Price (RRP): $179 (starting price); $179 for the WiFi version; $249 for the WiFi/3G version (reviewed model);
Don’t need the crème de la crème when it comes to your eReading experience? Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite does it with all the clarity of its Voyage sibling, but is less painful on the wallet.
Features and performance
Amazon offers quite a few takes on the Kindle, so it can be a little difficult to pick the one that matches you straight off the bat. In a way, picking a Kindle is like taking part in Goldilocks and the Three Bears, except with Kindles.
So allow us to present you with a retelling of that story, now called “GadgetGuy and the Three Kindles”.
You enter an online store trying to find the right eReader for your life, and are presented with choices.
Closing the door, you start with the eReader closest to you. It’s called the “Voyage” and it’s all black, enticing you to pick it up. You do, and you start looking through it, noticing the auto-sensing front-light display, the magnesium body that is strangely soft to the touch, some neat control points to let you flip pages simply by squeezing the sides, and one of the sharpest screens on the planet. It’s like reading a book, only without the weight and the ability to store more books.
You pore over it thinking it’s perfect, but then you look for the price tag, spying the numbers “299” sitting next to a dollar sign, making you almost step back in concern.
“Agh!” you shriek. “This is too rich for my blood!”
Putting it down, you scramble to the other side of the table where a white Kindle is waiting for you. It’s roughly the same size but much thicker, and while the screen looks nice in black and white, it doesn’t quite look as high end.
But you’ve seen eReaders before, and this sort of looks like the entry-level of the bunch, carrying a $109 price tag, so this won’t suit you, not at all.
“Bleh!” you exclaim, “this is too just too poor.”
You look around and sight the Kindle in the middle, and wonder why you didn’t just walk over to that to begin with (it’s like a children’s story, after all, so there’s your reason), so you do that and pick it up, and that’s when you notice you’re fiddling with the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite.
This one is thicker than the Voyager, but it doesn’t look overly chunky, at least in comparison to the budget Kindle you checked out before this.
The body is soft and cool to the touch, too, just like that expensive one, and you the screen quality is razor sharp, relying on the same E-Ink Carta HD screen showing off 300 pixels per inch, with front-lighting there too, just no way of automatically sensing what setting it should be on.
Fascinated, you flick to the back to find a price tag, and that’s where you’re greeted with the following: $179 for the version with WiFi, and $249 for the one with 3G.
“But this one,” you say, “this one is just right.”
This might seem a bit of a silly way to demonstrate Amazon’s Kindle conundrum, but we think its apt, because there are three Kindles for you to choose from, and they really do target different price points: entry-level and cheap, mid-range and value-driven, or expensive and premium.
With the Paperwhite, we’re looking squarely at that mid-range option, and for the 2015 generation of the technology, Amazon has thrown a fair amount in, including a touch panel with no physical buttons, a super sharp HD reading display, support for front-lighting that won’t hurt your eyes, and a battery that lasts up to six weeks but that will probably need to be charged once a month if you’re an avid reader.
Pick up the device and you’ll be greeted with a matt plastic body that is soft to the touch though picks up fingerprints remarkably easily, and an innocuous design that offers merely a black frame around that monochromatic screen you’ve all seen before.
Granted, it’s not the same screen from the last Paperwhite, and it’s not even the same screen as that budget Kindle, with Amazon taking the same technology used in the Voyage and plonking it onto a less expensive model.
And by “the same screen”, we mostly mean it, because it’s sharp, easy to read, and offers that Paperwhite front-lighting that turns the entire screen a different shade of white as you raise and lower the brightness.
That’s one difference between the premium Voyage and the mid-range Paperwhite, because the Voyage offers up a light sensor to automatically set the brightness, while the Paperwhite does not.
You might think that’s a big deal, but you can easily tap the top of the screen of the Paperwhite, touch the lightbulb, and change the brightness setting yourself, which we found to be infinitely more reliable for our own personal viewing experience even on the Voyage.
Images captured with front-lighting at maximum.
We do need to note that this isn’t the same screen, and the Kindle Voyage manages to look sharper simply because it’s brighter, or a whiter shade of brightness with a hint of pink.
The Paperwhite looks more like an off yellow white, and while they’re both comfortable to look at, the Voyage does manage to look and feel better. It’s the more expensive of the two, so we’re not surprised.
Touch control is provided on this device, as it is with pretty much every other Kindle, though, and this allows you to either touch the sides to change pages back and forth, or swipe left and right, whichever control method suits you more.
Touching the top of the screen will load up that menu system with access to the home and Amazon Kindle shop, while holding down your finger on a word will allow you to look up the dictionary, Wikipedia, or a translation. Meanwhile, swiping up on the bottom will bring up a chapter controller, allowing you to get around the book quickly without problems.
Our review model also featured 3G, which is an optional inclusion and allows you to buy eBooks from anywhere, and even do a bit of web browsing. You can’t do much with this extra connection, and WiFi is provided too, incase you want something a little faster when you’re at home or work, but if you’re ever in need of a book on holiday, this will give you that ability to purchase it when WiFi isn’t an option.
It’s not a total requirement though, and we could live with WiFi, because even with 3G on the Paperwhite helping to keep the electronic reader in constant communication with the world, we found Amazon’s Whispersync synchronisation system wouldn’t always work, and while we read on other devices like the iPhone, iPad, and Android smartphones and tablets (we have a lot of gadgets), our reading progress wouldn’t always get communicated to the Paperwhite.
In our tests, the Kindle app for iOS and Android was much faster at getting the pages synchronised than the Paperwhite itself, as the Paperwhite tended to take a little longer, making us be a little more patient in the process.
Finally, there’s the accessory, or rather that optional book-like cover. It’s not necessary, but it hides the matt plastic back, which itself can be rather unsightly since it grabs fingerprints remarkably easily.
The book cover, however, masks that with leather, and even includes a little magnet to automatically switch on and off the Kindle when the cover flap is closed and opened.
You don’t need it, as we said, and given it costs a good $65 for the privilege, we can only imagine people might skip it altogether, but it does make it look nice and protects it in your backpack, while also stopping you from having to switch it off when you forgot to, magnet and all.
Like all good stories, the moral is that if you’re happy to take a middle ground option, you can find something that works well and doesn’t set you back a heap of money.
If that’s where you are, the right Kindle for the right amount of cash is easily the Paperwhite 3G, providing the Kindle experience you know and want with a better screen, and a price that doesn’t make you feel guilty at all.