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Amazon Kindle vs. Kindle Paperwhite

Most of the best e-book 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.

Looking for a bargain? We’ve curated a list of the best Cyber Monday Kindle deals, as well as the best Cyber Monday sales overall.

Specs

Kindle (2019) Kindle Paperwhite (2018)
Size 160 by 113 by 8.7 mm (6.3 by 4.5 by 0.34 inches) 167 by 116 by 8.18 mm (6.6 by 4.6 by 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, Twilight Blue, sage, plum
Price $90 $130
Buy from Amazon Amazon
Review score 4 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

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. The Paperwhite’s screen also sits flush with the casing, and this more high-end design gives the Paperwhite a slightly more expensive feel and look. However, there’s not much in it, and some people will prefer the smaller and lighter Kindle to the beefier Paperwhite.

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. While you’re unlikely to take your Paperwhite whitewater rafting, it does mean you can read by the poolside or in the bath without worrying about your device.

Winner: Kindle Paperwhite

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. This is more acceptable on the basic Kindle, but we think the Paperwhite deserves an upgrade to USB-C by the next iteration.

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

Unfortunately, neither of these Kindles has a speaker or audio port. Still, they do offer support for Bluetooth so that you can stream audiobooks to a Bluetooth speaker or headphones via Audible. Later models of the Paperwhite also feature cellular connectivity and Wi-Fi, compared to the entry-level Kindle, which only supports Wi-Fi connections. The Paperwhite, as we already mentioned, also boasts waterproofing, which is a nice additional feature.

Winner: Kindle Paperwhite

Price

The Amazon Kindle (2019) starts at $90, while the Kindle Paperwhite starts at $130. An additional $20 will get you ad-free versions of these e-book readers if you really hate ads. You can usually get lower prices for these Kindles and other Amazon devices if you wait for Prime Day or Cyber Monday.

Overall winner: Kindle Paperwhite

With a superior screen, waterproofing, a bigger battery, and more storage, there’s no doubt that the Kindle Paperwhite wins this showdown. The display quality and sharper resolution justify the Paperwhite’s higher price tag, and the added durability thanks to the waterproof design is another feature to take into consideration. The basic Kindle is still a decent device, though, and at $40 less, it’s a great option for those on a budget.

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