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Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2018) review: Exceedingly well read

Our Rating :
$129.99 from
Price when reviewed : £120
inc VAT (8GB version with screen ads)

The Kindle Paperwhite nabs features from the Oasis without a dramatic price hike


  • Flush screen design is a classy look
  • Excellent Audible integration
  • Now the cheapest waterproof Kindle


  • Interface is still a touch clunky
  • Audible drains its incredible battery

For those keeping track, this is Kindle Paperwhite number four. If you’re tracking Kindles more generally, it’s number 16, which may leave you wondering how Amazon can reinvent the wheel quite so many times.

It’s a gradual process and the 2018 remix of the Kindle Paperwhite continues this with a series of small but significant improvements to make it – balancing price against performance – the best Kindle out there. That said, unless you spend your life listening to audiobooks or reading in the bathtub, there’s no pressing need to upgrade.

READ NEXT: Amazon Kindle vs Paperwhite vs Oasis – what’s the best Amazon e-reader to buy?

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2018): What you need to know

If you’re of the opinion that the novel was perfected somewhere between 1439 (hello printing press) and 2012 (hello Kindle Paperwhite)what can the 2018 Paperwhite offer to change your mind?

Well, it’s thinner and lighter, of course, and it stores more books than ever: 8GB or 32GB worth, depending on how much money you’re happy to put down. That means it can store anywhere between 2,000 and 8,000 books, which should be enough for even the most indecisive reader.

More importantly, you can now use your Kindle to store audiobooks from Audible, which will eat through that new space a lot quicker. More excitingly, it’s IPX8 waterproofed, meaning you can read in the bath or by the pool without worrying about a particularly startling passage costing you another £120.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2018): Price and competition

That £120 price is important, because previously those two features – waterproofing and Audible support – were only available on the luxurious Kindle Oasis, which starts at £229. It’s still a better product than the Paperwhite, but it’s certainly not £109 better, objectively speaking.

If you’re prepared to move away from the Amazon ecosystem, the main competition is Kobo, and the Aura H2O has the same IPX waterproofing for around £150. If you do all your reading on public transport, or in bed away from the elements, the vanilla Kindle starts at £60 and remains the cheapest way to get into ebooks.

Speaking of cheap, the £119 starting price of the 2018 Kindle Paperwhite can quickly add up if you want extras. Factor in an extra £10 if you don’t want lockscreen adverts, for a start, and an extra £30 if you want the 32GB version. If you want the version without adverts, 32GB storage and free 4G, the bill rises to £219, approaching Kindle Oasis levels of expenditure.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2018): Design

The 2018 Kindle Paperwhite doesn’t just inherit features from the Oasis; it takes one big design cue as well. The 6in E Ink screen is completely flush with the bezel, which looks stylish, although it doesn’t offer many practical improvements (except perhaps giving dust fewer places to hide). It has the same 300ppi display, meaning text looks equally sharp on either device. This is a clear step up from the £60 Kindle and it looks great for text, although book covers still look a little drab in greyscale. That’s forgivable, given the average cover takes up at most around 0.4% of the average book.

Otherwise, the 2018 Paperwhite looks like most other Kindle devices released since Amazon dropped the hardware keyboard. It’s a bit thinner at 8.1mm and a touch lighter at 184g but instantly recognisable as a Kindle device. The display is surrounded by the kind of bezel that would look positively archaic on a smartphone, and there’s very little by the way of inputs. Just a power button and a micro-USB port interrupt the soft curves of the frame.

This leads to two disappointing design decisions. First up is this a touchscreen-only device. There are no physical buttons to turn the page, as on the now-departed Kindle Voyage or the more pricey Kindle Oasis.

Secondly, yes, this Kindle supports Audible audiobooks but without a 3.5mm headphone jack you’ll need Bluetooth headphones to enjoy them. That’s especially irritating if you have the kind of fussy headset that can only connect to one device at a time, given the laggy interface the Kindle still utilises.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2018): The reading experience

In fact, it’s remarkable how dated an experience the Kindle Paperwhite can feel at times. That sluggish interface combined with the slow onscreen keyboard leads to typos aplenty. Even opening a book from the main menu leads to a few awkward seconds before the screen finally catches up with your actions and puts you in the novel.

The reading experience itself is great, kicking smartphones and tablets into touch with its complete lack of distractions and eyestrain. But finding a new book once you’ve finished your current one reveals a device that’s advanced surprisingly little since it first launched in 2007 with a seeming age between pressing on the screen and the book opening.

The good news is that said feature works incredibly smoothly, once you’re all set up. In a book where you have both formats on the device, just tap the top of the screen and you’ll see a small icon in the bottom right that lets you switch between formats. Listen to your book on the way to the station, then switch to reading it when sat down on the train and the Kindle will magically track your place between the two.

This is all good news for Amazon, of course, given you have to buy both editions separately. Although if you buy the book first then Audible usually offers a discount when you buy the full version without credits. You can see for yourself which books you can upgrade here, which is a handy, if largely unpublicised, Amazon feature.

But reading remains the priority here: as an audiobook player, it’s nowhere near as compact as your smartphone, after all, making it tricky to tuck in your pocket for quick control. Fortunately, it excels at displaying text because Amazon gets the basics so close to perfection.

Not only are books synced instantly no matter which device you’ve bought them on, but you can customise the display to your liking, changing to one of ten fonts – including one that’s intended to be easier going for dyslexic readers. You can make the text bolder or adjust the justification to make it the book of your choosing. And it has a battery life that means Amazon doesn’t break it down into days, let alone hours.

Other ebook readers boast most of these things, of course, and have even more customisation options. But they crucially don’t have the symbiotic link with the Amazon store, so it’s hard to see how they can realistically compete when the Kindle gets the basics so right.

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The LED lighting is brighter than ever too, with up to 24 intensity settings, while still maintaining a battery that can be measured in weeks rather than hours. That is unless you listen to Audible on it. With the screen off, my 2018 Kindle Paperwhite dropped a whole 10% with an hour of audiobook playback, suggesting those that like their books read to them will need to keep a charger on hand.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2018): Verdict

The 2018 Kindle Paperwhite is a fantastic e-reader. While the interface feels sluggish and dated in between books, this simplicity becomes a virtue once you start reading. With no distractions or eye strain there’s simply nothing to stop you getting lost in the story; not even that Achilles’ heel of the tech world: battery life.

More pleasingly, the new Kindle Paperwhite inherits a lot of features that used to be exclusive to the extravagant Kindle Oasis. Waterproofing, Audible playback and a display flush with the bezel all make the cut here without raising the price significantly: indeed, the basic Paperwhite with adverts is a mere £10 more than the now-retired 2015 edition.

Do you need to upgrade to it right now? Not unless you listen to a lot of Audible audiobooks or read mostly in the bath. But when your trusty old e-reader gives up the ghost, you know exactly what to order.

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