Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2013) eReader Review
Amazon rolls out a new version of its flagship eReader, and it's still king.
Meet the New Paperwhite
Ah, the perennial release of the Kindle eReader. It must be nice to sit at the top of a locked-down category, but Amazon updated its Kindle Paperwhite (MSRP $119) anyway, with minor tweaks here and there. Honestly though? It's still one of the best, and that has mostly to do with the software that supports it—though the unique ability to read at night is nothing to downplay either.
In a product category where specs don't matter much and performance isn't an issue anymore, features rule. In this regard, there is simply no comparison to the Paperwhite, and that will remain the case for quite some time.
If you're a bookworm looking to leap from the printed page to modern times, the Kindle Paperwhite remains the best way to do so, starting at $119 for ad-supported models, and $139 without. Once purchased, you'll have a dependable and loved device to curl up with in darkness or light.
If you've seen one eReader, you've basically seen them all at this point. Like the Kindle Paperwhite, they're boring looking rectangles that are extremely light and most commonly wear one button. For the Paperwhite, this one is at the bottom right next to the microUSB slot. For those of you terrified of dropping your new companion, the case is coated in a grippy, slip-resistant material to give you something easy to clutch onto while using.
Where the Paperwhite differs is the screen. Unlike most other eReaders, the Kindle Paperwhite has a backlit eInk screen that is just fantastic. Not only do your books look like the actual printed word, but now you can read them in the dark—something that other eReaders can't do.
A capacitive touchscreen allows control of reading eBooks with the same gestures you'd have if you had actual pages in front of you, with an addition of menus. However, the switch to a digital reading device allows other activities as well, such as the use of social media accounts and sharing titles over WiFi.
Brilliant, in more ways than one
Using the Kindle Paperwhite is a fairly unique experience, given that many other eReaders don't have a backlight. This is one of very few eReaders that will work well in both low light and bright light due to the nature of the eReader's design.
E-Ink displays like the one found on the Paperwhite use ambient light to show an image, exactly like ink on paper. Though it's easy to see in bright light, an absence of ambient light will make the screen impossible to see, unless you have another source of illumination—which the Paperwhite has. By using the backlight, you can curl up in bed and read your favorite novels without skipping a beat—a fantastic ability to have, and it solves the worst problem of eReaders.
Though many people treat eReaders much as they would traditional hardbacks, the fact of the matter is that the Kindle is much more than that: This eReader has the support of the largest online vendor of eBooks, and it wields built-in options that most people associate with phones and tablets. It's the 21st century—and as devices like these expand horizons, reading can be very different now than it used to be.
Don't understand a word in a book? Just touch the word and find out, the definition is right there waiting for you. Need a bigger font size? Change it in the main menu. Want to tweet a quote from your favorite novel? Just hold a finger down on the sentence in question and social media integration lets you share it on the web, right from the Kindle. Just to show you that it works, I did it myself just now:
Now to dig into the services—Amazon has a lot to offer if you have both Prime and the Kindle Paperwhite. You can buy books, rent textbooks, borrow/lend your favorite novels, and even download titles for 30 days at a time from the absolutely gargantuan Kindle Lending Library. You can even download War and Peace over WiFi in under 4 seconds, so you'll never wait long for your content. If you grew up on Reading Rainbow, you don't have to take my word for it: This level of support will never leave you bored. There is also a 3G version for those of you who like to travel, and are willing to shell out a little more.
Like a printed page, but not.
If you're making the jump from buying paperbacks to snatching up eBooks, I won't lie and tell you that the transition will be easy. The screen's appearance is a bit jarring if you've never seen it before, because it looks like a printed page—until you "flip the page" and your brain screams, "Ink doesn't DO that!"
The screen is a wonderful bit of technology called "eInk." Basically, a grid of electrodes manipulates a huge array of microscopic spheres; each sphere has a black side and a white side, which the electrodes flip at will, in order to display your eBook. The coolest part? It's actually ink that you're seeing, so pages of eBooks look like printed pages. Genius.
This Kindle really is virtually identical in every way to last year's model, save for a bit faster processor, so we know that it works great for reading eBooks. The screen is crisp, the battery holds a lot of juice (if it's anything like last year's model, it'll last well over 24 hours), internet features are an interesting addition to the activity of reading, and the coating on the front kills most reflections easily. It's the archetypical eReader, and that's really all it's designed to be. The Kindle goes anywhere, and can do everything a book can do, and more. When you do need to charge, just leave the Kindle plugged into your computer with the included USB cable and you'll be ready to go shortly. It may have a small battery, but it takes what seems like eons to drain it.
Many people might wonder or get frustrated by a new product that doesn't have a bump in specs, but with an eReader, there's no need. Really, as long as you're holding this thing over 16" away from your eyeballs, you won't be able to see individual dots on the screen (as it's over 212 DPI), and what else can you ask for? What matters for an eReader's performance is quite pedestrian, so if you came looking for me gushing about specs you'll have to be disappointed—this isn't a muscle car, it's an eReader.
Want the hard data? Head on over to the Science Page for our test results.
Print in your palms
Just like it was last year, the Kindle Paperwhite is the eReader to beat. A great backlit screen that allows bookworms to carry their literary adventures well into the wee hours of the morning is everything one could ask for in an eReader. For that, $119 is a small price to pay.
Sure, Amazon didn't really add much of anything to the eReader, but that's expected—there's not much to fix but software. It certainly takes a bit of getting-used-to, but for the most part the Paperwhite is about as good as it gets for an eReader.
If you're ready to make the leap from printed page to electronic books (or want to throw someone else in the deep end), there is no better device with which to do so than the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. It's an iterative release, but Amazon's newest eReader gives you much more than a book reader—it gives you access to a huge library of content to be bought, borrowed, and shared. This is one of the most versatile eReaders out there, and definitely a great value.