There’s nothing like a good book to take you out of your own head and into the lives of others. Even though smartphones and tablets have more or less taken over the world of digital reading, ebook readers are still going strong. When the glare of all these screens gets to be too much to handle, Amazon’s Kindle rides in as the savior of the voracious reader – but which one do you buy?
There’s the old, dirt-cheap Kindle, the Paperwhite from a few years ago, and the flagship Kindle Voyage, which is widely considered the best of the lot. Now, Amazon has a brand-new Kindle Paperwhite to add to the mix, and its fancy high-res screen makes it a real contender. I lazed around with a good book each night after the busy workday to test the new Kindle Paperwhite out.
Comfortable to hold four hours on end
Holding a full-size iPad up to your face to read can prove challenging after extended amounts of time, and even smaller 7 and 8-inch tablets aren’t as comfortable to hold as a good old-fashioned Kindle. The new Paperwhite looks just like previous Kindles with its 6-inch screen, matte black body, and slim profile. Unlike the new Voyage, it doesn’t have nifty page turn buttons – just the power button and a Micro USB port for charging and syncing ebooks.
It measures 169 x 117 x 9.1mm all told, and it weighs just 205 grams. For reference, the iPad Air 2 weighs double that amount, but the Amazon Kindle Voyage weighs slightly less than the new Paperwhite at 180 grams. The Kobo Aura H20, which is waterproof and slightly larger with a 6.8-inch screen, is slightly heavier at 233 grams. The difference isn’t too noticeable.
Since it’s so lightweight and slim, the new Paperwhite is super comfortable to hold – it sure weighs less than some of the books I’ve read (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I’m looking at you). The rubbery texture offers nice grip and the bezels are wide enough for your finger to rest comfortably while reading.
Amazon also sent a premium leather flip cover case along with our review unit, which was extra nice to hold and protected the Kindle during my commute. The magnetic closure is a nice touch, and anyone who likes leather-bound books will enjoy the way it feels in your hands.
Bright, lag-free screen behaves like real paper
The Kindle Paperwhite’s 6-inch screen is its real highlight. Most ebook readers don’t have very pixel-dense screens, but the new Paperwhite has 300 pixels-per-inch, making it one of the highest-resolution readers out there. Amazon doubled the number of pixels, and you can really tell the difference. The Kobo Aura H20 has 265 dots-per-inch, and looks much less like solid text on a page, in comparison.
The Paperwhite’s screen makes it one of the only ebook readers with a display that looks like normal paper.
The new Paperwhite is also very bright when it’s at full strength. The Voyage technically beats it with a better front-light and adaptive brightness, which will dim or brighten the screen based on the lighting conditions you encounter while reading. Regardless, the Paperwhite’s screen looks amazing – it’s one of the only ebook readers with a display that looks like normal paper.
I took the Paperwhite to Central Park to read and it was super clear in full sunlight. While reading at night before bed, I had to turn the brightness way down, which helped keep the battery going. Regardless of what brightness level I set, the Paperwhite’s screen looked fantastic. .
Also, there’s almost no lag or weird letter shuffle when you turn the page, so it feels more like a real book. Although most people probably don’t care if their ebook reader reanimates itself every once and a while with a quick black screen, the seamless transitions are nice, and it removes the artificial feeling so many ebook readers have. The Kindle owes its performance improvements to the 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM it has inside.
One of the nicest things about Amazon’s software is how easy it is to interact with your book. You can highlight quotations you like and share them with your friends individually or en masse on social networks. It’s easy to get definitions of words you don’t know with Word Wise, too, which can be a handy reading tool for kids and adults alike.
The X-Ray feature is even better, so when you forget who’s who in Game of Thrones, Amazon will help you get it straightened out. Goodreads integration is helpful for most readers, especially those who are looking for a good read or just want to commiserate with fellow fans when a beloved character dies.
Many titles to choose from – if you use Kindle Unlimited and Amazon
Amazon’s Kindles are the most restrictive ebook readers of the bunch – They don’t support some of the most common ebook formats like ePUB, so your selection is more or less limited to what Amazon offers you. The new Kindle Paperwhite is no exception: It supports Kindle Format 8 (AZW3), Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, and PRC natively — as well as HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP through conversion.
Your ebook selection is limited to what Amazon offers you.
If you’ve bought ebooks from Google or Apple, or – heaven forbid – you subscribe to ebook reading services like Scrbd or Oyster, you can’t get any of your books on the Kindle. Conversion software like Calibre sometimes works, but the process is pretty involved and may not work for all ebooks.
Having said that, if you’re buying a Kindle, you’re probably an Amazon user in the first place. Assuming you’ve already amassed a large library of titles from Amazon over the years, you’re good to go. Even if you haven’t, if you like to read more than one book a month, you can’t go wrong with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. So long as you don’t mind not actually owning the books you read, you can page through as many of the service’s 800,000 titles as you please for $10 a month. Amazon offers a free 30-day trial for Kindle Unlimited, too, if you want to check it out first.
Amazon also has a huge number of free or heavily discounted ebooks in its store for you to choose from, if you’d rather own your ebooks. You can store thousands of books on the Kindle Paperwhite, thanks to its 4GB of built-in storage. The Family Library feature lets you share books with family and friends, so you can download books from your parents’ or spouses’ account, assuming they’re with Amazon, too.
6-week battery life
Amazon says the Paperwhite’s battery lasts up to six weeks if you read for half an hour each day at the level 10 of brightness and turn off the wireless connection. The estimate seems about right. Its battery life is stunning. There’s literally nothing out there that can compete except other ebook readers. Even if you’re a hardcore reader, you can take this device on a month-long sabbatical and you’ll be fine. If you aren’t, don’t worry because it charges with any Micro USB.
You really can’t go wrong with a Kindle. The 2015 Paperwhite is second only to the Kindle Voyage, which has a slightly better screen and physical buttons, for those of you who don’t want to touch the screen to turn the page. The Paperwhite is less expensive at just $120 with ads, $140 without ads, $190 with 3G and ads, $210 with 3G and no ads. The Voyage costs $200 with ads and Wi-Fi, but the price goes up to $290 with 3G and no ads. If you don’t want to pay a tablet price for an ebook reader, but still want a quality ebook reader, the Paperwhite is a good option for you.
In comparison with ebook readers from companies other than Amazon, the Kobo Aura H2O is the only one that can compete with the Paperwhite. You’ll pay $180 for the benefit of waterproofing, no ads, and a much more open format that lets you add almost any type of ebook file you can imagine.
If you’re not part of the Amazon faithful, or you just want a waterproof ebook reader you can take to the beach or in the tub, the Kobo is for you. If you prefer a brighter screen, no lag, and Amazon’s cool feature set, the Paperwhite is an excellent choice. It all depends on what’s most important to you.
Available at: Amazon
- Bright, high-res screen looks great
- Amazon offers a huge selection of ebooks
- Comfortable to hold while reading
- Limited to Amazon’s library
- Not waterproof