The Amazon Paperwhite e-book reader has had a few iterations over the years, but there's no massive change to the way it looks. That's reserved for the pricey, leather-cased, Kindle Oasis.
Instead the latest Paperwhite has taken a leaf (excuse the pun) from the more expensive Kindle Voyage, so there's now a super-sharp 300ppi (pixels per inch) display to match its brother. Even though the screen has a higher resolution the Paperwhite manages to stick to the £109.99 price point, making it a very tantalising prospect indeed.
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I've already mentioned it so let's start with the Paperwhite's best feature – the screen. At 300ppi, it’s a significant step up from the previous Paperwhite and its 212ppi screen. It’s still monochrome of course, so if you’ve come here looking for something that’ll handle all sorts of media you’d be better off looking at Tesco’s Hudl 2 or one of Amazon’s own Fire tablets.
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The Kindle Paperwhite is all about reading, so having a great display that’s easy on the eyes is the most important part of the package. Just like the previous model, the screen is still 6-inches and it’s still backlit so you can happily read in the dark and without the eye strain.
While it has inherited the higher pixel density from the Kindle Voyage, it hasn’t got the far superior automatically controlled brightness and evenly distributed backlight. This isn’t that much of an issue – Amazon is never going to bring all of its top-end features down to the mid-range – but you will still get a slightly brighter light towards the lower part of the screen.
But, they key here is the resolution. At 300ppi it’s up there with most mid-range smartphones and tablets on the market and it’s a massive jump from the previous Paperwhite. The difference is akin to moving from SD to HD. Text looks crisper and more like you’re reading words printed on paper. The new Paperwhite also has access to Amazon’s brand-new Bookerly font, which improves character spacing with hyphenation, justification and ligatures.
Related: Amazon Kindle Voyage review
You’ll see even more of an improvement with night time reading and this is where e-readers really show their dominance over tablets. The gentle backlight doesn’t cause any eye strain, even when you’re using one of the lower brightness settings, and it is even usable in direct sunlight. If you’ve ever tried sitting in the park during the summer with a tablet, you’ll know it rarely turns out well.
The Paperwhite still falls behind the Voyage when it comes to overall screen quality, though. While it’s just as sharp, there’s a little less contrast with the cheaper model and the display isn’t flush. But, overall this is a fantastic display that seriously improves over the previous model.
Amazon clearly feels it is on to a winner with the Paperwhite design, because it has barely altered the blueprint since the first-generation version in 2012.
It’s still made of matte, soft-touch plastic that has plenty of grip and it’s narrow enough to hold in one hand comfortably. . There’s still a fairly chunky bezel surrounding the display, and while this would often be a negative on tablets, it’s actually more of a positive with devices like this as it give your fingers somewhere to rest.
The 2015 Kindle Paperwhite really is a pleasure to hold and it’s light enough – at just 205g for the Wifi version and 217g if you want 3G – to hold for extended periods of time without it feeling like it’s weighing your arm down.
If there’s one thing we feel the Paperwhite could do with, it’s some page turning buttons. While the Voyage benefited from the nifty new PagePress haptic feedback system that we loved so much, the Paperwhite requires all navigation to be done via the touchscreen.
Now, the touchscreen is fine – it’s sensitive, responsive and we never found ourselves repeatedly tapping it without any response – but it still doesn’t function quite as well as dedicated buttons.
While we’ve got into the rhythm of charging our phones every night and our tablets every couple of days, e-readers have famously measured their battery life in terms of months rather than days. You can happily leave it a few weeks, come back to it and your battery will be pretty much the same.
Amazon claims you’ll get six weeks worth of use before you even need to think about reaching for the charger. While this might be down from the eight weeks it claimed for the previous model, it’s still plenty and enough for even the most intrepid of traveller. We’ve used the Kindle Paperwhite solidly for 2 weeks – that’s thirty minutes and in the morning, afternoon and evening – and the battery looks to be three-quarters full.
Related: Kindle Voyage vs Kindle Paperwhite
Our main issue with the Paperwhite, and all Kindles for that matter, is their complete reliance on Amazon’s own services. Amazon’s book ecosystem might be excellent, but we’d still like to be able to throw our own ePub files without having to faff around with apps like Calibre to achieve this.
This is another strange one – there’s still no support for audio with these devices. While Kindles used to pack audio jacks and some nice narration features that’d turn your book into an audio version, these features were dismissed some years ago. With Amazon owning Audible and the company offering reduced priced audiobooks when you buy certain Kindle titles, it seems odd not to let us switch between listening and reading on the same device. Yes, it is much easier to just pull out your phone and open up the Audible app, but there times when it would be nice to instantly go from the page you’re reading to plugging in your headphones and continuing. It’s small niggle, but worth mentioning.
As with the majority of Amazon’s Kindle and Fire line-up, there are official cases available. These are priced at £29.99/$39.99 for the regular leather version and £44.99/$69.99 for a ‘premium’ leather one. We’re not massive fans of these cases – we much preferred the origami style that was offered alongside the Voyage. They’re a tad bulky, really tough to take off and add an unnecessary amount of bulk. The Paperwhite is a durable enough, so we’d say a case is far from a necessity.
If you’ve yet to get yourself an e-reader, or are just looking to upgrade from an older model, the latest Paperwhite is a great choice. In fact, we’d probably go as far as saying it’s the best all-round e-reader on the market.
Yes, it doesn’t have quite the sheer amount of fancy extras that you’d find on the Kindle Voyage, or the waterproofing of the Kobo Aura H20, but it does everything so well and at a price that can’t be sniffed at.
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The screen is great, it’s comfortable to use for extended periods of time and the Amazon ecosystem is the best around. If only it was just a little bit less restrictive.
The best all-round e-reader on the market, with an awesome screen and a price that won’t break the bank.