PROS / The Kindle Paperwhite has a front-lit touchscreen.
CONS / There is no way to listen to audiobooks on the device.
VERDICT / The base version of the Kindle Paperwhite has all the features you need, including a glare-free e-ink display and eight-week battery life.
When it comes to eBook readers, Amazon's Kindle line has become synonymous with the product category. The Kindle family owns significant market share in the eReader space, and even its mid-range Paperwhite is better than most flagship eBook readers. The base model is extremely affordable, but for an additional fee, you can also enjoy free 3G data and no ads.
The name Paperwhite stems from the eReader's unique e-ink screen. The 212 pixels per inch look amazing on a white screen as opposed to the grayscale typical of most eBook readers. The result is sharper text that is easier to read and more closely replicates paper books.
The display also yields high readability in any environment. Most notably, you can comfortably read the Paperwhite in bright sunlight without any glare, which is one of the biggest advantages to using a dedicated eBook reader over a tablet or smartphone. The screen is front lit, which means LED lights along the edge of the display shine down onto the digital page, not from the back of the screen like many other eBook readers and tablets do.
The Paperwhite does not have any tactile buttons. Instead, all controls are mapped to parts of the touchscreen, which you can adjust to your liking. By default, the top part of the screen hides the menu controls, and tapping that area will show all available choices.
Perhaps the only real drawback we can find with this device is its lack of support for audiobooks. With no headphone jack, listening to audiobooks simply isn't an option.
This isn't the lightest eReader we reviewed, but it still scores high marks for portability. The device weighs just over 7 ounces and is thinner than a pencil. The rubber casing is comfortable and easy to hold, and the wide variety of covers help protect the device.
The Paperwhite's impressive battery life further augments its overall portability. You won't be tethered to an outlet with this device, which boasts nearly an eight-week battery life. It connects to the internet via Wi-Fi, and when online, the Whispersync feature will download purchases and upload bookmarks across all Kindle devices. If you need to access the bookstore outside of your home network, you can pay extra for a device with free 3G data. You can also pay for an ad-free version of the Paperwhite.
There are a handful of extra features and reading-specific apps built into the eReader. The most useful feature the Paperwhite offers is automatic syncing across all of your devices. When you start reading a book on your Kindle, the Whispersync automatically synchronizes your last page location across all of your devices that have the Kindle app. For serious readers, the Paperwhite also allows you to add margin notes, create bookmarks and highlight text. There's even a built-in dictionary you can use to look up words without losing your place.
The Kindle Paperwhite has set the bar high for the competition. While the latest version isn't a complete overhaul of its predecessor, it still manages to outperform other – even more expensive – eReaders. Unrivaled in terms of readability, convenience and content access, the Paperwhite is a top eBook reader for serious book lovers.