Things I Like: Kindle Paperwhite, 5th Gen
I read a lot. Like, a lot a lot. And I try basically every app or device that comes out that purports to make reading easier.
Most of them are lying.
For a few years now, I’ve been reading mostly on a combo of the Kindle App on my iPad and a 2nd Gen Kindle Oasis, their “premium” e-reader device. This combo… mostly worked okay, but there were negatives. Before we get to those, here’s what I truly like about it:
- the Oasis has a beautiful screen, the biggest Amazon currently offers at 7 inches
- it is the only device they offer with hardware page-turning buttons
- fully waterproof (I read on beaches and by pools a surprising amount every year)
And here’s what I don’t:
- micro-USB charging. This is the last goddamned device I have that still uses that slow, janky connection for charging.
- battery life is just abysmal. Sometimes it’s okay-ish; other times, I’d watch it discharge half its battery just sitting there. And it’s been that way since I got it, it’s not a function of an aging battery, it’s sucked from Day One
- UI Speed/Bugs: tapping anything in the UI just seems to take a while to respond, or it won’t respond at all. And the search widget loves to close itself before I’ve finished typing anything or hit ENTER
Honestly, I think Kobo’s e-reader hardware is better overall, but jesus christ is the app experience awful. Bad on iOS, terrible on Android. Given that I read about 50/50 tablet vs. e-reader, the app experience matters a lot.
Last year, Amazon announced a new Paperwhite, the mainline Kindle. Not as “premium” as the Oasis, but better than a base Kindle. I’ve never had one, ’cuz I’m a fancy lad who likes the top-end, so it’s been the Oasis for me since they introduced it.
Then I took my Oasis 2 on a long vacation and it kept acting weird and, worse, draining itself down to “I am going to constantly worry about my charge” on a daily basis, which is… not good when you’re reading while getting increasingly drunk by a pool in a foreign country for hours every day.
The initial reviews of the new Paperwhite were frankly raving so I ordered one. And…
I love this thing. Best e-reader I’ve ever owned.
FIrst off, they bumped the screen size from the just-too-small-for-me 6 inches of the regular Kindle and all previous Paperwhites. It’s now 6.8 inches, just shy of the Oasis screen and I haven’t really noticed that difference in day to day use.
It also looks fantastic. It has less backlights than the Oasis but I haven’t noticed that at all. It’s crisp, it has the “warm” light feature I’ve grown to absolutely require on e-ink screens, it’s just a stunner.
It lacks the page-turning buttons but I have not found that I miss them. It’s small enough to easily hold in my left hand and just use my thumb to advance the page via a swiping motion, or I bring my right hand over to tap to advance. Either way, it’s a non-issue, the ergonomics work fine for very long reading sessions without issue.
That is helped by the lighter weight; it’s significantly lighter than the Oasis was, just going by hand feel over time. The smaller overall fram means that it also slips quite easily into a back jeans pocket, which the Oasis does not. The Oasis fit fine into a jacket pocket, but during the summer months I’d either be carrying it in my hand when out and about or annoying my wife by asking her to chuck it into her purse.
The battery life… oh my stars. the sweet, sweet battery life. I’ve had it for three weeks, read at least an hour a day on it, and I just charged it today for the first time because it had dipped down to 58%. Light-years better than the Oasis ever was, and it finally, blessedly brings USB-C charging to the Kindle line. That alone would make it a win over the Oasis, as I can finally now pitch all of my micro-USB cables for good.
Whatever chip is in this thing, it is also way more responsive to inputs than the Oasis ever was, too. No bugginess, no weird glitchy search UI, it just does what you expect it to, quickly.
Amazon has really nailed this. Their recent Kindle app updates (particularly, finally, the auto-dark mode when the device it’s on goes to dark mode while allowing you to still retain Sepia as the daytime/light mode color) have made their tablet app Best In Class again, a title I would occasionally give instead to Apple’s own Books app. And there is no downgrade in the Android app experience, something Kobo absolutely cannot claim. Given that I dip into that ecosystem a few times every year for shits and grins, the Android app experience does matter to me.
That it’s also cheaper, considerably, than their “flagship” e-reader is frankly just amazing. I don’t know if they’re going to retire the Oasis and lave this the top of the line or if they’re going to bring these improvements to a revamped Oasis later this year, but I’m fine with it if they don’t. The Paperwhite is the best dedicated e-reader device you can buy, attached to what is the best e-book ecosystem available (swallowing all of my bile regarding Amazon as a consumer/business experience), and this heavy reader is quite happy with this device and ecosystem combined, given that.
At least until they decide to finally bring back the DX…