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Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2018 review: the new standard | Technology

The new Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is thinner, lighter and now water resistant, setting a new standard for what an e-reader should be.

There’s only so far you can push a single-use device. Technically the Kindle Paperwhite is more than just an e-reader, as it now has Bluetooth for playing back audiobooks too. But it’s still a book reader, plain and simple.

All that a book reader really needs is a great, clear and easy to read screen. The Paperwhite has that – a 6in 300ppi e-ink screen that’s crisp and easy to read in all conditions, complete with a good, even front-light when needed.

Compared with the 2015 Paperwhite, the design has been simplified further. It’s still a black rectangle with an e-ink screen in the middle. This time the screen is flush with the body, providing a seamless front a design formerly reserved for the more expensive Voyage and Oasis.





amazon kindle paperwhite review



The screen is now flush with the body making the fit and finish seamless across the front of the Paperwhite. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The body is 0.9mm thinner, 1mm shorter and 2mm narrower than the old Paperwhite, but it’s not really noticeable unless you compare them side by side. The bezels look about the same, the soft-touch plastic body feels the same, there’s the same button and micro-USB port in the bottom and the same LED that lights up when charging.

What is noticeable is the 23g reduction in weight, which brings the 2018 Paperwhite to just 182g; lighter is better when it comes to reading one-handed. Double the storage at 8GB on the cheapest model is also welcome, particularly if you want to load an audiobook.

Specifications

  • Screen: 6in e-paper (300ppi)

  • Dimensions: 167 x 116 x 8.2 mm

  • Weight: 182g (4G version 191g)

  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi (3G optional), Bluetooth

  • Storage: 8 or 32GB

  • Battery life: rated for approximately 21 hours of reading

Water resistant





amazon kindle paperwhite review



The LED in the button lights up when you power on or off the e-reader and shows charging state when plugged in. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

New this year is water resistance to 2 metres for up to 60 minutes, which means trips to the beach or poolside are less fraught with danger. It’s worth noting that the Paperwhite is unlikely to float, so perhaps best not to take it in the sea, but a quick dip or splash will be fine.

Battery life is the same quoted 21 hours of reading time, or six weeks of 30 minutes a day with wifi off. How far into a book that gets you depends on your reading speed, but I found it could comfortably stretch to a 400-page book between charges with the screen at half brightness or more. Switch on wifi and 4G, if you have it, and the battery life will be significantly reduced. It goes into a deep sleep if you don’t use it for an extended period, which helps maintain battery life even with connectivity on.





amazon kindle paperwhite review



X-ray continues to be great for keeping track of characters and other bits. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The reading experience is the same as any recent touch-screen Kindle. Swipe or tap to change pages, tap at the top to get to the menu, including quick settings such as airplane mode, brightness control and page options.

The swiping gestures are slightly easier now that there’s no lip to the display, but page turn buttons are better for one-handed reading – you’ll need to spend another £110 for the Kindle Oasis for those on an Amazon e-reader.

There are plenty of typefaces, text sizes, spacing and paragraph alignments to choose from, as well as Amazon’s X-ray service that helps you keep track of characters, locations and other bits.

If you have both the audiobook from Audible and the ebook, you can sync between the two, picking up in either format from where you left off, which works amazingly well.

Observations





amazon kindle paperwhite review



Amazon’s cases are good, but make the Paperwhite quite a lot thicker and more awkward to hold when reading. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian
  • Amazon’s optional cases are excellent, but add bulk and weight and aren’t that easy to get on and off

  • The Paperwhite is the first Kindle with 4G, which I got noticeably better signal with when traveling but given ebooks are tiny in size they download in about the same time

  • There’s no USB-C, so you might need a dedicated micro-USB cable just for the Kindle

Price

The 2018 Amazon Kindle Paperwhite costs £120 with wifi only and 8GB of storage, or £150 for 32GB of storage, both with “special offers” which are adverts on the lockscreen or similar and cost £10 to remove.

The 4G version costs £220 with 32GB of storage and no special offers.

For comparison, the standard Kindle costs £60 and the Kindle Oasis £230. The Kobo Aura H2O Edition 2 costs £150.

Verdict

The 2018 Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is about as simple and refined as a standard ebook reader can get. It provides an excellent reading experience, with a great screen, good battery life and ease of use that’s second to none.

The seamless screen looks sleeker than the previous version, but it doesn’t feel like a luxury item in the same way as the Kindle Oasis. At less than half the price of the top-end Kindle that’s just fine. The Paperwhite is therefore the standard paperback to the Oasis’s leather-bound edition.

The addition of water resistance and a reduction in weight are worthwhile, but at this stage the Kindle is less competing against other e-readers than it is against phones and tablets.

It’s not worth upgrading without reason from the 2015 model, but if you want a simple, dedicated e-reader, the 2018 Kindle Paperwhite is about as good as you can get.

Pros: great screen, easy to use and buy books, X-ray, audiobooks, even backlight, good battery life, light and easy to handle, water resistance

Cons: microUSB, no page turn buttons, no automatic brightness adjustment, more or less locked into Amazon’s ecosystem





amazon kindle paperwhite review



The back is soft-touch black plastic, which picks up fingerprints almost immediately. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

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