Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2012

Amazon isn't the only company flogging a glowing ebook reader -- there's also the £109 Barnes and Noble Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, or the £100 Kobo Glo, available from WH Smiths. In a comparison I'd say Amazon's light offers more even lighting than Barnes and Noble's option, but the Kobo has a great switch-activated light and is well worth bearing in mind, especially if you're trying to save your pennies.

Touchscreen display and control

The Paperwhite is controlled entirely by touchscreen and sees you turning virtual pages by tapping either on the left or the right of the display. For the most part, this works just as well as the physical buttons that straddle the less fancy £69 Kindle, but there are some drawbacks.

For example, the area of the page you tap to turn back one page is quite slim, and I've occasionally found myself skipping forwards a page when I meant to move backwards. If you use your Kindle on public transport and often change buses or trains, also be aware that you may accidentally skip ahead loads of pages as you walk with it gripped in your hand.

A few quibbles then, but the touchscreen itself is hard to fault. It's sensitive enough that it hardly ever fails to register a prod, and makes typing search terms and book titles a speedy affair -- something that's often frustrating on the cheaper button-controlled Kindle.

3G or not 3G?

That is the question. Unlike devices like the iPad, which have a 3G option that requires you to buy a SIM-card and pay a network a monthly fee to use its services, the Kindle's mobile data is free.

You can use this free wireless data to download books on the go, even if you're abroad. Almost all of Europe is covered, as is the United States. If you power through a book faster than planned while on holiday, the ability to simply grab another one at no extra cost is a life saver.

The Kindle also has an 'experimental browser', which lets you do some primitive web browsing and searching. The E Ink screen means web pages aren't too attractive to look at, but if you have the 3G version, you can use the free mobile data to quickly check your emails on holiday, or if your smart phone's battery has died.

The 3G option comes in handy when you're abroad or when stranded without another Internet-capable device. It's an excellent addition, so if you're not shopping on a tight budget, I'd recommend buying the £169 3G Paperwhite.

It is a whole £60 more expensive than the cheaper Wi-Fi-only model though, and if you go for the Wi-Fi option, you'll only be missing out on a few luxury features. If your wallet could use a rest in the run-up to Christmas, don't be afraid to ditch 3G.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite back
Pay extra for the 3G version if you don't want to be stuck on holiday having torn through Fifty Shades of Grey before reaching the hotel.

Interface and buying books

As you'd expect, you buy Kindle books through Amazon's own online shop, which has a vast selection and a great many reasonably priced novels, especially when it comes to classics, lots of which are now dirt-cheap to download.

Navigating the online shop is easy enough and you can also opt for samples of books if you'd like to try before you buy. There is a downside though -- Amazon restricts you to only reading books that you download via its own shop. You can squeeze .pdf or Word files onto the Kindle by email, but the popular .epub file format used by many websites and public libraries is not supported.

There's also no external storage, so you can't download an ebook from any old website, put it on a memory stick and start reading it on your Kindle. Rival devices like the Kobo or Sony's ebook readers can handle these file formats, so that's something to bear in mind if you frequent ebook download sites other than Amazon's own.

Amazon says you can expect eight weeks of charge, based on half an hour per day of reading with the wireless switched off and the light set to roughly a third of its brightness. In practice, you'll probably read for longer stretches than that but I've not experienced any problems with the Paperwhite's battery so far.

Thanks to E Ink's low power requirements, the Kindle could easily last you a whole holiday without needing to suck on its power cable. I've found it will often last for days beyond its 'low power' warning. If you're trying to extend battery life, just turn off Wi-Fi and 3G and turn the brightness down.

Conclusion

The Paperwhite is a welcome addition to the Kindle family, even if its glowing light is really the only new feature worth buying it for. If you're using an older Kindle or if you're new to the world of ebooks, this is a good choice, although the £69 Kindle is still appealing if you're trying to save cash.

If you're happy to buy books exclusively from Amazon, you'll be attracted to the simplicity of the Kindle's shopping process. Anyone looking to buy .epub files from ebook websites or public libraries, however, would be wise to investigate the Kobo Glo.

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