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Review: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2013)

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April 8, 2014

Gizmag reviews the 2nd-generation Kindle Paperwhite

Gizmag reviews the 2nd-generation Kindle Paperwhite

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In our world of smartphones and tablets, is there still room for e-readers? Well, they may not be as sexy, powerful, or versatile as iPads, Galaxies, or HTC Ones. But then again, sometimes there's a lot to be said for a product that does one job very well. Join Gizmag, as we review Amazon's latest e-ink reader, the 2013 Kindle Paperwhite.

Amazon popularized the e-reader, and it's still making some terrific devices in that space

Before I picked up the latest Kindle Paperwhite, it had been over three years since I'd spent much time with an e-reader. I usually have a steady stream of smartphones and tablets flowing in and out of the office, so I didn't have much need for a product that can only do what one single app on those devices can do. Want a Kindle? Open the Kindle app on your favorite mobile device, and – voila – instant e-reader. Or at least that was my thinking.

But if you spend a lot of time reading books, I still think e-ink readers do that job better than anything else (even better than physical books, if you ask me). They may be less powerful than full-fledged tablets, but their simpler hardware also makes them lighter in hand. They might have black & white screens that are only good for text and the occasional image, but they also look good in direct sunlight. They don't play Grand Theft Auto or Flappy Bird, but you also only have to charge them once every week or two.

The newest Kindle Paperwhite has a higher-contrast screen than the 2012 model did

If you decide that you still have room for an e-reader, then the Kindle Paperwhite is a great option. It only weighs 207 g (7.3 oz), which is 37 percent lighter than the latest iPad mini. It's very comfortable in hand, with a decent amount of side bezel to wrap your thumb around. Its 6-in display, the de facto standard for e-readers, is still a pretty ideal size for digging into a book. And though text doesn't look as sharp here as it does on high-end smartphones and tablets (it packs 212 pixels into each inch), I think it still looks plenty crisp when you hold it at a typical distance. Contrast is also improved over the 2012 model, with text popping very nicely.

As its name suggests, the Paperwhite has a frontlit display that gives you a whiter background than you'd find on older e-readers. On this model that lighting is very evenly lit; I didn't notice any areas where the light bled or was more or less intense.

You can adjust the screen's brightness, from among 24 levels

You can easily adjust the screen's brightness from anywhere, from a drop-down toolbar menu. Turn it off and you'll have what amounts to an old-school Kindle without any lighting. Crank it all the way up, and it's bright enough to read anywhere. Keeping it somewhere in the middle pumps out less light, but also helps to give it that white-paper look.

That front-lit screen does take a toll on battery life. On older Kindles, I could read for weeks without even dropping it on a charger. On the Paperwhite, if I keep the brightness at a very high level, I can drop it down about 20-30 percentage points in one long day of reading. That might not sound like much, but when you're used to eight-week uptimes, that's shaving a decent amount off of that. With that said, battery life still isn't much of a concern – and it still easily outlasts tablets with full-color LCDs.

The newest Paperwhite has a 25 percent faster processor than its predecessor (it's clocked at 1 GHz). And this Kindle is pretty zippy: quite the improvement over the last e-reader I owned, back in 2010. The screen also no longer has to refresh every time you turn the page, which drastically cuts down on that weird inverted negative flash thingy (that's the technical name, I'm told) that you get from e-ink screens. Pages turn almost instantly, and when you do get the occasional screen refresh, it happens so quickly you might not even notice.

If you're looking for e-books, you can do much worse than the Kindle Store

Of course you're locked into Amazon's Kindle ecosystem, but I (and countless other readers) usually get my e-books from there anyway, so not a problem for me. To get the best price on the device, you'll also have Amazon "Special Offers" on your lock screen and at the bottom of the home screen. You can turn them off anytime by paying US$20, but I haven't yet felt the need to do that: I don't mind seeing new e-book suggestions, even if they are sponsored.

Speaking of suggestions, the Paperwhite now has Goodreads integration on board. If you aren't familiar, Goodreads is a social reading service that lets your friends (as well as the company's algorithms) suggest new books you might like, based on ratings you give to books you've already read. I have a habit of blazing through a book, then not finding anything else to read for a few months after that. If you're like me, and wish you could have a steadier stream of reading material, then Goodreads can be a handy ally.

The Paperwhite is very light, at just 207 g (7.3 oz)

There isn't much else to say about the 2nd-gen Paperwhite. If you're looking for a dedicated e-reader – a pretty big "if" these days – then you're getting the real deal from Amazon's latest. It's comfortable to hold, great in all kinds of lighting situations, and plugged into Amazon's terrific Kindle store. For long-form readers, this is still the best way to get lost in a book ... without that nagging temptation to jump onto the web or into a round of Fruit Ninja.

The 2nd-gen Kindle Paperwhite is available now, starting at $120 with "Special Offers." For more on the latest e-readers, you can check out our eReader Comparison Guide.

Product page: Amazon

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About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
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3 Comments

I'd certainly agree with the conclusions Will draws here. While I have tablets and smartphones coming out of my ears I still find space for a Kindle simply because it does its job so well.

I upgraded my old keyboard model to the 2013 Paperwhite about a month ago. For the modest price of the new unit it was well worth it. The processor speed is much improved with snappy searches and page transitions and WiFi connection handling feels smoother too. Looking up reviews of the many books I have downloaded (I'm a sucker for free books OK?) is now more or less instant as is purchasing new titles.

The screen is superb and the backlight transforms the Kindle's practicality, doing away with the need for a bedside light at night. I find that a level of about half brightness works well, and doesn't cause eye strain or run down the battery unduly quickly. I've just returned from a trip to Dubai and used the Kindle to carry copies of all my travel documents including e-tickets, passport and driving licence (with an access password set). It performed faultlessly even in bright sun on the beach and the battery lasted the whole trip even though I spent lots of time for reading.

I bought an Inateck protective case for along with the Kindle which keeps the screen safe and uses the device's magnetic switch to turn the screen on and off when opening the case - a really nice touch.

I'd recommend this new Kindle model to anyone seeking an e-reader and if you have an old version I think you'll find the updated model much nicer to use.

Booleanboy
9th April, 2014 @ 04:54 am PDT

I really like this reader. I only wish they would make a larger (DX size) version of the Paperwhite. I need to use a larger font with my bad eyes, and with the small screen you only get a few words per line, and you are constantly having to flip the pages.

Michael Logue
9th April, 2014 @ 09:30 am PDT

One thing about a dedicated device is that the drm is so pervasive that it actually kind of fades into the background. I approach it with limited expectations, so I can be happy when it meets those so well.

John Banister
9th April, 2014 @ 11:38 pm PDT
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