The Kindle used to be the only option for those that wanted an E Ink ebook reader to read ebooks purchased from Amazon without having to strip DRM or hack an Android-powered ereader like the Nook Touch or Sony PRS-T1 to install the Kindle app.
Now there are a few E Ink ebook readers on the market that run open Android and have the ability to easily install the Kindle for Android app to read Kindle ebooks. In the case of the Icarus Illumina HD, it actually comes with the Kindle app preinstalled.
Given that fact, a comparison review between the Kindle Paperwhite 2 and Icarus Illumina HD is needed to sort out some of the differences and similarities of the two devices.
Even though they are both E Ink ebook readers, there are very few similarities between them. Both have 6-inch E Ink screens with resolutions of 1024×758, both have LED frontlights, capacitive touchscreens, Wi-Fi, and both are roughly the same size, but that’s about all they have in common.
The Kindle Paperwhite 2’s screen uses the latest screen tech from E Ink, called Carta, whereas the Illumina HD uses a previous generation Pearl screen (the difference is slight when comparing the two side-by-side).
The Paperwhite 2’s frontlight is the best in the industry—it’s very even and offers lots of variance from dim to bright. The Illumina HD’s frontlight has a wide range of brightness settings too, but the lighting isn’t as even across the screen—there’s a slight shadowing effect at the bottom of the screen and there are brighter spots in areas.
The Illumina HD adds physical page turning buttons to each side of the screen, a feature the Paperwhite has always lacked. The page buttons work with most ereading apps, including sideloaded apps.
Another important feature that Kindles lack, the Illumina HD has a microSD card slot.
Unlike the Onyx Boox T68, neither the Kindle Paperwhite or Illumina HD offer audio support or Bluetooth.
The Kindle is an ebook reader through and through. It has proprietary software designed to focus on reading ebooks. There are all kinds of advanced reading features not available on the Illumina HD, including X-Ray, fast page flip/page scan, translations, Goodreads integration, public notes and highlights, etc. However, the Illumina HD runs Android, which was designed for tablets and phones, and it offers a lot more overall possibilities.
The software on the Kindle Paperwhite is zippier and more optimized for E Ink. Books load faster, pages turn faster.
The Illumina HD supports formats the Kindle does not, such ePub, and others via apps.
Advanced tasks like web browsing work much better on the Illumina HD. The Paperwhite’s web browser isn’t worth the trouble to use in most cases.
The Paperwhite’s battery charge lasts longer. I can’t give any arbitrary usage numbers based on some weird math problem like Amazon does, but the difference is definitely noticeable from a user’s perspective.
What it comes right down to is the Kindle Paperwhite 2 is the better option for someone that only wants to read ebooks from Amazon. It offers more reading features than the Kindle Android app, and has been optimized for E Ink from the very beginning.
The Icarus Illumina HD can do a lot more than just display ebooks from Amazon. It’s a wide open Android device that can install lots of apps for access to all kinds of reading material, not just ebooks. The only downside with having more capable software is that more problems can crop up, there are more things to distract one from reading, and often things don’t run as quickly and smoothly as the Kindle’s more basic software.