Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2012

The Good Built-in light makes for comfortable, clear reading; Very portable; Easy-to-buy books from Amazon; Good battery life.

The Bad No support for .epub files; Slightly heavier than regular Kindle; 3G version costs £60 more.

The Bottom Line The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is a great ebook reader, with a built-in light that makes for clear, comfortable reading, even in the dark. Buying books direct from Amazon is a breeze, though there's still no support for the popular .epub file format.

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8.3 Overall

Amazon hasn't put a foot wrong yet when it comes to ebook readers -- since the keyboard-touting Kindle 3G made its UK debut in October 2010, we've enjoyed a strong line-up of E Ink gadgets that deliver literary thrills at a reasonable cost.

The Kindle Paperwhite is the latest Kindle device vying for your cash, featuring a glowing backlight as well as a touchscreen. Starting at £109 for the Wi-Fi-only version and £60 more if you want 3G connectivity, it's by no means the cheapest e-reader out there, so is it worth the extra dosh?

Should I buy the Kindle Paperwhite?

If you already own a Kindle or another E Ink device, while the new features offered by the Paperwhite are definitely great additions, you shouldn't feel at pains to upgrade.

If you don't mind spending the cash and are currently using the 2010 keyboard Kindle then you'll definitely feel the benefit of the decreased size the Paperwhite offers, but don't expect a revolutionary experience. The Paperwhite is the best Kindle yet, but it's hardly a life-changing upgrade.

If you often read at night, or work down a mine and like skiving off for a quick chapter, then the glowing light on this e-book reader will make your life much easier. My advice would be to take stock of how often you read in dim or low light -- do you usually get your literature kicks in the living room on a lazy Sunday? Or in bed, once your significant other has nodded off?

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
You can now crawl under the duvet and read your Kindle in cosy darkness with the adjustable luminosity of the Paperwhite's display.

If you decide to buy, you'll also have to consider whether you want the 3G version or not. If you travel frequently, the free 3G will come in handy very quickly and will justify the extra cost. If you rarely read outside your house, you'll be fine with the Wi-Fi option. For more on Amazon's 3G service, see the relevant section below.


The Paperwhite ditches the grey coating we've seen on earlier Kindle gadgets in favour of a sultry black hue. At 11.7cm across and 16.9cm tall, it's small enough to easily squeeze inside a rucksack or handbag and -- at a push -- you'll even get the Paperwhite inside a spacious pocket.

It's slim at 9.1mm, which is about as thick as a modern smart phone and thinner than the earlier Kindle Touch by a centimetre. It weighs the same at 213g, which is light enough that you won't feel the bulk if you're carrying it around all day, although you'll notice the 43g boost over the regular Kindle. The 3G model is a slightly heftier 222g.

There's no home button any more, which may briefly flummox you if you're used to the older, button-filled Kindle devices, all of which have at least one physical button on their front. That button used to jump you back to the Kindle's home screen, where you could select the book you were reading.

I found I didn't miss this button, however. Once you start reading a book, the odds are you won't need to jump back to the home screen until you've finished, which could be weeks later. If you do need to get to the Paperwhite's main menu, you can do so by tapping near the top of the screen, then pressing the icon that looks like a house.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite side
You've no idea how long it took the photographer to balance the Paperwhite and this pencil for this side-by-side thickness comparison.

Light-up screen

This is the first Kindle to feature a light, making it possible to read in the dark. Rather than beaming a light out from behind the display, tiny lights have been stuck into the side of the Paperwhite's screen and illuminate the whole page.

This new feature works very well indeed. The light is subtle, with a blue tint that isn't distractingly bright, and the glow it casts is very even, so you won't be distracted by any particularly luminous patches on the page.

If you look at the Kindle on its side, you can just about see where the light is coming from, but I didn't find it distracting. You can adjust the brightness by tapping near the top of the screen and pressing on the lightbulb icon, which presents a slider you can drag to dial the glow up or turn it off completely.

All things considered, the light is an excellent new feature. Any ebook enthusiast will know the frustration of squinting at an unlit display in fading light -- a pain that the Paperwhite's glowing display instantly removes.

Amazon says it has beefed up the pixel count and the contrast with the Paperwhite, which in theory means text will appear crisper on the page. I found, however, that a side-by-side comparison with the Kindle Touch showed barely any discernible difference between the two displays.

That's not to criticise -- text still looks very sharp and is easy to read, but don't expect a revolutionary reading experience, as this Kindle's on-screen text looks very similar to that of its predecessor.

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