The new Amazon Paperwhite Kindle is a very nice ereader. Arguable, it is the best ereader on the market today. I have only spend five days with it so far, but I have read portions of five books and completed two before writing this paperwhite review. (Note: I have since purchased my own Paperwhite and updated the review.)
The biggest new feature of the Paperwhite is its light. Part of the point of eink ebook readers is that they do not have a backlight (light coming from the back of the screen shining out toward the reader) like LCD screens on a computer or tablet. The backlight is a major cause of eyestrain. And among a small group of people, it is a major cause of insomnia.
The Paperwhite uses a different technology. It has a clear strips of fiber optic light that shine down (away from the reader) toward the screen. This should mean far less eye strain when you read at night with the light on.
The picture on the right is the light turned all the way up, reflecting off my jeans at night. You can see there is some light that leaks out, but it is pretty minimal.
The light is also very even. I have used a number of book lights and briefly tried out a Nook Glo. You can see on the picture on the left that the light is very even (again this picture was taken at night with very low light). It is only the bottom that seems to have any light variation.
This past weekend when I was reading, it was very grey and gloomy. I kept the light on much of the time, and was continually adjusting it trying to find the right amount of light. On the whole I found that keeping the light a few notches lower than maximum was the most comfortable lighting for most of the time. But the light is always just one click away, so it is very easy to change.
Using the light even at very low levels gives the illusion of a much whiter screen and greater contrast. So the letter look much crisper than previous kindles. With the light off it is possible to see a small improvement in the screen from previous Kindle models, but it is only a small improvement.
Software and Layout
The Paperwhite has had significant changes in layout. Essentially all previous kindle used the same scrolling home page with about 10 book per page and a drop down setting page. The Paperwhite now uses book covers and a blockier layout with about half the home page devoted to the kindle store.
While I really like the covers, I do not like the fact that you can only see 3 books at a time at your home screen. The four books below are essentially advertisements as is the banner at the bottom. My guess (although I have not tried it) is that if I paid the extra to remove ads, it would remove the banner ad at the bottom, but not the store from the home page. (A comment on google+ said that if you turn on the parental control for the store it removes the store second of the home page.)
Once you are inside a book all you do is push the screen to turn pages. Roughly the right 2/3 of the page turn the page forward, the left 1/3 turn the page back. And pushing the top of the screen leads you to basic setting (Home, Store, Light, Search, X-Ray, Sharing, Fonts, etc.)
I did not realize before I started using the Paperwhite that I tend to hold the kindle with my left hand (I am right handed). So it is difficult for me to read with only one hand when I do that. I can reach with my thumb far enough across the screen to turn the page forward, but just barely. And about half the time, I accidentally turn the page back because I did not reach far enough. I wish there was a way to remap the page turn areas (or to have page turn buttons!!!!). As it is I am not sure if I would end up learning to hold the kindle with my right hand or if I will learn to reach further with my left thumb to turn the page.
Amazon’s X-Ray feature is not new to the Paperwhite, but I have not actually used it prior to now. Essentially, it looks at the screen that you are reading. It takes all the characters on the page and shows you how often they show up in the book that you are reading. Here I am reading the Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan. So the three characters that are come up are those that are mentioned in that page. You can also look at the characters in that chapter or get a list of all of the characters in the book.
This is a very cool feature, especially if you are reading character heavy books. I do not know how much I would use this feature. But it looks cool.
Also included in the x-ray feature are links to places or other terms and notes about the author.
In my initial impressions post I mentioned that there was still a noticeable lag when using the touch screen. I want to revise that to say, when turning pages, this is the most responsive kindle I have ever used. When moving around settings, there is a slight, but noticeable lag. Typing is possible when taking notes, and the touch screen keyboard is as fast, if not faster than the Kindle with Keyboard.
The touch screen is using a different technology than the previous Kindle Touch. My understanding is that it will be easier to make waterproof cases with this new technology. But I was reading outside with a blanket over me part of the weekend and I could not touch the screen through the blanket and turn the page. I had to physically touch the screen with the finger to reliably change the page.
One of the new features that is long past due is parental controls. Kindle are dropping in price. It is reasonable to get them for children. I have several friends who have children in the 10-15 year old range that are primarily reading on kindles. This is an age when the children are strong enough readers to read many things that are not appropriate in content. So parental controls should have been added a while ago. There are three different setting that you can limit. These are all simply on and off switches with a password. You can allow or disallow use of the kindle browser (which is slow and a pain in the neck to use), the kindle store (so you can prevent children from purchasing books without you) and your cloud storage (so you can prevent children from accessing books that are not currently loaded on the kindle.)
Minor Nice Features
One of the things that many people have complained about is the lack of page numbers on Kindle. Amazon decided that Location Numbers that are static and do not change depending on font or device would be more useful than page numbers. However, consumers have disagreed. The lack of page numbers makes it hard to use books in class, or compare to paper books. I was never disturbed by location numbers. I think Location Numbers are more useful (and more exact) than page numbers. But most books now can show either page numbers or location numbers.
Another feature to let you know where you are in a book (since you cannot visually see the number of pages you have left) are three different numbers. One is the percent remaining in the book. The new feature is the time left in the chapter and the time left in the book. Both of the time measures are based on your historic reading speed. And the longer I read, the more accurate they seemed to be.
When you press the settings from inside a book, you can see all four navigation numbers. The Percent Complete is alway on the bottom right. But the reader can choose which of the other three (Location, Time in Chapter and Time in Book) to show on the bottom left during normal reading.
Now at the end of a book you can give the book a rating, tweet or Facebook that you are done, but more importantly, you can find out what other people have purchased if they like this book and what other books this author has written. This makes a lot of sense practically. The books I have finished have been stand alone, so I am not sure if it specifically notes the next book in a series, but it should.
I have not been able to fully test out the battery. Amazon claims that the Paperwhite should last for 8 weeks with the battery on, and the wireless off. In real terms Amazon is basing that on 30 minutes of reading a day. So about 28 hour of reading time. The kindle was not fully charged when I got it and I left the wireless on, but I used it quite extensively over a five day period and drained about half of a battery. The wireless is a major drain on the battery, so I would expect that the reading time is probably close to accurate.
What the Paperwhite Lacks
Not everything is an improvement with the Paperwhite. The biggest problems have to do with audio. There is no audio on the Paperwhite, no text-to-speech, no Audible.com Audiobook support, no mp3 audio playback. Most people will not care. I never used mp3 playback because I do not like listening to music while I read. I also did not like text-to-speech because I am such a devoted fan of narrated audiobooks. But as I have noted before, this is a very popular feature for many and was one of the features that Amazon originally touted as a feature for visually impaired. And what is really odd to me is that removing Audible.com Audiobook support means that the immersive reading and whispersync for voice that Amazon just released on the Kindle Fire line cannot be used on the Paperwhite. You can read a Kindle book on a Paperwhite and then start listening to the audiobook on your phone or iPod touch, but you cannot listen and read on the same device unless you purchase a Kindle Fire (or the Kindle with Keyboard).
The Paperwhite also has half as much storage memory for book as the previous two models. This will not matter as much because the large audiobook files and mp3 files are no longer supported. And because of software limitations, you do not want to store your whole Kindle library on your kindle anyway. Amazon wants you to rely on its cloud storage. The Paperwhite should hold about 1000 books, but if you keep it full, it will be sluggish and crash. In general it is better to keep no more than a couple hundred books on an eink Kindle. All eink Kindle have problems handling more books than that. So maybe Amazon is intentionally lowering the storage size because its software cannot handle more books.
Overall, I really like the Kindle Paperwhite. Visually it is the best kindle I have used. The battery is the longest, the screen is the best, the light makes it most flexible. I still wish it had page turn buttons and audio support. But if I were purchasing a new Kindle, I would buy a Paperwhite.
Reasons to Buy a Kindle with Keyboard or Kindle 4 Instead
There are now three eink Kindles options.
- The Paperwhite has a light and is the newest. But it is also the most expensive and does not have page turn buttons or audio.
- The Kindle 4 is the cheapest, and the lightest. If you are very price conscious this is the one you should buy. Its regular price is only $69. You can also find refurbished Kindle 4 for less when Amazon has them in stock. (They are currently out of stock). This is the model I primarily use. But it does not have a light, touch screen, audio or an easily accessible keyboard.
- The Kindle With Keyboard has a fully accessible browser that can be used world wide (if you travel a lot and get the 3G model, you can use up to 50 MB anywhere in the world for no additional cost.) It also has a physical keyboard with is easy to type on, and is the only eink Kindle that allows for Whispersync for Voice on one device. So if you like the idea of listening to an audiobook and then picking up the kindle book right where you left off, this is the one you want. There are also lots of refurbished Kindles with Keyboard so you can get these for a very good deal. I have seen them as low as $65 for the WiFi Only refurbished outside of Amazon. Amazon usually sells them for $129 for the 3G model. The negative is that the Kindle with Keyboard is by far the largest and heaviest eink Kindle.
Update: I have since purchased my own Kindle Paperwhite. I have been using it as my only kindle for about 2 months. I did buy an old Kindle 2 because I have a waterproof, floating case and the Paperwhite does not have any buttons, therefore it is hard to use with waterproof cases. But other than that one problem, this is the best Kindle available. Amazon does now have refurbished Kindle Paperwhites available for $104. That is only $15 off the new price, but it comes with a full warranty so the very price conscious may want to go that route.