Bright backlight; Long battery life; Lightweight, elegant design; Improved user interface; Parental controls
Uneven backlighting ; Power adapter not included; 3G option expensive;
Amazon's new E Ink e-reader features a bright backlight for nighttime reading, plus an improved user interface and parental controls.
Answering the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, Amazon's new Kindle Paperwhite features a backlit display that lets you read in the dark without disturbing those around you. Priced at $119 ($179 for the 3G version we tested), this E Ink e-reader also offers a best-in-class experience that's easy to use and easy on the eyes.
Gone is the home button from the previous Kindle. The only button on the new device is the power button, inconveniently placed on the bottom. And the microUSB charging port is the only port. Like the Simple Touch with Glowlight, Amazon removed audio from the Paperwhite, no big loss. We would have appreciated a microSD card slot for additional storage, though.
When we opened a "Time Magazine" cover on both the Kindle Paperwhite 3G and Nook Simple Touch, an image of Bill Clinton appeared less fuzzy on the Kindle, but there was ghosting of a previous page in the background. Text appeared blacker on the Kindle, but the Nook's E Ink background was whiter.
Competing directly with the Barnes & Noble GlowLight technology, which is found on the Nook Simple Touch, Amazon's Paperwhite technology makes it easier to read an E Ink display in the dark. Paperwhite uses four LED lights that are diffused through an anti-glare screen layer, so that the light doesn't add strain on the eyes by shining at them.
We measured an average display brightness of 213 lux on the Paperwhite display, much higher than the 135 lux average on the Simple Touch GlowLight. In a side-by-side comparison, the Kindle Paperwhite was noticeably brighter and whiter than the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight's blue haze.
However, the Simple Touch was more evenly lit, with very little variation between the middle and sides. On the Paperwhite, we noted four bright spots along the bottom edge of the screen that were distracting; we measured a difference of more than 40 lux between the middle and the bottom of the screen. While the top edge of the Nook pops a bit more than the rest of the screen at full brightness, we found it less distracting that the four bright spots along the bottom of the Kindle.
We found a medium setting between 10 and 14 that seemed to work just fine in any situation. For daytime reading, we preferred the light turned off.
Leaving behind the IR-based touch interface of the previous Kindle Touch, the Paperwhite sports a capacitive touch screen with two-finger multitouch support. The display proved fairly responsive: When we pinched-to-zoom (which enlarges the font size), there was a second delay between the pop-up window of font sizes appearing and the font actually changing. It then took another second for the pop-up to disappear.
The top bar has a series of icons for home, back, backlight control, shopping, search and settings. This navigation bar follows you into books and periodicals, where only the drop-down menu that pops out of the three horizontal lines may change.
Just below, you can toggle between your Amazon library of content in the cloud or what's on the device. Also, 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.
Amazon offers eight font sizes and six font choices. We particularly appreciated the ability to customize three line spacings and three margins.
While there are no physical page turn buttons (a feature we would have appreciated) you can turn the pages on the Kindle Paperwhite with a touch or a swipe. But for simple touches, you'll have to tap the correct part of the screen to get the appropriate response. The majority of a page is dedicated to flipping forward. A narrow bar along the left edge is for flipping back, and a similarly narrow strip at the top brings up the navigation window. Once we got the hang of it, it was easy enough to remember. Page turns were nearly instantaneous, but when opening a book or magazine for the first time, we noticed a delay of a second or two.
The on-screen keyboard 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. Because the device is just a smidgen too large for one-handed typing, we used both hands. We noticed some lag when we went too fast for the device, but otherwise found the experience positive.
Wireless and Whispernet
Uniquely among its e-reader competition, Amazon offers free 3G connectivity with the Kindle Paperwhite. However, without this feature, the Paperwhite costs $119, so you could argue that $60 is the price of 3G worldwide for life via HSDPA with fallback support for EDGE/GPRS. Both Paperwhite versions offer 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi access.
Via a 3G connection in downtown Manhattan, the Kindle Paperwhite downloaded the 1743 KB file of "Winter of the World" by Ken Follett in approximately 5 seconds. That same file took 7 seconds over Wi-Fi in our midtown offices.
Kindle Books, Newspapers and Magazines
The Amazon e-book store offers more than 1.5 million titles, including 180,000 e-books exclusive to Amazon. More than 1.2 million of the total catalog is available for $9.99 or less. Amazon also makes available millions of out-of-copyright books for free for the Kindle Paperwhite.
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 (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 Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and "Pines" by Blake Crouch.
The relatively new Kindle Serials content is also available on the Paperwhite 3G. Through this service, you buy a book and then receive new "episodes" automatically as they are published. Some of these titles are still works in progress, others -- such as "Oliver Twist" by Charles Dickens -- is being released in pieces, just as the author originally intended. In the case of "Oliver Twist," there will be 24 total episodes, with a new section delivered every week.
Amazon, like Barnes & Noble, lets users lend some Kindle books to other Kindle or Kindle app users. Eligible books -- those marked as Lending Enabled -- can be lent for up to 14 days. Recipients have seven days to accept, or the book is returned to your archives.
Kindle Paperwhite 3G owners can subscribe to 194 newspapers worldwide, including "USA Today" and the "San Francisco Chronicle", starting at around $5.99 per month. Magazine subscriptions for 163 titles, such as "Shape and Time", start around $1.29. Barnes & Noble offers 780 magazines and 43 newspapers.
The public library also is accessible from the Kindle Paperwhite 3G. E-books from more than 10,000 local institutions retain Kindle features such as notes and highlights. And when your eBook checkout expires, you can check it out again or buy it from the Kindle store.
Amazon has done away with audio support on the Kindle Paperwhite 3G, so there's no more text-to-speech feature, MP3 file support or access to your Audible.com account.
Games & Active Content
While not a gaming device, the Kindle Paperwhite 3G is compatible with some games, both free and paid. Sudoku Works offers a puzzle of the day for 99 cents, plus you can access the apps library of puzzles at varying difficulty levels. We found it diverting for a short while, but we'd much rather play "Oregon Trail" on our smartphone.
Notes and Sharing
When we toggled off access to the Kindle Store, a tiny lock icon appeared next to the wireless status at the top of the screen. The shopping icon also became grayed out. Similarly, when we toggled off the browser and the cloud, those options grayed out and wouldn't open. Deregistration and reset device are disabled as well.
When the Kindle Store is locked you can still buy books on Amazon.com and have them delivered to your device. While we think the settings could be easier to find, we were happy to see this feature.
Options and Accessories
We recommend the $119 non-3G version, particularly since you can't use the browser via 3G. Or for budget shoppers, we'd recommend the $69 non-touch, base Kindle without the Paperwhite backlighting.
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 3G should last for up to eight 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 considerably longer than Barnes & Noble's claim of three weeks with Wi-Fi and GlowLight off on the Nook Simple Touch.
During a day of regular use, with the light at 11 and 3G on, we saw about a 15 percent dip in the battery life.
Amazon claims you should be able to fully charge the Paperwhite in 4 hours using a computer's USB port.
Now that you can get the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight for the same $119, it's a tough call to pick between these backlit options. Amazon's screen looks better in daylight and has a more paper-like look when the backlight is on. And if you're an Amazon Prime member, you get access to the free lending library. Ultimately, though, we give a slight edge to Barnes & Noble's device for its lighter weight, dedicated home button and more even backlighting.
|Electronic Paper Display Size||6 Inches|
|Electronic Paper Display Resolution|
|LCD Display Size|
|Secondary Display Size|
|Secondary Display Resolution|
|Rated Battery Life||8 weeks (wireless off, light at 10, for a half-hour of reading per day)|
|Size||6.7 x 4.6 x 0.4 inches|