Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Review

Highs

  • Bright, high contrast screen
  • Front light
  • Battery life (2-8 weeks)
  • Improved touch interface
  • USB charging

Lows

  • DRM book selection
  • Non-compatible with other e-book stores
  • No expanded storage or microSD

Amazon’s Kindle kicked off the e-reader and tablet phenomenon and continues to reign supreme today. Many thought dedicated e-book readers would die out with the introduction of the iPad a couple of years ago, but sales remain strong. With the Kindle Paperwhite, Amazon hasn’t redefined the idea of an e-reader – it’s still just for books – but it has taken the concept to a new level.

The Paperwhite light

The first thing you will notice about the Kindle Paperwhite is how… well, white and clear the screen is. Amazon boasts that this Kindle has 25 percent higher contrast and 62 percent more pixels than previous Kindles. If you’ve looked at other e-readers, you’ll be impressed when you first see the screen; if you aren’t an e-reader user, you might be shocked. This is the best E Ink screen we’ve ever seen. It still has a slow refresh rate and only comes in black and white, but for reading, there is nothing better.

At first, you may not realize it, but the reason the Paperwhite screen looks so white is its front light. This is the first Kindle with a built-in screen light, in fact it’s one of the first e-readers with this feature, following the introduction of the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight earlier this year. However, unlike the Nook, which has an uneven blue tint to it, Amazon’s light makes the e-reader look more like actual paper than ever before. You can easily adjust the intensity of the light as well.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review front in dark ereaderThe only complaint we have is that in darker conditions, you can see a few spots where light is more intense at the bottom of the screen due to the placement of the LED lights. The effect isn’t distracting though, and compared to the Nook, the screen has a much more even light distribution to it.

Touch & Feel

Amazon continues to refine its touch interface. This time around, everything is touch-based, and though E Ink continues to have a much slower response rate than LCD screens (the benefit is that it looks like real ink), the Paperwhite is a big step forward. Thanks to the use of capacitive touchscreen technology (the same thing your phone uses), the touch experience is much more accurate and responsive than any e-reader we’ve tested. Previous touch e-readers, including the first Kindle Touch, used an infrared touch field stacked on top of a regular screen to simulate touch recognition. It worked all right, but it’s clear that a capacitive screen may be the way to go.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review font size ereaderThe Paperwhite is heavier than some e-readers, but has a smaller footprint than previous Kindles. The lack of buttons is nice and the new black design resembles Amazon’s line of Kindle Fires, complete with the grippy-rubbery coating that helps prevent slip-ups.

We don’t typically bring up cases, but Amazon’s new case looks nice and is quite comfortable. It has a leather book look to it with a magnetic grip that tells the Paperwhite when the screen is covered. Without it, you have to press the power button to wake up the Kindle, but with it, you only need to open it up like a book. It’s a little extra, but if you want the premium Kindle experience, we recommend buying the case.

Interface

The Kindle Paperwhite has only one button – the power button – on it. It’s located on the bottom of the device. There is no Home button or anything else – just the power button. Though not having any buttons at all is odd at first, it seems to be a smart decision on Amazon’s part. The new Kindle interface is simpler and easier to use than any e-reader we’ve reviewed.

Amazon has a very robust and helpful tutorial that it runs through when you first activate your Kindle, but here are some of the basics: To turn a page, you can tap or swipe on the left or right side of the screen. To access the menu at any time, you simply tap anywhere in the top 1/5th of the screen. This brings up the menu with a Home button, back button, light toggle, shopping cart, search button, extended menu (with Settings), and some reading options like Font, Go To, X-Ray (the feature that helps you find key characters and terms in books), and share, where you can sync up your Twitter and Facebook accounts to share passages with your friends or followers. Using the power of aggregation, Amazon also shows you sentences and sections of books that many readers have highlighted, which we found fun. Tap and hold on any word and drag your finger around to highlight text or bring up a definition. Changing the font size and type is easy as well.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review brightness settings ereaderThat’s pretty much all there is to it. There is a Kindle Store and a rough browser that works if you’re on Wi-Fi, but the browser is only good in a pinch. It’s actually called an “experimental browser,” which I assume is Amazon’s way of saying “it’s not very good.” But no one should buy an e-reader for this purpose anyway.

Book library

Amazon’s e-book library is not the largest, but it gets the job done. The online retailer boasts 1.5 million books, 180,000 exclusive titles, 650,000 books priced at $5 or less, and 1.2 million priced at $10 or less. There are also “millions” of free, out-of-copyright books, though Amazon won’t give an exact number. Barnes & Noble currently says it has 2.5 million books in its library, with a million of those being free. Which is better? I can’t tell you. From our tests, both stores seem to have a solid selection, as do Kobo and Google Books. The real test is to get online and search for your favorite books on the Nook and Amazon websites. The big problem with all of these stores is that any books you buy will be DRMed, or full of Digital Rights Management locks. If you buy a Kindle Book, you’ll never be able to use it if you don’t have a Kindle App or device. If you have a Nook book, you’ll never be able to access it if you don’t have a Nook device or app. Amazon and B&N do a good job of supporting many devices, but they give a false sense of freedom. In reality, if Barnes & Noble or Amazon went out of business tomorrow, you could lose all of your books. No fun, right? Unfortunately, that’s the way the e-book market works right now.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review front home screen ereaderHaving said that, Amazon’s e-book borrowing is nice and easy to use, and many titles support the service. You can “borrow” one of the available books from Amazon’s library at a time. When you return it, you can borrow another. Libraries also offer this function.

Hardware specs

If you’re hunting for specs on a Kindle, you’re pretty hardcore, but here is what we know. The Kindle Paperwhite is a 5th generation Kindle and has 2GB of onboard flash memory and about 1.25GB of that can be used to store books. This means you can hold roughly 1,100 books, or more than most of you should own. The screen is has a 768 x 1024 pixel resolution, a significant bump from the 600 x 800 pixel screens we’re used to on e-readers. We’re struggling to find out what processor Paperwhite is running, but the device is less sluggish despite having a higher resolution screen, so we’re guessing some form of upgrade was issued.

Battery Life

We’ve only had the Kindle Paperwhite for a few days, but haven’t had to charge it yet, and we don’t expect to for some time. Amazon claims that, despite adding a light-up screen, the Paperwhite can still achieve eight weeks of battery life on a single charge, assuming you turn the Wi-Fi/3G off and turn the light to about 1/3 brightness. We’ve been running the light at max with Wi-Fi and 3G on and have already noticed the battery lose about 10 percent of its energy in a day. Expect the Paperwhite to realistically get a couple weeks of battery. Still, that’s significantly better than almost any other electronic gadget, so no complaints.

Conclusion

For $120 — or $140 if you don’t want the ads, which are mostly non-intrusive – the Kindle Paperwhite is a worthwhile investment for a book reader. If you’re already into the Nook ecosystem, this probably isn’t a reason to switch since the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight is also a great e-reader, but that said, Amazon has taken the e-reader crown from Barnes & Noble. You’ll find no e-reader with an easier screen to read, and Amazon’s touch interface is finally getting to the point where almost anyone can use it. The Kindle Paperwhite does not reinvent the standalone e-reader, but it does bring them one step closer to perfection.

Highs

  • Bright, high contrast screen
  • Front light
  • Battery life (2-8 weeks)
  • Improved touch interface
  • USB charging

Lows

  • DRM book selection
  • Non-compatible with other e-book stores
  • No expanded storage or microSD
Product Review

Galaxy Watch Active is the right size, no matter how big or small your wrist is

Launched among a massive array of other new products, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active could easily have been missed at Galaxy Unpacked 2019 -- which would be unfortunate. This is a sensibly designed, correctly sized smartwatch suitable for…
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10e vs. iPhone XR: Cut-price flagship showdown

The Samsung Galaxy S10 range has been revealed, and it heralds a new age of powerful technology. The Galaxy S10e packs the new power and design into a cheaper price point. But is it better than the iPhone XR?
Deals

From Chromebooks to MacBooks, here are the best laptop deals for February 2019

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some post-holiday shopping, we've got you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.
Deals

From Air to Pro, here are the best MacBook deals for February 2019

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.
Deals

Protect your iPhone or iPad with the IPVanish VPN, on sale through February

One of our favorite virtual private networks for iPhones and iPads, IPVanish, is now offering a huge discount on its two-year subscription as part of its 7th-birthday promotion. Read on to find out more about how this VPN works and how you…
Mobile

Verizon is launching real standards-based 5G in 30 cities in 2019

Verizon is in the midst of a massive 5G rollout. In addition to fixed 5G service, it will also begin deploying mobile 5G in the coming months. Here's everything you need to know about Verizon's 5G network and when it will be in your town.
Mobile

Samsung’s wide range of Galaxy products means there’s something for everyone

Samsung launched a host of new products on February 20, with prices ranging from just $35, all the way up to nearly $2,000. This was not by chance, and the company believes it has something for everyone in 2019.
Deals

Stay fit and save cash with our top 10 affordable Fitbit alternatives

As much as we love Fitbits, they're rather expensive. If all you want is a simple activity tracker, however, then check out these great cheap Fitbit alternatives. With offerings from brands like Garmin, you don't need to pay full price.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10e vs. OnePlus 6T: Can the Flagship Killer survive?

The Samsung Galaxy S10e is the new affordable flagship on the block, but at $750, it's $200 more than the OnePlus 6T. Does the Flagship Killer stand a chance against the new generation of flagship devices? Let's take a closer look.
Deals

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for February 2019

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals.
Product Review

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds are a brilliant combination of value and comfort

With six hours of battery life, an extremely comfortable fit, sweatproofing, and a very palatable price tag, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds are putting all other true wireless earbuds on notice.
Deals

Amazon drops a sweet deal on the Kate Spade Scallop smartwatch for women

Unlike many other smartwatches geared toward women, the Kate Spade Scallop offers a more chic and minimalistic look. With this Amazon sale going on right now, you can get it for $109 off its retail price.
Cars

Lyft’s Shared Saver service offers cheaper rides, but you’ll have to walk a little

Lyft has launched a new ride option called Shared Saver that offers cheaper rides if you're willing to walk a little. Shared Saver designates a nearby pick-up point and drops you off a short distance from your final destination.
Deals

The 5 best Apple AirPods alternatives for Android, Windows, and iOS devices

Apple AirPods, nice as they are, aren't the only game in town. Other makers are offering their own truly wireless earbuds, and if you're looking to buy a pair of high-end in-ear headphones, we've got the best AirPod alternatives on the…