This review is aimed at complete beginners to Kindles and Kindle owners alike. It will help beginners to decide which Kindle to purchase, and help Kindle owners with the decision of upgrading to the Paperwhite 2nd generation. I believe a review should give more than just "It's great" (you'll find this bit in the conclusion :-)). For this reason, I have included as much information as possible. Even if some of the sections do not seem to apply to you (for example, if you do not have a £59 Kindle, etc.), I did not want to repeat the information lots of times, so please read them anyway to get the full details. I hope that it is useful to all!
WARNING: When I mention the £59 basic Kindle, this applies to the old version that has no touchscreen, etc.
The Paperwhite has about 1.25 gigabytes of usable storage and can hold about 1,100 eBooks. The main formats it can read are the Kindle formats (AZW3, AZW and MOBI), PDF, TXT, DOC and DOCX. It also has an "experimental" web browser, but does not support audio.
INTRODUCTION TO E-INK:
It features an E-Ink display, which is unlike any other, such as the most common (LCD), which is used in tablets (such as the Kindle Fires), mobile phones and televisions, etc. An E-Ink pixel is a tiny capsule that carries black and white particles suspended in a fluid. The particles are moved around by electrical charges applied from beneath. Natural light then reflects off the particles on the side of the capsule closest to your eye, making the pixel visible. So, if a negative charge is applied, the white particles are attracted to the bottom, the black particles are repelled to the top of the capsule, and it will appear as black.
Unlike LCD screens, a lighting system (the backlight in LCD) is unnecessary as long as there is natural light. However, in the Paperwhite a frontlight has been added for making the display look much whiter and for reading in the dark. The frontlight uses 4 LEDs in the lower bezel to shine light sideways over the screen into a layer that spreads the light out impressively evenly.
I will give you advantages of the Paperwhite over the previous generation Paperwhite and the £69 basic Kindle to help you make the decision of whether to upgrade.
THE IMPROVEMENTS OVER THE 2012 1st GENERATION PAPERWHITE:
- A new E-Ink Carta display, instead of the old E-ink Pearl. This gives a specified 50 percent better contrast, in other words whiter whites and blacker blacks. It also needs to refresh less often. BE AWARE that E-Ink estimates their E-Ink Carta display to have an average life of 5 years. The life of E-Ink Pearl is shorter, but they unfortunately do not specify how long.
- An improved frontlight. It is now almost perfectly evenly lit. There are no discernible shadows at the bottom.
- The new Page flip feature. This opens a "pop up" page that allows you to scroll through the book by chapter, by page or with a slider bar, the equivalent of putting your finger in the flipping through. If you tap the pop up page, it will become the full page. Alternatively, you may tap the cross to close it.
- A 25 percent faster processor.
- A 19 percent tighter touch grid, meaning the touch screen is more accurate.
- Vocabulary Builder. This is excellent for children and students, saving all the words that are looked up as flashcards that can be marked as "mastered" or deleted.
- Smart Lookup - the dictionary feature has been significantly improved, giving X-Ray and Wikipedia from inside the book. All you have to do is hold your finger on a word for about 1 second to get an instant definition, X-Ray or Wikipedia.
(Edit: Page Flip,Vocabulary Builder and Smart Lookup are now available for the 1st gen Paperwhite via a new software update.)
THE IMPROVEMENTS OVER THE £59 'BASIC' KINDLE (THIS APPLIES TO THE OLD VERSION OF THE BASIC KINDLE):
- All of the above.
- A frontlight!
- A touch screen. This makes looking up words and highlighting much easier, let alone just navigating around the device! It uses capacitive touch technology, the same type used by all high quality tablets and phones. It cannot be used with normal gloves, but touch screen gloves are available. The touch screen is very sensitive, so it is extremely hard to hold the device without turning pages accidentally unless you use a case.
- An auto power off and power on feature when the case is opened and closed. It works really well, even with third party cases. Simply open the case and it turns on, close it and it turns off!
- Kindle FreeTime (see below).
- X-Ray. This allows you to see the "bones" of the book, and is useful for character heavy books, telling you about the characters and also showing you where they appear. HOWEVER, most publishers do not enable X-Ray in their books.
- Time to Read. This calculates your reading speed to tell you how long it will take you to finish the chapter, or alternatively the book. I find this very useful, and it is usually quite accurate, although it can take a while to readjust when changing books sometimes.
- There are 6 default fonts, as opposed to the standard font and sans serif on the basic model.
- The "Home" view of your library looks quite dull on the basic Kindle (just a list of books), but on the Paperwhite it shows the covers of the books. Covers, though displayed in black and white, still look pretty good. However, list view is available if you prefer.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Q. If my Kindle breaks, will I lose my books?
A. No, they are backed up on your Amazon account.
Q. Is Wi-Fi necessary?
A. No! EBooks can be transferred via a USB port on a computer.
Q. Can the light level be adjusted?
A. Yes, it can be adjusted. There are 26 light levels (including level 0 and 'Max', which is slightly higher than level 24). The frontlight cannot be completely turned off - level 0 is just about visible in the dark. I doubt that the battery is drained much at all on setting 0.
Q. Will it save my place in a book?
A. Yes, it saves your place in every book, even after it is deleted and downloaded again!
Q. Can page numbers be shown?
A. If page numbers are available for the book, then they can be shown in the corner instead of Time to Read. They can also be shown by tapping the top of the screen to open the toolbar.
Q. Can the text size be changed?
A. Yes, there are 8 different font sizes and six different fonts. The common Pinch to Zoom feature can now be used in normal books too.
Q. Can it read the common format ePub?
A. No. However, the free open-source software Calibre is good for converting ebooks although it will not convert DRM (digital rights management) protected books.
Q. Are there many free classics available?
A. Yes! Over 40,000 titles are available free from manybooks.net and gutenberg.org. These are in the public domain, so they were mostly published before 1923 (copyright laws changed in that year). It is perfectly legal and they can be easily downloaded from the device's 'experimental' browser or a PC.
Q. How long does the battery last?
A. Amazon states 28 hours (8 weeks at light setting 10, based on 30 minutes usage each day) with Wifi turned off. I find that I keep the average light setting a lot higher than setting 10 (more like setting 20), and so the battery life is comparable to the basic Kindle. In the dark I use it at about setting 6-7.
SOFTWARE UPDATE 5.4.2:
This update includes mainly:
- Kindle FreeTime.
- Cloud Collections (the capability to back up collections on your Amazon account).
Collections are folders to put books in on Kindle, but they must be organised on the device. This, before now, meant having to create all of your collections again, one by one, for each new device. The Kindle will now sync the collections on all devices linked to the account without being given permission, and unfortunately you cannot turn it off. It is fine for one person at a time on an account, for example, getting another Kindle and transferring the collections across. However, if two or more people with different reading interests use one account, it will sync automatically with each new device and they will have to delete all the collections that they don't want one by one. (Edit: there is now more control over the collections in update 5.4.3 - see below.)
Kindle FreeTime is a feature that can be used for sharing a device between an adult and children, and it also makes reading more interesting for children. I have set up a test profile to inform you how it works, and this info should be useful to parents.
First, you set up a profile for the child. You then add books to their library, so they can only access these books. You also set a daily reading goal, say 45 minutes. The child will gain achievements, such as "Serious Reader - read 500 pages". The adult can also see stats, for instance, time read, looked-up words, pages read, etc. The child can be also allowed to see the stats and achievements.
Access to the Kindle Store, the web browser, Wikipedia, and most of the settings is disabled in FreeTime. Multiple profiles can also be set up, and if an adult wants to resume using it, they just have to type in a password and exit FreeTime.
SOFTWARE UPDATE 5.4.3:
This update contains:
- Cloud collection improvements - you can now 'unstar' unwanted collections to hide them from the Home screen.
- PDF improvements - you can adjust the margins in the font options.
- You can access Notes from the reading menu.
- By tapping the bottom left corner you can now completely remove the 'Time left' reading, page or location number and the percentage progress through the book, leaving a nice 'pure' page. Just tap the same corner if you wish to bring them back again.
- You can also change the dictionary being used in the dictionary lookup box.
SOFTWARE UPDATE 5.4.5:
Yet another software update is here, albeit a small one. This one includes the following features:
- When zoomed in on a PDF document, there is now a little overview of the page in the top left corner, showing your location as you pan around. This is useful because you can get slightly 'lost' when zoomed in on a large page with a 6 inch screen.
- Apparently you can now read a Kindle book sample while the physical books ships. To do this, Amazon says to order the physical book and on the 'Thank You' page click 'Start Reading'. I assume that the sample is larger than a normal free sample, but even so I'm not sure how useful it is given that people with a Kindle usually buy Kindle books!
A FEW HANDY TIPS:
- Your e-Books will not be transferred between accounts. BUY ALL YOUR EBOOKS FROM ONE ACCOUNT.
- The Paperwhite should arrive already registered to the Amazon account it was purchased from, but it is extremely easy to reregister to a different account. You can do it from the settings page of the Kindle with Wi-Fi or from a computer.
- It will be slower after downloading lots of books while it indexes them. This may take about a few hours to a day for lots of books, and will also drain more battery life.
- You can email documents to the Kindle by sending to an address allocated to you by Amazon.
- Permanent bookmarks can also be saved. You can also highlight passages and write notes that are backed up on Amazon, and so you will not lose any if the device breaks.
- Foreign language to English dictionaries can be bought so you can quickly look up words in foreign books. I have one of these, and I recommend them for learning languages.
- Up to 6 devices can be registered to one account at one time.
- E-Ink screens are slower to change and refresh in cold conditions. It can be about three times as fast in a warm room, as opposed to at a temperature of around 15 or less degrees Celsius. After leaving it in the sunshine for a while it felt as fast as a tablet, and the keyboard did not lag in the slightest. (In a normal house it will be fine - my house is cold!)
- Many people complain that the Paperwhite arrives in a very flimsy box. This is true - the box is thin enough to fit through a letterbox, contains basically no padding and is labeled 'Kindle Paperwhite' for some reason. Because it is so thin your lovely new device is likely to be dropped from the height of your letterbox to the floor with no padding, but don't be too worried! The Paperwhite has been given a 'drop test' by Goodereader, and it was dropped from 5 feet onto solid concrete on its back, corner and front. There is a reasonably large amount of damage to the plastic bezel, but with a case the device would be unharmed. This is quite impressive for a device with a 6" screen like the Paperwhite! Although it is very painful to watch an expensive new device being mutilated, here is the URL if you wish to see it:
My Paperwhite arrived quickly in a small black box marked "Amazon" and "Kindle Paperwhite". (If it is a gift, select gift wrapping at the checkout!) It was extremely easy to set up, and I downloaded my 90-odd books quickly, although one at a time. There is a full Kindle User Guide on the device and an interactive tutorial that shows you how to use it.
The one flaw with my unit is a small defect in the lighting layer, resulting in a tiny pinprick of light being shone upwards. However, although I could return it, it does not bother me.
The Paperwhite is a huge improvement over the basic Kindle, being much whiter than the basic Kindle, even in daylight. The text looks crisper and the device itself has a much higher quality feel to it. It is also faster at basically everything - there is hardly any lag when typing, and I don't know how I managed without features such as 'Time to Read' and 'Page Flip'! The touch screen is textured and feels much more like paper than LCD screens, also hardly showing fingerprints at all. In fact, after using it very regularly for over 6 months, I have not yet needed to clean it.
I personally find it well worth the extra £50 for all the extra features and the (hopefully!) longer life.
Thank you for reading! If you have any queries, feel free to ask - I'm more than happy to help.
Also, thank you so much to the people who have left such kind feedback! It is very much appreciated.