Amazon’s Kindle line needs little introduction – it was the first of the e-readers, the first that really became popular and now the last major one standing as Sony and Barnes and Noble exit the market. The Paperwhite was launched in 2013 and has had two minor revisions, most recently in September 2014.
The device is a small rectangular e-ink device with a touch-screen and an integrated backlight. It can can read mobi, azw and txt files and is heavily integrated into Amazon’s ecosystem. It is available in two versions – a wifi only and a wifi and 3g for £109 or £169.
Size: 169 x 117 x 9.1 mm
Capacity: 2gb Storage or around 1000 books
Weight: 206 grams
Connectivity: USB 2.0
Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g/n (2.4 & 5 GHz) capable
Formats: AZW, AZW3, TXT, PDF, MOBI, and with conversion HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, PNG, and BMP
Battery: 8 weeks at half an hour a day or 28 hours (on a medium illumination level). Around 4 hours to charge.
Features and Accessibility
The Paperwhite’s main selling point is as an e-ink illuminated reading device. It was originally sold on being the highest contrast or the most paper like reader available and although it has been surpassed here still has an amazing screen. It’s hardware is all geared towards this easy reading experience. Aside from the screen it is thin and crucially light and comfortable in the hand. Amazon has dispensed with hardware buttons apart from the power button meaning the matt feeling touch screen is the only way to interact with the device – this is a positive.
The reading software on the Paperwhite is excellent. Page turns are responsive and provided you do not have too many books on it locating a book is straightforward. It does become rather clunky if you wish to keep anywhere near the advertised 1000 books onboard but this is a problem few readers will face. Otherwise there are built-in dictionaries and word games and summaries of many books available at a touch. There is integration with the Amazon owned Goodreads for those who want a social aspect to their reading and of course baked in integration into the Amazon store. The only let down in the software is the ‘experimental’ browser which is still in beta after 7 years and whilst useable in a pinch is not recommended.
Design & Visual Accessibility
The Paperwhite is a fairly standard thin black slab with a touch screen. It is coated in a rubberized grippy skin over its slightly curved back which works well and is comfortable but has a habit of picking up a surprisingly large amount of fingerprint marks. At the bottom of the screen are a micro usb port, a charging light (orange for charging, green for done) and the only button for switching on.
It is a deliberately simple physical design focusing you on the screen. The screen is a 212 ppi e-ink with built in illumination. This light is evenly spread throughout the screen rather than coming from one or many points. It is a seemingly small difference but makes reading, particularly in low light much more comfortable on the eye. The screen is not quite at the retina stage – you can still make out pixels – but you really have to peer closely to find them. It is much better than an average paperback book for example.
One factor that might bother some people is that the screen light is on all the time – it is not possible to switch off when reading. It is possible to turn it down so that it is barely on but not off.
Text size is adjustable from quite small to very large and there are 6 included fonts (Baskerville, Caecila, Caecila condensed, Futura, Helvetica, and Palatino). Line spacing and margins are also adjustable.
Audio & Accessibility
Unlike some previous generations there is no sound involved with the Kindle Paperwhite. It has no speakers and no headphone jack.
Amazon has a system called WhisperSync for Voice that lets you coordinate between some written and audio books. Read chapter 1 and 2 on the Kindle and when you load the audiobook on your phone it will automatically be on chapter 3. The Paperwhite will update WhisperSync but will not actually let you do the listening – you will need a smartphone for that.
Input and Touch
The Paperwhite is light and comfortable to hold. It is easier than a small paperback book and usable and page turnable with only one hand. To turn pages you can either swipe across the screen or tap. To to back a page touch the left hand side of the screen – the areas is about an inch wide and to go forward a page the whole rest of the screen. The top inch or so of the screen opens settings or lets you get back to the library. These touch areas are not customisable.
The touch screen feels slightly rough rather than the normal smooth smart phone Gorilla Glass but this is quickly adjusted to. There is a very slight delay in reaction between contact and a reaction but that is down more to the inherent delay in e-ink technology displays than in the sensing of the screen itself.
It is not possible to set the sensitivity of the screen.
Ease of Use
The Paperwhite is straightforward to setup. When first turned on you join a wifi network and then log into your Amazon account. At which point you can access all your previously purchased or uploaded Amazon content or access the store to purchase more. Setting things like device name or logging into Goodreads is a little more complicated but should not challenge most even slightly experience technology users. Once setup pushing the power button takes you back to wherever you were when suspended.
Getting beyond just reading Amazon store content is more complicated but still as simple as it could be. If you plug the Paperwhite into your PC you can transfer ebook files to the drive that appears and they will be entered into your library. Amazon also provides a PC and Mac utility that can upload files from your PC to their cloud and then back down to your reader on demand or you can email files directly to your Paperwhite.
If you want to get complicated there is open source library management software such as Calibre which can let you organise, create, convert and automatically upload or update books. For example you can set Calibre to every morning scrape your favorite news site (such as the BBC), clean up and package the pages into a ebook and then email the book onto your Paperwhite. News with breakfast.
Price: £109 for wifi only and £169 for wifi plus free 3g (3g is restricted to Amazon and certain sites such as Wikipedia)
The Kindle Paperwhite is not the cheapest or the most expensive e-reader that you can buy but falls in the middle of possible price ranges. As such it has a good touch screen, it comfortable to hold and has an excellent screen. Whilst the Voyage is possibly superior in some ways the Paperwhite is the best balanced and best e-ink reader for almost any user – including those of us who read a lot. It is a question of note if you want to have an e-reader; many people will be fine with a tablet or phone but once you have decided this the Paperwhite is probably the best choice available.
The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite was released in 2013 and is compatible with PC, and Mac. The review is based on both the original 2013 and a 2014 version.