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Kindle Paperwhite review: Ebook reader gets warmer, faster

Scott McNulty | Oct. 7, 2013
The new Kindle Paperwhite is like the old one, but with a better backlight and upgraded software.

Kindle Paperwhite

Last year the Kindle Paperwhite finally gave ebook readers what they'd been asking Amazon about for years: A Kindle that could be read in the dark without clipping on a book light. It was a good product, but early adopters complained that the screen lighting was a bit uneven. With the 2013 model, Amazon has fixed that problem, improved the lighting, and thrown in a bunch of nifty software updates.

Warmer and whiter
The new Kindle Paperwhite ($119, plus an additional $20 to remove Amazon's "special offers" advertising) is a dead ringer for last year's model. They share the exact same dimensions, design, and nearly identical weights. (The new Paperwhite is a whopping two ounces lighter; my limited powers of perception don't allow me to notice any difference.) In fact, the only obvious external difference is the branding. The familiar Kindle logo on the back of the e-reader has been replace with Amazon's.

Never mind the debossing. You'll be spending most of your time looking at the touchscreen of the Paperwhite. The screen's pixel density remains the same 221 ppi, which is higher than previous-generation E Ink kindles but not quite high-resolution enough to banish all jagginess from text. The old model offers good contrast, but this new model's whites are even whiter and blacks even blacker. This increased contrast makes text and images appear much crisper—and the older version was no slouch in this respect.

Like the original model, this Paperwhite illuminates itself by channeling light through a clever set of "light guides" that allow tiny lights peeking in from the side of the screen to illuminate the entire reading area. It's clever technology that really works, but in the first-generation Paperwhite some people complained of a banded or mottled interference pattern—basically, inconsistent lighting—at the bottom of the screen.

This new Paperwhite's screen addresses this fault. It's evenly illuminated, with no banding at all. The light itself is also much warmer than the previous version's cooler blueish hue. This warmer color, coupled with the increased contrast, creates a reading experience that's a much closer match to the printed page.

Amazon claims the Paperwhite is 25 percent faster than the previous version, and it is indeed speedier. Pages turn quickly and books open in a snap. Screen refreshes (when the screen flashes black for a second in order to wipe and redraw the E Ink screen) happen less frequently, thanks to a new software trick that only refreshes the screen when the Kindle thinks it's required. (The old model would refresh every six pages, whether it needed to or not.) You can, however, optionally set the screen to refresh after every page turn if you can't stand the slight ghosting that can occur with fewer screen refreshes.


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