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Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is the best e-reader for your money

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The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite comes packed with just about every feature you can imagine — and costs only $  130.
The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite comes packed with just about every feature you can imagine — and costs only $ 130.
Image: Zlata ivleva / mashable
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Frontlit display • Waterproof up to 2 meters for 60 minutes • Saves different reading profiles • Starts at 8GB of storage • Seamlessly switch between audiobooks and reading
Smaller screen than more expensive models • Can’t change color of the built-in lights
The Bottom Line

The Kindle Paperwhite is the best value e-reader available. It has every feature you could ask for at a very reasonable price.

Mashable Score4.75

Cool Factor4.0
Learning Curve5.0
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Bang for the Buck5.0

If you spend a lot of time in airports or on the road, you quickly realize it’s better to travel with fewer electronic devices in your luggage. One of the great exceptions to this rule is the Amazon Kindle e-readers. They’re made to last for weeks on a single charge, and store a huge library of books, so that you can easily travel with your entire collection. Since the first Kindle launched in 2007, they’ve been considered some of the best available e-readers and travel companions. But does the newest member of the Kindle family do enough to hold on this recognition?

Amazon recently shared with us its brand new Kindle Paperwhite ($ 130), which is one step above its cheapest Kindle model and one step below its most expensive. It’s the model that’s often marketed as the greatest value for people, giving readers high-end features such as waterproofing, but in a small body and at a fraction of the cost of the bigger Kindle Oasis ($ 249). The Kindle Paperwhite is built to be the best available e-reader to the most amount of people, and historically this model has been lauded as the one you should buy.

So what makes this new Kindle Paperwhite so damn special? In this review, we’ll break down point-by-point what you get with this new Kindle, whether you need to upgrade, and whether this is something that you should consider buying if you don’t already have one. What you’ll find is that Amazon really hit it out of the park with this Kindle, and you’ll will struggle to find a popular holiday gift item that is this good. So with that in mind, let’s jump in starting with the hardware.

The Kindle Paperwhite is 10 percent lighter and 10 percent thinner than its predecessor.

The Kindle Paperwhite is 10 percent lighter and 10 percent thinner than its predecessor.

Image: Zlata Ivleva / mashable

An excellent travel companion

It’s hard to imagine the Kindle Paperwhite getting any better than the near-perfect previous version, but this new Paperwhite builds on some of the best attributes of the previous model, and it starts with the body of the device.

Amazon boasts that the new Kindle Paperwhite is 10 percent thinner, 10 percent lighter, and 10 percent brighter than the previous generation. It’s certainly not enough to justify upgrading from the previous model, but does help Amazon retain its stranglehold on the entire e-reader market. Think of this upgrade like an “S” version of an iPhone. The improvements are iterative and hard to tell at first glance — but they are significant enough that they ensure the device remains the best available in its class.

I’ve been a Kindle owner for about eight years now, using two devices in that time, and one of the biggest issues I’ve had with my Kindle Oasis from 2014 is that I don’t like bringing it to the beach. I’ve always been worried about getting sand lodged into the ports or, god forbid, getting water on the device during my previous vacation reading time. 

The new Paperwhite takes care of this concern through the addition of waterproofing (IPX8 rated). Yes, this means that you can now submerge your Kindle in two meters of water for up to 60 minutes without having to worry about bricking the entire device. We’re not sure why you’d ever want to submerge your Kindle for that long, but at least the option is there.

The more practical use case is taking the Kindle Paperwhite to the beach, poolside, or even in the hot tub if you’re feeling really ambitious. Now, you can find the most comfortable setting to read in — even if that means being sprawled out on an inflatable swan in your backyard swimming pool. 

The Kindle Paperwhite comes packed with extras, including six months of Kindle Unlimited for free ($  60 value).

The Kindle Paperwhite comes packed with extras, including six months of Kindle Unlimited for free ($ 60 value).

Image: Zlata ivleva / mashable

Wait, it does more?

I’ve always felt that the extra features on an e-reader are a bit of a gimmick, since the whole point of the device is single-purpose use. In my mind, a good e-reader should be really good at one thing: displaying words on a page for a very long time. Anything beyond that is typically unnecessary and ends up draining the battery faster — defeating the purpose of an otherwise useful machine.

The Kindle Paperwhite does a great job of packing in lots of extra features that making reading easier and more fun. It starts with the personalized reading settings. Now, you can save font sizes, boldness, and orientation settings as a profile, and you can quickly switch between different users from the home screen. Amazon has also added family libraries, which makes it easier for people to access books from an account of a spouse or partner. Inevitably, these features are totally unnecessary, but make it much easier for multiple people to share a device and enjoy the books they love.

Another unexpectedly good addition is the Kindle’s integration with Audible, one of the largest suppliers of audiobooks. What’s impressive is that you can access the Audible store directly from the Kindle home screen, and when you decide to buy an audiobook, you can seamlessly switch between the written and spoken version of the book using Amazon’s proprietary “Whispersync” technology.

So, if you’re the type of person that enjoys reading a book part of the time and listening to it during other parts of the day (say in the evening versus your commute), the Kindle makes it ridiculously easy to jump between versions, and pick up exactly from the page you left off on. Admittedly, this was something that I hadn’t been doing before owning the Kindle Paperwhite, but really enjoyed trying during this review. Safe to say that I’m now considering buying an Audible subscription just for this feature.

The Kindle Paperwhite also comes with a bluetooth antenna, unlike previous generations, so that you can listen to the spoken version of your audiobook on speakers or wireless headphones if you so please. This was something I didn’t find much use for, but it’s easy to imagine how, say, a younger person might want to take advantage of this feature using headphones. The only catch with using the bluetooth antenna is that it (of course) consumes significantly more battery than the super-efficient e-ink display that comes with the device.

Finally, the Paperwhite has a front-lit display that makes it easier to read at night, and is the primary reason you’d want to choose this over the cheaper Kindle ($ 80), which crucially does not have a screen that lights up. I can’t emphasize enough how important this front-lit screen is, especially for people who travel frequently. It’s the main reason I upgraded from my third-generation Kindle a few years ago. Having a device that stays charged for weeks and lights up in dark places is an incredible benefit to have while backpacking, or even spending several hours on an airplane and in airports. Let me say this one more time: You definitely want the front-lit screen.

With it's slimmer body, Audible integration, and frontlit display, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better e-reader for this price.

With it’s slimmer body, Audible integration, and frontlit display, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better e-reader for this price.

Image: Zlata Ivleva / mashable

Final thoughts

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is hands-down the best value e-reader you can buy. It’s not quite as big as the Kobo Forma ($ 280) or Kindle Oasis ($ 250), but for a large majority of readers that won’t matter. Plus, it’s easier to carry around in this smaller body and costs way less. It’s also packed with high-end features like Audible Whispersync and waterproofing. But if you still can’t reason through buying this device, consider that Amazon is also throwing in a six-month free trial to Kindle Unlimited, which gives you unlimited access to millions of titles and many of their audiobook versions on Audible. If you don’t have an e-reader yet, and want to buy one for yourself or a for a loved one, look no further than the Amazon Paperwhite. 

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