Yeah, obviously, as soon as I’ve realized Paperwhite actually ships to Croatia, I’ve ordered one in order to upgrade my Kindle-istic experience of bookreading. I’m writing this short “review” as a user who previously used (and at the time of writing this still owns) Kindle 4 (black one, 2012 edition).
Paperwhite comes packages in literally the same kind of the box as all the older Kindles. Existing owners will have a general idea what I’m talking about and for new buyers – packaging is excellent. You can be fairly sure your Kindle will survive all the odds of the travel, even across the world.
So, what’s the same?
Everything and nothing. Kindle 4 and Paperwhite are at the same time so similar and yet so different devices.
Form factor is very similar, practically the same. Paperwhite is a bit bigger, so some of your accessories (well, you know, cases and covers) might not fit the Paperwhite. Amazon also warns you about that fact, all of the official cases for these devices are clearly marked as fitting only the model they are made for. So, don’t count on your existing accessories to fit the Paperwhite properly. Change in device size is minor (around 2 mm added on the width, around 5 mm on the height of the device, and seems some thickness also), but significant enough.
And of course, there is an e-ink display. Honestly, I don’t see significant difference between Paperwhite and the latest Kindle 4′s screens. Paperwhite has higher resolution applied on to almost the same (again, a bit bigger) physical size of the screen, so images are displayed wit more details. But it’s still the same e-ink technology, which is not there for you to watch family photos on, but to emulate book print on paper. So, you can sign this off also as “almost the same” as on Kindle 4 (more on the specific differences between screens later).
And now the differences
First thing you notice is a complete lack of hardware buttons, except on/off switch at the bottom of the device (placed at virtually the same place as on previous generation devices). This means, just like on Kindle Touch, that whole interaction between user and the device is done through touch screen. Albeit touch screens popular these days, I personally find the lack of hardware navigation keys slightly frustrating. But it’s not a deal breaker, although it would be nice to have same navigation keys on Paperwhite which are built in on older non-touch screen Kindle devices. They are that practical.
Besides that, what else is different? Here it goes:
- GUI and the navigation: again, Paperwhite is completely touch-screen device. Due to that fact, existing owners of Kindle 4 or earlier models will find its interface slightly confusing at first. But no worries, you’ll get a grip quick enough. If it confuses you as well, do read ”Kindle User’s Guide” document from your device. :-)
- Screen: Obviously it’s backlit. That’s themain selling point of Paperwhite.
Backlight works fairly good not only in the dark (it can go very low, so Paperwhite becomes a comfortable reading medium even in the complete dark), but also during daytime, but when you don’t have enough surrounding lighting to read from an unlit device.
Screen resolution is obviously better than the resolution on Kindle 4, but (there is always a but) – you will hardly notice it in day to day use. Unless, of course, you are by some weird coincidence used to reading graphically rich books on this device.
Screen sharpness on the other hand… I’m not sure if it’s just me or the effect of higher resolution, or maybe some kind of antialiasing on the fonts in the Paperwhite’s software but – I could swear text display is not as crisp on Paperwhite as it is on Kindle 4. It’s probably just me. If you still have doubts about the text sharpness on the Paperwhite I have to say – it is still way sharper than on any LCD screen I saw. :-)
- Device size: I can’t stress this enough, because I know some of you might be pissed to find out many old accessories don’t fit the new device: Paperwhite is slightly (but just slightly) bigger device than the Kindle 4. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
- Device weight: slightly heavier, probably due to bigger battery and more screen layers.
Is Paperwhite worth it?
If you’re buying your first Kindle and have almost the $100 to spend (price difference between Kindle 4 and Paperwhite), sure – do it. Backlight is worth it, battery should last longer, and trust me - you will be grateful for the backlight.
If you don’t have $100 to waste, Kindle 4 is just as good deal though. Standard disclaimers apply here if you’re not an existing Kindle user: “classic”, or better e-ink, Kindle devices (including Paperwhite) are not tablet nor tablet replacement. They are single-use devices, made for comfortable reading of e-books, and they fill that role perfectly.
Is Paperwhite a worth upgrade from a previous Kindle devices?
Again, the main question is do you have around extra $100 to spend? Then by all means yes.
Your finances are tight at the moment? No worries. I find Paperwhite to be an evolution of older devices, not a revolutionary new device which you would have to have.
Backlight is the nice added value, but if you’ve lived until now without it, it really is possible you don’t really need it. So it comes down to the fact that for existing owners Paperwhite is a nice new toy and if you can afford it then by all means – feel free to do it. You will not regret it, but if you don’t upgrade you will surely not lose any sleep over it.
- Buy a Kindle 4
- Buy a Kindle Paperwhite
- Want to put those nifty screensaver images from the gallery below on to your new Paperwhite? Jailbreak it by following these instructions (this method worked on my Paperwhite running software version 5.3.5), install this screensaver hack, and proceed to reddit to find nice Paperwhite screensaver images.
- The book on display in the gallery is George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia“.