What's right (and wrong) with Amazon's new Kindle Paperwhite (2013 model)

What's right (and wrong) with Amazon's new Kindle Paperwhite (2013 model)

Summary: Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite has seen a significant upgrade, but there are still a few weaknesses present in the retail giant's flagship ereader.

TOPICS: Amazon
(Source: Amazon)

Last week Amazon announced that its Kindle Paperwhite ereader was about to receive a significant revamp, and the new device would be ready to fall into the hands of eager readers by the end of the month. I spend a lot of time reading books on my Kindle Paperwhite and so I was keen to take a look at the changes.

So, what does this revamp bring to the Kindle Paperwhite, and in which areas is the device still lacking?

What's right with the new Kindle Paperwhite

Better screen – Let's face it, the screen is the bit that we look at the most, and it is the bit that makes or breaks a device like this. The new Kindle Paperwhite comes with an improved display. Not only has Amazon worked to make the screen crisper, but is also brings better contrast and lower reflectivity to the table.

Better backlight – Another aspect of the screen that's been improved is the backlight. While the built-in backlight on the original Kindle Paperwhite was a huge leap forward for the Kindle ereader, it was far from perfect, suffering from ghosting and odd shadows. The new backlight is far superior, offering a whiter, more even light.

Same form factor – There was nothing wrong with the old form factor, so I'm pleased that Amazon hasn't fiddled with it.

Faster processor – This means a less laggy user interface. I'm not going to say that all lag has been eliminated because it hasn't, but it's certainly a lot better than the original Kindle Paperwhite was. I'd now go as far as to say it is good enought, which is, well, good enough.

Better battery life – It already feels like I hardly charge my Kindle Paperwhite, and the new model means that it spends even less time connected to a power supply.

Page Flip – OK, this is just a software feature, but it is nice to be able to skim through a book without losing your place in it.

Vocabulary Builder – Gimmicky, but fun.

What's wrong with the new Kindle Paperwhite

No earphone jack/speaker – Which means no way for the Kindle Paperwhite to be able to read to me, even if it was in a robotic voice.

No Audible integration – I'm really surprised that there's no way for me to be able to load Audible audiobooks onto the Kindle Paperwhite. At least the sync facility means I can pick up in the book where I left off in the audiobook, and vice versa. I suppose this is one way Amazon can upsell users the Kindle Fire.

3G version is pricy – $70 bucks premium for the 3G version ($189 verses $119 for the base model) feels steep to me, even considering the free internet plan thrown in.

Bottom line

If you're a heavy user of the existing Kindle Paperwhite then this might be a worthwhile upgrade for you, especially if you use it in low-light a lot. However, if you are a light reader then I think you can give this upgrade a miss, unless you desperately want to be on the bleeding edge.

For everyone else looking for an ereader, this is a no-brainer. 

Topic: Amazon

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • What's wrong?

    I hear from a lot of people they were really hoping for physical forwards and backwards buttons. How is the touchscreen on the device? I need to write small notes while I read; however, I use a physical keyboard on my Kindle. I kind of was hoping for a physical keyboard option.
    • Re: What's wrong?

      Honestly, if it is anything like the kindle touch, it sucks. A lot. Lots of double touches, lots of unresponsive ones.

      Unless they fixed it in this one, do not buy this if you plan to take notes. I really wish it had the buttons.
      • Paperwhite Much Better

        Having used both, I think that the touch functions of the Paperwhite are vastly better than the original Touch.
  • Front light

    It's a front light, not a back light. That's what makes it so much better to read on than a tablet.
  • Credibility

    As MisterIpso said, it's a front light. As important a feature as this is in an e-reader, it's hard to forgive the misstep. It's unfortunate so see on a usually competent source like ZDNet, and from a guy who's touted as having over a decade of experience.
  • paperwhite

    What happened to reading a real book?
    Paul on the Mesa
    • Luddite!

      Real book? Went the way of the real cellphones.
      • Those who live in troll houses.

        See "Nothing.." written below.
        Mitch Centrum
    • Forget "real" books

      When you say "real books" do you mean those things they used to make out of crushed wood pulp? They went the way of dinosaurs and disco. People used to stack them on shelves. Some people had so many, they would cover the walls. When they moved they would put them in cardboard boxes and hire lower-class workers at slave wages to carry them up and down stairs. People back then were very crude and uncivilized. They had buildings filled with books. They called them libraries. Did you know the Greeks used stone tablets? Those days are are gone now. People sure had a strange way of doing things back then.
      • Those "lower-class workers"

        Where are they now, those "lower-class workers"?
        Do they have jobs elsewhere?
        Are all the workers who have been and are continuing to be laid off from from their jobs glad that we are becoming much less crude and way too civilized to require their efforts?
        Billyrumble, I'm sure that you were writing with your tongue firmly in your cheek, but a little sensitivity to "lower-class workers" who may be desperately unemployed wouldn't go astray.
        I really do think that the popularity of e-books is a huge step forward for the environment, especially with regard to the types of paperbacks that are read once and then tossed, magazines, and also the volumes of rubbish that are produced each year by publishers looking to fill quotas and that go straight to the dollar dazzler discount table where they are usually bought by people looking for a cheap gifts.
        I'll always appreciate good books, beautifully bound, and filled with wonderful things. But when it comes to publications that just aren't Keepers, it's definitely Good to be environmentally aware, and much easier to carry holiday/travel/commuting reading material in e-book format.
    • Nothing...

      While I love all things tech related (my kindles included). A good old solid book is still great. I get my favorite series in hardback and display them together when done. Washington post 's wonkblog has a great article on how e-book sales are leveling off, and the demise of printed books may be greatly exaggerated. And to the one who called you a luddite, classic forms never go out of style; maybe you should check out urban dictionary's definition for an ingrate.
      Mitch Centrum
      • Books, Paper and Non

        I so agree with "Nothing!" While I love having an e-reader (have both a Sony and a Kindle) and new technologies, I also love having books. They are not from ancient Babylon. I still love the smell of books, the feel of turning a paper page. And I love librarians who have the courage to continue to put real books on the shelf (our city's library does this, whereas our university's library has gone from 12 floors of books along with off-site facilities, they now use only 3 floors for books because "that's what students want" - I just finished being a student, and they need to bring back the books!). And I also agree with the Washington Post article that printed books aren't going anywhere!
  • Sounds great!

    I just picked up the earlier Paperwhite a month back and can find almost nothing to complain about at all. And I am pretty picky. I don't find the fonts that useful. I use Caecilia condensed with medium line spacing which looks almost exactly the same as the condensed font on my original Kindle. Some of the other fonts seem to light/pale or LOUD and dark (Helvetica) for me. Perhaps that increase in contrast you mention will make the lighter fonts more attractive. I do notice slight shadows in the bottom 1/2 inch of the screen. Not enough for me to complain about, but I would be happy if the new one does not have that slight problem. Reflections? What reflections? More battery life? It runs for something like two weeks now. If it lasted any longer on a charge I might forget how to charge it by the time I needed to. :) I would like to be able to get to the 'View Notes and Marks' on the initial graphical menu rather than having to pull down the menu on the right to get to it. But that really is not much to complain about. I guess my real complaint is that there isn't enough to complain about on this thing!
  • Question on the NEW Paperwhite VS. the larger Kindle DX

    I had been looking to purchase a Kindle DX, as I like the idea of a larger reading screen; but now the new Paperwhite is coming out. Do you think the DX will be updated at some point? Are the improvements on the smaller Paperwhite such that its features outweigh having the larger Kindle? I have only experience with the original Kindle Fire, do a lot of reading, and would really like some feedback on this. Thanks!
    • Don't Bet on It

      The market for a jumbo Kindle Paperwhite is too small to justify updating the DX. Kindle Paperwhite is perfect for reading text-only. Black and white photos usually look okay. Most maps, charts and diagrams are impossible to read and zoom is very clumsy. For those sorts of books, I read using the Kindle app on my iPad. PDFs are also pretty terrible on Kindle Paperwhite.
  • Where's the Memory?

    There is no increase in memory, so the limit remains on adding more books to the Kindle. There doesn't seem to be any changes in the organizational tools available (sorting, collections), which means it is still not efficient enough for me. I'd like to be able to sort books by publication date, for example. Note that the website also has limited organization. I have over 400 books; try finding books on the website by an author whose name begins with "M" (after 3 pages, you can only advance 1 page at a time).

    Does the 3G version allow you to escape the advertisements? It doesn't show a version "without special offers" for that one. I would not like to buy the most expensive version yet still be forced to have the advertisements.
    • RE: Where's the Memory?

      The memory is the same because they figure you can store enough books to last a while in the memory and that you will have access to your book collection in the cloud to download when you need more. I'm not saying they are correct in that, I'm just saying I believe that is what they are thinking most people will do. That said, I do wish they had at least doubled it, I like to store all my stuff on the device without having to go to the cloud. It's not as bad with the 3G version though, because I usually have access to the 3G everywhere I go.

      The 3G version will allow you to escape the "Special Offers" and it doesn't make a difference if it's not listed on the site because, you can go to "Manage My Kindle" online and pay the difference between versions on any of the "Offer" versions and disable the "Offers" and turn it into the "Non-Offers" version at any time. So, you can buy the version that has the adds and then turn it into the version that doesn't just by using the online account manager.
      ( I have done this on the pervious version of the paperwhite, so I know it works. )
  • not eInk?

    This uses a backlight? I thought this used eInk. I guess I'll stick with my stupid nook.
    Michael Barsotti
    • The Review Author Doesn't Know What He's Talking About

      It is not a backlight. The device still uses e-Ink. The light is channeled through the outer layer of the screen to light the text from the front. The first iteration is a little uneven, so I am looking forward to seeing how this "improved" one works. The brightness is adjustable so that in natural light it is almost imperceptible, but does not turn completely off.