The Kindle Paperwhite is Amazon’s current flagship reader, and one that we’ve been wanting to review and give away for quite some time. The newest iteration to Amazon’s eReaders comes with built-in light, making it possible to read your book in any lighting situation, including complete darkness. On paper (no pun intended), this should be the perfect combination between an E-Ink reader and a tablet, bringing in the best of both worlds.
You can get the Kindle Paperwhite in four different versions: Wi-Fi reader with Special Offers ($119), Wi-Fi reader without Special Offers ($139), 3G reader with Special Offers ($179), and 3G reader without Special Offers ($199). Our review unit is the Special Offers Wi-Fi version, which means you can only use it to synchronize your books when there’s Wi-Fi around, but as you don’t have to do this often, it’s seldom a problem.
If you already own a Kindle or a different eReader, you may be wondering if it’s worth your while to upgrade to the new Kindle Paperwhite. This is what we’re here to find out for you. And as always, one lucky reader will get the chance to win a shiny new Kindle Paperwhite worth $119!
eReaders such as the Kindle are revolutionizing the book industry. If you own an eReader, you can start reading your book of choice in mere minutes after deciding you want to do so. They don’t wrinkle and tear, and there’s a dictionary definition waiting for you behind every word. As advanced as eReaders are, they failed to solve one burning problem — the need for external light source. When reading in a dark setting, there was virtually no difference between reading a paper book and reading on an eReader, which sent many users to their phones and tablets for their nightly dose of reading.
The new generation of eReaders changed that, and the Kindle Paperwhite is not alone in its category. The NOOK Simple Touch with GlowLight is available for $119 from Barnes & Noble, and comes with built-in light, and no ads. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get your hands on it if you live outside the U.S. The Kobo Glo, on the other hand, is available all over the world, and with a suggested price of $130 is only slightly more expensive than the competition.
As for Amazon itself, the Paperwhite is only one of six Kindle models currently on sale. While our previously reviewed Kindle Touch is sadly no longer available, you can get a simple Kindle reader with no touch capabilities for $69 or $89 (with or without Special Offers), and the classic Kindle Keyboard for $139 or $159. While the Kindle Keyboard is the oldest model of them all, it only comes in a 3G models these days, hence the slightly higher price. In the tablet department, you can go for the Kindle Fire ($159/$174), the Kindle Fire HD ($199-$244), or the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ ($269-$399). Remember that Kindle Fire tablets are backlit, so reading books on a Kindle Fire is no different than reading a book on any tablet or smartphone.
At the moment, the only Amazon eReader that offers both an E-Ink screen and built-in light is the Kindle Paperwhite.
With the Kindle Paperwhite, Amazon is continuing its Kindle simplifying process, so what you get is basically a black square with a screen. Looking at the Paperwhite compared to earlier models, you can see this simplification process easily: from a whole keyboard on the Kindle Keyboard, to a single button on the Kindle Touch, to nothing at all on the Paperwhite.
Looking at the bottom of the devices, you’ll notice the same process: The Kindle Paperwhite’s power button is even smaller than its predecessor’s (the Kindle Touch), and gone is the audio jack for plugging in your headphones. This means that the Paperwhite no longer supports any kind of audio, including the previously available MP3 player and text-to-speech feature.
Speaking of the power button, the Kindle Paperwhite’s is incredibly small, making it almost too hard to turn it on and off. You really have to reach in there to push it, which gets even harder when using any kind of case.
The Kindle Paperwhite is only slightly lighter than the Kindle Touch, and is almost the same height and width. Aside from color, it’s the back of the device that makes the biggest visual difference. The Paperwhite’s back is covered with a rubberized material which feels really nice, but catches fingerprints like crazy. It also doesn’t provide much more traction than the Keyboard’s or Touch’s more plasticky back, so it’s pretty much all show, but it does make the Paperwhite nicer to hold.
The Paperwhite’s screen is significantly less sunken into the plastic than the Touch, and almost resembles the non-touch Keyboard in the respect. While this may seem insignificant, it makes the sides of the screen much more accessible to touch, which in turn makes flipping through pages a much easier task.
All in all, the Paperwhite is an incredibly handsome device, and feels really good in your hand. The black surface is beautiful, although don’t expect it to stay clean for more than two seconds — every spec of dust that lands on the shiny black surface is immediately apparent. In terms of design, it feels that Amazon really outdid itself with the Paperwhite; created a device that’s both beautiful, comfortable to hold, and easy to use.
The Kindle Paperwhite comes with 2GB of storage, which is less than the Kindle Touch’s 4GB, but as usual, it comes with free Amazon cloud storage for all your books.
All these differences shrink in light of the Paperwhite’s killer feature: the built-in light. If you’re imagining anything like a tablet screen, think again. The Kindle Paperwhite is not backlit — rather, it’s lit up by tiny external lights which are built into the sides of the screen. The result is a uniform and soft blue light, which illuminates the screen perfectly, without hurting your eyes.
The light’s intensity is controlled via an on-screen dimmer, which you can fine-tune to fit your lighting conditions. You may think that the Paperwhite’s light is only good for dark surroundings, but it can be used in any condition, creating the perfect contrast between your external lights and your Kindle screen. In fact, the more light you have around you, the brighter your Kindle display should be.
The Paperwhite’s higher resolution (212 PPI vs. 167 PPI on the Touch) is noticeable, and together with the built-in light, creates a crisp and clear reading experience, no matter where you are.
Before actually using the Kindle Paperwhite, I was wary of the idea of using it at night. While a lit screen is better than turning on a reading lamp when reading next to someone else who’s trying to sleep, my experience with phones and tablets taught me that a screen light is more than enough to light up a a dark room and cause a disturbance.
I can’t tell you that the Paperwhite is perfect for night reading, but it’s significantly better than a phone or a tablet. When setting the screen dimmer on low, it creates just enough glow for you to read comfortably, and as long as you don’t put it right in someone’s face, it could go completely unnoticed in a dark room.
The Kindle Paperwhite’s official battery life is 8 weeks with wireless off and constant light use, assuming you read around 30 minutes every day. This is quite similar to the light-less Kindle Touch, so surprisingly, the built-in light does not eat away at your Paperwhite’s battery.
Using the Kindle Paperwhite
Before you even turn the Paperwhite on, you’ll already find yourself perplexed by a strange new requirement. If you’ve used a Special Offers Kindle in the past, you know that the screen starts displaying ads when its off, and stops doing so the second you turn it on. Not so with the Paperwhite. When you push the Paperwhite’s On button, the screen light comes on, but the ads stay. In order to make them disappear and continue to the Kindle’s interface, you also need to swipe the screen, as if you’re unlocking your phone.
The Kindle Paperwhite’s onscreen menu has been overhauled, and now features a descriptive set of icons instead of the Touch’s huge search box and text buttons. A home button has been added to the menu as well, in lieu of a physical one, and an accessible Cloud/Device toggle is available on the top left.
Nothing much has changed in terms of touchscreen controls, and actions such as flipping pages, calling up the menu, and highlighting words are all still done the same old way. In fact, the main difference between the Kindle Paperwhite and the former Kindle Touch, interface-wise, is mainly a cosmetic one. More than anything, I was reminded of the differences between Windows 7 and Windows 8, with the Paperwhite’s interface offering a simpler and cleaner version of the same content.
While the Paperwhite’s touch screen is slightly more responsive, it’s not normally felt in every day use. The difference becomes much more apparent, however, when attempting to type on the Kindle. I don’t know about you, but I’m not big on using the Kindle to write notes, but when I tried it out for the purposes of this review, I was surprised at how easy this is on the Kindle Paperwhite.
Like the rest of the interface, the keyboard has been overhauled as well, and features bigger and brighter keys that are much easier to use. The Paperwhite can handle faster typing than the Touch, which starts lagging behind almost immediately when typing more than several words.
The Paperwhite includes all previous Kindle features such as X-Ray, a built-in dictionary, a Wikipedia function, and more. The Paperwhite’s “experimental” features have been reduced to just a browser, and there are no big changes in that department either. The Paperwhite’s easier typing make it somewhat more usable for browsing the Internet, but I would still not use this feature unless I had no other choice.
Living With The Kindle Paperwhite
In the short time we’ve had the Kindle Paperwhite in the house, I had the chance to both use it myself, and try to sleep next to someone else who’s using it. The Paperwhite’s built-in light can truly make a difference for anyone who likes reading at night and is sharing a room or a bed with someone else.
While it’s the best solution I know of for such a scenario, it’s not a perfect one. Granted, it’s much easier to fall asleep with the Paperwhite’s light than with even the smallest of reading lights, but even this dim light can be noticeable when it’s right next to you. Several times I woke up at night, and immediately noticed the glow coming off the Paperwhite’s screen, so it’s definitely not the same as having a completely dark room, but if you remember to set the screen brightness to very low, it will create the minimal disturbance possible, if at all.
As mentioned above, the Paperwhite’s light is a vast improvement for any lighting situation, including broad daylight. While I couldn’t believe it at first, I now find that even when reading on the porch, it’s easier to look at the Paperwhite’s lit screen than the Kindle Touch’s neutral E-Ink one. There’s something about that natural glow that is easier on the eyes than anything else I’ve ever tried, including paper books, tablets, and plain E-Ink screens.
Should you buy the Kindle Paperwhite?
All in all, the Paperwhite feels like the best Kindle device Amazon has ever made, and whether you already own a Kindle or thinking of buying your first eReader, I highly recommend getting this one.
How do I win the Kindle Paperwhite?
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This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, May 24th. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email.
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