The Kindle Paperwhite - an early review

Published October 26, 2012

When the new and exciting Kindle Paperwhite was announced, I was keen to try it out. There’s not much wrong with my current Kindle, but there are a few niggles that the Paperwhite is meant to solve, and they would make me ebook reading experience even more brilliant than it already is. We ordered as soon as we could, and the Paperwhite arrived on the doorstep yesterday. With just 24 hours of experience under my belt, I have some early thoughts on the device - and they’re not as ecstatic as I thought they would be.

Weight of expectation

Kindle Paperwhite

The first impression was that the new Kindle is noticeably heavier than my existing one. Presumably that is all taken up with battery, to keep the battery life up whilst also powering the new backlight. It’s not massively heavy, not iPad style, but it’s still a significant step up from my current light-weight Kindle - it still impresses me how light that is, even to this day. I have taken to calling the new one the Paperweight.

The setup process was easy, and I was extremely happy with how easy it is to type on the touchscreen keyboard rather than try and navigate the few buttons on the old one. I don’t think the keyboard setup should be a dealbreaker, because you don’t need to type that much on the Kindle anyway. But, the ease of the touchscreen is an added bonus - although it’s worth pointing out that the screen can’t keep up with how fast I typed, even though the device was registering all the right hits in all the right places.

I’m not very happy that half of the home screen is taken up with a Suggested Items box. I think the store itself will be easier to navigate with the aforementioned touchscreen, but I don’t really do my buying on the Kindle itself. I don’t know if there’s a setting to make that go away, I haven’t found it yet, but it could be a little less intrusive.

The next step was to set up all my books how I wanted. I tend to run a system of having my unread books downloaded and on the device, with all the read ones banished to the archive the minute they are read and reviewed. At the moment, I do have quite a lot of unread items. I’m still recovering from the Kindle summer sale, and I fell for the most recent Humble Bundle as well. So, I had about fifty books to download.

Mistaken identity

Going through the archive was a complete pain. It’s easy enough to swipe through the pages, tap the book you want to download and watch it come down within seconds. That part is fine. But sometimes the book would disappear once downloaded, sometimes it wouldn’t. Sometimes the screen would refresh, sometimes it wouldn’t. Eight or nine times, I went to tap the cover of a book I wanted and it changed to something else right under my fingertips, downloading a book I hadn’t intended to tap at all. It was irritating to the extreme, but I persevered knowing this was a one-time setup headache. (I persevered, I must admit, after one mini breakdown - throwing the Kindle at Mr C and saying I didn’t want it anymore.) We came to the conclusion that it was still getting itself together, pending items really were pending and I was trying to do too much at once. Given the state of the keyboard when I was trying to type on it, I think I probably was going too fast. And again, this is (hopefully) a one time irritation. Downloading one or two books here or there is fine.

The reading experience is great. I love the backlight, and the ability to raise and lower the level of brightness. One of the downsides to my existing Kindle is I find the dark grey background just that fraction too dark, so that it’s not quite as comfortable to read as it should be. Far better than reading for extended periods on the harsh light of the iPad, but still not quite right. This lets you adjust to where you feel comfortable, and depending on the light levels in the room - perfect. It’s also better for night-time, if you have a sleeping partner who doesn’t want the light on. Also, I tend to read in bed on my side, and it just wasn’t working with pressing the buttons to turn the pages. Tap, tap, it solves all that.

Disco lighting

Amazon got a lot of complaints about some dodgy lighting effects at the very base of the Kindle. In certain lights, there can be these rounded bubbles of black that are a bit offputting. We bought the Kindle in the full knowledge of this problem, and I don’t really find it an issue when reading. They do make your eyes go funny if you leave them there but if it gets to the point where I start to notice it, then I just adjust the backlight until it is better. I do think, though, it’s a shoddy thing for Amazon to be happy to ship to customers. It makes the device feel cheap and roughly put together - as though light is leaking through where it shouldn’t be, because the manufacturing process couldn’t care less about the end product.

The text seems different to me, the actual font itself, and I’m so used to reading on the old one that it may take a while to get used to. It’s not really an issue as you can change it to be one of a few options, and that’s definitely something you don’t get with a printed book! The Kindle now supports the enhanced graphics, something we were particularly interested in as my Pocket F1 book features some tables that didn’t look too good before, and are now as we intended them to be.

I think, overall, I’m not blown away by the Paperwhite, but it is only teetering on the edge of disappointing. It’s a good, solid device and if I hadn’t seen my old Kindle, I would probably think it was amazing. The problem is that my first Kindle was practically perfect in every way - the grey thing was the smallest of issues, and I gradually came to realise that I should have ordered the 3G one instead of just the Wifi, my fault not the device. This new Paperwhite makes the Kindle a little more useful, and a lot more accessible, but brings with it a fair few niggles that weren’t there before. I think the next version will be a lot better, but this one hasn’t impressed me the way I hoped it would.

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