Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2015)
The Kindle Paperwhite is Amazon’s newest eReader, which makes it just about the most important member of the entire eReading fleet. It sits between the bog-standard Kindle and the high-priced Kindle Voyage.
The Kindle Paperwhite we reviewed costs a mighty £179 from Amazon. This is the top-of-therange spec. If you go without 3G connectivity, and allow Amazon to place ‘special offers’ on your Kindle’s homescreen, you can get the cost down to a more reasonable £109 inc VAT. Honestly, this seems a better deal to us - even if you don’t like the adverts it costs only £119 inc VAT without 3G. 3G is useful for downloading books wherever you are in the world, but you can usually get on to Wi-Fi.
At this price, then, we expect the best. And by and large we get it. The 2015 vintage Kindle Paperwhite is a thin and light black slab, with roughly the footprint of a paperback book, but much thinner and lighter. To be exact it measures 169x117x9.1mm, and the Wi-Fi and 3G model we tried we weighed at around 217g. The Wi-Fi-only Kindle Paperwhite is a few grammes lighter.
That 9mm thickness is enough to make the Kindle Paperwhite comfortable to grip. This is helped by the slightly rubbery feeling of the back, offering additional grip. And, of course, it’s light.
And we also put the Kindle Paperwhite through the mill, somewhat. It lived in the bottom of a work bag, among the detritus, keys, smelly gym kit and discarded tech that we consider critical workrelated kit. Two weeks on and there is the odd faint smudge on the back cover, but nothing that doesn’t quickly rub away with a finger. The Kindle Paperwhite is built to last.
It’s not a thing of beauty, but that’s okay. The Kindle Paperwhite is good at what it does. Its ugliness stems from the thick black bezels that surround the display. If this was a smartphone you would be annoyed by the wasted space, but in use we found the Paperwhite to be the right size to hold and use. And the pixels didn’t bother us when we were using it to read.
This, ultimately, is the critical aspect of any eReader. What is the screen like, and how does it feel to read, read, read?
Technically, this Kindle has a 16-level grey scale 6in Paperwhite display with Carta e-paper technology and built-in light. It has a very detailed eReader resolution of 300ppi, as well as what Amazon calls ‘optimised font technology’.
In laymen’s terms that means it’s an e-ink display that is backlit and super sharp. It’s a beautiful reading experience, and when we were reading in bed), the backlit screen was great too. Clear, comfortable, but adjustable so that we could find a light that was not too bright. Indeed, our one complaint was that by default the backlit screen was too bright. You could use that thing as a torch.
Reading outside in direct sunlight is also great. A real advantage of this kind of eReader over a general tablet. And the Kindle’s fonts are truly excellent, in the sense that the reading experience is so comfortable.
So far so good. But you are paying a premium for the Paperwhite’s 300ppi display. Given that you can pick up a more bogstandard Kindle for £59 – albeit one without a backlit display – is the premium model worth the premium fee? Certainly we would pay extra for the backlit display, and at £109 the Paperwhite is a good deal. But it has to compete with the Nook Glowlight, a backlit eReader that is lighter than the Paperwhite – and cheaper. We are not sure that the 300ppi resolution makes it worth the upgrade. Although Amazon’s unsurpassed library, and the feature set, may be.
As well as that unsurpassed high-resolution 300 ppi display and the built-in adjustable light, the main features are Amazon’s millions of books in its store, and the fact that you can hold thousands of books on the Kindle itself. Amazon has built-in some additional software features.
Without leaving the page, you can query words you don’t understand in order to build your vocabulary and learn about characters within books. To be honest, although these features work well in our experience, we don’t have much use for them.
A key advantage of a dedicated eReader is the long battery life. Amazon claims that a single charge will last up to six weeks, and charges via USB in around four hours. That battery life claim is based on half an hour of reading per day with wireless off and the light setting at 10. Battery life will vary based on light and wireless usage and – reader – it does.
We found that we had to charge it around once every 10 days. In once case, after a week. This reviewer commutes for two hours every day and reads for most of that, and tends to read for another half an hour or so in the evening. The backlight is on at least once a day, and I never got around to switching off the wireless. All of these things will have legitimately hurt the battery life, but they are also part and parcel of using a well-loved device.
Clearly 10 days is not six weeks, and we will admit to being mildly disappointed with the battery life. Irrationally so, because a week is a long battery charge, the Kindle warns you in good time, and there are myriad USB chargers at home. We can happily read in bed attached to a charging plug. We suspect slightly less than stellar battery life is a direct result of that amazing display resolution. Honestly, we would rather better battery life.
The Kindle Paperwhite is an excellent eReader. Brilliant display, superb design and build, and access to an unsurpassed library of eBooks. Our only minor quibble is about battery life.