E-readers have been around long enough now that they've been nearly perfected by now, but the number one complaint has always been they're useless in the dark. Tablets have helped, but they're often too bulky or overpowered for someone who just wants to read.
Barnes & Noble tried to solve that problem this spring with it's backlit Nook reader that let you read in the dark.
But Amazon's new Kindle, called the Paperwhite, is better. It also has a backlight, but unlike the Nook, the Kindle's light seems to emanate from within the tablet, not spread over the screen unevenly from the sides.
The result is brilliant. And with a few caveats, it's the only e-reader you should consider buying.
Design And Hardware
There's nothing special or alluring about the Paperwhite's design. It's a black rubber rectangle and that's really it. But the Kindle still feels sturdy and well-built.
The real focus is on the screen, which is the best I've ever seen on an e-reader. Text is incredibly crisp and the backlight makes it a lot easier to read, even in daylight. It really does appear to glow. Brilliant. I'm typically averse to reading on touchscreen devices like tablets and smartphones because they don't feel natural, but the Paperwhite is the perfect compromise.
Like last year's Kindle Touch, the Paperwhite only has one button for sleep/awake. Everything else is controlled on the screen. But the screen isn't as responsive as what you're probably used to on smartphones and tablets. There's an annoying delay between the time you tap on the screen and the action happens. It doesn't feel natural.
I've only had the Paperwhite for a few days, so I didn't really get to put the battery through a thorough test. But like most e-readers nowadays, you'll be able squeeze several days (or even weeks) out of a single charge, especially if you limit how often you use the backlight.
There's only so much you can do with an e-reader's software, but Amazon still managed to pack some clever tricks into the Paperwhite. Like the new Kindle Fire HD, there's a feature called X-Ray that lets you quickly jump to passages in a book that mention certain characters and themes. It's a lot more useful than the old-fashioned search feature.
But other than that, everything is pretty standard on the Paperwhite. You can still adjust font size, style, brightness and noodle around with other basic settings. Since there aren't any buttons, it'll take you awhile to get used to all the touch controls on the Paperwhite's screen. Amazon gives you a quick tutorial when you first activate the device, but there's a lot to take in. In short, the screen is divided into fields that perform tasks like turning the page forwards or backwards or pulling up the main menu. Once you get the hang of it, you won't have a problem.
One more thing: As has been the case with all recent Kindle devices, you're going to see ads on the lock screen. I find them incredibly annoying, but that's the price you pay to get an excellent e-reader for just $119. If it really, really bothers you, Amazon will let you pay an extra $20 when you buy the Paperwhite to opt out of the ads. It's worth it.
Should You Buy It?
Yes. I'll make this as simple as possible: The Kindle Paperwhite is the best e-reader available right now. If you don't like reading on a tablet or smartphone, the Paperwhite is what you should buy.
There are a few different models, but the Paperwhite starts at $119.
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