Amazon Kindle Paperwhite UK Review

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite UK Review

The Kindle Paperwhite has undergone a few changes over the years, with its biggest change in the display's resolution.

Now with a 300ppi pixel density (up from 212ppi), the Paperwhite sits alongside Amazon's £170 Kindle Voyage in terms of resolution but does miss an adaptive front light, a thinner and lighter design, and PagePress, a pressure-sensitive button that allows you to turn the page on your Kindle. 

If the aforementioned features don't really excite you, you could save yourself a cool £60 on the Paperwhite. Its 6in E-ink Carta display is the same used in the Voyage. That may sound like an incredible deal but there is competition, with the Kobo Glo HD. However, unlike the Kobo, the Paperwhite is readily available in the UK.

£109.99 amazon uk

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review: Interface

Kindles have trailed behind its rivals when it comes to eReader interfaces. Numerous devices, some with touch and some without, and with widely varying processing power meant you never quite knew what to expect when you picked up a Kindle. That’s now been fixed, with Amazon releasing a new interface, which is available on all models dating back to 2013.

The new interface has a much-improved homescreen. Top-left is a small area for what you’re currently reading, with three books shown. Beside this is an area that lists samples you’ve downloaded, books in your Amazon wishlist and titles taken from the GoodReads service - if you use it. Below are the recommended titles, ie. adverts for books Amazon thinks you might like.

The menu icons and text at the top have been refined and look sharp and modern. There’s easy access to the few settings people really use, aeroplane mode, screen brightness and sync. It’s an improvement on digging into the old settings menu.

Kindle new interface menu

When actually reading there’s been a number of improvements. For starters, Amazon’s much-improved new typesetting engine is finally here, more on that below. Amazon has also added the OpenDyslexic font, which should be applauded. Plus there’s the option to completely remove reading progress if desired, for a cleaner-looking page layout.

Other new features include the ability to share excerpts from a book directly to Facebook or Twitter. Your Kindle adds a link to a sample of the book that anyone can read in a browser without having to login or have an Amazon account at all.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review: Text handling

Text here is noticeably crisper than on the old Paperwhite, and way-way ahead of the current Kindle, at just 167ppi. All recent Kindles (back to 2013) now have Amazon's new Bookerly font, which is designed specifically for eReaders. It's less chunky looking than the old default Caecilia font, and has some finer touches that become apparent at larger sizes.

The new font is an improvement, but there's still issues here. With higher-resolution screens and better contrast, I'm now happy to pack more words onto a page. However, Amazon's font size options are still pretty limited, even after the recent update, with only eight sizes in total and only two I'd consider. It needs to introduce finer graduations, so you can choose the exact size you want.

Kindle new interface fonts

Amazon has updated its text handling but the miserly eight font sizes remain

Amazon also has a new typesetting engine, which is designed to solve the long-running issue of its eReaders justifying text across a whole line. Words used to line up with the start and end of every line, with extra spaces littered throughout the text to achieve this, often a lot of them. The new typesetting is more like a real book, with overrunning words split by hyphens across two lines. It looks better and I find it easier to read.

However, ePub readers such as the Kobo Glo HD, are still more refined and flexible. With more fonts, more font sizes, font weight tweaking, the ability to use custom fonts from ePub eBooks and text justification options – these eReaders are well ahead of Amazon, which is only now beginning to catch up.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review: Design

The current Paperwhite looks almost identical to the first two models, dating back to 2012. There are some small changes to logos, on the front a black logo replaces the silver one and on the back the shiny logo is replaced by a matt one. The rubbery rear panel is a little more matt in its finish and a little more fingerprint resistance. These are all minor details though, with the basic curved-off all-black design remaining intact. From June 30th, you'll be able to choose the Kindle Paperwhite in a white finish, which is new.

The ageing design means the Paperwhite is bigger than its main rival, the Kobo Glo HD. The Kobo is as thick, but is slightly narrower and much shorter. The difference aren't huge but the team agreed that the Kobo felt more comfortable held in one hand. Compared to the basic £59 Kindle, it's around the same size and a touch heavier, but the rubberised finish is infinitely preferable to the cheap-feeling plastic box of the entry model.

Kindle Paperwhite 2015 logo

I expect Amazon to come out with a new design for its biggest-selling eReader later this year. It's incredible in this day and age that a now four-year-old design still stands up today, a testament to the simplicity of the Paperwhite. Arguably, given the current model's success there's no great need for a replacement, but even shaving off a couple of milimetres here and there would be appreciated.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review: Display

The 300ppi display is very sharp, in fact, I can't see anyone ever needing more pixels than this from a 6in eReader – Apple, for example, has marketed screens as being 'Retina Display' at far lower pixel densities. Contrast could be improved in future I suppose, but it really is an easily readable display. Amazon is still using a slightly textured finish to the screen, it feels like running your finger across a coarse piece of paper, I prefer the smooth finish on the Kobo Glo HD, but it's really down to personal preference.

Kindle Paperwhite 2015 screen comparison

Here's the Kobo Glo HD, the old Paperwhite and the new one, in that order

For those coming from a pre-2012 Kindle, the built-in light (which looks like a backlight but is technically more of a sidelight) is as much of a boon as the increased resolution. As well as being able to read in the dark (a feature that has killed off physical books), it also improves contrast in almost any lighting conditions. The light is consistently even, at maximum brightness I could discern just the subtlest shadow at the bottom edge of the screen but it's not an issue in general use.

Kindle Paperwhite 2015 comparison

With the sidelights turned up full they all look bright and clear (old Paperwhite, new Paperwhite, Kobo Glo HD) - click to enlarge

As a simple upgrade to the old Paperwhite, one remaining annoyance is the lack of an ambient light sensor. This means you have to set the brightness manually, which feels decidedly retro when every phone and tablet around does so automatically. The Voyage does have a light sensor built-in and very handy it is too, even dimming further ever-so-slowly as your eyes adjust to the dark, but it's not enough to justify the extra price.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review: Verdict

Finally, it's worth noting that as usual there are both Wi-Fi and 3G models available. With the increased proliferation of Wi-Fi and smartphone-created hotspots I'm not sure who really needs the 3G version and at £160 it's an expensive convenience. Both models are available for £10 more if you're happy for Amazon to advertise to you on the lockscreen, Amazon calls this 'With Special Offers'.

For most, the key question will be whether the 2015 Kindle is worth upgrading to from their current model. The new Paperwhite is certainly a step up from the old one, but it's not enough to justify an upgrade. Those with older, unlit Kindles should seriously consider buying this new one, it's far cheaper than the top-of-the-line Kindle Voyage, yet the only real downside is the lack of a light sensor. From June 30th, Amazon is also introducing a new white model of the Kindle Paperwhite if you're not fond of the grey finish of the current model.

If you're buying an eReader for the first time, Amazon has also introduced a newer, slimmer and lighter entry-level Kindle. The newer model has double the storage capacity of previous models at 4GB, although unless you have a particularly massive library storage capacity generally isn't much of an issue. The new model also introduces new features such as Export Notes that lets you share annotations to your email address so you always have access, even if your Kindle isn't with you. 

However, the Kobo Glo HD is smaller, smarter-looking has better text-handling and an equally great screen. If you're set on Amazon then the Paperwhite is the way to go, but if you want to keep your options open when it comes to booksellers then the Glo HD is arguably better if you can still find it of course.


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