Amazon lights up the e-ink display
If one of your New Year's resolutions is to read more, then an ebook reader can help. Although lighter than a hardback, these ultraportable gadgets can carry a small library's worth of books and far better suited for reading novels than a tablet. The latest crop of ereaders are designed for reading in the dark.
The Kindle Paperwhite is Amazon's first ebook reader with a lit display. Four LED lights mounted inside the base of the frame diffuse light upwards across the surface of the 6-inch e-ink display. Compared to the older Kindle Touch, the screen also has a higher resolution of 1,024x768 pixels and has increased contrast.
The uplit display can be adjusted to suit your preference, with the brighter setting recommended for lighter rooms. We found using the higher setting worked well for bedtime reading, too, with minimal glow to disturb a sleeping partner. At the highest lighting level you can just about see the points of light at the base of the screen but not to the extent that it distracted us from the book we were enjoying.
The Kindle Paperwhite is a little smaller and thinner than the Kindle Touch, so it remains comfortable to hold. The home button that took users back to the list of stored titles has been removed. All navigation and tools are now accessed by tapping the top of the touchscreen, with most options arranged sensibly.
Battery life remains impressive as the LED lights consume little power – switch off wireless and Amazon reckons you'll get eight weeks of use before a recharge. If you buy lots of books, switching back and forth from Wifi or 3G to wireless-off mode will be frustrating, though. The setting was two taps away on the Touch, and easy to find. On the Paperwhite the same setting is now five taps away from an open book and we struggled to find it.
Text input on the touchscreen keyboard is noticeably more responsive than on the Touch, so searches for titles on the Amazon Store, and for passages or words within texts, are that bit quicker. The speed at which books are delivered to the Kindle remains impressive. Most titles we bought were available to read in less than a minute from confirmation of purchase. Page turns are a little swifter too. There's less storage space, although with 2GB of capacity sufficient for around 1,100 books we don't see that as a big drawback.
Customising the way text is displayed is an important feature for all book readers and the Kindle Paperwhite has a well-chosen range of six typefaces, rather than just the regular, condensed or sans serif fonts of older Kindles. Line and character spacing options can be easily tweaked in the same menu without needing to switch to another tab.
As with all Kindles, the Paperwhite does not support the ePub format. This means books purchased from most other online stores can't be read on the Paperwhite, although it is possible to convert titles that are no longer under copyright. Amazon has introduced a new scheme in which members of the Amazon Prime club can borrow from a library of 200,000 titles with no time limit on reading but borrowing from public libraries remains out of bounds.
The Kindle Paperwhite is easily Amazon's best model yet and we have yet to see an e-ink reader to rival it. The Wifi version costs £109 and is the best overall value, but the 3G model at £169 provides Wifi and a 3G connection that can be used worldwide with no additional bills. The format restrictions will continue to frustrate some booklovers but the quality of the hardware and the overall experience is beyond doubt.
Read our review of the Kobo Glo
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A high-quality ebook reader that makes buying and reading a pleasure
Crisp and bright display; Easy to customise text; Comfortable to hold and turn pages
Toggling wireless options could be simpler
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