Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review
Kindle came first, of course, but is it the best ebook reader still? After all, there is a wide range of alternatives from multi-talented colour-screen machines like the Google Nexus 7, Kindle’s own Fire and Fire HD models and now the iPad mini. Those are designed to offer greater versatility with apps galore. But they lack the clarity and restfulness of an e-ink screen.
Bright idea: Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite
E-ink has the great advantage of not being backlit. Easier on the eyes and highly readable in bright sunlight even through sunglasses – great for beach holiday reading. But what do you do in dimmer light? Even here a backlit screen is inferior. And after all, it’s not a criticism you’d make of a real book, is it? You’d just move to somewhere brighter, like when your Mum told you that you were reading in your own light and would strain your eyes, remember?
Earlier Kindles came with optional covers with lights built in. These at least pointed the light at the Kindle, not in your eyes. But the Paperwhite is a much neater solution. It’s not backlit, but a strip of lights in the bottom edge of the gadget’s 6in screen, sprays light across the page. It’s not perfect – look carefully and you can see four distinct lights in the frame’s edge.
The concept looks good on paper
And at the bottom of the page this effect is noticeable – the last line of words and the space beneath have an uneven glow to them. But the rest of the page has a uniform illumination which is very attractive. Not only does it make reading in dark rooms a possibility, it means that the rest of the time, if you have the light switched on, the screen looks almost like white paper.
It’s not that e-ink screens look grey, well, until you turn the light off. Then it looks grubby and uninviting. The light is easily adjustable: touch the top of the touchscreen to launch the menu, touch the light bulb image and tap wherever on the scale you fancy. The light adjusts accordingly. It must be said, this is a way more complicated way of doing things than on the Kobo Glo which has a button on the device’s top edge.
Get a grip
And while we’re on the subject, Kobo has better design than Kindle for the power switch, too. The button mounted on the base edge of the Kindle is perhaps too easy to switch off unintentionally. Kobo has a slide switch on the top edge. Much better. And if pocket space is crucial, the Kobo Glo has the same size screen but a smaller overall footprint. Anyway, back to the Paperwhite lighting effect.
Inked in: You can turn off the illumination for normal e-ink viewing and to preserve battery life
The temptation is to have it always on, just for the way the screen looks bright and appealing. This will drain the battery, of course. E-ink screens go on for weeks, though this will drop if you keep the light on all the time. Amazon says it should last eight weeks, even with the light on. Though if you’re going on holiday, the rule is that if you don’t check your Kindle battery, you’ll discover it’s as flat as a pancake before the plane has reached the end of the runway.
The Kindle Paperwhite feels great, thanks to a tactile rubberised finish that will prevent it slipping from your hand. Earlier Kindles were slippier. And the screen on the Paperwhite is higher resolution than earlier Kindles. It’s clearly an improvement and looks sharp and inviting. As before, you can set the page refresh – that horribly intrusive white-to-black-to-white flash – to happen every page or every six pages. If you do it every sixth page there are some artefacts that build between flashes but it’s so much easier on the eyes that it’s definitely the way to go.
There’s one other benefit Kindle owners, including those with the Paperwhite model, can enjoy. Amazon has just announced that the Kindle Owners Lending Library has arrived in the UK, which offers 200,000 titles which can be borrowed free. Free? Well, you do have to be an Amazon Prime member, which costs £49 a year and you can’t borrow more than one book a month. Still, since Amazon Prime offers free next-day delivery on many Amazon items that still have to be sent to your door in the old-fashioned way, this additional feature for no extra cost is a welcome bonus.
If you want a Kindle just for reading books, not for playing games and surfing the net, then this e-ink screen is way easier on the eyes than the Kindle Fire HD or iPad mini. It has the crispest e-ink screen from Amazon yet and it’s enhanced by a light that – while not perfectly even in its illumination at the base of the display – is attractive. It makes the grey Kindle screen look almost white like, you know, paper. ®
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