Customer Review

730 of 817 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars IT'S THE LIGHTING, STUPID! (And now Amazon agrees), October 2, 2012
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This review is from: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite , 6-Inch, Wi-Fi, With Special Offers (Electronics)
IMPORTANT NEWS FROM AMAZON: Since this review and updates were written, Amazon has updated the Paperwhite product page with a new section called "We want you to know..." You have to click through to find out what it is they want to tell you and show you. Mainly, it's that the lighting on the screen is NOT even under "certain lighting conditions," especially in a darkened room, where you will most want to use Paperwhite illumination. The Amazon photo gives you a good look at the shadow issues and the bluish color cast to the screen in a dark room. This isn't defective, it's "normal," per Amazon, so I doubt they will ship replacement units for these issues any longer, although a return for refund is fine, I'm sure, if you're dissatisfied. Many may feel that the uneven lighting is not a problem, which is a matter of personal taste--but it's unfortunate that the photos Amazon has been using (and continues to use) of Paperwhite illumination in a darkened room look very different from the reality of what Amazon now "wants you to know" about the lighting. In the interest of fairness to its customers, I believe Amazon should pull all Paperwhite product photos that show a perfectly illuminated and white screen in dark lighting conditions, because that's just not how it really looks.

This will be a fairly brief review, considering that the Paperwhite's whole reason for existing can be stated in a single word: lighting. So one would think... and one would hope... that Amazon would absolutely nail it. The pre-production units that the press "sampled," certainly suggested that they did. The unanimous acclaim and superlatives for the lighting and screen quality left no doubt that Amazon had hit this one out of the park. Well... I'd like me one of THOSE units, because that's not how I'd describe the Paperwhite I received today.

Simply put, the lighting is okay, not great. After all the raves about how invisible the LED light sources were, it was disappointing to spot them immediately out of the box at the bottom of screen. And then, as others have noted, the lower screen is also marred by shadowy areas between the LEDs that might be described as smudges or banding. This was definitely NOT the beautifully even glow of light across the screen that Amazon product photos have shown and which I was expecting. I'm also not sold on improved readability of the new screen vs. my Kindle Touch. It is certainly a different reading experience--I'm just not sure that it's better, at least for me.

My two star rating might seem somewhat harsh, but Amazon had just one feature that it needed to get REALLY right on the Kindle Paperwhite, and they missed the mark. I'm planning to return mine and keep my Kindle Touch.

UPDATE: I would invite you to read the comments below this review, as person after person checks in with the same issues. In fact, scan all the 1-3 star reviews... and even a few of the 4s... it's pretty much the same story. The only variable seems to be the level of disappointment. The unanswered question is whether these problem Paperwhites are the result of a bad production run... or if this is really the level of quality we can expect? For the time being, I trust that Amazon is reading these reviews, seeing that they have a problem and will do what needs to be done to make it right with their loyal customers.

UPDATE #2: This will be very helpful: there's a YouTube review of the Paperwhite that gives you a good look at the problems at the lower part of the screen. Check out the 20 seconds in the review from 1:10 to 1:30 where the reviewer demos the issue and discusses it. I think it looks somewhat worse when you're actually holding the Paperwhite than it does on video. But this should still give you a pretty good idea of whether this screen issue is going to be a problem for YOU. youtube DOT COM/watch?v=u-SEYSHSVKc

UPDATE #3: Sincere KUDOS and thanks to Amazon Customer Service for their handling of a replacement unit. It will be a while before it arrives (which is fine) and I'll report back here once I have it.

UPDATE #4: So much has been written and said about this issue since I wrote the original review. For those who might be interested, I've posted a short summary of what is "known" at present in comment #71 below.

FINAL UPDATE: I received a replacement PW, which I compared directly against my first unit. The screens were VERY similar--within what I'd consider an acceptable level of variation during a production run--though the shadow issue was actually "a bit" worse on the replacement. The splotchiness was more noticeable, and extended upward into the bottom three lines of text on the lower screen. (And this is with line spacing at its widest setting.) So... I'd say the shadow issue is simply the reality of this technology at present and isn't going to be corrected. Only YOU can decide if it's an issue for YOU... check out the link I've posted above or other video reviews and photos online that do a pretty good job of showing you what to expect.

Thanks for taking the time to read my review, and I hope you found it helpful in making a purchase decision.
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Tracked by 14 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 242 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 2, 2012 5:48:57 PM PDT
Sunshine says:
You nailed it. For me its all about disappointment with the product and disillusionment with Amazon (clearly their publicity photos were all doctored).

Posted on Oct 2, 2012 5:56:08 PM PDT
yeheng says:
Same here. Is it because of a defective unit or every kindlePW is like this? The ad on Amazon page is definitely misleading.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 2, 2012 6:05:31 PM PDT
Bud, I'm a HUGE fan of Amazon, and I find it hard to even consider that they would intentionally mislead their customers. But I have to say that the press reviews and Paperwhite product photos don't match up with what I received today.

Posted on Oct 2, 2012 6:22:35 PM PDT
Randomness says:
Pretty disappointing to hear that. Maybe some units are shipping with a manufacturing defect in the screen's surface which makes the lighting uneven... You should probably give it another chance and see if you'll get a non-defective unit as a replacement.

Posted on Oct 2, 2012 6:34:12 PM PDT
bhalilov says:
Completely agree - the screen with the banding on he bottom was huge disappointment for me. The dark areas were the first thing I noticed.

Posted on Oct 2, 2012 6:41:24 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 2, 2012 6:44:32 PM PDT
M.D.C says:
I agree.
The units tested by CNET or had minor uneven lighting.
It's obvious that Amazon gave perfectly working units to critics.
My unit, however, has very noticeable unevenness, and I saw pictures of other unit that has the same issue.
Amazon must be having some quality control issues. (The reason I hesitate to buy Amazon hardwares..)
Last year, I had to return my kindle touch because of random paging bug.
This year, I ordered another kindle and now face this problem..

Posted on Oct 2, 2012 7:26:57 PM PDT
Saint04 says:
I just wanted to confirm your review. I'm fairly disappointed myself. The difference with the back-light on my screen though is that I get a bright blue on the right side versus on the left side. I also have these bright crystals that show at certain angles when the back-light is on in the screen. I'm wandering if this is an inconsistency with the glass channeling in the new back-light technology. I was thinking that this was maybe just a fluke for the unit I received, but after reading your review, I'm aware I'm not the only one now. I'm also wandering how well the anti-glare on the screen is going to uphold against scratches. It doesn't appear to be very durable compared to the exposed eink screen. Thanks for your input and take care.

Posted on Oct 2, 2012 7:31:06 PM PDT
Cleve says:
I figured I had a bad reader..... Same problem as the others have with the smudge at the bottom of the screen...
I had high reguards of Amazon on all products I have ordered, but this one comes up short...
Seem like I did not get the unit I saw advertised...
Amazon should be more honest trying to roll out a new product...

Posted on Oct 2, 2012 10:50:01 PM PDT
Edward Lewis says:
I have to say I was ready to jump in and order a Paperwhite to replace my Kindle. I am out of the country for months at a time. Loading up my Kindle instead of carrying mass of books has been an excellent solution. Being able to read in poor lighting situations I often encounter would make the $139 + case a worthwhile investment. Something told me to old off and wait for customer reviews. I am glad I did. I will have to se it in person before ordering.

Posted on Oct 2, 2012 10:55:43 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 4, 2012 8:42:46 AM PDT
Even with the lighting issues it's still better than a prior Kindle without a built in light. I never found an external light that provided as even a light as the Paperwhite. And, with the Paperwhite, you do still have the option of turning the light completely off.

Further, the light does really help in mixed lighting situations so you do not have to find the exact best angle to read in, no matter what your reading environment is.

See my video review here:
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Charles Nordlander

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