Loads of inexpensive content; Long battery life; Even backlighting; Improved parental controls (coming soon)
Less memory available than competition; Wall plug not included
Proving it is still the king of the E Ink e-readers, Amazon's new Kindle Paperwhite offers nifty new reading features along with a superior backlit display.
With its sixth-generation Kindle e-reader, Amazon knows if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The new Kindle Paperwhite, still just $119, offers a nearly identical design and user interface as last year's model. But it has improved the backlight, lightened the device overall, and added a bunch of new reading-related features. This E Ink e-reader continues to offer a best-in-class experience that's both easy to use and easy on the eyes.
The Kindle Paperwhite 2013 looks identical to the 2012 model by the same name; a black rectangle with an E Ink screen. Both offer the same dimensions of 6.7 x 4.6 x 0.4 inches, but the new model shaves off 0.5 ounces for a weight of 7.3 ounces. That's still heavier than the 6.2-ounce new Nook GlowLight.
We still like the softened edges and easy-to-hold design of the Paperwhite. The only adornment on the matte black front is a small silvery logo. The bezel and the rubbery-feeling backside remained fingerprint free.
The only button on this e-reader is the power button, inconveniently placed on the bottom. And the microUSB charging port is the only port. There is no audio jack on the Paperwhite, which is no big loss. We would have appreciated a microSD card slot for additional storage, though.
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Amazon boasts that the new Paperwhite sports a "new display technology with higher contrast and better reflectivity." The e-tailer also claims the touch screen offers 19 percent better responsiveness than the previous model.
Amazon claims that the new Paperwhite's faster processor should improve page turn speeds by 25 percent, but we didn't find that sort of delta in our testing. While opening and turning pages, the new model opened a book about a second faster than the old model, but page turns were nearly identical.
The Paperwhite also has a next-generation built-in light, according to Amazon. When viewing "The Casual Vacancy" on the new Kindle Paperwhite, old Paperwhite and new Nook GlowLight with all backlights at 100 percent, we preferred the uniform light of the new Kindle, but the Nook's type appeared slightly sharper. When viewing a picture of Kate Hudson on the Paperwhite, her skin tone looked much more natural and better defined than on the Nook GlowLight.
With an average display brightness of 333 lux, the Paperwhite's display is much dimmer than the Nook GlowLight's score of 490 lux. However, the measurements that we take -- from the middle and all four corners -- were much more uniform on the Paperwhite.
We found a medium brightness setting between 10 and 14, out of 24, seemed to work just fine in any situation. For daytime reading, we preferred the light turned off.
Just below, you can toggle between your Amazon library of content in the cloud or on the device. You can sort this content by type, title, author and most recently received. The second row of thumbnail images shows best-selling book recommendations. You can swipe across either row to advance your way through your content.
The menu button reveals options to shop, view ads, change to List View, create a content collection, check for new items, tweak the settings and open the browser. Within a book, the same menu also allows you to read book or author descriptions, switch to landscape mode, sync to the furthest page read, bookmark and open notes. Within a periodical, this bar allows you to "Clip This Article" for reading later.
Instead of futzing with the design or user interface, Amazon's main innovations in this year's Paperwhite are in the reading experience itself. With Kindle Page Flip, for instance, you can read page-by-page, scan by chapter, or even just skip to the end of the book without losing your place. This is particularly helpful for books with maps or genealogy trees that you want to repeatedly reference while reading. The map of Beyond the Wall in "A Dance with Dragons" is one such instance where this is helpful.
Just as with the previous generation of Kindle, once inside a book you can access a row of settings that include font options, a menu for jumping to a specific spot in a book, the Amazon X-Ray feature and a button to Share. There are still eight font sizes and six font choices. We appreciated the ability to customize three line spacings and three margins.
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Taking the academic angle even further, Amazon has added a vocabulary builder that lets you create a list of flashcards for yourself based on words you look up. Plus, In-Line Footnotes instantly brings up footnotes without losing your place in an e-book.
The on-screen keyboard of the Kindle Paperwhite features small square keys. Tapping one causes it to blink black for a moment. There is now predictive typing, which helped compensate for errors created when our fat fingers mistakenly pressed adjacent keys. The device is just a smidgen too large for one-handed typing. The typing lag is significantly reduced compared to the previous generation Paperwhite, but is still noticeable.
Kindle Books, Newspapers and Magazines
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Amazon also offers great deals on content, boasting of more than 1.7 million titles for $9.99 or less and millions of out-of-copyright books for free. Anyone can download and read the first chapters of a book for free via Amazon's Sample feature. But if you subscribe to the Amazon Prime membership service (a one-month free trial followed by $79 per year), you can borrow from among 180,000 e-books. You get access to only one book at a time, but there are no due dates. Some big-name options include the "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins and the James Bond series by Ian Fleming. Plus, with the new Kindle Matchbook feature, customers can purchase Kindle editions of print books they purchased recently or as far back as 2007, for $2.99 or less.
Kindle Paperwhite owners can subscribe to 172 newspapers worldwide, including USA Today and the The Boston Globe, starting around $5.99 per month. Magazine subscriptions for 172 titles, such as Shape and The Smithsonian, start around $1. Barnes & Noble offers 2,082 magazines and 515 newspapers.
Outside the Amazon ecosystem, the Kindle supports PDF, unprotected MOBI and PRC eBook formats. That means you can download any of millions of free, out-of-copyright books from such sources as archive.org. You can add DOC/DOCX, PDF, TXT, HTML, JPEG, GIF and PNG files to your Kindle as well.
Public libraries are also accessible from the new Kindle Paperwhite. E-books from more than 10,000 local institutions retain Kindle features such as notes and highlights. And when your e-book checkout expires, you can check it out again or buy it from the Kindle store.
While Amazon's "Active Content" (the company's euphemism for e-reader-friendly apps) is still discoverable in search, it is not immediately played up in the store. You can keep to-do lists, check the weather or play Sudoku on your Paperwhite. While it is diverting for a few moments, we'd much rather play "Candy Crush Saga" on our phone.
Notes and Sharing
But possibly our favorite innovation to the Kindle hasn't yet been deployed to the new Paperwhite. Goodreads, the world's largest e-reading community, will come to Kindles everywhere via an over-the-air-rollout in the next couple of months. That means avid readers can connect with more than 20 million other readers to see what they are reading, sharing and highlighting.
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Another feature that Amazon plans to add via an over-the-air rollout is Kindle FreeTime. Currently found on Kindle Fire tablets, FreeTime will give Paperwhite parents the ability to hand-select books that are appropriate for their children's age range. Parents will also be able to hand out achievement badges, thanks to a built-in progress report that keeps parents updated on total time spent reading, number of words looked up, and books finished.
The Kindle Paperwhite already has a few parental controls, which include access to the browser, the store and your Amazon content stored in the Cloud. When the Kindle Store is locked you can still buy books on Amazon.com and have them delivered to your device.
Options and Accessories
Amazon sells a host of cases for the Kindle Paperwhite, including the $39.99 leather cover with magnetic closure that activates the device's automatic wake-from-sleep feature. No wall-socket power adapter comes with the Kindle Paperwhite, but you can pick one up at Amazon.com for $19.99.
According to Amazon, the Kindle Paperwhite should last for up to 8 weeks on a single charge. That's based on a half-hour of reading per day with wireless off and the light set to 10. That's pretty much identical to the promises made by Barnes & Noble about the Nook GlowLight.
During a day of regular use, with the light at 14 and Wi-Fi on, we saw about a 15 percent dip in the battery life.
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|Operating System||Amazon Kindle|
|Electronic Paper Display Size||6 Inches|
|Electronic Paper Display Resolution||1024 x 768|
|LCD Display Size|
|Secondary Display Size|
|Secondary Display Resolution|
|Rated Battery Life||8 weeks, based on half our reading, wireless off, light at 10|
|Size||6.7 x 4.6 x 0.36 inches|