Review: Updated: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2013)

Ask anyone who's read one of our thirteen page reviews and they'll tell you, staring at a screen can be murder on the eyes. After a while, even a gorgeous, pixel dense HD display can make you want to spray your eyeballs with the garden hose.

That's the beauty of Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite. Its e-ink display is a half step between paper and screen, giving you the convenience of an ebook ecosystem with less wear and tear on the old optic nerve than an iPad 4 or Nexus 7.

It manages to be a more pleasant reading experience than your average display, all while having a subtle backlight and jaw dropping battery life: this new Kindle Paperwhite can go weeks without a charge.

Then again, so could last year's model. This new Kindle Paperwhite is an incremental update, a bit like going from the iPhone 4 to 4S, only without something as fun as talking to Siri.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

On the outside, the two models are almost identical. Internally, the hardware has been given an uptick, and the uneven backlight, which left dark spots on the bottom of the original model's display, is completely fixed.

This has all been done without any markup in price on the WiFi model. A WiFi version of this new Kindle Paperwhite is still just $119 (£109.00) for a model with "special offers," (aka ads on the lock screen), $139 for the ad-free model. The 3G versions, however, have been bumped up ten dollars each, going for $189 (£169.00) and $209, respectively (last year's models were $179 and $199).

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

The Kindle Paperwhite is the best ereader on the market, bar none. If you need, or even want, an ereader, this is the one to have. The question is, do you need, or even want, an ereader?

The Paperwhite an admirably focused product. Unlike jack of all trades tablets, which will leave you wanting for a keyboard should you attempt some actual productivity, the Paperwhite does one thing and it does it very well. Reading a book on this device is simply a pleasure; voracious readers willing to forgo the artisanal qualities of a paper text will adore it.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

However, for the gadget head who already has a tablet, is it worth dropping more money, and packing yet another device in your bag? The answer lies before you, so read on, and keep some Visine handy.

The overall build of the Kindle Paperwhite has always been quite diminutive, even when compared with little guys like the Nexus 7 or the iPad Mini. It's just 6.7 x 4.6 x 0.36 inches.

Your average tablet customer might feel cheated, since there's only 6-inches of screen real estate. That was our reaction when unboxing the device, but quickly realized that this is actually a fantastic size for an ereader. Even if your grip isn't terribly big, it's easy to hold in one hand for an extended period of time.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

At a glance, Amazon's new Kindle Paperwhite is nigh indistinguishable from last year's model. It's built from the same soft touch plastic, comes only in black and bares a Kindle logo below the screen.

However, the new Paperwhite has an improved display with a more even backlight, and better contrasts. Also, if you're looking for a quick way to tell the model years apart, the new one has an Amazon logo on the back, while the old one says Kindle.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

The Paperwhite is still very light, weighing just 7.5 ounces (213 grams). You can hold the Paperwhite between your thumb and forefinger with ease. It's even easier to hold in one hand than your average paperback book, since there are no pages or front cover to pin back as you read.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Some might complain that the Paperwhite hasn't dropped any weight since last year's model, but it's something of a moot point in our eyes. If it got any lighter it would be at risk of being swept up by an errant breeze. It's still small enough to toss in a bag on impulse, in hopes of finding some spare time to read.

On the rear of the Paperwhite you have one large Amazon logo. The backing is the same material as the front, with no extra grip. Amazon and other third-parties make a lot of nice cases for the Paperwhite. The device is the tiniest bit slippy, and you might consider picking one up if you're going travel with it or plan to throw it carelessly in a bag. A drop can give the Paperwhite an unsightly scuff.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

On the bottom you'll find a charging port and the power/lock button. The Paperwhite charges through microUSB, and while you will find a USB cable in the box, there's no AC adapter or wall plug in the box.

Amazon did the same thing with last year's Paperwhite. It's an odd, kind of cheapskate decision, but at least you can charge it with the plug for the smartphone you more than likely own, or just hook it into your computer. Also, you won't even need to charge the Paperwhite more often than every few weeks. More on that in the Charging and Battery Life section of this review.

The new Kindle Paperwhite is well built. Just like the original model, it feels solid and minimal, with zero fat on its frame. Anyone who's struggled with the bulk of a tome like Gravity's Rainbow, Infinite Jest or a meaty biography will love being able to hold this ereader above them while lying in bed, without fear of having their face smashed should they begin to nod off. Yeah, we've all been there right? Right?

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