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Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2013) review

When the William Shatner cardboard cut-outs sell out, your back-up Christmas gift should be the new and improved Kindle Paperwhite. Here’s why.

Hoover, Yo-Yo, Sellotape, Kindle. Kindle? We’d be willing to wager that the Kindle name will live on for much longer than the boring “e-reader” label still clinging on for dear life. Because Amazon’s first stab at gadgetry really is living the dream: its name has become the product in many people’s minds.

So here it is, the world’s greatest is slightly greater and ready to trounce any other gadget’s bid (with the possible exception of the next-gen consoles) for oversized Christmas stockings. The Paperwhite has a contrastier screen, a better built-in light and a smattering of new features – not to mention the great Kindle store and same, honest-to-goodness eight-week battery life. Is it the perfect e-reader?

Paperbright and Whiter

More readable than ever, you can immediately spot the improvements to the Paperwhite’s sharp 6in screen, with noticeably blacker blacks thanks to higher contrast levels. The e-paper background looks whiter and fresher, too – not so ruddy and easier on the eye. With overhead office lights shining on the 212ppi screen, the new Paperwhite is slightly easier to read even with reflections bouncing off it. Take that, regular ink.

The Kindle’s screen has also been treated to a next-gen built-in light – it’s just as bright as before but seems to be a bit whiter, making the old Paperwhite look a little blue in tone when viewed side-by-side. Which you prefer will be a matter of preference but we’d recommend getting some eyes-on time with both if you’ll use the light a lot.

Amazon says it guides light towards the surface of the display to reduce eye strain and we didn’t encounter any peeper pain at all during our bedtime Malcolm Gladwell binges. It’s still great at avoiding registering accidental taps, with a more responsive touch grid, although being a touchscreen means snacks are best saved for before or after a Kindle session. Sigh.

To show off the Paperwhite’s screen: Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in Space

Feature flippin’

Aside from screen tweaks, Amazon’s been poking its nose through every single Kindle feature with plenty of new e-reading tricks to try. Page Flip is our favourite – accessed by tapping the top of the screen then the arrow above the title, a preview hovers above the page you’re reading with a slider bar below it to skip pages or scan chapters. It’s much more like flipping back and forth in a physical book and we don’t know how we previously Kindled without it.

Vocabulary Builder is a nice touch, too, automatically compiling any words looked up via the dictionary tool with a line or two of where they were when you read them. There’s even a mastered button to move words into a different list. One for word-learning fiends.

It’s not just the dictionary we’ve been diving into, either, the improved Smart Lookup tweaks the menus showing Wikipedia, X-Ray, Search, etc, making it faster and easier to use these tools to get more information as you read. X-Ray is still very handy for students or non-fiction lovers – it’s not available for all titles but when it is, it’s an awesome search tool and works well at picking up references to people, places and companies and then displaying them on a timeline of the ‘bones’ of the book.

To Page Flip through: Dogfight: How Apple and Google went to war and started a revolution

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2013) Tech Specs

Page Turn, Pronto

Race against time (left in chapter)

Don’t forget this is an annual refresh, so while page turning is slightly quicker on the new Paperwhite there’s nothing much to make owners of last year’s model too green. It’s still not as slick as using a smartphone or tablet in terms of navigating around the basic OS, but it’s fast enough to keep up with your reading.

Everything’s a millisecond or so faster on the new model – tapping to go home, opening books, bringing up the menu when tapping the top third of the screen while reading – but it’s not instant and features such as PageFlip still seem to take their time. Books download pretty much instantly, as ever, and happily it looks as though there are fewer ‘flickers’ of the e-paper screen than the old Paperwhite. Bravo, Amazon.

We haven’t had a single crash (which the early version of the 2012 model could be prone to) and a touch of ghosting (where words from the previous page remain on screen) while sometimes present, isn’t a deal-breaker. And it’s worth mentioning that while other e-readers offer bigger storage, the Kindle’s 1.25GB available for e-books is plenty, holding over 1,000 books.

To celebrate the Paperwhite’s great performance: Life at the Limit: Triumph and Tragedy in Formula One

Kindle Store

If It Ain’t Broke…

With an identical size and weight and the same soft touch back as its Paperwhite predecessor, Amazon’s decided not to mess with a good thing. Easy to hold and light enough to grasp both one handed and above your face for ages when lying in bed, the only cosmetic difference is that the 2013 Paperwhite now has the Amazon logo pride of place on the back, rather than the Kindle logo of old.

To read while fondling the Paperwhite’s rather nice build: Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products

Brilliant Battery Life

The Kindle Store - way more than eight weeks

The battery life, too, stays the same. Phew. Predicted to go and go for eight weeks, we haven’t quite had the Paperwhite long enough to confirm this but reading two books in two weeks (a mixture of backlight and without), the battery didn’t even nudge the halfway point.

It charges quickly, too – in four hours or less via USB, which makes for the kind of device you’ll always have with you. It’s a bit stingy of Amazon to make you buy the power adapter separately, though.

To read and read until the battery finally dies eight weeks later: The Luminaries (832 pages)


The best e-reader we

Scoring perfect 10s, the 2013 Kindle Paperwhite is the best e-reader we’ve ever used. True, that’s almost by default on account of it being simply a slightly better version of last year’s Paperwhite, but that shouldn’t detract from its glory. It shoots straight to the top of our list of the best Geek Accessories known to man, replacing last year’s model, and confirms that Amazon really knows how to build gadgets.

With Kindle MatchBook (a service that gives customers a discounted or free Kindle copy when they buy a physical book that’s trialling in the US already and almost certainly destined for these shores in the very near future) Amazon’s easy to use, everyday e-reader is only becoming even more essential.

The only thing in its path? E-paper rivals from the likes of the YotaPhone, Pebble smartwatch and PaperTab. Let’s just see what Amazon cooks up for 2014, shall we?

To go all meta on us: The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

Stuff Says…

Score: 5/5

Screen: 5/5

Build: 5/5

Features: 5/5

Battery: 5/5

Still fizzing, popping and burning bright, the improved Kindle Paperwhite is the winning formula made even more impressive

Good Stuff

Kindle Store is unbeatable

Fantastically sharp, easy-to-read screen

Insane battery life

Light, comfortable to hold

Bad Stuff

Pageturn/PageFlip stutters

Some ghosting

Profile image of Sophie Charara Sophie Charara Stuff contributor


Sophie is a freelance writer and editor. She's interested in smartphones, tablets, apps, wearables, cool concepts and general thingymajigs.