Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review

A fantastic ebook reader, whose built-in light is currently the best in the business, and the price is right too

19 Oct 2012
Price when reviewed 

You could be forgiven for wondering how Amazon could improve on its already excellent range of ebook readers. The Kindle Paperwhite is its answer: initially only launched in the US, the Paperwhite is now available to UK consumers, and a good thing too.

As with the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, the key selling point of the Paperwhite is a built-in light that casts the screen in a soft, white glow. Unlike an LCD-based tablet such as the Kindle Fire HD, devices with E Ink screens require ambient light in order to make them legible.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

The light embedded in the Paperwhite’s top bezel means it can be read in bed and in other dimly lit rooms without the need for a lamp. Turned up to maximum brightness, it also gives the page a whiter, more paper-like look in broad daylight.

The light fantastic

The Paperwhite’s light comes in the form of four small LEDs embedded in the top bezel of the device. These shine down through an anti-glare layer in front of the screen and the light they cast is remarkably even. We do like the Nook, but its eight LEDs create a slightly patchier look; the Kindle, at first glance, doesn’t even look lit as the light is so consistently spread across its surface. A closer look reveals some unevenness along the screen’s bottom edge, but after a little while reading it’s easy to ignore.

Put the Nook and the Paperwhite side by side and it’s also clear the Kindle is slightly brighter at its maximum setting, and that text is blacker. Examine characters with a really critical eye, and you may also be able to discern ever-so-slightly crisper text edges, which is down to a higher resolution 758 x 1,024 display.

Indeed, with its light turned up, this Kindle is the closest yet to mimicking print on a page, and Amazon is even quoting impressive-sounding battery life. It says the Paperwhite will last eight weeks with the light on if you read for 30 minutes a day, and it’s impossible to turn the light completely off. Slide your finger down the scale to 0, and there’s still a faint glow, although only visible in the darkest of rooms.

The claims should be taken with a reasonable pinch of salt, though: this is with Wi-Fi off and the light set to level 10 out of 24 (around 40% brightness) – that isn’t bright enough to affect contrast in a sunlit room.

Design and features

It isn’t all about resolution and the light, though. The Paperwhite is the first UK model since the Kindle keyboard to offer a 3G model. It’s £60 more expensive, but offers free 3G or GPRS connectivity across most of Europe, the US and many other countries across the world. You can check out the areas covered using wireless coverage map on the Amazon website.

Price when reviewed 
109(£91 exc VAT)


Screen size 6.0in
Resolution 758 x 1024
Colour screen no
Touchscreen yes
eBook screen-refresh time 0.6 seconds


Integrated memory 2.0GB
Memory-card type N/A


Dimensions 116.5 x 9.2 x 169mm (WDH)
Weight 213g

File format support

Plain text yes
RTF no
PDF yes
BBeB no
AZW yes
Microsoft Word no

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