I reviewed Amazon’s new waterproof Kindle Paperwhite to see if the upgrade is worth it — and I’d recommend it to anyone

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Guillermo Garszon/Business Insider

  • The new Kindle Paperwhite is waterproof, holds thousands of ebooks, and costs just $130, making it the best ebook reader for most people’s needs.
  • I read dozens of ebooks on the Kindle Paperwhite to put it to the test, and it’s a wonderful reading experience.
  • The small size makes it easy to travel with and it’s waterproof enough to take a spill into the bathtub or pool without sustaining damage.
  • If you’ve been on the fence about ebook readers, this is the one that will push you over the edge and convince you to give ebooks a try. Once you go digital, you never go back.

Amazon’s Kindles are the most popular ebook readers by far, and they just keep getting better. For years, Kindles stayed largely the same: They were essentially 6-inch tablets with black-and-white E Ink screens encased in chubby, black plastic borders.

The first Kindle Oasis shook things up with its slim, sleek design, and the second-generation Oasis did one better by being the first “waterproof” Kindle ever made. For ebook lovers everywhere, a Kindle that was water resistant enough to survive a two-hour dunk in a tub of water was a prayer finally answered.

There was just one problem: The price.

The Kindle Oasis cost $250 while the Kindle Paperwhite cost $130, and the entry-level Kindle cost just $80. Although a waterproof Kindle was nice to have, a lot of people balked at the big price jump.

Amazon seems to have heard the protests of Kindle owners everywhere, and in 2018, the company answered with the water-resistant Kindle Paperwhite.

I’ve tested many Kindles and ebook readers over my past six years as a tech-product reviewer, including the $80 Kindle, the older Paperwhite, the high-end Oasis, and several ebook readers from Kobo, Amazon’s main competitor in the space. Although I’m a firm believer that the Oasis is actually worth its high price and it’s my ebook reader of choice, I know not everyone has that kind of money to spend on an ebook reader.

I’ve been testing the 2018 Kindle Paperwhite for several months, and I can confidently say that it’s the best Kindle for your money, and arguably the best ebook reader as well.

Here’s my full review.

Finally – a water-resistant Kindle you can take to the beach

Let’s start with the design and key specs.

The biggest improvement to the new Kindle Paperwhite is that it is finally water resistant. Thanks to its IPX68 water-resistance rating, you can drop this Kindle in fresh water for up to 30 minutes without destroying your ebook reader. That means you can finally take it to the beach, pool, or bath and read in peace.

The 2018 Paperwhite has the same 6-inch E Ink screen in black and white as the previous version. The text looks crisp and clear, thanks to the sharp resolution of 300 pixels per inch. Like all other Kindles, it has fairly chunky black bezels and a nice grippy feel to it. There are no page-turning buttons, so all you have is the power button and Micro-USB charging port.

The ebook reader also has a built-in backlight so you can read in the dark without turning a light on. I find this feature especially useful when I’m reading at night, because I don’t have to worry about disturbing my partner. It’s also great for reading on flights when they turn off the overhead lights. The backlight is the reason I’ve never really liked the basic, entry-level Kindle – its lack of a backlight means no reading in the dark, which makes it more or less like a physical book.

Beyond the screen, the most important specs are battery life and storage, and the Paperwhite has both – in spades.

With the 8GB model, you can have thousands of ebooks on your Kindle, so most people won’t even need the 32GB version. You can also connect the Paperwhite to a pair of wireless headphones or a wireless speaker and listen to Audible audiobooks, thanks to its new Bluetooth connectivity.

As for the battery, if you read half an hour a day with wireless off and the light setting at 13, the battery should last for six weeks. In testing, I found Amazon’s battery-life claim to be entirely accurate. The Paperwhite’s battery lasts a long time with normal use, and I’ve rarely had to charge it.

If you jack up the brightness or read more hours a day, battery life gets shorter, of course. If you don’t turn the Wi-Fi off by hitting the little Airplane icon, you will lose battery much faster and have to recharge sooner, so definitely turn Airplane mode on whenever you’re not browsing for ebooks to buy on the Kindle store or downloading new ebooks.

The Bluetooth feature will also drain the battery because it requires Airplane mode to be turned off so your Kindle can connect to headphones or the speaker, so if you’re listening to audiobooks with your Kindle, you’ll have to charge it more often.

Kindle Paperwhite 2018 open cover on table.JPG

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Guillermo Garszon/Business Insider

Here are all the specs and dimensions

  • Screen: 6-inch E Ink Carta, built-in light, 300ppi, optimized font technology, 16-level gray scale
  • Dimensions: 6.6 x 4.6 x 0.3 inches (167 x 116 x 8.18 mm)
  • Weight: 6.4 ounces (Wi-Fi) or 6.8 oz (LTE version)
  • Storage: 8 GB or 32 GB – holds thousands of books
  • Battery Life: 6 weeks, based on a half hour of reading per day with wireless off and the light setting at 13
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi with LTE; Bluetooth
  • Supported ebook formats: Kindle Format 8 (AZW3), Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, PMP through conversion; Audible audio format (AAX)
  • Waterproofing: IPX8 water resistance rating, can withstand immersion in 2 meters of fresh water for 60 minutes

What it’s like to read on the Kindle Paperwhite

I never thought that I’d enjoy reading on an ebook reader. I was completely a physical paper book person until I became a tech reporter and found myself traveling all the time and always running out of room for books in my carry-on bag. I started reviewing ebook readers, and I simply fell in love.

The ebook reader that converted me was the Kindle Oasis, mainly because of its page-turning buttons and slim design, which make it easy to hold and read one-handed. It’s still my go-to ebook reader, but the new Kindle Paperwhite is the one I’d recommend to most people. I fully admit that the $250 price tag of the Oasis is too much for most people, and the Paperwhite has nearly all the same features for just $130.

Although I miss the page-turning buttons, the Paperwhite makes it a pleasure to read. It’s comfortable to hold, thanks to its thicker, rubbery bezels and grippy plastic back. Turning pages is easy with a simple tap of my finger, and I can easily adjust the brightness, font, and text size to suit my preferences. I also love to highlight quotations from the books I’m reading and share them on Goodreads, the social network for readers, which is built right into the all Kindles.

Because I already use a Kindle, all my ebooks from my Amazon account automatically appeared on the Paperwhite when I signed in with my email address. I then chose which ones to download, waited for them to finish, and then turned on Airplane mode to save battery.

Amazon has tons of ebooks available, so you should be able to find most titles easily. If you want to get deals on ebooks, you can subscribe to BookBub, a free service that sends you a daily email with ebook deals and discounts.

You can also get a lot of ebooks for free from a variety fo sources. Prime subscribers can read a selection of ebooks for free with Prime Reading, and anyone can browse all the free Kindle ebooks on Amazon or check out Project Gutenberg’s collection of free classics.

I also like to get ebooks from my local library, which is super easy to do with the Libby or Overdrive apps. You simply sign into your library with your card number and PIN and search for Amazon-friendly ebooks that are available to borrow. When you go to borrow the ebook, you can ask it to send to your Kindle once you sign in with your Amazon account. The next time you connect to Wi-Fi with the Kindle, the library ebook will download.

You can learn how to get library ebooks on your Kindle and other great tips and tricks in my full guide to how to use a Kindle.

Kindle Paperwhite 2018 open table.JPG

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Guillermo Garszon/Business Insider

The bottom line

Amazon’s new Kindle Paperwhite still has many of the same specifications as older Kindle Paperwhite ebook readers. The biggest changes come from the addition of waterproofing, which allows you to safely take your Kindle to the beach or in the bath without worrying about it getting wet; and Bluetooth technology, which allows you to listen to Audible ebooks when you pair your Kindle with Bluetooth headphones or a speaker.

Both of these changes are very welcome and make the new Paperwhite a worthwhile upgrade for those of you who have older Kindles from several years ago. It’s also the most fully-featured Kindle you can buy for $130, though if you want to get a slimmer design and the benefit of page-turning buttons, you’ll have to spend $120 more to get the Kindle Oasis, Amazon’s most high-end ebook reader.

  • Should you buy it? Yes. Unless you want to spend $120 more to get the slim design and page-turning buttons of the Kindle Oasis, the Paperwhite is the best ebook reader you can buy.
  • Which model should you get? We recommend the 8GB model, because it holds thousands of ebooks and if you ever exceed the onboard storage, you can keep all your other ebooks in the cloud. If you really hate ads on your lockscreen, you may want to pay extra for the ad-free version, but it’s not necessary, as the ads aren’t really intrusive.
  • What are your alternatives? The other Kindle we recommend is the Oasis, but again, it will cost you $120 more. If you don’t want to get an Amazon-based ebook reader, we recommend the Kobo Aura H2O Edition 2. Kobo is Amazon’s main competitor, and it supports more ebook formats, including EPUB files. The Aura H2O Edition 2 is just as water resistant as the Kindle Paperwhite and it holds just as many ebooks.

The Kindle Paperwhite is a great buy, and we highly recommend it. If you do decide to buy the Paperwhite, I also have a full guide on how to use your Kindle, including how to get free ebooks and more.

Pros: Water resistant enough to take to the beach, holds thousands of ebooks, has a backlight, supports many ebook formats, easy to use, huge library of ebooks available, comfortable to hold, long battery life

Cons: Not as cheap as the entry-level Kindle, not as slim as the Kindle Oasis, no page-turning buttons, Amazon ebook format locks you in

Buy the Kindle Paperwhite on Amazon for $129.99