Kindle Paperwhite (2018): The affordable waterproof e-reader

According to the old idiom, you shouldn’t waste time reinventing the wheel. Amazon has a proud track record of completely ignoring that advice and making incremental changes that go a long way to improving things we take for granted.

Case in point: the new 2018 Kindle Paperwhite. It’s the fourth version of this particular model and the 10th generation of Kindle overall. If you thought the book basically peaked somewhere between the arrival of the printing press in 1439 and the first Kindle Paperwhite in 2012, well… that’s just a sign you don’t have much imagination.

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Kindle Paperwhite (2018) hands-on review: Key specifications, price and release date

  • 6in 300ppi shatter-resistant E-Ink Carta display
  • 8GB or 32GB storage
  • IPX8 waterproofing
  • Same, “weeks-long” battery life as before
  • £119 for 8GB WiFi version, with lockscreen ads (£129 without lockscreen ads)
  • £150 for 32GB WiFi version with lockscreen ads (£160 without lockscreen ads)
  • £220 for 32GB cellular version, no lockscreen ads
  • Available 7 November 2018

Kindle Paperwhite (2018) hands-on review: Design, key features and first impressions

In a world where everyone has a powerful computer in their pockets, you might question the point of a device exclusively for reading. Amazon’s take on this is, as you might expect, a bit different: that a device such as the Kindle offers a private sanctuary perfected for reading without the distraction of tabs, notifications and a rapidly depleting battery.

Big deal, you might say. The first-generation Kindle offered that 11 years ago, which is completely true. So what does the first Kindle Paperwhite since 2015 bring to the party?

Well, it’s all about the incremental improvements I touched upon at the start. You probably won’t notice that it’s 10% thinner than previous generations, coming in at 8.1mm, but you will definitely accept that it’s pleasingly light at only 184g. The display is the same E-Ink Carta 1.2 as the last outing. Again, it’s 300ppi which looks delightfully sharp on the 6in display.

The display hasn’t grown. It’s still an inch smaller than the display on the top of the range Kindle Oasis but the Paperwhite does benefit from feature trickle-down in other areas. It has a flush finish, scratch-resistant display with no raised bezel, and it’s now water-resistant, just like its luxury sibling.

Previously, if you didn’t want to risk a bathtime disaster, you had to either stump up for the Oasis, get an ugly waterproof case or just go without your book in the tub. Now, the Kindle Paperwhite is protected to IPX8 standards, which means, in this case, that it can sit in two metres of water for up to an hour, for those sociopaths that prefer to do their reading at the local swimming baths.  

It’s gained an extra LED light, so should provide better, more even lighting, and there’s good news for voracious readers who were bumping into storage problems with the previous generation reader. The 2018 Kindle Paperwhite ships with 8GB of internal storage space – double the previous version. Given your average e-book weighs in at around 1.8MB that means the new Paperwhite can store around 2,000 books at a time. If you really want to put your local library to shame you can get a 32GB version, too.

That extra space may come in handy if you also like your books read to you. Amazon owns Audible and the 2018 Kindle Paperwhite supports the format, allowing readers to download audiobooks and play them back via Bluetooth. Not only that but, like the Kindle Oasis before it, if you own both the Audible and Kindle versions of a book, the Kindle Paperwhite will automatically sync your progress between the two. Neat.

Kindle Paperwhite (2018) hands-on review: Early verdict

An ebook reader isn’t a phone: even the biggest gadget addict doesn’t update theirs every year, and there’s nothing here that should make you consider upgrading as a priority, unless you do a lot of bathtime reading.

But there’s a reason why Amazon is, to all intents and purposes, the only e-reader game in town. These refinements, year-on-year, make the reading experience incrementally better and better. The company knows what it’s army of bookworms want, and early impressions suggest the 2018 Kindle Paperwhite is another direct hit.

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