Positives: the first Kindle that's as happy in bed as on the beach.
Negatives: big price premium over the unlit model.
Loading article content
Amazon's Kindle may not have been the first e-book reader on the market but it's undeniably the device that brought e-books to the mass market. The Kindle's keen pricing, massive book library and compact, lightweight body made it the obvious choice for most readers.
In the past couple of years, tablet devices such as the iPad and Amazon's own Kindle Fire have stolen a significant chunk of the e-book market. Their colour screens, video playback and fast web-browsing capabilities give tablets clear advantages over their e-book cousins with their monochrome E Ink displays.
But despite a narrowing price gap between tablets and e-books, most avid readers still plump for the e-book option, often citing the benefits of E Ink technology – the ability to read in direct sunlight, combined with a static display that is much less fatiguing than a flickering tablet or a computer screen.
The only place that E Ink technology lets itself down is in the bedroom. Since E Ink screens aren't lit, devices like the Kindle require a clip-on lamp to allow reading in the dark. Many such add-ons exist, but in my experience they're universally disappointing, offering a light that is either yellow and dim or piercingly bright, a battery life that can be measured in minutes, and a clip that requires continual readjustment.
Spotting this flaw in the Kindle's universal appeal, Amazon has developed the Paperwhite, an e-book reader that combines E Ink technology with a self-illuminating display. Unlike traditional screens on televisions or laptops which are lit from behind, the Paperwhite lights the E Ink display from the front.
Using a clever arrangement of LEDs and a finely embossed transparent "light guide", the Paperwhite is able to spread its illumination very evenly across the screen. Brightness is controlled via an on-screen menu, with settings available to suit everything from bright sunlight to a dimly lit bedroom.
Other handy upgrades from the standard Kindle include a touch screen for easier navigation, "real" page numbers that relate back to the print edition, complete control over fonts and type sizes and a "time to read" feature that estimates the time it'll take you to finish the chapter or book based on your current reading speed.
Despite the added power draw of the light, Amazon claims eight weeks of typical usage from a single charge, twice the life of a standard Kindle.
All those extra features come at a cost, though – while a standard Kindle is now £69 the Paperwhite version is £109, surprisingly close to the price of the full-colour, all-singing Kindle Fire at £129. Decisions, decisions -