Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kindle Paperwhite vs Kindle Touch: A Review

So I just got the new Kindle Paperwhite yesterday and there are some things I thought I'd point out and highlight. First of all there are no audio jacks or speakers, meaning no audio support or read to me features at all. The second and possibly most important addition is the built in front light which is nearly perfect but does come with slight flaws. Amazon addresses this here. Oh and, you'll need to connect to a wifi network when you first turn on the Paperwhite in order to set it up. I'm not sure if there's a way to bypass that since I had a connection on hand so that might be an issue for some people.

Paperwhite Box.

This is the box that the Paperwhite came in. Unlike the standard brown boxes used for the previous generation, the box is black to match the new kindles.

Inside you'll find the usual usb cable for charging and transferring content to the Kindle. The standard packaging does not include a wall charger or adapter, that's an extra that you'll have to purchase in case you don't have a pc or laptop around. I've found that I've never really needed it since on long trips I've always had my laptop with me and it's quite hard to run out of battery even if I do spend an entire week reading. If the battery life is anything like the original Touch, you'll get at least 30 hours of reading out of it before it drops dead.

Now here's the most coveted feature of the Paperwhite, the front-lit screen. As you can see the light is fairly even with the exception of the bottom-most area which has some dark spots, even on the highest illumination setting. This problem is noted on the Amazon Kindle page, and it's a minor flaw of the lighting. However it's still more even than the lighting of the Nook Glow despite its shortcomings and the light is white, and not the blueish-white of the Nook Glow. Ironically, it's only because of the light that the screen is even white (giving it its name), otherwise I think it'd be slightly brownish like my original impression when I first got it.

Unlike the Kindle Touch, the Paperwhite's back is a rubbery matte build that is surprisingly easy to grip and hold without any slipping. There is also a slight chemical smell that is most likely due to the material used. The smell isn't quite so strong after more than a day so it'll probably fade over time. No biggie there but it was worrying when I first took it out of the sealed plastic.Due to the material, the Amazon logo along with all the symbols and writing on the back is impossible to make out. Unfortunately now that I've looked closer, it seems that the material seems to be very oil-friendly since I can find my fingerprints all over it. The Touch does not have this problem though upon closer review it could also be due to the color which hides oil traces very well. Despite a year of handling I can barely see any fingerprints.

The bottom only has a slot for the micro-usb cable and the power button. From the indentation in the middle, you can tell where the original earphone slot used to be. I have no idea why there's a small hole at all there. The lack of speakers on the back and no earphone slot means that there is no audio support for the Paperwhite. If you're looking for those features you should check out the Touch instead.

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the two, my Touch has a screen-protector on it so it's a bit glossy and reflective...and it's a virtual fingerprint magnet. As you can see the Paperwhite is slightly smaller, and it's thinner too. The front bezels are built from a glossy material whereas the Touch is pretty uniform on all sides. What I love the most about the screen is that it seems to be more resistant to fingerprints compared to the Touch. The screen also has a rough texture (you gotta feel to know it) that is just amazing to swipe. I actually swiped it a couple of times just because of how awesome it feels. It's not too smooth or rough, it's just right.

Another highlight of the Paperwhite is the higher text contrast, which for the life of me I can't tell. I'll just take Amazon's word for it since I can't tell the difference even with the Touch and Paperwhite being compared side by side, with the same page of the same book opened. The screen does look better but that's probably because of the always on light, which gives it its white color, and not due to an upgrade in the literal screen build.

New Cover Menu
Second Page of Cover Menu
Traditional List View
You can choose between the new cover view or the older list view from the Touch. For some weird reason half my books don't have covers...

My meager listing of Amazon books, mostly freebies
One thing worth noting is the lack of a home screen hardware button. The Paperwhite has relegated that function to a software one, which you can access by tapping the top of the screen. It takes two steps rather than one and some getting used to for previous Touch owners.

There's also the nifty "reading speed" detector that lets you know how long it'll take you to finish a chapter or a book. I read about 100 real pages per hour so that estimation there is a bit off due to long lengths of time spent staring at a page or leaving it on while I do other things. 

One of the few major issues I have with the Paperwhite is the fact that like the light, the wifi is perpetually on unless you turn the Airplane mode ON. This is rather annoying because of how fast the wifi drains the battery  (it reduces battery life by nearly half) and having it on by default is not the right way to go about things. Hopefully that'll be fixed in the next software update.The following are the pros and cons of the Paperwhite compared to the Touch.

  • Awesome built-in light that is mostly even. You don't have to spend an additional $20 on an awkward-looking book light. Money saved that could be spent on more books!
  • Native Cloud storage support to purchased Kindle Content.
  • Better User Interface (UI)
  • Snappy software responses that is way faster than the Touch and nearly instantaneous. 
  • Rubbery Matte Finish that is easier to grip one-handed
  • Better text contrast (according to Amazon)
  • Double the battery life (equivalent to Touch's, with light on at level 10 for a total of 28 hours of reading time)
  • More Text Options (Fonts, Margins & Line Spacing)
  • Smaller internal support of 2GB total, 1348MB usable. That could fill about 1000+ ebooks (assuming 1MB each but most ebooks are actually smaller)
  • No audio-support. Text to Speech (TTS) is no longer possible. 
  • Strange chemical smell at first.
  • Ease at which fingerprints appear on the back (not an issue with the Touch).
  • Requires Wifi-activation on first use.
  • Lack of a hardware button for the Home screen.


Overall the Paperwhite is a great device if you're looking to save money by getting a light and a kindle bundled together. If you're looking for audio-support and a larger storage (2GB total on Paperwhite, 1348MB usable), look elsewhere. There is no micro-sd slot either so you won't be able to add on any external storage. For those who are invested into the Amazon ecosystem and don't care about audio-support, the Paperwhite is a great device. In fact, I'd say it's the best e-reader device out there.