The High Tech Society

A Hands-on Review of the Kindle Paperwhite

REVIEWS

 Kindle Paperwhite Review

I once had a house full of paperback and hardback books. I owned so many, in fact, that I quickly ran out of storage space in the house and had to result to storing books in boxes in the garage, swapping them out occasionally. Needless to say this was very cumbersome and tiring. At that time the first eReader devices had already been on the market for a while. I resisted at first, of course. I always do. Why fix something that is not broken? That has always been my philosophy. Sure, I tried a couple different devices and absolutely hated them.

The turning point for me, I think, was when I purchased my first iPod Touch. I discovered the Stanza reading app and started picking up a couple eBooks here and there, just to test the waters, so to speak. I soon found myself reading more on the tiny little hand-held device than I did my physical book collection.

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Then the day came that a friend purchased a Kindle 2. He brought it to my house to show me and I fell in love. Within a couple weeks I was ordering my own and when the brown-clad UPS driver knocked on my door with an Amazon box in hand, I felt like a small child on Christmas morning. I could not wait to tear open the package and play with my new toy. Since that day I have purchased many different kindle models, and have since completely replaced my entire physical collection with their electronic counterparts. Each device I purchased was smaller, and better, than the previous one.

Fast forward a few years. In 2012 Amazon announce the upcoming release of the Kindle Paperwhite. As soon as I read the specifications I knew I would have to have one. This device, in my mind, would be the best eReader ever invented. And when I found out that it would be available at my local Staples store for Black Friday, a holiday that I absolutely detest and refuse to participate in, I began making plans. I would wake up extremely early, get there first and not have to deal with large crowds. How many people could there be, really, who were willing to stand in line at a small office supply store at 5:00 AM in the middle of winter? Was I ever surprised. By the time I got there, there were already a large line of people waiting. Normally I would have turned around and went back home (I hate large groups of people even more than Black Friday). But, I really wanted the Kindle Paperwhite.

After purchasing the device and getting it home, there was no going back to bed for me. I was up for the rest of the morning charging and playing with my new toy. And, for the most point, I was not disappointed.

Pros

Back Light

The Kindle Paperwhite, unlike all of it’s e-ink predecessors, has a back light. For me, this was the number one advantage. I like to lay in bed at night and read myself to sleep. I read and review so many books, in fact, that I have worn out numerous devices. All of my previous Kindle devices had no built-in lighting, which means I had to have a bright, harsh lamp practically shining in my face to read. Sure, I could have used one of those clip-on lights, but honestly, those things suck.

Touch Screen

The touch screen on the Paperwhite is, for the most part, great. Because of how much I actually read, I have a tendency to wear out buttons, necessitating a device replacement (I have learned that Staples’ extended warranty program is well worth the extra cost). However, there are some issues with the touchscreen, which I will go into below.

Cover View

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All previous models of the Kindle had a simple list view for the books on the device. While this was not really a bad thing, I am a visual type of person. I like to see the cover art. The Kindle Paperwhite was the first e-ink Kindle that incorporated cover view, which shows the books in a grid, complete with cover art (black and white, of course. There is no color on the Paperwhite.)

Response Time

Unlike many lower-end touch screen devices, the response time for the Paperwhite’s screen is generally very fast. I have to say that I was extremely impressed with it. I was expecting sluggish page turns and temporary “burn in” issues because of the way the e-ink screens work. Fortunately this is not the case with the Kindle Paperwhite. The touch screen is very sensitive (sometimes too sensitive, leading to multiple accidental page turns).

Price

I paid $119 for the Kindle Paperwhite on Black Friday. I was a little surprised because this was not actually a price break at all. The full price for the device is, actually, $119. But it is worth every penny. Granted, my paperwhite is the ad-driven model, which seems to annoy some people. I, however, do not care. The ads are not distracting at all, and do not even appear once you open a book. Amazon does, however, offer the ability to turn off the ads by paying a small fee but I do not really feel the need to spend the extra money for that.

Cons

Battery Life

Previous Kindle models have touted extremely long batter life. For instance, my Kindle 4 (for some odd reason just called the “Kindle” by Amazon) only needs to be charged about once a month with semi-heavy usage. The Kindle Paperwhite claims up to 8 weeks battery life (granted, this assumes only 30 minutes of reading per day, which is well below my usage patterns). In reality, I have to charge the Paperwhite every couple of weeks. Still, this is not bad for a device, especially one with a back light.

Screen Discoloration

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Many users, myself included, have noticed a slight discoloration (almost a series of shadowy splotches) along the bottom of the touch screen. After receiving numerous complaints about this issue Amazon released a public statement acknowledging that the issue does exist, but clarifying that it is not actually a problem. It seems that the splotches are common among screens with the type of lighting that the Paperwhite employs and, like Amazon says, it does not actually affect the reading experience once you get used to them. I hardly even notice them anymore.

Lack of Buttons/Non-intuitive Touch Screen Controls

Because Amazon wanted to produce a smaller, lighter Kindle device, they opted to leave out the buttons that most previous models used for navigation and page turning. At first this seemed like a great idea. No more buttons meant no more wearing them out and having to replace the device. However, after using the device for a while I realized that the lack of buttons is not necessarily good, at least for me. See, I like to lay in bed and read. Sometimes for hours at a time (yeah, insomnia sucks like that sometimes). This means that I frequently change positions, often ending up laying on my side. This also means that I end up holding the device in one hand, having to try and turn pages my sliding a finger or thumb across the screen while attempting to not drop the device. Needless to say this is not as easy as it sounds. I never had that problem with previous Kindle models. And since the touch screen controls work on a simple “swipe left to go forward, swipe right to go back” principle, without any customization options, there is much to be desired for the touch screen controls.

Experimental Web Browser

Since my first Kindle purchase (the Kindle 2 with 3G wireless only), I have tried to use the experimental browser without much success. I had assumed that, with later models, the browser would be fine-tuned and fixed so that it would actually be usable. That does not appear to be the case, however. The Kindle Paperwhite still has the same old experimental browser which, in my opinion, is worthless. I suspect that Amazon never had any intention of fixing this browser, instead putting their time and effort into creating the Kindle Fire’s Silk browser.

Missing Text-to-Speech

While this is not a feature that I used often, I did on occasion enjoy my previous Kindle reading to me. Call me lazy, but this was a great addition to the previous Kindle devices. The Paperwhite, however, lacks this feature. In fact, it completely lacks any sort of speaker. According to Amazon this was done to keep the Paperwhite thinner and smaller. I can’t really blame them. The Kindle 2 was huge in comparison with the Paperwhite.

Turning the back light off

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Simply put, you can’t. At least, not officially. While the back light does have on-screen dimming brightness controls, Amazon somehow forgot to add the ability to completely turn the light off. The screen does dim enough so that the light is hardly noticeable, but when trying to conserve battery power it makes sense to be able to completely disable the light. Bad move, Amazon!

AC Adapter Not Included

The original Kindle devices came with the AC adapter (a USB power block) and a USB cable for charging and syncing. In later models, however, Amazon decided to include only the USB cable. Luckily for me I already had AC adapters from previous Kindle purchases, so it was not an issue. However, those who do not already have one, will have to purchase the AC adapter separately (They’re available from Amazon, and anywhere Kindles are sold).

No Expandable Memory

Like previous models, the Paperwhite does not include a MicroSD card slot for expanding the device’s memory. While this is sort of a letdown, it is not really a huge issue for most readers. The Paperwhite boasts 2GB internal storage (of which only 1.25GB is available). Since most books are very small, the device can hold literally hundreds of books. And with Amazon’s cloud, all of the books purchased are stored on Amazon’s servers and available to download and read again at any time in the future. How much more spaces does one really need?

Black and White

The Kindle Paperwhite, like all of Amazon’s previous e-ink Kindle devices, has a black and white only screen. No color, whatsoever. While reading this does not matter, unless the book has lots of pictures. But when in cover view, the ability to see the full-color book covers would be great. However, I understand why this was done. Adding a color screen would have added quite a price hike to the device, and would likely affect battery life as well.

Conclusion

Overall the Kindle Paperwhite is a remarkable eReader at a fantastic price. Unless you need the added functions that a tablet of some sort would offer (if you do, check out the Kindle Fire HD), the Paperwhite is the perfect choice. I am a pretty picky person when it comes to gadgets and gizmos. They must live up to my expectations or they are consigned to a closet shelf for the rest of their natural lives. If I had it to do all over, would I purchase the Kindle Paperwhite again? You bet I would!