Gadgets

Amazon's New Ebook Reader: Kindle Paperwhite [Updated]

Here’s Amazon’s new, stunning e-ink Kindle. The Paperwhite is a frontlit reader with a new XGA display that bumps its pixel density up from 169 to 212 — a noticeable increase you’ll be able to see even in quick glances. Updated with hands-on impressions.

The Kindle Paperwhite has a capitative touchscreen instead of the infrared technology that every ereader had used until now, which will make navigation much more accurate. It’s also allowed the Kindle Paperwhite to shed a bit of weight since it no longer needs the dip between the bezel and the display. That height difference provided the space needed to shoot across infrared beams and pick up your finger. Since that’s no longer an issue, it means we get thinner Kindles.

The Kindle Paperwhite introduces a feature called “Time to Read”, which displays roughly how long it will take you to finish a chapter or the whole book in the bottom left corner of your page. The calculation is based on your reading habits, like how fast you read a page, and how often you flip back and forth through pages. That’s really cool — until someone sees that it’s going to take you 38 more days to finish the third Harry Potter.

The light on the Kindle Paperwhite appears to be incredibly even for a frontlit device. In fact, it almost looks like it’s backlit. It achieves this effect by shining four LED lights from the bottom of the device what is essentially a layer of flattened fibre optic glass that is nano-imprinted with a special pattern. In a nutshell, it captures less light closer to the LEDs, where the light is brighter, and more light farther away.

Battery life, which is basically a constant in readers, is rated at eight weeks with the light on a medium setting. Amazon’s calculations are based on a half hour per day of reading, but that’s still pretty good and impressive considering the light.

The Kindle Paperwhite also looks like it has a soft rubberised back, like the Kindle Fire. And it’s back in black, which is good news after last year’s brief dalliance with silver painted to look like metal.

The new ereader also has a new home screen, which looks a lot like the one on the Kindle Fire and the Nook Simple Touch. It’s a small addition that spruces up the tired-looking text-based menu.

This is a huge jump forward for the Kindle brand. Last year’s models were fine, but it was clear that the gap had shrunk between Amazon and everyone else. It looks like that lead is being extended again.

The 3G version will cost $US179 and goes on sale October 1. There doesn’t seem to be an ad-supported version. The old $US79 version is back with a few minor upgrades and a lower price of $US69, which will start shipping from September 14. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Amazon is ready to bring the Kindle Paperwhite to Australia just yet. We’ll let you know if that changes.

Update: hands-on impressions below.

The Kindle Paperwhite’s screen is so awesome you wouldn’t believe it’s e-ink. Hell, I just saw it and I still don’t believe it. It combines the paper-like text of e-ink screens with the usability of LCD screens but none of the eye strain. No other ereader even comes close to this right now.

It’s not just the screen either; the black buttonless bezel of the Kindle Paperwhite makes a mockery of the old Kindle’s painted plastic. The new Kindle Paperwhite is ever so slightly smaller than the old Kindle, but it’s hardly noticeable when you hold it in your hand. The weight seems to be about the same too.

But the screen. Oh, the screen. It’s crisp, clear and delightfully bright without feeling like you’re burning your eyes with liquid crystal daggers. The light is dispersed evenly throughout, making it feel more like an LCD/e-ink love child than an e-ink screen trying to fake the funk. The frontlit display in the Nook Simple Touch with looks like a splotchy birthmark in comparison.

The feel of the new Kindle is solid. There are no weak points, no creaky plastic — it’s as nice as the older model but slightly better to touch. Using it is significantly more pleasant because the screen’s refresh rate is so much faster and the touchscreen has been upgraded to capacitive. There’s still a slight lag, but that’s because the e-ink screen still needs a little more time to refresh (compared to LCD). Oddly, there doesn’t seem to be a headphone jack on the new Kindle.

Amazon has also built a cover for the Kindle Paperwhite that resembles te iPad’s Smart Cover. It uses a magnet to automatically wake it from sleep when the case is opened. For what it’s worth, it looks a lot nicer than the one that came with the Kindle Touch last year.


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