Kindle has become synonymous with e-readers. In India, at least, there is absolutely no competition as far as options for e-readers go.
With its 10th generation of the Kindle e-readers, Amazon has released an update to the most popular Kindle product — the Kindle Paperwhite. The last update, seen in 2015, saw a bump to the pixel density on the Paperwhite, which went from 212 PPI to 300 PPI, making the text a lot sharper. With the 2018 Kindle Paperwhite, we get a lighter, thinner and completely waterproof variant of the device. In terms of looks, nothing much has changed.
If you are an existing Kindle Paperwhite user, and it is working well, hold on to it. The Kindle Paperwhite 2018 is purely for those of you who are planning to upgrade from an end-of-life regular Kindle. The new gen Paperwhite brings a few, but thoughtful improvements overall. The older Kindle Paperwhite receives a price drop as well, which makes it even more attractive. But if you can, spend that extra couple of thousand rupees and get the new one instead. Here's why...
Build and Design: 7.5/10
The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite does not look very different from its 2013 avatar, at first glance. But there are improvements that have been made to it.
For starters, the stand out feature on the 2018 Paperwhite is that it is water resistant. You can take it to the pool, or if you really want to finish that mystery novel while in the shower itself, you can do that. It is rated for Ingress Protection X8 aka IPX8 which means it can withstand immersion in up to 2 metres of water for an hour. Thus, minor water splashes are not an issue, but you may not want to experiment with dropping liquids such as coffee or beer or anything else that isn't pure H2O.
The other major change that is noticeable on the new Paperwhite is that the e-ink display is flush with the bezel, leaving no scope for dust and lint to settle in, as it would on the earlier generation. Thumbs up for that, Amazon.
I like the fact that the rear side of the Paperwhite has a nice, grippy texture to it, and the fact that the neatly rounded corners don’t dig into your palm. But it also happens to be a smudge magnet if you have oily fingers.
The new Paperwhite weighs in at around 182 g (for the Wi-Fi only variant and 191 g for the 4G version) which isn’t too heavy and, in fact, a tad lighter than the previous generation Paperwhite. The new Paperwhite is also about 8.18 mm thick, making it the thinnest Paperwhite so far.
The arrangement of buttons has been altered. The power button has been moved to just beside the USB charging port, to what I think is the dumbest place to move a power button to. That’s because if you’re holding the Paperwhite in portrait mode (which is how you're expected to hold a Kindle in the first place) your little finger rests on the power button and you have to consciously place it away from that button lest you accidentally put the Kindle into sleep mode. It happened on more than one occasion with me and it was frustrating.
The other thing I did not like about the Paperwhite was that the display was easily scratched. On the Paperwhite product page, Amazon claims that you can take the Paperwhite to the beach. I did that and after reading for some time, I put it back in my bag to go for a swim. But when I returned to my room, I noticed there were some noticeable scratches — most likely caused by sand particles. Silica (the primary element in sand) is very abrasive to glass and other surfaces, so for a company to claim that their device can be taken to the beach is a very bold step indeed.
I have a four-year-old Kindle Paperwhite with me and there isn’t one scratch on it, but with the new one, I got one within a week. I would not advise taking the Kindle Paperwhite outdoors where there could be dust, and definitely not on a beach.
The new Kindle Paperwhite sports a 6-inch Carta e-ink display with a front-light that can be adjusted. With the new Paperwhite, Amazon has employed five LED lights, an upgrade from the four that were present earlier. The device still retains the 300 PPI pixel density which ensures that the text is sharp, even at the lowest text size. The display also continues to render 16 levels of grayscale.
With this generation of Paperwhite, you only get a micro USB cable in the box. A charger is not included.
Format support includes: Kindle Format 8 (AZW3), Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, PMP through conversion.
Navigation is quite simple and if you have used the older Paperwhites or regular Kindles, you will be right at home. The Home button brings you to the home screen where you can arrange books either by cover design or in a list form. The Home button is followed by the back, brightness setting, Goodreads, shopping cart and search menus, which are self-explanatory. The settings menu is contextual and it will throw up different options depending on which menu you are currently in.
One addition in the settings menu is the presence of Inverse mode in the Accessibility section. This is basically a ‘Dark mode’ on the Kindle, which inverts the colours so that the non-text area appears black. This helps when reading at night as there isn’t too much light emanating from your Paperwhite screen.
The software includes older features such as X-Ray, Vocabulary Builder and Word Wise among others. Within the book, you can select between 9 fonts, including Amazon’s Bookerly. The text size goes from 1-14 and there are five levels of Bold for the font. Under the page tab, you can select the spacing between the lines, the thickness of margins, orientation and alignment of the text. If you have 100s of ebooks on your Kindle, you can also create ‘Collections’.
The Experimental Browser is fine as long as the site you're visiting is text heavy. With images on the web-page, it will take quite a while for them to load on the Paperwhite and it isn’t the best experience. Oh, and if you're wondering, that "Experimental Browser" has been around since the days of the Kindle Keyboard.
Kindle Page Flip is another feature that is activated by a slide-up gesture from the base of your Paperwhite — whereby you can scan through the book using a slider which shows up at the bottom of the device, without leaving the page you are currently on. Just like the older Paperwhite, you can highlight passages and share them on your social networks such as Facebook or Twitter — Goodreads being the default network. You can translate passages or words and you can choose from 16 languages, including Hindi.
The Kindle Paperwhite (2018) performs as expected. There’s only a slight bit of improvement in fluidity when navigating the menus and browsing through books as compared to the earlier generation Paperwhite. While reading books I didn’t notice any sort of ghosting, but it shows up when using the experimental browser or graphic novels.
The display is sharp and the front-light LEDs are bright enough to work in any conditions. One of the things that I like about the front-lit display on the Paperwhite, as opposed to the backlit display on our mobile screens, is that there is no stress or fatigue on the eyes. The Kindle Paperwhite 2018 with five LEDs, manages to improve the brightness without causing any fatigue on your eyes. When placed side by side with an older gen Paperwhite, you will notice that the brightness level is higher on the new Paperwhite. The additional LED is certainly beneficial.
The Paperwhite product page claims that the Kindle offers weeks of battery life, not just hours. Well, that claim is true only if you read the Kindle for 30 mins a day at a certain brightness level. If you are a bibliophile like me who reads for at least a couple of hours a day and many more hours over a long weekend, the Paperwhite will run out of battery in no time. I once found myself exhausting the battery over just a long weekend when I was engrossed in The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The battery life depends entirely on your level of reading interest.
Verdict and Price in India
The previous Kindle Paperwhite was a great device and I would always recommend it over the entry-level Kindle or the flagship Oasis. The Kindle Paperwhite 2018 just builds upon that goodness and brings waterproofing to the list of already exceptional features. The 8 GB variant costs Rs 12,999 and the 32 GB Wi-Fi + 4G variant costs Rs 17,999. Personally, I have never really seen any merit in going for the cellular variants of Kindles in general.
The 32 GB storage is overkill for just e-books. The reason 32 GB model was introduced was because in the international markets, the new Kindle Paperwhite supports Audible audiobooks. That feature is not present for Indian users despite Audible now being available in India, making the 32 GB model quite pointless on more than one front. If you think you'll get into audiobooks in the future, by all means, opt for the 32 GB model. If not, it's not worth the extra cash.
I think the cellular model is only useful when you're reading on multiple devices, where you'd rather pay more to have your reading history synced in real-time. Spending so much more for the rare occasion when you'd need to buy a book on the device itself seems pointless. You could easily just connect to a hotspot for those few minutes. Spend the cash you'd save on more ebooks or even a Kindle Unlimited subscription for yourself or a family member.
Overall, my pick would still be the older Kindle Paperwhite as it has now received a price drop. If you don’t mind spending a bit more for the waterproofing features, I’d highly recommend the non-4G Kindle Paperwhite (2018).
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