Amazon’s new Kindle Paperwhite 4 is an incremental advancement in the Kindle line. The core features of the Kindle Paperwhite 4 are a close match for the Kindle Paperwhite 3 and the now-defunct Kindle Voyage. If you are a fan of the Kindle experience, you will not be disappointed. If you are not a Kindle fan, nothing in the Kindle Paperwhite 4 will bring you over to the club.
It’s the Little Things that Count
The small size of a Kindle, along with the highly touted battery life, are the two main selling points. The new Kindle Paperwhite 4 does not stray from this formula. The Kindle Paperwhite 4’s body is smooth and almost seamless, at least to casual inspection. At 6.4 oz, its light weight and form factor is comfortable to hold. I’ve used it for over an hour at a time without any comfort issues.
The 6-inch screen sits flush in the frame, unlike the previous Kindle Paperwhite 4 with its recessed display. The 300 ppi display is as sharp and crisp as the Kindle Paperwhite 3, but the Kindle Paperwhite 4 includes an additional LED backlight, for a total of 5.
Can You Hear Me Now?
The single biggest feature that Amazon has included with the new Kindle Paperwhite is Audible support. The support is conditional—users must rely on pairing the Kindle Paperwhite 4 with a compatible Bluetooth device, such as an external speaker or headset. Early adopters of Kindles can recall a time when Kindles supported TTS and MP3 playback through external speakers. The Kindle Paperwhite 4 joins the ranks of the Kindle Oasis 2 and the Kindle 8 with Bluetooth support and Audible integration.
Rain on the Parade
If you are paying attention to Amazon’s promotions of the new Kindle Paperwhite 4, one thing that is hard to miss is the amount of attention that’s being devoted to the IPX8 certification. You can immerse the Kindle Paperwhite 4 for up to an hour in fresh water of a depth of 2 meters or less. That is almost word-for-word from the Kindle Paperwhite 4’s copy. The Amazon landing page shows a photo of the Kindle Paperhwite 4 shedding water like a dolphin and it makes one wonder who the target audience is for this device: the average person that would like to enjoy an eBook or pearl divers and frogmen.
I tested the waterproofing claim by tossing my Kindle Paperwhite 4 into a mixing bowl of water and letting it sit for 15 minutes. Just like Amazon claimed, the Paperwhite did not seem to be any the worse for wear. I think the real question here is how many situations will the new Paperwhite find itself in where this level of waterproofing is needed for actual use? For those who read in the tub or on the beach or at the pool, this feature will provide added value.
Keeps on going…and going…
One of the appeals of e-readers using E Ink technology is the low power consumption for devices. This translates into batteries that hold charges for a long time and displays that sip at power instead of gulping it down. The Kindle Paperwhite 4 touts a battery life that will last up to 6 weeks. To reach that level of battery life requires compromises: it’s based on 30 minutes of usage a day, with wireless disabled and with the lighting turned down. That’s a little over 20 hours of battery life on Kindle’s version of battery-saver mode. My battery life tests with the Kindle paperwhite 4 shows a consumption rate that seems to be comparable to the Kindle Voyage, and the Kindle Paperwhite 3.
The long battery life will complement the upgraded storage. The base model of the Kindle Paperwhite 4 comes with 8G of storage ($129.99) and can be upgraded to 32G for 30 dollars more ($159.99). Both storage options look small compared to newer phones and tablets, but the base model’s storage capacity is enough to store thousands of Amazon ebooks. It comes out to just around 6 gigs of available storage out of the box. The other 2 gigs are devoted to the operating system files.
It’s not the Destination, It’s the Voyage (Comparison)
Many reviewers and users are going to immediately compare the Kindle Paperwhite 4 to the Kindle Paperwhite 3. But there is also a comparison for the Paperwhite 4 and the Kindle Voyage.
The Voyage came out in November 2014, almost 4 years before the Paperwhite 4. Now that the Paperwhite 4 is here, the Voyage has waved farewell and ridden off into the sunset.
The Voyage used to be the top-tier Kindle. Then the Kindle Oasis came out in 2016 and the Voyage found itself positioned between the Paperwhite 3 and the Oasis. The Paperwhite 3 was the Kindle with the most value for the price and the Oasis was the luxury Kindle device. This led to the Voyage being marketed as a premium alternative to the Kindle Paperwhite 3 without the steep price tag of the Kindle Oasis. Think of the Kindle Paperweight 3 as a Camry, the Kindle Voyage as an entry-level BMW and the Kindle Oasis as a fully-loaded Mercedes.
The Kindle Paperwhite 4’s screen is comparable to the Kindle Voyage. The Voyage has 6 LEDs and features an adaptive light sensor, a feature lacking on the Kindle Paperwhite 4 (and frankly, one that few people will notice or miss).
The form factor is almost the same: weight is virtually identical and while the Kindle Voyage is slightly shorter, you won’t notice a difference unless you place them side by side. The flush display is also a Kindle Voyage feature that has been passed on to the Kindle Paperweight 4. The Kindle Paperwhite 4 also does away with the PagePress sensors of the Kindle Voyage—and since most users were likely turning pages via the touch display, I feel like it’s a change for the better.
The bottom line: The Paperwhite 4 feels like the best part of the Voyage and the Paperwhite 3, with the addition of more storage, the waterproofing, and the Audible and Bluetooth support. And the best part is the price. The Paperwhite 4’s base price of $129.99 sits comfortably between the previous $119.99 price of the Paperwhite 3 and the $199.99 price of the Voyage.
Who the Kindle Paperwhite 4 is For and Who Should Look Elsewhere
If you are not entrenched in Amazon’s Kindle store and are looking for an all-around device that can capably handle PDFs and a variety of eBook and graphic novel formats, you should look elsewhere. The Kindle was designed to NOT play well with others, and nothing changes with the Paperwhite 4. You want an Android tablet, an iPad, an e-reader with Android support or a Windows or Chrome OS tablet.
If you are on the fence and have the cash to spend, make sure you understand the limitations of the Paperwhite 4—and this goes for Kindles in general. The device feels stodgy and slooooow compared to a phone or tablet or even other eReaders. It is not a universal device meant to ease you into the joys of digital eBooks; it’s meant to make it easy to purchase and access Kindle and Audible titles. That’s it. If you can eke any other uses out if it, it will take effort and you will meet with limited success.
If you’re heavily invested in the Amazon Kindle store and your older Kindle or device is on its last legs or you are in the mood to upgrade and don’t mind the sticker price, getting the Paperwhite at the beginning of its product cycle makes sense. You will feel find the Paperwhite 4 a bargain and it will only disappoint you if you already own a Kindle Oasis 2.