Amazon has a vice-like grip on the e-reader market. Competitors such as Kobo and Barnes and Nobles' Nook have tried but failed to give the Seattle-based company a run for its money. The Kindle Paperwhite sits in the middle of Amazon's lineup of reading devices and is the most well-rounded model.
The Kindle Paperwhite was last updated in 2015 and has had a rather long shelf life. This new generation brings water resistance of the pricier Kindle Oasis to a much more palatable price point. The Wi-Fi-only variant with 8GB of internal storage is priced at Rs. 12,999, and the one we have on hand, with LTE and 32GB of storage, retails for Rs. 17,999. The updates seem quite promising, but is this still the de-facto e-reader to buy? Let's find out.
The new Kindle Paperwhite is thinner and lighter than its predecessor, which makes one-handed use easier than before. The reduction in weight is most noticeable during marathon reading sessions. The borders around the display are quite substantial but the screen is now flush with the chassis which makes the device feel more premium.
This generation of the Kindle Paperwhite is only available in black. It does not scream for attention but looks classy and understated. The box is very simple and contains the Kindle itself, some documentation, and a Micro-USB cable. The soft plastic back panel has a rubber-like finish which looks and feels premium, and enhances grip. The front fascia is glossy and picks up a lot of smudges and fingerprints.
While the premium Kindle Oasis sports sharp, curved lines, the new Kindle Paperwhite has curved edges, which helps it sit nicely in the palm of your hand. The device sports only one physical button: a power switch on the bottom. The button is small but tactile, and is positioned in such a way so as to avoid errant hits while reading. Some might miss physical page turn buttons, but we found the touch controls easy to use.
Plastic might not be associated with quality but the Paperwhite is very solidly put together and the chassis did not exhibit any creaks during our review period. The Kindle Paperwhite still uses a Micro-USB port, which is a shame. A switch to the newer, reversible USB-Type C standard would have been welcome.
The 6-inch E Ink Carta screen is of the same resolution (300ppi) as before, but now sits flush with the device's front glass. E Ink Carta was first introduced with the Kindle Paperwhite 2, and is 20 percent less reflective than the older E Ink Pearl screens. The quality of the panel is top-notch: text is sharp and crisp, outdoor legibility is excellent, and the front light is evenly spread across the display.
The more expensive Kindle Oasis features ambient sensors that automatically change the display's brightness as you move into different lighting conditions. With the Kindle Paperwhite, you have to manually adjust the brightness. We cannot hold the lack of automatic adjustment against the Kindle Paperwhite as it already offers great value for money and Amazon has to keep some features exclusive to the Oasis to justify its premium price tag.
Just like the Kindle Oasis, the new Kindle Paperwhite is IPX8 rated, which means it can withstand immersion in up to 2m of water for up to one hour. We used our Kindle in the shower and even immersed it in a bucket full of water, and it emerged unscathed. The ability to read on the Kindle in a bathtub, at the beach, or near a swimming pool is quite an attractive proposition, and should appease many users.
The user interface is more or less unchanged compared to the previous generation, and is quite logically laid out. You can customise the font type, font size, page width, orientation, and alignment. A new feature with this Kindle is the ability to create custom profiles. Users can save multiple reading settings and switch between them on the fly. This feature is particularly useful if a single device is being shared between multiple users.
The Kindle goes into a hibernation mode when it's left unused for more than an hour. It then takes a few seconds to come alive, with the message "Waking Up" displayed at the bottom of the screen. While this can get a bit annoying at times, it's worth living with for the sake of improved battery life.
The more expensive LTE variant (the one we reviewed) has 32GB of built-in storage, as opposed to 8GB on the Wi-Fi variant. The average Kindle ebook requires about 500kb of storage space, so unless you plan on loading up a lot of PDFs or audiobooks, it's not worth buying the 32GB model just for the sake of increased storage. Both versions of the previous generation Kindle Paperwhite only had 4GB of storage.
It must be noted that this is the first Kindle with LTE in India. The pricier Oasis — and other Kindle models — had to make do with 3G, though the faster data transfers are unlikely to have a huge impact on day-to-day usage.
Amazon sells a water-safe fabric cover for Rs. 1,799 in blue, black, and yellow colours. The soft microfiber interior protects the display against scratches, and the textured fabric on top feels premium and enhances grip. The fabric is also water-safe, which makes it a perfect accompaniment to the water-resistant Kindle Paperwhite. We used the Kindle with the case attached in a bathtub, and the case did not suffer any damage.
In international markets, the new Kindle Paperwhite also lets users listen to Audible audiobooks via Bluetooth. Unfortunately, Amazon has omitted this feature from the Indian variant, which is a bit odd considering the recent launch of Audible in India. This feature is not present in the pricier Kindle Oasis either. Amazon couldn't confirm if audiobook support might come to India in the future.
What you can do at the moment is activate the VoiceView Screen Reader feature which reads out menu items as well as books in a robotic voice.
Battery life is superb. When we started using the Kindle Paperwhite, its battery level was near the 70 percent mark, and after two weeks of constant usage (around 30 minutes every day with the front light enabled all the time and LTE used occasionally), the level fell to around 20-25 percent.
With IPX8 waterproofing, a display flush with the glass, and a thinner and lighter body, the new Kindle Paperwhite has cemented its position as the best e-book reader for most people. The gap between the Kindle Oasis and the Kindle Paperwhite has now become much narrower. The Oasis might look more premium and offer certain extra features like auto brightness, but the Paperwhite ticks all the right boxes and is by far the most well-rounded model in Amazon's lineup of reading devices.
The LTE model is priced a bit steeply, but the Wi-Fi-only variant offers great value for money. If you can live without water resistance and are fine with a recessed display, you could still consider the previous generation Paperwhite, which is priced a little lower at Rs. 10,999 and can regularly be found for less than Rs. 10,000 during sales.
Overall rating (out of 5): 4