Kindle Paperwhite vs Kindle Basic: which is best?

Last updated: 3 October 2017   By Samantha Smith

WHICH is the better Amazon e-reader: the basic Kindle or the Kindle Paperwhite?

The Paperwhite is the best device overall, offering a sharper and brighter screen, a better quality build, and longer battery life.

Yet in running through the strengths and weakness of each e-reader, this guide will show that the answer to this question can vary with the person asking it, and that the basic Kindle is an excellent alternative for those on a tighter budget.

kindle paperwhite in pocket

At a glance

kindle basic
Amazon Kindle
kindle paperwhite
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
Pros Great value for money; software identical to other Kindles Great value for money; great display quality and build
Cons Feels a bit cheap; no built-in light None, other than lack of Bluetooth support
Dimensions 160mm x 115mm x 9.1mm 169mm x 117mm x 9.1mm
Weight 161g 205g
Resolution 167ppi 300ppi

Which is the best: the basic Kindle or the Kindle Paperwhite?

Winner: the Kindle Paperwhite provides a higher resolution screen than the basic Kindle, as well as a more comfortable case and longer battery life.

While both devices have the same software and do essentially the same things, the Paperwhite is the clear winner as to which Kindle is the best overall.

Kindle Paperwhite in hand

The Kindle Paperwhite

This is for the following reasons:

  • Its moulded and curved plastic casing makes it comfier to read for longer periods
  • Its 300 PPI screen offers higher resolution text and images
  • It has a built-in light that enables night reading and brightness adjustment
  • It has a longer battery life (six weeks compared to four)

The Paperwhite is the Kindle of choice for those who expect to make regular use of their e-reader. Even so, the basic Kindle is still an excellent choice for those on a tighter budget, since it can do all the same things as the Paperwhite, such as download books instantly, define words, highlight passages, and provide X-Ray summaries of books.


Winner: the basic Kindle is £50 (or £60) cheaper than the Paperwhite, and runs on exactly the same processor and software

At £69.99, the standard Kindle is £50 cheaper than the Paperwhite (£119.99). Added to this, there's in fact the option to purchase it at £59.99.

Yet take note: this option comes to those who take the "special offers" version of the device, which as Amazon explain means that advertisements and "sponsored screensavers display when your device is in sleep mode".

Kindle in black

The Kindle asleep (customers who buy the cheaper "special offers" version would see an ad here)

For those who aren't bothered by such ads, this makes the Kindle even more value for money than it already was. That said, the Paperwhite can also be bought with "special offers", which also shaves £10 off its price, bringing it down to £109.99.

Feel and looks

Winner: the Kindle Paperwhite's curved and moulded plastic casing is more comfortable and more attractive.

When it comes to how each device feels and looks, the Paperwhite's sleekness makes it a better choice than the basic Kindle.

The standard Kindle is made out of a plastic that's not quite as high quality as that of the Paperwhite. It feels a little "cheap" and "lightweight" to the touch when compared to its pricier counterpart, which is made of a more durable and moulded plastic composite.

This made reading with the Paperwhite for longer periods of time easier and more comfortable, since the curved, rubberized plastic was easier to grip and fitted more snugly in our hands.

Paperwhite bottom

The Paperwhite as seen from the bottom

The difference in materials also gives the Paperwhite the edge in the appearance department, since the higher quality plastic provides it with a better, more textured finish.

By contrast, the Kindle's grainy plastic almost makes it look like a toy, while its unsophisticated appearance is magnified slightly by its flat rear surface. Because of this, we sometimes felt a bit self-conscious about taking it out in public, given its almost childlike design.

And compared to the Paperwhite's curved, more ergonomic rear surface, it's not quite as comfortable. The smoother, slippery casing and its lack of curves often means you have to grip it a bit more tightly to make sure it stays in your hand.


Winner: the Kindle Paperwhite's screen provides a higher resolution and a built-in light.

The biggest difference between the two devices are their screens, since the Kindle's screen offers only 167 pixels per inch (ppi), while the Paperwhite's comes in at a more impressive 300ppi.

This greater resolution results in a display that's impressively sharp with the Paperwhite, while the standard Kindle's display is a little grainy by comparison (although still good).

When we stuck to reading books that are entirely text, then this difference in visual clarity wasn't really noticeable.

However, it is possible to purchase graphic novels on Kindles, as well as a massive range of non-fiction books full with images and diagrams. And it was with such books that we noticed a wider gap in display quality, since pictures and photos weren't as well defined with the basic Kindle as they are with the Paperwhite.

Kindle screen versus Paperwhite screen

The Kindle Paperwhite (above) has a screen that provides more clarity and brightness, although the difference isn't as great as might be supposed

And that's not the only difference, since the Paperwhite includes a built in light, while the Kindle does not.

Without such a light, it's impossible to read the basic Kindle in the dark, while it was difficult enough in dimmer lighting. Meanwhile, the Paperwhite had no such problems, with its brightness settings and increased clarity letting us read basically wherever and whenever we wanted.

Kindle versus Paperwhite

The Kindle squares off against the Paperwhite


Winner: the Kindle Paperwhite's battery lasts for around 6 hours longer than the basic Kindle's

While both devices require the same four hours or so to fully charge (using a USB cable connected to a PC/Mac), the Paperwhite's battery reportedly lasts for six weeks on a single charge, assuming people read for only half an hour a day.

And yet, even though Amazon say the basic Kindle's battery lasts for only four weeks, the difference in battery life wasn't quite as big as two weeks.

Instead, we got through the standard Kindle's battery in around 15 hours, whereas the Paperwhite lasted for about 21.

This is a six-hour difference, which doesn't quite work out to two weeks according to Amazon's half-an-hour-a-day rule. That said, it comes close, at 12 (rather than 14) days.

Paperwhite back

The Paperwhite's curved rear, which makes it more pleasurable to read

Bluetooth and VoiceView

Winner: the basic Kindle offers Bluetooth and VoiceView support for the visually impaired

One difference in the basic Kindle's favour, however, is that its eighth version is now compatible with Bluetooth and the VoiceView screen reader, while the current Paperwhite still isn't.

This means that readers with visual impairments can have the Kindle's text read out for them, by linking via Bluetooth to a compatible speaker.

As such, the Kindle is superior for readers with sight loss, and given that there are some two million such people in the UK this gives it a pretty big market.

Summary: Kindle Paperwhite vs Kindle

Overall winner: the Kindle Paperwhite provides a more enjoyable reading experience than the basic Kindle.

When price (and accessibility for the blind) is taken out of the equation, it's clear that the Kindle Paperwhite is the superior device. It offers the following advantages over the basic Kindle:

  • a sharper, 300ppi screen
  • a better, more comfortable and attractive build
  • an in built light with brightness control that allows readers to read in the dark

For all these reasons, it will definitely be the best for most readers, and is unreservedly recommended to those who can afford the extra £50 (or £60) Amazon are asking for it.

Amazon Kindle Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
Size 160mm x 115mm x 9.1mm 169mm x 117mm x 9.1mm
Weight 161g 205g
Resolution 167ppi 300ppi
Battery charge Up to four weeks Up to six weeks

Still, for customers on a budget or casual, less frequent readers, the standard Kindle just about tips it.

It essentially does all the things the Paperwhite can do (except get brighter or darker), and even if it wasn't quite as comfortable to hold and read with for longer stretches, it offers remarkable value for money.


4 January 2021

I appreciate that everyone has different preferences but I'm surprised this review hasn't found a single con with the Paperwhite, let alone suggested reasons why someone might prefer an original Kindle. I've owned both for some time. I frequently go back to my original Kindle, unless I don't have enough surrounding light and need the backlight. I find the 20% lighter weight a major bonus when I'm holding it and carrying it everywhere, and also prefer the page turning buttons over the touch screen. With the Paperwhite Kindle I get frustrated with accidental page turns simply because I often tend to prefer holding it with a thumb on or near the screen - even a light touch of most parts of the screen turns the page! Plus, if I fall asleep whilst reading, I'll often wake up finding lots of accidental page turns without having a clue where I got up to. This has led to me buying a case for it simply so I'm less likely to touch the screen whilst holding it, however this adds even more weight! I definitely prefer an original Kindle and I'm saddened that Amazon seems to have ditched it in favour of only touchscreen models. I've really learned to hate touchscreens for e-readers.

29 December 2020

Why can I not find the latest Kindle Paperwhite (8 GB) with a WHITE FRAME? The black frame is like looking at a death framed photo / doc for all the hours that you are reading.

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