This backlit version of Amazon's popular eReader is perfect for newcomers, and even some existing Kindle owners may find it to be a worthy upgrade.
The Kindle Paperwhite is the latest-generation Kindle, featuring a 6-inch e-ink screen with a built-in light that promises eystrain-free reading in any lighting condition, from full sun on the beach to under the covers at night.
Prices start at $119 for the ad-supported WiFi version and go up to $199 for the ad-free 3G version.
If you've used or seen the Kindle Touch, the Paperwhite will be quite familliar to you. Measuring 6.5-inches tall and 4.5-inches wide, the Paperwhite is small, thin, and easily portable. It will slip into just about any purse, and can even fit into the back pocket of your jeans if you like -- though of course you have to remember not to sit on it!
The device is entirely black, and there's a soft touch rubberized finish on the back that makes it comfortable to hold for extended periods of time. It tapers a bit towards each edge, which is nice. The design is quite minimal, with no obvious buttons, for a clean look that does then to "disappear" when you're reading a book on the device.
The Paperwhite is solidly built, with no flexing or creaking. A case isn't strictly necessary, especially if you leave it at home, but most users will want a protective case for travel. The Paperwhite Leather Cover ($39.99) is exceptionally well made, fully covering all the sides and corners of the ereader, and features a magnetic flap closure that automatically turns on the Paperwhite when the cover is opened -- available in seven colors, and highly recommended.
When it comes to the Paperwhite, the screen is the most important selling point. Not just because this is a device for readers, but because the lighted screen is what sets it apart from previous models. One of the biggest problems with previous Kindle devices is that they just weren't suitable for reading in bed. Various third party clip-on lights and lighted covers have attempted to remedy the problem, but they were often annoying, and not generally capable of evenly lighting the display.
By comparison, the Kindle Paperwhite is a revelation. When viewed in bright daylight, it looks better than any previous e-ink screen because it is whiter and clearer, with a higher resolution for incredibly sharp text. In a dim room or in the dark, it glows with a subtle light that illuminates the screen, instead of shining out into the room like an LCD screen. The lighting is almost perfectly even, with just a few small shadows at the bottom edge of the screen. Some have complained about those shadows, and if you really focus on them you can see them -- but if you just read you'll quickly find that they basically disappear from notice.
When compared to the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, the Kindle Paperwhite's display is noticeably superior. The light is more natural, without the bluish tinge of the Nook, and the lighting levels are more granular, offering the reader more control over how dim or bright the screen lighting is -- the Paperwhite offers 24 different brightness settings for the display, so you can find the perfect level for any environment.
The black "flash" of an e-ink screen refreshing is pretty rare, something that you see only about every three to four page turns as you're reading. After reading several books on the device you won't likely notice it at all.
Touch sensitivity on the screen is very good, which is important -- without any buttons, you'll be doing everything from selecting which book to read to turning the pages by touching the screen. It can be a little difficult at first to find the appropriate touch zones for going back to the previous page or accessing the menu, but it gets easier with just a little practice. Lefties who like to hold the device in their left hand and use their thumb to advance the pages will have to stretch just a bit to ensure that they go forward instead of back, as the touch zones are not customizable.
There is no physical keyboard on the Kindle Paperwhite; in order to enter text or search for something, you'll use the virtual onscreen keyboard. While you won't be able to touch type on it anywhere near as quickly as you could on a computer keyboard, it works surprisingly well.
It does require some training, however, as you need to slow yourself down just a bit to make sure that the device can keep up with you as you type. I don't know if that's a function of the relatively slow refresh rate of the e-ink screen or not, but you should get the hang of it in just a few minutes.
Other Buttons & Controls
Since the Paperwhite is equipped with a touchscreen, it should come as no surprise that it doesn't have a lot of buttons. In fact there aren't any, aside from the power button on the middle bottom edge of the device, right next to the microUSB charge/sync port. Aside from a small charging indicator light, that's it -- there are no physical page turn buttons, no headphone jack or volume control (the Paperwhite has no audio features), or any other physical controls.
It is worth noting that the Paperwhite comes with a USB cable, but not a wall charger. You can buy one from Amazon for $10, but it's quite likely that you already have one (or more) compatible USB chargers laying around the house -- from an old Kindle, your Android smartphone, etc. Some folks are saying that's a cheapskate move on Amazon's part, and while it's a point that can be argued, I appreciate not having to figure out what to do with another charger that I simply don't need.
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