6 × 0.3 inches)
Weight 174 grams (6.1 ounces) 182 grams (6.41 ounces)
Screen size 6-inch 6-inch
Screen resolution 800 × 600 pixels (167 pixels per inch) 1,448 × 1,072 pixels (300 pixels per inch)
Storage space 4GB
8GB or 32GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Bluetooth Yes Yes
Ports Micro USB Micro USB
Water resistance No IPX8
Connectivity Wi-Fi Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi and Cellular
Battery 4 weeks based on 30 minutes of reading a day 6 weeks based on 30 minutes of reading a day
Colors Black, White Black
Price $90 $130
Buy from Amazon Amazon
Review score 4 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

amazon kindle
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

We’re not sure about the processor or RAM inside Amazon’s Kindles, but there doesn’t seem to be much difference in the responsiveness of these two models. Both the Kindle and the Kindle Paperwhite are fairly quick to turn pages and, though there’s a screen flicker as ghost images fade in menus, it’s not noticeable when you’re reading.

There is a difference in the battery department, though. Amazon prefers not to reveal the capacity but suggests the Kindle will last four weeks, based on half an hour of reading a day, while the Paperwhite can go six weeks. The Amazon Kindle also takes four hours to charge, while the Paperwhite can be charged in three hours. Sadly, both of them rely on antiquated Micro USB ports for charging.

Winner: Kindle Paperwhite

Design and durability

Both Kindles are crafted from chunky plastic, though the Kindle Paperwhite is slightly larger and heavier. The Paperwhite is all glass on the front, with big bezels around the 6-inch screen, while the Kindle has a 6-inch screen that’s surrounded by a plastic frame. This gives the Paperwhite a slightly more expensive feel and look, but there’s not much in it and some people will prefer the smaller and lighter Kindle.

What the Paperwhite offers that the basic Kindle lacks is waterproofing. The IPX8 rating means that it can be submerged in up to 6.5 feet of fresh water for up to an hour without sustaining damage.

Winner: Kindle Paperwhite

Display

Kindle Paperwhite review
Steven Winkelman/Digital Trends

Both of the displays here are 6 inches, but the Paperwhite has a higher resolution that makes it much sharper at 300 pixels per inch (ppi) compared to 167 ppi for the basic Kindle. Both also have built-in lights so the screen is legible indoors and out at any time of day or night, but once again the Paperwhite has an edge with five LEDs to the basic Kindle’s four. Neither of these models has a blue light filter for reading in bed, but the Paperwhite offers automatic brightness adjustment, whereas you have to adjust the brightness on the Kindle manually.

Winner: Kindle Paperwhite

Software and updates

amazon kindle
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

You’ll find that the software on the Kindle and the Paperwhite is virtually identical and so you can dig into Goodreads for recommendations, use X-Ray to find supplementary information about the page you’re on, and employ Smart Lookup to find definitions for words.

The Paperwhite comes with 8GB or 32GB of storage, which means it has a lot more room for books than the 4GB Kindle, but you can likely fit more than 2,000 tomes into 4GB, so there’s still plenty of space for lots of great books. The two will likely be updated on a similar schedule.

Winner: Tie

Special features

Kindle Paperwhite review
Steven Winkelman/Digital Trends

While there’s no speaker or audio port in either of these Kindles, you’ll be pleased to learn that there is support for Bluetooth, so you can stream audiobooks to a Bluetooth speaker or headphones via Audible. The Paperwhite also boasts the aforementioned waterproofing and there’s a model that supports cellular connectivity, as well as Wi-Fi, while the basic Kindle is Wi-Fi only.

Winner: Kindle Paperwhite

Price

The Amazon Kindle (2019) starts from $90, while the Kindle Paperwhite starts from $130. If you don’t want special offers on the lockscreen then you can add $20 to those prices. Amazon usually has deals on its Kindles, especially around Prime Day, so it’s worth looking out for those to bag a real bargain.

Overall winner: Kindle Paperwhite

With a superior screen, waterproofing, a bigger battery, and more storage, there’s no doubt that the Kindle Paperwhite wins our showdown. The sharper screen alone is reason enough to save up the extra cash if you can. The basic Kindle is still a decent device, though, and at $40 less it will justifiably tempt some bargain hunters.

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