The 4th generation Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is a reason to upgrade from older models. This device brings a number of notable features to the table, such as high resolution display that is completely flush with the bezel and it is waterproof. It has Bluetooth functionality, so you can purchase Audible audiobooks and listen to them on your wireless headphones.
The Paperwhite 4 features a 6 inch E Ink Carta HD capacitive touchscreen display with a resolution of 1072×1448 and 300 PPI. Amazon is using a plastic-backed 300ppi E Ink display, but it isn’t E Ink Mobius; it’s the company’s own design and it is made of plastic, not glass. The screen is completely flush with the bezel and this is done because it is the first Paperwhite that is waterproof with IPX8 certification. This means you can read in the bathtub or at the beach. It is also immune to spills such as coffee or tea.
Amazon has been bullish about flat screen and bezel designs for a number of years. The recently discontinued Kindle Voyage and latest generation Kindle Oasis 2 both have this type of screen and now the Kindle Paperwhite 4 has it too. One of the compelling aspects of this type of design is that it is easier to pinch and zoom, because it is using a capacitive touchscreen display and not one with Infrared technology. Edge to edge swiping and gesting is also easier, and ditto with page turns.
The 4th generation Paperwhite has a front-lit display with 5 LED lights, whereas the Kindle Paperwhite 3 only had four LED lights. This lighting system is primarily used to read in the dark and in low-light conditions.
Almost every single company in the e-reader arena has a front-lit display and they put the LED lights on the bottom of the bezel and they project light upwards. This provides even light distribution across the screen and the light does not shine directly into your eyes like a computer monitor, smartphone or tablet does. At full brightness, the screen is glorious to behold, it is the whitest screen that Amazon has ever had on a Paperwhite. When you turn down the brightness level to the lowest setting, it actually turns the screen lighting system completely off, other Kindles still emitted a bit of light, which contributed towards decreased battery life.
Last year Amazon was rumored to be developing a color temperature system on the Kindle. LAB126, the secretive R&D arm was experimenting with many types of designs and they could not get it polished enough in time for the Paperwhite 4 to hit mass production. Amazon may include this system in the Oasis 3 next year, to encourage people to upgrade from the 1st and 2nd generation model.
Underneath the hood is a Freescale 6SLL Cortex-A9 @800M/1GHz processor and 512MB LPDDR3 of RAM. There are two different storage models, depending on your needs. The first is 8GB which is twice the amount that the Kindle Paperwhite 3 employed and a 32GB model, which is ideal for people who have large collections of manga or PDF files. The Oasis 2 and Kindle Paperwhite 4 are the only two e-readers that have different storage configurations. I like the fact there is two different storage options, depending on the user.
Amazon also sells 3G variants of the Kindle, which gives you free internet access that you do not have to pay a monthly fee. The only thing you can do with this internet access is download books from the cloud or purchase audiobooks and ebooks and have them delivered right to the Paperwhite 4. You cannot use the web browser for anything other than Wikipedia, Amazon puts ruthless limitations on what you can do with 3G. Our review unit had internet access and without WIFI, we were actually getting LTE internet, which made downloading content quicker.
Amazon has disclosed to Good e-Reader that they are using a 1500 mAh battery, this is a bit bigger than the 1450 mAH that the Paperwhite 3 employed. I noticed that our review unit lasts about 3 weeks of reading every day for a few hours with the light sometimes on and off. On the product details page Amazon says “A single charge lasts up to six (6) weeks, based on a half hour of reading per day with wireless off and the light setting at 13. Battery life will vary based on light settings, wireless usage and LTE. I recommend if you want to preserve battery life to the max, just put it in airplane mode. Amazon constantly tries to sync new files, updated ebooks, purchased content and firmware updates at regular intervals, which decreases battery life.
The all-new Kindle Paperwhite is is the thinnest and lightest Kindle Paperwhite yet, measuring 8.18mm thick and weighing 182g—less than half the weight of many paperback books—so extended reading sessions are even more comfortable. Speaking of reading, this device supports 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).
The Paperwhite 4 needs cases that are specifically designed for it, because it is thinner and less wide. Cases designed for the Paperwhite 3 will not work on it. The sleep magnet was also repositioned, so existing sleepcover cases will also not work properly with the P4.
The last thing I want to mention is the retail packaging on the Kindle Paperwhite 4. It is quite different than any other Kindle. The Box is bright blue and very narrow. Inside the box is a black insert that contains the e-reader, a USB charging cable and 2 page user guide, that basically just tells people to visit the Amazon website. The plastic cover containing the Kindle opens from the side, instead of the front. You can check out our unboxing video at the end of this review for full details, but Peter and I both think the overall packaging is visually striking.
The Kindle Paperwhite 4 is using Linux as the primary operating system and this is the OS they have always used. The consistency of the UI and fluidness is one of the big reasons why Amazon Kindle owners feel right at home, no matter the model. Amazon constantly pushes out firmware updates to fix bugs and add new features, they do this better than Barnes and Noble and Kobo. The Amazon OS is basically rock solid and hardly ever crashes.
Amazon has totally revised the home screen for the all new Paperwhite. The new home experience makes it easier to find your next read based on your reading history, including books that are free for you to read from Kindle Unlimited or Prime Reading. You can also view reading accomplishments, like how many days in the past month you’ve read, as well as fun facts and tips so you can get the most out of your device.
If you share the Paperwhite 4 with various other family members or a significant other, there is a new option to save multiple reading settings directly from the settings menu. This includes font type, font-size, lighting levels and most other user settings. This will preserve your ideal configuration if someone else wants to use it, which is very ideal.
Maybe the Kindle Paperwhite 4 is your first e-reader from Amazon and you have questions or concerns. If you swipe up from the home screen there are a number of additional tips, recommendations and common answers to questions.
The library menu has changed from the Kindle Paperwhite 3 and you can sort by audio books and comics. Amazon also considers graphic novels and manga as comic books, so all of that content that can be sorted independently. This is useful if you have a large selection of content in your library. You can also sort by ebooks, documents, author, title and date, which is standard fare.
Amazon has has introduced a new option to change the size of the text and UI elements. You can have two options; standard and large. The default is standard and large will basically increase the size of the icons on the main navigation bar and the homescreen. When you browse the library and settings menu the font size has also been increased.
There is also a setting under accessibility that will invert the colors on the e-reader. All backgrounds will be black and the text will be white. This appeals to some people that might have vision disorders or some that just prefer to read this way. The only limitation is if the front-lit display is engaged, even at maximum brightness the screen seems dull and muted.
Audiobooks are a billion dollar industry and Audible is the largest online retailer. The new Paperwhite 4 has audiobook functionality and you can buy them a new audiobook section from the Amazon bookstore.
Purchasing audiobooks on the Paperwhite 4 is really easy, providing you already have an Audible account. If you do not have an Audible account you can register one for free. Audible basically has two different systems in place. You can subscribe and get X number of credits per month, depending on how much you want to pay or pay for each title individually without subscribing.
When browsing the Audible catalog on the Kindle everything is split up into genre sections and there are some editorial based content based on the season, various book awards or special events. There are free samples of every title available, so you can get a sense of the narrator and the production quality.
Once you download a full version of the audiobook you can listen to it with the audio player or delete it from your device when you are done and it will be stored in the cloud. If you already have an Audible account on your smartphone or tablet and already used credits for past purchases, these all will be available to download from your Kindles library.
The built in audiobook player is tremendously robust. You can skip forward or ahead fifteen seconds or change the pitch level. While listening to an audiobook, the Paperwhite 4 displays how much time is left in a chapter and has software driven volume button. There is a bluetooth notification on the bottom of the screen that tells you what device you have paired it with. If you have not connected a pair of headphones or wireless speakers with it yet, it will walk you through the setup process.
It is important to note that you can’t pair the Paperwhite 4 with a smartphone or tablet. You can only do it with a Bluetooth enabled device like headphones or a speaker. I haven’t tried it yet with the new Sonos speakers, but cheap stereo speakers works.
One of the best aspects about the Paperwhite 4 is that it has full whispersync for voice technology built into the e-reader. If you have a compatible ebook and audiobook, a few interesting things will happen. If you are listening to the audiobook for a few chapters and then switch to the ebook, your exact positioning will be preserved. I am not sure if has the functionality to listen to the audiobook while you are reading the ebook and the words will be highlighted as it is being played, like it does in the Android App. When we tried to purchase a compatible audiobook, we were greeted with a popup message that said that this audiobook would like a few hours to be delivered to our Kindle, no idea why.
Whenever Amazon releases a new e-reader it often has features not found in any other device. This was designed to encourage people to upgrade if you want the latest and greatest. The Paperwhite 4 and Kindle Oasis 2 both have all the latest bells and whistles.
Amazon developed a font called Ember and Ember Bold awhile ago and it was designed to give people with vision disorders a really bold font to make it easier to read. The Paperwhite 4 has a bold slider bar that can make any font bolder. You can do this with Caecilia, Bookerly, Ember, or any of the other default fonts. The slider bar has numerous options to increase the boldness. The company has also adopted the same slider bar to increasing the size of the fonts. In total there are 10 different fonts, 16 font sizes and five boldness settings.
There are some new preset settings to get you reading right away. One is for people with vision disorders and it will automatically made the text very bold and large, making it easy to read. Others are for the average user that displays small or medium sized fonts.
Of course, one of the flagship options is being able to share your Kindle with family members. You can create a family profile in the settings menu and jump between different libraries and audiobook/ebook purchases. Reading settings such as bold/line spacing, margins and font type can be saved and then loaded. This ensures that you can quickly load different profiles, without losing all of the customizations.
The Paperwhite 4 has the quickest page turn speed out of any other Paperwhites I have ever reviewed. There is hardly any full page refresh issues when you are reading at a normal pace. This device is reliant on the touchscreen, because it does not have manual page turn bottoms.
You can take notes, make highlights and annotations. You can lookup words in the built in dictionary and access them in Wikipedia. The Kindle also uses Bing Translations on all of their e-readers, so you can translate a specific word or a body of text from one language to another. If you highlight a block of text or a single word, instead of looking them up you can share them via Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads or Email.
All Kindle models have a system called X-Ray. If you have never used it before, it basically breaks down people, places and things. It will tell you all of the major and minor characters in the book and let you know on what page they were referenced and give a quick character biography. The Paperwhite 4 has a relatively new option in X-Ray called “Images” which will show you all of the images in a book you are reading. Most books just have cover art, but there are many genres such as autobiographies that have dozens.
One of the features I dig about the e-reading experience is the ability to shut off things like time remaining in a chapter or what page you are on. Eliminating the status bar, or just giving the option to shut it off completely is truly excellent.
The PDF experience is actually the best out of all of the Paperwhites released in the past. When you load PDF files on the device it handles them like a champ. A small minimap with a screenshot of whatever page is displayed will be on the top right hand corner. This will help orientate and display the exact positioning. Page turn speeds are noticeably diminished compared to an ebook, but Kindles really weren’t built to support the format in a meaningful way.
Overall there are a few notable features with PDF support. You can pinch and zoom to a piece of text and you can highlight it, select specific words or a body of text. There is options to translate it to a foreign language or just lookup the definition from the dictionary. A slider bar will help lighten or darken the document, depending on if it a scanned PDF that might not have the right color correction.
Manga support is actually really good and it borrowed the rendering engine from the Kindle Paperwhite 3 Manga Model that was released only in Japan. It has a rapid page turn engine where you can hold down on the left or right hand side of the screen and will jump super fast forward and backward, with a small window in the center of the screen that mentions how many pages you are turning. There is also a panel view feature, that works sort of like Comixology Guided View. Manga page turn speed is quick and robust, way better than the PDF support.
The Paperwhite 4 also has a number of other features, but they will heavily depend on if you are interested in them or not. Wordwise is basically a thesaurus of sorts that superimposes itself in the books you are reading. It gives alternative meanings to words such as “rampart” or “idiosyncrasy” right on the page that contains them. Family Sharing is a cool option, you can share any content purchased between Amazon accounts on the same e-reader. There is two adults and four children available to share eBooks, magazines or newspapers. There is also a Popular highlight system to see how often a specific book is highlighted by Kindle users worldwide. You can take a screenshot by touching the top right and bottom left.
The 10th generation Kindle is a real winner. It is the best Paperwhite they have ever released and it has a few things going for it. The Waterproof design will negate the possibility of ruining it with dropping it in the pool or spilling something on it. It will also be cheaper to buy this model, instead of a Waterfi version, which costs almost a hundred dollars extra on a previous generation Kindle. The flush screen and bezel make touchscreen interactions really precise and the inclusion of Bluetooth for Audible audiobooks is really compelling.
The primary reason why you should buy a Kindle is ease of use. Kindles are intuitive and buying digital content is a carefree task. Amazon has the deepest ecosystem out of all the different storefronts out there, major publishers and indie authors rely on the platform for the lionshare of their sales. This means for readers, there is more ebooks, more audiobooks and more free stuff than anyone else.
Amazon provides simple ways to get reading right away, and is starting to incorporate more advanced features to appeal towards power users. One of the ways they do this is all the different settings, such as being able to disable the touchscreen completely, so only swipes and gestures work on ebooks to adopting slider bars for deeper customization, instead of just a few presets.
The primary competition of the Paperwhite 4 is the Kobo Clara HD and Barnes and Noble Nook Glowlight 3 for customers living in the US. The Clara HD has a color temperature system which would appeal to users that want more control over their lighting experience. Kobo also does not have millions of books self-published by sometimes terrible authors, so you will be more likely to find a new book easier. Kobo also has more advanced options for augmenting the reading experience and also supports sideloading of fonts. The Nook Glowlight 3 is easily attainable in over 600 bookstores and you can try it before you buy it and if any problems occur, it is easy to return to the store for support. B&N has Nook Readouts and a color temperature system. Many people find that shopping on the digital bookstore to be an enjoyable experience and editors are constantly curating editorial content.
Over the course of the next few weeks we will be working on supplementary videos and written content that compares the new Paperwhite to the Clara HD and Nook Glowlight 3, in addition to other popular e-readers on the market.
I would recommend upgrading the new Paperwhite if you have a first or second generation Paperwhite and are looking for an affordable upgrade. If you have the 3rd generation Paperwhite, the only features you will be missing will be Audible support and the waterproof. If you have an entry level Kindle, upgrade to the Paperwhite 4, posthaste.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.