September 4th 2012 5:05 pm

Heads up! A newer version of this product is out!

final rating

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Criteria Comments Rating
  • Display / readability The light is very evenly displaced across the screen, and the text is very, very crisp and contrasty. Best e-ink screen I've used. great!
  • Battery life No comments
  • Store and selection of titles As someone who's bought into Amazon's content ecosystem, I find their selection of books to be more than enough for me. Free books for Prime users are great. great!
  • Ease of use The capacitive touch screen is way better than the IR touch screen on last year's Kindle Touch, but some functions are harder to perform than they should be. good
  • Document support Kindle does not support EPUB, which is a bit of a detraction from the system as a whole, but isn't a huge deal day-to-day. Word and PDF support is nice. so-so
  • Storage capacity Down to 2GB (1GB usable) from the 4GB that came with the Kindle Touch. Not sure if this was a cost-saving measure, but it feels a bit limiting. so-so
  • Durability The device feels solid, and well made. Feels like it could take a hit and keep on ticking. good
  • Design and form factor For me, the 6" e-reader is perfect. Furthermore, the darker skin and removal of the home button give this product a luxury (not plasticky like the Touch) feel. great!
  • Portability (size / weight) It's heavier than it looks, but its weight isn't unmanageable by any means. Certainly lighter and easier to read on than an iPad. good
Detailed review
From the onset, the increased resolution and front light are enough to make this edition of Amazon's Kindle a winner in my book. A couple of months ago, when I was speculating about the features that would hallmark Amazon's top-of-the-line e-reader, I specifically hoped for more contrast, increased resolution, and some sort of built-in lighting system. Amazon checked all three of those boxes with the Paperwhite, making it the best e-reader I've owned.

The display is fantastic, and the feature that really sets this generation of Kindle apart from the rest. Text is ultra-crisp, and the contrast is notably improved. And, after reading with the front light for ten minutes, trying to go back to my old Kindle makes me wonder how I could have possibly been reading before. It's that noticeable and that nice.

I haven't had the Paperwhite long enough to test its battery life, but Amazon's estimates have always been true for me with previous Kindles. In this case, Amazon says "8-week battery life, even with the light on." I'm inclined to trust that.

As a Prime member, and someone who's bought into Amazon's content ecosystem (for the most part), its store offers far more books than I could ever read. It's easy to navigate, the suggestions for books I should read seem surprisingly accurate, and it's been quite a while since I've not been able to find a book I need/want on the store.

Because of the way e-ink works, the Kindle still has its traditionally laggy interface, but the capacitive touch screen is a huge step up from the infrared used with last year's Kindle Touch. Unfortunately, despite the updated interface and new screen technology, several processes are still unnecessarily difficult to complete. Adding books to a collection, for instance, requires you to add each book one at a time. The interface is good, but some of the sequences could use logical shortening.

Amazon still uses their proprietary format (AZW) for books, which is a downer for those of us who prefer a bit more openness. It also doesn't support EPUB, which is equally as rough. It does allow Word documents and PDFs which is okay, but having more format choices would be appreciated. It also doesn't support audio books, text to speech, or MP3s anymore. While that doesn't personally affect me, it's still a bit contractionary.

I'm not sure why Amazon decided to cut the storage in half for this model, and while I don't think it will impact 99% of readers, it's still not comforting knowing I only have 1GB of usable space (the other GB is reserved for the OS) for my books. Amazon solves this partially with their pretty fantastic cloud integration, but I don't want to worry about reaching a point where I have to decide which books to keep on my device.

The Paperwhite is definitely solidly made. There are no creaks, and it seems built well enough to withstand some drops. The screen has a matte coating which makes fingerprints less visible and assuages some of my fears about its delicacy.

The design is definitely nice. It feels understated and has an air of quality surrounding it. It doesn't feel cheap or plasticky, and the dark coloring aids in its elegance.

As I said in my criteria comment, it's heavier than it looks. Quite the opposite of the iPhone 5. This definitely lends it a feeling of solidity, but it also makes it feel slightly thick. It's far lighter than a standard tablet, but simply feels heavier than its dimensions imply.
All in all, definitely a worthy upgrade for any Kindle user. Even if you have the Touch from last year, the increased resolution, contrast, and the added built-in light make the Paperwhite worth it.

P.S. - A quick note about Amazon's case for the Paperwhite: it's the most functional case Amazon has produced. It removes the extra bulk that was required by the light in previous generations, and adds functionality similar to Apple's smart covers - opening and closing it will turn the Kindle on and off (which is surprisingly handy).
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Updated detailed review

Comments (4) subscribe to this review's comments


The storage size drop was probably a cost-saving measure, but is it that limiting? How much space does your average book use up?

Good point Jon. It probably mattered more when you could put other types of media (MP3/Audibooks) on it. Amazon quotes 1,100 books will fit on the device which is certainly more than I could ever imagine needing to have on it. Like I said, probably won't impact 99% of readers, hell, maybe even 99.99%, but it still feels a bit restrictive to me.

Do you use a case on your iPhone?

Good to hear about the Amazon case, because I ordered one! Can't wait until mine gets here, it's slated to arrive either today or tomorrow! I'm having a hard enough time trying to fill up my Kindle Keyboard, which has 4 GB, so I'm sure even 1 GB will be fine. I can't imagine collecting more than a 1,000 books.