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Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

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What's hot: Excellent E-Ink display that's sharper with good frontlighting. Slim and light.

What's not: No expansion slot, no hardware page turn buttons.


Reviewed October 6, 2012 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

Amazon has Kindle models for everyone: touch screen Kindles, keyboarded Kindles, LCD tablet Kindles and now the Kindle Paperwhite with a side-lit E-Ink display. The Paperwhite competes with the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight and it uses a somewhat similar technology to provide lighting to a display that's useless when you're trying to read in dim light or the dark.

Kindle Paperwhite

The Paperwhite is a 6" eBook reader that supports Amazon's AZW and MOBI formats as well as PDFs. It weighs less than 8 ounces and is very thin. The design is a minimalist soft-touch black slate that looks modern and feels good in hand, though the small bezel might not be comfy for those with large hands (it works fine with my fairly large, long-fingered hands). There are no hardware page turn buttons, and in fact the only control is the power button on the bottom edge. Typical of Kindles, there's no expansion card slot, and that means you'll have to make do with the 2 gigs of internal storage and Amazon's cloud storage services (you can download a book, magazine or newspaper from the cloud, delete it from the Kindle when done, and re-download it should you wish to read it again).

E-Ink readers are returning to their single-purpose roots and there's no music player or Audible book support here. In fact, there's no speaker and no headphone jack (the Kindle Keyboard and the outgoing Kindle Touch had audio but not the non-touch Kindle 4 that now sells for $69). The "experimental" web browser and social sharing of what you're reading are the only non-reading functions. Like all recent Kindles, the Paperwhite comes with a dictionary and you can also look up words and passages in a book using the Wikipedia or Amazon's X-Ray service and you can translate words and passages with Bing.

Kindle Paperwhite

The Kindle Paperwhite starts at $119 (with ads) for the WiFi model. The WiFi+3G model is $179. If you don't want to see ads as your screensaver, you'll have to pay Amazon an additional $20 to turn them off.

Display and Frontlight

The name Paperwhite is fitting, because this is the whitest display we've seen yet on an E-Ink reader. That doesn't mean it's pure white; even printed book pages aren't perfectly white. But when lit it's much less gray looking than E-Ink readers without sidelights and it lacks the Nook GlowLight's sickly florescent blue-purple tinge. By default, the sidelights (also called frontlights) are turned on, and happily they don't destroy the Kindle Paperwhite's superb battery life (Amazon claims up to 2 months on a charge, and so far we'd estimate a month if you read an hour per day with the light turned on). In weak to moderate ambient lighting, the page appears uniformly lit even though the lights emanate from the bottom edge and a nano-imprinted light guide (diffuser) spreads the light across the virtual page. The lighting is more even than the Nook GlowLight, whose LEDs are at the top edge. In a very dimly lit to dark room, you can see the LEDs as a small strip of uneven lighting at the bottom edge of the Kindle's display (watch our video to see this). In a perfect world, this wouldn't happen, but technology is rarely perfect. Is it very distracting? Not to our staff or me. In fact, it's much less distracting than the Nook's uneven lighting or a booklight's uneven lighting and glare.

The Kindle Paperwhite uses a capacitive touch screen that's rarely used on E-Ink eReaders (they use IR touch sensors) but is common on smartphones and tablets. It's responsive and quick, though honestly we've never had issues with the rest of the crowd that uses IR sensors. The capacitive touch layer doesn't degrade display contrast or clarity, nor does it make the text look "far away" under layers of glass. The panel's texture is ever so slightly rough and I love this because it feels more like a book's pages and it has more tactile feel than slick glass.

Kindle Paperwhite

Happily, the display has excellent contrast, even when the light is on. Yes, it has better contrast than the competing Nook with GlowLight that suffers a contrast loss compared to the Nook Touch And Kindle Touch. This is a sharper E-Ink display with 1024 x 768 resolution and a higher pixel density than the army of 6" 800 x 600 E-Ink readers on the market. That allows Amazon to offer some nice new serif fonts like Baskerville and Palatino without fear of fonts looking jaggy. Text looks better than on any other 6" E-Ink display currently on the market, with smoother and sharper fonts. The page refreshes every sixth turn by default, and the partial page refresh leaves more ghosting than the Nook Glowlight and Kindle Touch. This is more noticeable if you select something other than default Caecilia slab (semi-bold) font. You can set the page to refresh with every page turn if you don't mind the flash to black as the page turns or the small drop in battery life. I'd love to see Amazon improve the partial page refresh with a firmware update.

Deals and Shopping:

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Video Review

User Interface: Navigating the eReader

The user interface is also improved, and we finally have a book cover view instead of the archaic list view (though list view is still available if you prefer it). The UI feels as modern as the Nook and Kobo Touch, and we thoroughly enjoyed using the Kindle Paperwhite. It also feels noticeably faster than the Kindle Touch, despite the greater demands of the more graphical UI. I'd still give the Nook Touch and GlowLight models the edge for intuitiveness, but the Paperwhite is pretty good. As with the Kindle Touch, all navigation is done on-screen (there's no home button or hardware page turn buttons). Tap on the large center to right side area to turn the page ahead, tap in the left margin to go back a page. Tap near the top to bring up all controls and settings. Pretty simple to master.

Kindle Paperwhite

Directly above: the Kindle Paperwhite with light turned on in a dark room.

The usual staples are here like X-Ray for books, highlights, notes, bookmark syncing across devices, social sharing and cloud syncing of content (including your personal content, not just Amazon books). The Paperwhite has 2 gigs of storage with 1.25 gigs available, so you may find that cloud storage handy if you run out of room (remember, there's no SD card slot).

The Kindle has a landscape option, which is useful for PDFs whose text may be too small to comfortably read in portrait mode. There's no zooming for PDFs, but you can enlarge the font (which may disrupt the page layout). You can pan around the PDF by dragging on-screen with a finger, but it's a slow process and I'd choose an LCD-based device over a 6" E-Ink eReader for all but novels in PDF format.

Bookstore and Shopping

As always with Kindle products, you can either buy books using your computer's web browser and have them sent automatically to the Kindle or you can shop directly on the Kindle using WiFi or 3G. The store presentation is similar to other recent E-Ink Kindles, with a mix of book covers and text links. It's easy to search and buy content using the Kindle (the same is true of competing eReaders from Sony and B&N). Amazon still stands out for their absolutely immense selection of books and sometimes lower prices vs. B&N, though these two large US booksellers often have the same pricing, while the Sony Reader Store is a bit more expensive.

Amazon allows book lending (if the publisher allows) with your Kindle-owning friends and Amazon Prime customers have access to a decent free lending library run by Amazon (you can check out one book at a time and hold onto it for as long as you like).

Kindle Paperwhite

The Kindle Paperwhite supports Amazon's AZW and Mobi formats plus PDF. Those of you who wish to shop at other ePUB bookstores are out of luck unless you're willing to use Calibre to strip DRM and convert books to a Kindle-friendly format (it's not hard, but breaking DRM is against US law). Public libraries now offer Mobi and ePUB formats, but not all libraries have gotten up to speed on Mobi offerings yet. Google's large selection of free public domain works is in ePub format, but you can covert those using Calibre (there's no DRM on public domain works so there's no worry over legal issues).


Several reviewers have said that the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is the best E-Ink reader on the market and I agree, with a few caveats. Not everyone wants the same things: some of you may prefer ePub for its greater openness (you can buy books from more sources), others of you may want a card slot or audio capabilities. If you're happy with Amazon's huge selection of well-priced books or you use Calibre to convert ePub eBooks to Mobi format for use on the Kindle, then this is the best eReader on the market. I personally find that 1.25 gigs of storage is more than adequate to carry a vast library of books with me, so I don't miss the card slot. I prefer the thin and modern Paperwhite design to the bulky Nook Touch and Nook GlowLight design. But those of you with large hands and a hankering for hardware page turn buttons will disagree. The display and frontlighting are the best on the market, and that's arguably the most important feature on a single purpose digital book reader. Battery life is likewise excellent, and those of you who've been using an LCD based tablet or smartphone will find the month or more of battery life liberating.

Price: $119 for WiFi version, $179 for WiFi + 3G version (add $20 if you wish to remove screensaver ads)



Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle Paperwhite


Kindle Paperwhite


Kindle Paperwhite

Directly above and below: the Nook with Glowlight and Kindle Paperwhite.

Kindle Paperwhite


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Display: 6" E-Ink display, 1024 x 768 resolution, 212 ppi. 16 grayscale levels. Front-lit display. Supports portrait and landscape orientation (2-way not 4-way).

Size: 6.7" x 4.6" x 0.36", 7.5 ounces.

Wireless: Single band WiFi 802.11b/g/n ( 3G option is available).

Storage: 2 gigs with approximately 1.25 gigs available. Mounts as a mass storage device in Windows and Mac OS X for USB transfer of content.

Battery: Sealed in unit. Claimed 2 month battery life with wireless off when reading 30 minutes per day with light turned on. Charges via USB, micro USB cable included, charger sold separately.

Formats supported: Amazon AZW3, AZW, TXT, non-DRM MOBI and PDF natively. Doesn't support DRM-d MOBI and PRC files. Other formats supported: HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.

OS: Heavily customized Android.



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