Amazon may be going all guns blazing on the tablet front with its Kindle Fire series, but it’s not giving up on the monochrome e-reader just yet. Oh no. The six-inch Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, its newest touchscreen model, packs a sharper black and white screen than any previous model, as well as a handy little backlight so you can read it in bed. And needless to say, it plays nice with Amazon’s Kindle store for downloads: a 3G model is available for £169, but we tested the £109 version with Wi-Fi only.
The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite’s by far the slickest looking e-reader Amazon has ever produced. It’s just 9.1mm deep, almost entirely free of buttons, and made of a deep matte black that looks far cooler than a book has any right to. It’s missing the page turn buttons of its cheaper Kindle brother, but its touchscreen controls are easy to get to grips with: just tap on the right side of the page to move forward, and the left to turn back.
Of course, looks aren’t exactly the point of a good e-reader. It needs to be easy to read, and the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is that: its six-inch display is packed with pixels (62 percent more than previous Kindles, in fact) and extremely easy on the eye. Dangerously so.
Paperwhite might be pushing it - it’s still black on grey, really - but it’s still the best e Ink screen tech we’ve seen. Amazon’s well thought out backlight only adds to that: it makes reading in the dark a piece of cake, and you can quickly choose the level of brightness by dragging your finger up and down the screen. Supposedly, the battery drains twice as quickly with it on, but when that means a charge every four weeks rathern than eight, we can’t complain.
There’s no denying the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is much the same on paper as the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight we recently reviewed. But Amazon’s software is even more polished, with more apps to let you read across everything from your Kindle Paperwhite to a Windows Phone smartphone, and your page number kept perfectly in sync.
Its X-Ray feature meanwhile lets you see all the themes and characters in a book in one go (think of it like automated crib-notes), while the upcoming Lender’s Library will let Amazon prime subscribers borrow from a catalogue of 200,000 books. We’ve not been able to test this feature just yet, but since when was free ever a bad thing?
It’s hard to muster many complaints about the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, but if we have one, it’s the weight. At around 204g, it’s noticeably heavier than the 168g entry level Kindle. Much of that is centred on the bottom of the Paperwhite, so it thankfully isn’t too top heavy in your hands, but if you’re used to a lighter e-reader it may definitely distract you. Of course, it’s still lighter than a new hardback book.
There’s also the e-Ink experience in general to consider. Because it doesn’t use a back light (except when you turn the LED on, anyway), e-Ink is easier on the eyes for long periods of time than staring at a computer or tablet screen. But it’s still a slightly janky experience, with slow response times and the odd nasty flash when you refresh the screen or turn the page. That’s just a limitation with today’s technology, but it does mean that if you want a more seamless experience, a proper tablet like the iPad might be what the doctor ordered.
The bottom line
The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is the best black and white e-reader you can buy right now, even if it is a tad heavier than we’ve grown used to. It’s certainly a far more polished product than its rival, the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight, with a more seamless online library to boot. Of course, it can’t compete as a multimedia device with proper tablets, but at least it batters them when it comes to battery life.
All that said, the basic non-touchscreen Kindle is now a very tempting £69. What you’re really getting for £50 more here is backlight and a touchscreen instead of page turn buttons: bedtime bookworms will love the option, but commuters may be able to live without. But when you’re choosing between one great e-reader and another, you can’t really go wrong.