Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review - Still the Best Buy
The built-in backlight of the original Kindle Paperwhite was a fantastic addition, making it a lot easier and more comfortable to read eBooks. A year on, Amazon released this second, improved version of the product, which doesn't change up the formula too much but fixes the few niggles we had with the original. It's no longer the top-end model, that's the luxurious £169 Kindle Voyage which is due out shortly, but the Paperwhite is still the eReader that most people should buy. And it keeps on getting better with new features such as Family Library.
AMAZON KINDLE PAPERWHITE SCREEN
The Paperwhite has a high-quality case, which is light, feels tough and sits nicely in the hand. Amazon hasn't upped the screen resolution from the previous model, with the 6in touchscreen having a resolution of 1,024x768. We've seen higher resolutions, the Kobo Aura HD and Kindle Voyage both have 1,080x1,440 displays, but in side-by-side tests it was hard to see much practical benefit of the extra resolution. A higher screen resolution is bound to increase the price - and the only people likely to notice the difference are those that also read comics, graphic novels and illustrated books.
This newer Paperwhite has improved contrast over the original model, making text darker. The improvement is noticeable, and most importantly, it makes reading more comfortable.
This is particularly true when the darker text is combined with the backlight. Unlike on other devices, where the backlight is there as an aid in the dark, the Paperwhite is designed to have its light on all of the time. In the new version, the Paperwhite's light has been tweaked, making its effect more natural. In a light room, you should have the screen turned up all of the way, making the background look white; in a darkened room, you can dial the light down a little so you don't get eye strain.
The result is fantastic, as the dark text and white background gives you contrast that's similar to that of paper. Using the Paperwhite is currently as close as you can get to reading a 'real' book. Plus, as soon as it gets dark or you want to read in bed, you can do it without having to reach for a reading light. Of course, in bright light there's no glare from the screen, so this really is a device that you can use everywhere.
The only downside is that unlike your smartphone, tablet or the new Kindle Voyage, the Paperwhite doesn't have an ambient light sensor. This means that you have to adjust the screen brightness manually. It's not as big a deal as it would be with a backlit LCD screen, but it's still a surprising ommission.
As with the last version, the light doesn't have much impact on battery life. Amazon says that the battery should last eight weeks, reading 30 minutes per day. That's a total of 28 hours of continuous reading, before you have to recharge. Turning off Wi-Fi should help you squeeze a bit more out of the Kindle, too.
AMAZON KINDLE PAPERWHITE PERFORMANCE AND PAGE TURNS
Amazon has updated the processor in this new Paperwhite, claiming that it's 25 per cent faster than in the previous model. The original model was so quick that the difference is hard to spot. All we can say with confidence is that a page turn is quick enough that by the time your eyes move to the top of the screen, the page has refreshed.
By default the Kindle is set to only perform a full refresh around every six page turns to improve battery life. On the previous model we found that this led to a slight build-up of ghost text, but with the new model we didn't notice this at all. If you prefer, you can set the Kindle to perform a full page refresh on every turn, although we wouldn't bother, particularly as this setting will reduce battery life.
You have two options for turning pages: a tap (right side goes forward, left side goes back) or a swipe (right-to-left goes forward, left-to-right goes back). It feels completely natural and at no point did we wish for physical buttons to do the same thing.
Buy the case and it'll switch the Kindle on and off when you open and shut it, so you'll never need reach for the power button again
AMAZON KINDLE PAPERWHITE 3G
The standard, £109 Wi-Fi only PaperWhite is ideal if you only plan on adding new eBooks when you're at home or have access to an internet connection, but you'll be stuck with whatever you remembered to load onto it should you head off on holiday. The £169 3G PaperWhite will let you access Amazon's eBook store from anywhere with reception, and it won't cost you any extra beyond the initial price. Amazon has signed deals with various network providers to supply 3G with no monthly plan, annual contract or top-up fees to worry about, meaning you can always get a new read.
If you have a good roaming plan on your smartphone, however, you could save yourself £60 and simply pair the Wi-Fi only Kindle to a wireless hotspot when on the move. It's slightly more fiddly, and will cost a fortune in countries that don't have a roaming agreement with your network, but for everywhere else it's the next best thing to built-in 3G.
AMAZON KINDLE PAPERWHITE INTERFACE
The interface hasn't really changed from the previous edition. It's all touch driven through the touchscreen. While E Ink screens aren't as responsive as LCD, as they have far slower refresh times, the Kindle's interface still manages to be responsive and easy to use. At no point did we hanker for physical buttons to do anything.
There's a choice of book thumbnails or a simple text menu on the home screen, with your most recently read titles appearing first. When you want to read, you just have to tap the book to have it open almost instantly.
When you're in a book, you can just tap the top of the screen to bring up a menu, which lets you adjust settings. You can choose from six fonts in eight different sizes, as well as adjusting the way that the page is laid out. It means that you can get books looking the way you want them and make sure that reading is as comfortable as it can be. This menu also lets you choose the backlight's brightness.
Page Flip - perfect for those - who? what? where? - confused moments in Game of Thrones
New in this version is the Page Flip feature. This brings up the book you're reading in a window, so you can scroll forwards and backwards in it to look something up without losing your current position. It's great if you want to refer back to something that happened earlier in the book.
Amazon has also improved the word look-up feature, with a built-in dictionary instantly giving you definitions, while there's the option to look up more information on Wikipedia. Any word you look up is added to your Vocabulary list, which you can then use to learn and reinforce the meaning of any new words you come across. For books that support it there's the X-ray feature, which lets you read passages of the book based on character or theme.
For any section that you're interested in, you can simply highlight the text and save it for later or make notes as you go. In other words, it can be a great tool for students.
AMAZON KINDLE PAPERWHITE PARENTAL CONTROLS
And when we say students, we don’t just mean those off at university, as with version of the Kindle Amazon has a simple set of built-in tools to help out parents of keen young readers. These are accessed through the settings menu and let you control the content on the device. You can prevent access to the experimental web browser, the Kindle store, or even to the cloud of available titles for that account – the latter being very handy if you’re sharing a single Kindle account with multiple devices, or just want to ration out those Harry Potter books. Each option can be turned on and off separately and you set a simple password, so that you can still access these if required.
Keep kids safe with the FreeTime controls
AMAZON KINDLE PAPERWHITE CLOUD COLLECTIONS AND GOODREADS
Other new features on the Kindle Paperwhite include Cloud Collections and Goodreads. The first are essentially folders, allowing you to group together your burgeoning eBook collection into something more manageable. These folders are stored in the cloud, so it doesn't matter if you’re looking at your books on your Kindle, smartphone or through a browser, they’ll be grouped in the same way. You could group your books by genre, or by who bought them if you’re sharing an account with others, but we simply have ‘Read’ and ‘To Read’ folders, just to make browsing easier.
In addition, there’s integration for Goodreads, which is a social network centred around reading, discussing and recommending books. You can see others libraries, their book review and what they’re reading now. Not for everyone but a nice touch if you’re keen to find others who share your passion for niche genres.
KINDLE FAMILY LIBRARY AND LENDING LIBRARY
Amazon has recently launched a new feature called Kindle Family Library. This allows you to essentially combine two Amazon accounts and share eBooks freely between those accounts. Pretty much any Kindle or Kindle app can use the service but only the most modern eReaders can set it up from their menu system. This isn't a big deal though as it's actually much easier to head over to Manage Your Content and Devices and set up the service via a browser.
You can invite one adult and up to four children to join your family, with the other adult having their account and children purely using content from the two adults accounts.You don't have to share everything, but can rather pick and choose what the others see. On your device, shared content from the other account appears in teh Cloud section until downloaded, and you can filter to see just your partner's content, or to exclude it, if you wish.
^ Family Library is a brilliant, if long overdue, addition to the Kindle service; plus it's easy to setup online
Furthermore if you're an Amazon Prime member you know get access to a lending library of 600,000 titles, which you can borrow at a rate of one per month, and keep until you finish them. Head over to Amazon Kindle Lending Library for more details.