Hands-on with the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (review)

Summary:Amazon has been improving their Kindle ebook reader with each generation and their latest eInk reader is the best one yet, enough to have me give up on trying out the others.

Even though I have a few tablets and smartphones, for reading more than a half hour or so I still prefer an eInk device. After using my new Amazon Kindle Paperwhite for the last few days, I am convinced it is the best dedicated eReader available today and have no hesitation in recommending it for ebook fans. The display looks fantastic, the new integrated light is wonderful, the form factor is just about perfect, the ecosystem covers everything you want read, and the new touchscreen technology is a welcome addition to eInk readers.

Check out my image gallery of the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite.

I bounced between other ereaders in the past, including the ones from Sony, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. Sony models were always the most expensive with a more limited store (their current model is priced right though), Kobo always had my favorite form factor and a more open platform, and Barnes & Noble seemed to push the eInk technology faster than others but has readers that are too wide for my complete comfort. Amazon has come far in improving the form factor, makes borrowing books easy, and provides some of the most useful software and functionality.

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite retails for $119 ($139 without ads) and I went ahead and ordered the one with ads. The first ad I saw on mine was for $5 free credit in the Amazon MP3 store so if that is the kind of ads I am going to see then I prefer the ads over no ads. The ads only appear on the lock screen, bottom of the home page, and within the store. You will not see ANY ads while actually reading your books so it is not obtrusive at all. If they do end up bothering you for some reason you can also pay $20 later and update your Kindle to remove the ads.

The box Amazon ships you the Kindle in a cool package where you simply pull the tab to unzip and open the box to reveal the Kindle. Inside you will find the Kindle Paperwhite, USB cable, and Getting Started Guide pamphlet. There is no A/C charger, but you can simply charge via USB on your computer or use another USB A/C adapter you might have lying around.

Hardware

I like that the front is matte black plastic and the sides and back are covered in black soft touch material. There is nothing on the front, top, or either side. That's right, there is not a single button anywhere but on the bottom and that is just a simple power button. Next to the power button on the bottom you will find the microUSB port. There is no page turn buttons, headset jack, home button (like on the Kindle Touch), or microSD card slot.

Specifications for the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite include:

  • 6 inch Paperwhite display (212 pip) with 16-level gray scale
  • 2GB internal storage (1.25 GB available), holds up to 1,100 books
  • Integrated 802.11 b/g/n WiFi with free WiFi at AT&T hotspots
  • Battery life up to 8 weeks, based on half hour reading per day with wireless off and light setting at 10.
  • Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.6 x 0.36 inches and 7.5 ounces

In addition to the key specifications, Amazon states the Paperwhite has 62% more pixels and 25% better contrast than the previous Kindle Touch. Side-by-side with my existing Kindle Touch I can definitely see a whiter background on the Kindle Paperwhite and the display looks much better.

As you can see there is enough storage space on the device for 1,100 books, but Amazon advertises that all of your content is available in your cloud library account so you don't really need to carry that much on the go. I like to have 2-3 books at least on my device in case I finish one or I get bored of one and decide to jump to another. Thus, the integrated storage is not an issue for me.

The previous touchscreen eInk readers used infrared technology around the display to register screen touches, but the Kindle Paperwhite moves to a more traditional touchscreen panel display technology. The IR ones work well, but I find this touchscreen one to be more responsive when navigating and entering text using the onscreen keyboard. A slick function is the ability to use two fingers to tap and spread or pinch, thus changing font sizes. The new display is composed of three components; the Paperwhite display, capacitive touch screen, and nanoimprented light guide.

The major feature for me on this device is the integrated backlight. I took a look at the Nook Glowlight and like that display too, but find the Nook to be too wide for my taste. Amazon's light works very well and does a fantastic job of evenly lighting up the display. The light intensity meter goes from 0 to 24 and when in bed at night I keep it way down at about 6. 0 does not mean it is off though as even in a dark room with 0 selected you can see a bit of lighting on the display. If you turn the brightness up to 24, generally for use in well lit rooms, you can just see four slight shadow areas at the bottom. If you hold the Kindle perpendicular to your eyes then you can see where the four lights are placed at the bottom of the display, however no one ever reads this way so the concern is not valid for ebook reading.

Software

The Kindle Paperwhite is responsive and performance is excellent. Since there are no buttons on the device, other than the power button, there are three main areas on the display to navigate and read. Tapping on the left inch or so turns the page back, tapping on the middle to right side turns the page forward, and tapping in the top inch or so brings up the navigation options (see this in my image gallery). In this top area you will find two stacked bars with the top having buttons for home, back, backlight control, Kindle store icon, search, and menu. Tapping menu gives you a drop down with options for Kindle store, book description, landscape/portrait toggle, sync to furthest page read, add bookmark, view notes & marks, and reading progress.

The lower toolbar has options for font settings, go to, sync, and share. Font settings include eight font sizes, seven font types, three line spacing options, and three margin options. Facebook and Twitter are the social networks supported where you can share highlighted passages.

To access all the Kindle Paperwhite settings first go Home and then tap the upper right menu icon. You will find Kindle store, special offers, list view, new collection, sync and check, settings, and experimental browser options. Tapping Settings shows you the following: airplane mode toggle, WiFi network settings, registration, device options, and reading options. Device options include device passcode, parental controls, device time, Kindle personalization, and language and dictionaries. Reading options include annotations backup, popular highlights (interesting to see what others have been highlighting), public notes, page refresh, and social networks.

Through the Kindle store you can get books, newspapers, magazines, Kindle singles and serials, and blogs. One of the major benefits of being an Amazon Prime member is the Owners' Lending Library and this is accessible on the Kindle Paperwhite. I see there are nearly 207,000 ebooks in this lending library. Amazon also makes it easy to get your local library books on the Kindle Paperwhite and all you need is a local library card.

Another of the new features I find particularly helpful is the estimated times left in the chapter and time left in the book, Amazon labels this Time to Read. These are calculated based on your typical reading pace that comes from data collected by Amazon as you use your Kindle. I often read in blocks of time and knowing how much time is estimated to remain in a chapter is very helpful for planning my reading sessions.

I have to say I am actually a bit relieved that the Kindle Paperwhite is so fantastic and has just about everything I ever wanted in an ebook reader since I can now stop bouncing around other platforms and commit to the Amazon ecosystem. I showed my mother, who is an avid reader and encouraged me to read, and she thought the Kindle with integrated lighting was incredible. As a result, I am buying one for her for Christmas and am thoroughly enjoying my Paperwhite.

You can also purchase a Kindle Paperwhite with integrated 3G for $179 (with ads).

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Topics: Mobility, Amazon

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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