Kindle Paperwhite Review: Forget Everything Else, This Is The E-Reader You Want

The Kindle Paperwhite is a pivotal step forward for the technology of ereaders. It makes previous generations feel like a pulpy paperback held up next to an ornately illustrated tome. In short: this is the best ereader you can buy.

What Is It

An e-ink reader with a frontlight and a high-res capitative touchscreen.

Who Is It For

Anyone who wants an ereader with a great screen. Which is basically anyone who wants an ereader.

Design

Paperwhite ditches the chip-prone silver paint of the previous Kindle generation for a black finish, a soft-touch-painted back panel, and its new capacitive touch sensor lets it slim down, with a much thinner bezel. It's the stealth bomber version of the Kindle you know.

Using It

You know how ereaders work. This one just works better. Starting with the standout feature: The frontlight is an easy-on-the-eyes light that illuminates the screen without stressing your eyes. You can slide the brightness up or down, and read in bed at night or anywhere else that's dimly lit without lighting up the whole room. The Paperwhite's light is well distributed, and super easy to control because of its capacitive touch sensor.

The change to capacitive touch from IR is a bigger deal than it sounds. Interacting with the Kindle for stuff other than turning a page is actually pleasant now, not clunky and slow. You especially feel the difference when you're changing settings, like Wi-Fi, or using the onscreen keyboard.

Aside from that glorious light, text on the new screen is sharper, in a way that's instantly noticeable. Everything is tack-sharp. The PPI boost, from 169 to 212, makes a huge difference in how small you can make the font with it still being readable. On the old Pearl screens previous e-ink readers have used, small text would be pixelated, and degrade further as you turned pages, until the display finally "flashed" to refresh it self (once every five pages). That issue hasn't totally disappeared here — it still degrades and flash refreshes — but it's far less pronounced.

Finding stuff to read is as easy as ever. Anything you've ever bought from the Amazon store is available in the "Cloud" tab of your library. You can also buy a book online and send it directly to your Kindle, where it will show up almost immediately, or browse on the Kindle itself (another chance to be thankful for that capacitive touch display).

The Best Part

The screen and the light sort of work together as one mega-benefit, because the light actually feels like part of the display. There is a liiiittle bit of banding around the bottom of the screen, where the four LEDs produce light for the whole device, but it's not as pronounced as it is on the comparable Nook.

Tragic Flaw

It's not ideal to hold. The Paperwhite is light and small and a definite improvement over the Kindle Touch in ergonomics. But it's also not quite as comfortable to hold one-handed as the Nook Simple Touch, due to the relatively small side bezel. And since it's a touchscreen, you've got to worry about blasting off to another page by accident.

This Is Weird

The frontlight's not just for dark rooms; actually end up will get a lot of use it in dim or even average lighting conditions, to neutralise ambient shadows. It feels strange popping on the light in places where you would never use a traditional book light, but it's useful.

Test Notes

  • The contrast difference between the Paperwhite or the Kindle Touch is definitely noticeable. When it really comes through is on the third and fourth pages after a flash-refresh (when the e-ink screen blinks to all-black to reset itself). Sharpness starts to degrade no matter what, but the Paperwhite's text at least remains readable.
  • The contrast difference is also magnified when the light is on; any imperfections are more noticeable (and again, the Nook has more).
  • There is still e-ink ghosting, where the previous page's text is outlined on the current page. But it actually seems less pronounced on the Paperwhite. Still, you have the option to flash-refresh every page turn if you insist.
  • Having just one physical button — the power button on the bottom of the device — is still a bit of a hassle. The Nook has an additional physical Home button to bring up its menu, while you've got to tap the upper part of the screen to access the Paperwhite's.
  • X-Ray — Amazon's feature that shows you the important characters on a page, or in the book as a whole — is cool, but still feels pretty extraneous. You won't use it much, especially after the novelty wears off.

  • Time to Read, however, is really useful. It's a new feature that analyses how fast you typically read, and gives you an estimate of how long until you're done with your chapter, or the book as a whole. It seems reasonably accurate — though at times it just seems to guess a minute per page turn — and only really feels useless when you're reading a book with humongous chapters and something dumb like 3 hours 24 minutes pops up.
  • There is a fine grain added to the surface of the screen, to make swiping and touching it feel more tactile. It works well, and makes you want to touch the screen more than you have to.
  • The case for this year's Kindle (and Kindle Fire HD, actually) is a huge improvement from last year's. It's textured, with a magnet to automatically turn the Kindle on when it opens. It definitely helps with the slight "awkward to hold" issue. I'm a gadget nudist, but find myself using the case quite a bit.
  • The black finish of the bezel collects smudges a little more than you'd like. They rub out quickly enough, but it's slightly distracting.
  • Battery life with 3G, Wi-Fi, and the frontlight on for prolonged reading sessions drained about 30 per cent over the course of a week. It's rated at eight weeks with wireless off and the light on 11/24 for an hour per day.
  • We tossed a set of keys onto the screen a few times from about three feet (don't tell Amazon), and didn't wind up with any light pillars shooting out of the display. So it's sturdy.

Should You Buy This?

Absolutely. The Paperwhite is a great ereader, and the superb screen quality, easy-to-use frontlight, and improved capacitive controls make it an easy choice. The only reason to not get it would be if you really love physical buttons, in which case you should probably look to the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight, which is now $US120 — in line with the Paperwhite's Special Offers model. Otherwise, the Kindle Paperwhite is the best ereader out there.

Kindle Paperwhite Specs

Price: $US119 with ads; $US139 without ads; 3G: $US179/$199

Display: 6-inch 212PPI E-Ink

Dimensions: 169 mm x 117 mm x 9.1 mm

Storage: 2 GB; 1.25 GB available for user content

Weight: 221 grams (3G); 212 grams (standard)


Comments

    I think I'ma get a Kobo Glo. ^_^

      Me too! The dimensions are better! And... they sell them in Australia :) Collins pre-ordered ones are meant to come in sometime in November.

      It would be good if giz can get their hands on a Kobo and tell us how it compares.

        used a kobo before. Terribly laggy and doesnt read your gestures on the touch screen well at all. Much prefer my kindle keyboard.

          While I wouldn't have called it terrible, the Kobo Touch did have a few flaws, occasional lag being one of them. But personally I've never been happier with an e-reader than I am with our Glo. We were staying in Montreal over Dec/Jan, which ended up being perfect with all the delays Australia has had getting Glos. Haven't encountered any of the little quirks we found with the touch, runs better than any kindle I've used, and dang the Sleep Cover is a cool little thing too. Mind you I'm sure the Paperwhite is fine too, but I wouldn't hestiate a second in reccommending the Glo.

        They're now apparently shipping Paperwhites to AU
        http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2013/01/amazon-is-kind-of-shipping-the-kindle-paperwhite-to-australia-now/
        though I now see you've already ordered your Glo

          Still waiting in Asia, had to ask somebody to bring it for me from the states! I'd really appreciate it if you would also check out my review of the Amazon Kindle and drop a comment. Thanks! http://goo.gl/ixAOlo

    As an owner of the last generation touch.

    It looks great to recommend to someone to buy. Can't see my self buying one though unless mine breaks.

    Been thinking about a kindle for a while, this seems to be the one to get.

    One question though: As Amazon don't actually sell them to Australia, if I buy one that is imported will there be any region issues, or will everything work just the same as if they did sell it here? Cheers.

      I don't think there will be any problem at all. Amazon have always been great to international customers (apart form, you know, actually selling things to us). If you get the 3G model, you are even better off getting the US model, because it won't be on Vodafone's network like the international model would.

      At least, that's how it has been with previous Kindles, and I don't see it being any different this time around.

      I'm just having trouble convincing myself that my K3 (keyboard) is still good enough, now that I see this one!

      I bought my Kindle 'Touch' via Amazon with no region issues, so I doubt you will have an issue with that. :)

      The only regional issues are with price and availability of content, which is down to licensing deals with publishers. I doubt that that amazon would deliberately lock out one device while allowing others (older Kindles), even if they could.

      BMac, as of the 25th of jan or so Amazon now sell Kindle Paperwhite directly to Australian customers...mine arrived last Friday, all hooked up to 3G and ready to go!

      Amazon actually sell them to Austalia now. See http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2013/01/amazon-is-kind-of-shipping-the-kindle-paperwhite-to-australia-now/.

      Been reading from my Paperwhite all morning :)

    I've just checked out the Readershop website. They do stock some of the newly released Kindles but don't seem to be stocking the Paperwhite, which is the one I wanted !

      From what I've heard they aren't even thinking about Australia yet for the 'Paperwhite'. I have the 'Touch' and apart from the font resolution and the front light, there's not a lot of difference. Still, I'm tossing up whether to get one just for those two options. :)

    Sorry.. I cannot agree. Until the Kindle supports EPUB I will be seeking alternatives.

      Just convert to mobi, there are free apps that will do that, problem solved.

        absolutely, I use calibre and it takes about 2 seconds per book to convert, I can live with that lol

      You can even send it to amazon - they will convert it for you and send it back to your Kindle.

        Indeed.. this is what I love the most about my Kindle.. I can send basically any text based file to them and not only do they convert it FOR FREE but they also then add it to my kindle document repository AND send it to me wirelessly!!!

        Just make sure you use the @free.kindle.com address when converting and it is free every time!

      I bought the significantly more expensive Sony PRS-650 years ago because it supported ePub and the Kindle didn't.
      But this Paperwhite with its higher-res screen, better illumination that the Kobo Glo and capacitive touch screen has changed my mind, especially since Calibre exists to quickly convert my epubs to mobi.

    Does this one invert the screen when it refreshes (ie changing a page)? Current kindle turns the page black and the letters white every second page or so. Thats a big turn off for me.

      Did you not read the review?

        Yes, I did thank you. It says it refreshes on the old screen tech every five pages or so. What it does not say is whether the screen turns inverted or not.

          mine does that but its so fast it doesnt bother me, I mean it takes a few minutes to read a page anyway unless you're one of those speed reading types.

    This looks cool, I'll just go down to the shops and...

    Oh...not available here.

    I keep reading about this need to refresh every 4 or 5 pages but I can't say it is anything I have ever experienced with my own Kindle, which I've had for a couple of years now. Every page seems prefect to me, no after-images or long refreshes that I've noticed. Is it something that is exclusively a problem with the newer, touch-screen Kindles? If so, it seems like a pretty big compromise just to allow users to put greasy finger marks all over their devices. I think I'll be sticking with my "keyboard" Kindle for the foreseeable future. I'd be a lot more interested in a new one if they retained the page turn buttons on either side but as it is, these newer ones seem like a step back. I'd like to get the new firmware/software on mine, though, it seems to have some cool features.

      I've had the same experience as you (with a keyboard Kindle from a few years back), so the fading and ghosting must be a result of the touchscreen.

      I thought exactly that till my screen broke a few weeks ago! So be very careful, I could have sworn I hadn't dropped it or crushed it :(

      Your keyboard kindle refreshes every page, the new ones have the option to do that and have no ghosting, or to refresh every five pages or so and have ghosting as a tradeoff.

      This is a great comment because it really says everything I thought. I have kindle that refreshes every page, and its barely noticeable. Its much faster than turning a page.

      And +1 on the physical buttons - the one thing that puts me off about the touch is having to shift my grip when turning the page. Pressing a side button is far better.

        Exactly! A slight flex of the thumb is all it takes. Not having it is definitely a deal-breaker for me.

    I use Kindle on my Samsung Galaxy s3, apart from a bigger screen, storage and an extra gadget, what's the benefit of eReaders over mobile phone apps?

      less strain on your eyes as e-ink is closer to what reading a normal book is. I find I can read for a lot longer than I could on a phone or tablet.

      Battery life.
      The kindle's last for ages.
      Useful when your travelling around.

      If you read a lot, it's definitely worth it.
      I carry my smartphone, 10" tablet and 6" eReader in my manbag everywhere I go - and my ereader gets the most use out of the lot.

      * Not just the excellent battery life of the ereader - you don't end up draining the precious battery on your phone.
      * Low weight for one-handed reading (compared to tablet), and you don't attract as much attention reading an ereader on dodgy public transport than you do a tablet (not so much of an issue these days with the ubiquity of tablets, but used to be a potential issue)
      * If you drop & smash your ereader, you're out ~$150. If you do the same for your smartphone/tablet, you could be out of pocket $700 or more.
      * Reading from eInk so much easier on the eyes than LCD/AMOLED
      * Reading in bright sunlight is fantastic on an ereader, but hard due to glare on LCD, which also drains more battery power to increase brightness.
      * Bigger screen means less text scrolling/page changes on a smaller device

      That's all I can think of off the top of my head...

    I thought the same till I was given a kindle. It is muchhh easier on the eyes, the battery lasts forever.
    Reading on my mobile is a pain, and the battery dies much sooner. Not good for a plane trip or travelling.

    What's with the version with ads and one without ads!!!

      What's the problem? Amazon are trying to make it more affordable. Surely that is a good thing?

    Can anyone recommend a good way of purchasing these in Australia? eBay and Gumtree seem to be massively inflated, but can anyone suggest something better?

      Tristan, Amazon now sell these directly to Australian customers through their website! mine arrived on Friday all hooked up to 3G with no problems, best Kindle ever (i have had 5) Paid AUD$220 for wi-fi and 3G, with express shipping to arrive 3 days after i bought it

    Does this work well with text-heavy PDF documents? I have to read a lot of academic articles (which can be formatted in lots of different ways included one column and two columns to a page) and I'd like to do it away from my desktop. I tried using a friend's much older Kindle, but I couldn't change the text size and the none of the various zoom options helped at all (it either didn't fit a whole line on the screen or it was zoomed out too much and the text was too small).

    Any experiences or suggestions, fellow PDF readers?

      I use the Kindle app on my Asus Transformer tablet and it handles text reasonably well for my programming textbooks. I'd recommend checking out certain retailers mid-month as they will likely have a working display .

      I had the same requirement and bought a Sony after my Kindly specifically because it was rated as handling PDFs better. While true, the experience with both is not that great and I've pretty much given up using PDFs on the ereaders. Having said that, the Sony does allow you to specify how many columns the PDF which is useful for two column documents and if it is text heavy then perhaps it will do the job for you

    I have heard rumors I haven't been able to confirm about the browser on the 3g paperwhite, can you help?

    Essentially I've heard that they've locked access to the web on their free 3g connection to only Amazon and Wikipedia. This is a huge let down for me, I've had major issues with travel connections in the past and was able to get in touch with family via gmail on whispernet and resolve the issue. It was definitely painful to browse but it was amazing in an emergency.

    Get the Sony T2 instead, despite what Amazon wants you believe, the Sony has the exact same screen, couple that with battery life that's almost triple that of the paperwhite, the android OS so you can access all libraries including Amazon's own, EverNote and no DRM to muck around with, there is no reason to get a Paperwhite unless you enjoy the backlight that makes it more like Paperblue.

    You will be better off with anything other than a Kindle! You can't even buy a book using the Kindle, if you want a book you have to do it using either your PC or Laptop, what a pain in the arse! In other words if your on holidays and your reading your kindle and you finish a book and want to buy another one to read and you don't have your PC or Laptop handy 'FORGET IT'!!!!!!!!!

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