Although Amazon's Kindle Fire HD gets all of the glory, the company's hardware business is rooted in e-books. The Kindle Paperwhite's front-light promises something different. But with the recent proliferation of cheap tablets, is it still worth buying?
The clunky first-generation Kindle employed E Ink's electronic paper technology, which is a far cry from today’s hi-res Kindle Fire HD. Interestingly, though, despite the more modern device's seemingly indelible display advantage, the e-book reader and tablet markets haven't really converged.
Amazon continues to develop e-book readers because digital book sales remain a cornerstone of the company’s business. And that goes a long way to explain the concurrent release of Amazon's Kindle Tough and fourth-generation Kindle alongside the original Fire tablet. The newest dedicated e-book reader from Amazon is called the Kindle Paperwhite, and its name does a pretty good job of describing its role.
The Paperwhite's most significant evolutionary feature is lighting. You don’t need a reading lamp over your shoulder to see this device clearly, as you might have in the past with previous e-book readers. Amazon considers this its flagship e-book reader, and the unlit models are available at even lower price points.
|Specifications||Kindle Paperwhite||Kindle||Kindle Keyboard 3G|
|Display Type||6" Paperwhite||6" E Ink Pearl||6" E Ink Pearl|
|Dimensions||6.7" x 4.6" x 0.36"||6.5" x 4.5" x 0.34"||7.5" x 4.8" x 0.34"|
|Weight||7.8 oz (3G), 7.5 oz (Wi-Fi)||5.98 oz.||8.7 oz|
|User Accessible Space||1.35 GiB||1.35 GiB||3.05 GiB|
|Battery||Li-ion Polymer 1470 mAh (3.7 V)||Li-ion Polymer 890 mAh (3.7 V)||Li-ion Polymer 1750 mAh (3.7 V)|
|Battery Life||8 weeks|
|Text To Speech/MP3 Playback||No||No||Yes|
|Special Offer Price||3G: $179|
|Regular Pricing||3G: $199|
The generic Kindle moniker now refers to the fourth-generation model we reviewed in Hands-On: Amazon’s Fourth-Gen Kindle Refresh; the only difference is that it’s now also available in black. Yes, today, the “Kindle” is Amazon's barebones budget model, retailing for just $69. It lacks touch sensitivity, so you need to use navigation buttons to hit keys on a virtual keyboard. If that’s too much of a pain for you, Amazon still sells the Kindle Keyboard 3G, though it'll run you an additional $60 bucks.
In comparison, the Wi-Fi-equipped Kindle Paperwhite costs $139, or $119 with special offers (basically, Amazon’s ad system). If you’re constantly on the move, with less access to Wi-Fi, it might be worth paying $60 more for the 3G-equipped model, which lets you make purchases on the road without 802.11 connectivity.
Physically, the Kindle Paperwhite is slightly larger than the base Kindle e-book reader. The major difference between them is weight, though the flagship mode is only an ounce-and-a-half heavier. Compared to the Kindle Keyboard 3G, there’s no question that Amazon's Paperwhite is both smaller and lighter.
This product effectively replaces the Kindle Touch, which explains why it feels so familiar in our hands. As a touch-based e-book reader, the Paperwhite is devoid of physical I/O, aside from a power button along its bottom edge. Amazon continues to use a rubberized plastic back cover, which is texturally comfortable to grip, and unlike the aluminum and glass iPad.
Interestingly, Amazon claims that the Paperwhite boasts an astounding eight weeks of battery life. That's double what you can expect from the base-model Kindle, but seemingly plausible, given the Paperwhite's larger 1,470 mAh power source. With that said, the battery's scaling suggests that the e-book reader's light isn't a significant drain. Although it's impractical to run our usual battery life tests on the Paperwhite, a week of constant use gives us every reason to believe that you can read for a few hours a day and not have to bother reaching for a charger.