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Good as a first Paperwhite, not worthy of an upgrade
on September 30, 2013
This review is for the second generation Kindle Paperwhite. Like all kindle e-readers before it, this is a great product. However, I am a bit disappointed as there is not a huge improvement over last year's model. For this review, I focused on features and enhancements exclusive to the new Paperwhite and tried to make comparisons to last year's model. Also, I found somethings misrepresented or confusing in the advertising, so I will try to clear them up.
Design - The Kindle white has a nice look and shape. It fits well and is easy to hold in one hand. It's fairly light, so it doesn't tire the hands too much. I can grip it for long periods before having to switching hands. Its design is very similar to the previous Paperwhite - almost identical. The height and width are the same, the buttons are in the same location, and although this version is slightly lighter, it is not noticeable.
Display - Although not a huge improvement from last year's model, the display is one of the best features of the Paperwhite. Like most e-readers, the Paperwhite uses digital ink technology. This model employs a more advanced version. In addition, the lighting has been upgraded, so among other things, it is more evenly lit. Together, they make for incredible viewing. In my opinion, it's one of the best digital ink e-reader display on the market. I really enjoy reading on it, text look very sharp and crisp, with little to no eye strain.
Processor - The Paperwhite has an upgraded processor, which means smoother page turns and navigation. I am able to open books, flip pages, and navigate menus fairly quickly. There is barely any lag as I flip through many pages at a time. Also, the flashing effect when turning pages shows up less if at all. Although, when turning to a new page, I can still see remnants in the empty spaces caused by the text from the previous page, but not sure how much of this is because of processor speed. This is a nice upgrade from the previous Paperwhite.
Touchscreen - The touchscreen is good, it works as it should. The screen responds to the items I am trying to select. Rarely does it misinterpret my selection.
Battery Life - I haven't really had a chance to test this out, but Amazon quotes battery life to be eight weeks. Note, these are under very specific conditions - "based on a half hour of reading per day with wireless off and the light setting at 10." So let's do the math, 8 weeks x 7 days in a week = 56 days * .5 hours/day = 28 hour battery life. This is with wireless off and light at 10. Turn on wireless or raise the light setting, and performance drops. So battery life is not as huge of a jump from other devices as Amazon would lead us to believe.
In addition to hardware, the Paperwhite has some software upgrades. Initially they seem like separate and unique improvements. However, I found much of it to revolve around a single enhancement with many features added to it. That enhancement is the picture-in-picture screen. With this popup like screen, you are able to see information and navigate menus without leaving the current page you are reading. The device has leveraged the popup in several ways.
Word Lookup - One of the things I love about e-readers over traditional books is the ability to look up definitions of words in real-time, right from the device. No need to pull out a separate dictionary or thesaurus. Although most e-readers have this feature, I like the enhancement made for the new Paperwhite. It allows me to lookup a word on dictionary, x-ray, and Wikipedia on a single interface. For me this is great. I am a knowledge seeker, and when I come across something I want to know more about, whether it is a definition of a word or getting background information about a term, I can do that.
Page Flip - The page flip function is probably the best improvement of the upgraded software, it rocks! With it, I can skim forward or backward, like flipping back and forth between the pages of a real book. It's not quite like a real book, but in some respects a little better. It works by opening a popup window on top of the current page I am on. From this popup screen, I can scroll back and forth by page or by chapter. Since I am skimming on the popup screen, I never lose my place. I find it really handy for referencing a chart or visual aid on another page, or if I want go back to review or reread a section I didn't fully understand. When I am done, I can close out of the popup window to go back to the original page.
Foot Note - Nothing huge, but worth noting. In previous kindle versions, looking at a footnote meant navigating away from the page you are reading. With the addition of the popup function, footnotes instead open up in a separate screen. Not a huge enhancement, unless you are reading footnote heavy books, but then again how many of us really are?
Vocabulary Builder - Not something useful to me, but others might enjoy. The Paperwhite will collect all the words you look up definitions for and archive them so you can view them later. This can be used as a way to build your vocabulary. It has built in support to review the words like a flashcard, which will display both the definition of the word and its context. Again, not something for me, but I can see it being useful for the geek at heart.
Free Time - Don't have kids so can't give an elaborate opinion on this. All I know is that it is a parental control feature similar to what is on the Kindle Fire HD. It puts restrictions on what your kids can do and see when using the device.
Goodreads - For those who don't know, Goodreads is essentially a social network for readers, where people can review books and exchange recommendations. Amazon recently purchased Goodreads, allowing the company to now also become a social networking service. It will be interesting how Amazon moves forward with this, or what will happen now that Goodreads is no longer independent.
Currently, the Paperwhite comes in two versions, WiFi Only and 3G.
Wifi Only - The wifi version costs $119. Wifi doesn't mean you can browse the web on it. It simply means you can purchase and download books without connecting it to a computer.
3G - This version cost $189. It isn't like buying a 3G Tablet, where you will have to pay for a monthly data plan. Again, you can't use it to surf the internet. The benefit of 3G on this device is that it allows you to purchase books independent of a wifi connection, but you need to be in an area with 3G cellular coverage. So if you're on the actual Amazon, Amazon.com can't deliver to you. This version is not slated to be released until early November.
Ads - Ads are shown on the home screen on both versions when the screen goes to sleep or you power the device on. For an additional $20, you can opt out of the ads. I was pretty vocal with my dislike of ads in my review of the Kindle Fire HD last year. I think ads are tasteless and cheapen the experience, and don't belong here. But like for any corporation, money is king.
When you buy an e-reader, you are not just getting a physical product, you are getting amenities of that brand's ecosystem. For example, if you buy a Barnes and Noble Nook, you can read books for free in their stores. If you buy a kindle, you get features like X-ray, which as I said I really like. Personally, I think Amazon has one of the better eco-systems for books. They have a library not available anywhere else, if you are a Prime member, you can download books for free, and now with the acquisition of Goodreads, they have really changed the game.
I mentioned last year in the Fire HD review that Amazon has always been at the forefront of the book buying and reading experience. I still feel that way. I think they are always innovating in this area. Some of the innovations aren't the best, but I give them credit for trying. If we ever fall into a police state society where books are banned, like in Ray Bradbury's novel Farenhiet 451, something tells me Amazon will be the revolutionary force using some advanced form of whispersycn technology to make sure books still reach people...probably not, but it gives you an idea of how dedicated they are to books.
SO, SHOUD YOU BUY?
If you own last year's Paperwhite - I don't think it is worth the upgrade. I don't really see this as a second generation Paperwhite device. In terms of design and hardware, it is nearly unchanged. Yes pages turn faster, but your reading experience is not going to change that much. The useful enhancements are in the software, but if you are interested in those, Amazon will likely have updates available for the older kindles. A true upgrade would have been to add a stylus so you can take and save handwritten notes or maybe offer a model with a bigger screen. If you do trade up though, one benefit is that your old cases will still fit.
If you own a Kindle Fire, Fire HD, or another Tablet - and are thinking about getting a more portable reader, I recommend it. I personally like reading more on an e-reader than a tablet. In sunlight, there is significantly less glare, and since you don't have a bright screen shining in your face, reading doesn't feel as intense. Also, e-readers are smaller and lighter so it is easier to carry them with me to the park or beach. Another benefit is that battery life on e-readers are considerably longer, not eight weeks as Amazon has listed, but enough so I am not charging it daily.
If you own another kindle model - I believe it is worth the upgrade. You'll get a bigger, better, and brighter screen, a faster device, touch screen, and more features in terms of software.
If you don't own any e-readers and this will be your first purchase, or if you're just waking out of a coma and the concept of e-readers is new, you can't go wrong with the new Paperwhite. Good combination of hardware, software, and ecosystem.
Hope this review has been helpful and given you useful information for your decision. One thing I didn't include is a comparison to other brands. Personally, and I hate to say this, but I don't see a future for many of them. What Apple did to Virgin Music and other record stores, Amazon is on the verge of doing to bookstores and retailers.