If waterproof is high on your checklist of e-reader must-haves, we recommend that most people consider the Kobo Aura H20. It’s a capable e-book reader designed to stand up to the occasional poolside splash or even an extended soak in a hot tub. For anyone already invested in Amazon’s extensive collection of DRM-protected e-books, periodicals and comic books, however, investing in another company’s incompatible hardware could be a less than attractive proposition.
If you fall into this latter group of readers, you’ll be happy to know that a waterproof version of Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite can be had, provided you’re prepared to pay through the nose for it.
For $230 ($110 above Amazon’s typical pricing,) Waterfi will see you set up with a third-generation Kindle Paperwhite which, through a proprietary process, has been waterproofed and tested for use in depths up to 210 feet. If that’s too rich for your blood, Waterfi will also apply its waterproofing treatment a first, second or third-generation Kindle that you already own. Just give them $99, plus the cost of shipping. In a few weeks, your Kindle will be back ready to take the plunge at your next pool party. The company stands behind their waterproofing with a one-year warranty.
How does it work?
As a reading device, a Waterfi-treated third-generation Kindle Paperwhite looks and operates in the same manner as a stock piece of Amazon’s hardware does (for details on this, check out our review of the Kindle Paperwhite. The pretreated version Waterfi sells includes Amazon’s “special offers” euphemism for advertising on the screensaver and home screen.)
I couldn’t detect any difference in functionality: the display was just as crisp, page turns and other on-screen interactions with both devices were seemingly identical. And even though Waterfi stuffed their treated Kindle full of a water and corrosion-proofing material, I couldn’t discern any difference in weight between theirs and an untreated Paperwhite.
How the treated Kindle functions when it’s in the water is a different story.
Waterfi claims that their waterproofing process protects electronics from humidity, chlorine, heat and liquids. So, to test their treated Kindle, I took it for a thirty-minute soak in a hot tub. Pulling it out of the hot, chemically treated water, I found that the Waterfi-treated Paperwhite still worked, switching back on as if it were bone dry. That’s a win. But glory of the device’s survivability was dampened by the fact that the water on its display caused the Paperwhite’s UI to falsely register a flurry of input: pages turned on their own, system settings were changed, and bookmarks that I’m still working to remove were created.
Admittedly, the Kobo H2O would suffer from the same problem, but it was designed from the get-go to be used around water. When that e-reader senses water on its display, it throws up a prompt to wipe it dry, and locks all input until you do so.
Is having an Amazon e-reader that can survive a dunk in the pool, but that can’t be used under water worth Waterfi’s steep asking price? That’s a question you’ll have to answer for yourself, based on how and where you use your e-reader.
The bottom line
While their service may be expensive, Waterfi delivers on its promise of a Waterproof Kindle Paperwhite. If your lifestyle demands an e-reader that can survive exposure to liquids and you’re tied to Amazon’s ecosystem, it’s an option we feel comfortable in recommending. That said, Platform agnostic readers would do well to consider Kobo’s less-expensive Aura H20 instead.