Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2013) review

Price when reviewed
If Amazon’s announcement about its updated Kindle Paperwhite ebook reader was understated, there’s a very good reason why. The new version, which replaces the old one in the range at exactly the same price, introduces very few new features.

Physically, the latest Paperwhite is all but identical to its forebear, with the only difference being the replacement of the Kindle logo on the rear with an Amazon one. It’s still built from no-nonsense rubbery black plastic, build quality is second to none, and the design is clean, with the only button of any kind – the power switch – to be found on the bottom edge next to the micro-USB socket.

As before, you get a 758 x 1,024 E Ink screen, and everything is controlled via a capacitive touch layer that’s been applied on top of it. There’s a built-in light for reading in the dark, which can be adjusted in intensity, but not fully switched off. This is where the upgrades start to kick in. According to Amazon, the screen is more reflective on the new model, so it reflects the LED that shines up from the bottom edge more evenly; and the LED light is more powerful as well.

It’s an improvement on the previous model. Set side by side, it’s easy to see that the light is both brighter at its maximum setting than on the old Kindle Paperwhite, and more evenly lit. It looks more like ink on paper than ever, and claimed battery life remains at eight weeks, based on half an hour of reading per day with the light set to level ten. That’s roughly 40% of the maximum brightness.

Under the hood, Amazon has beefed up the processor to an unspecified 1GHz unit, claiming a 25% increase in page-refresh speed. Again, set the new and old versions side by side and you can see it’s quicker. We measured this, just to be sure, and came up with a time of 0.7 of a second; the old Paperwhite refreshed the page at a speed of 0.8 of a second. It’s a welcome speed bump, but nothing too dramatic.

What may make a bigger difference are the improvements Amazon has made to the Kindle’s OS. In reading mode, there’s a new feature called Page Flip, which displays a slightly smaller window on top of the page you’re currently reading, and allows you to use that to quickly flick back and forth through the book without moving away from the current page. It’s a great feature, accessible from any page with a quick upward swipe from the bottom edge of the screen.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2013)

Vocabulary Builder is another new tool, aimed at students and schoolkids: it logs every word you look up, then presents a list of these words as a separate volume in your Kindle library. It’s intended as a learning aid – you can even display your word list as a list of digital flash cards, complete with definitions, for revision purposes. However, those keen on bedtime reading may find it filled with articles, prepositions and other random words looked up by accident as thumbs slip sleepily onto the screen.

Finally, word and footnote lookup has been streamlined. Hold a finger to any word on the display and the resulting pop-up shows dictionary, Wikipedia and Amazon X-Ray (where available) entries in one tabbed view. The same goes for footnotes, which now also display in a pop-up.

It’s neat and tidy – another worthwhile upgrade. In fact, all the changes to Amazon’s new Kindle are worth having, we just wonder if Amazon needed to make them in the first place. With no other manufacturer managing to produce a superior alternative since the launch of the original, it could have left well alone, and the Paperwhite would have remained the best E Ink ebook reader around.


Screen size 6.0in
Resolution 758 x 1024
Colour screen no
Touchscreen yes
eBook screen-refresh time 0.7 seconds


Integrated memory 2.0GB
Memory-card type N/A


Dimensions 116 x 10 x 168mm (WDH)

File format support

Plain text yes
PDF yes
AZW yes
Microsoft Word no

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