The most visible addition is the lit screen. Â Previous Kindles offered add-on cases which included a light, but this is right in the device itself. Â It’s bright enough to read in the dark, but also dim enough to let my wife sleep next to me while I read. Â There’s a slight shadowing effect at the bottom of the screen, but it only bugged me for a minute or two before I learned to ignore it.
Less visible but equally welcome is theÂ capacitiveÂ touchscreen. Â Previous models used IR to detect taps, which was sometimes inaccurate or frustrating to use. Â The difference is subtle, but the results are much more responsive. Â And while I don’t pretend to know the technical reasons behind this, the Paperwhite’s screen also seems to repel smudges and dust better than the previous model’s did.
The Kindle home screen & menus received their first overhaul ever, and it’s a welcome arrival. Â Cover images now feature prominently instead of just text, and overall it’s a easier to navigate around. Â That said, I’m annoyed that roughly 1/3 of the home screen is taken up by a display of popular books available for purchase. Â And this is on the model that supposedly has no ads.
Now the smaller improvements:
One of my pet peeves about the Kindle line up until now is that I never felt connected to my location in a book. Â While it was easy to see my progress through the book as a percentage, it was harder to know how long it’ll be until I finish a chapter and reach a good stopping point. Â The Paperwhite fixes that with math! Â It watches my reading pace, then predicts how many minutes it’ll be until I finish a chapter. Â And so far it’s been pretty accurate.
I still wish the Paperwhite had physical page-turn buttons in the same way the Nook has preserved that option. Â But when placed in the optional Kindle case, the Paperwhite’s bezel is very slightly wider than the case on older models. Â It’s a small difference, but it makes it much more comfortable to rest my thumb there while reading.
The Paperwhite’s case has a smartcover-style wake feature. Â Open it up, and the device unlocks. Â Close it, and it re-locks. Â This is again a small bonus, but an appreciated one.
Lastly, the negatives:
The Paperwhite has no audio output. Â It can’t read the book to you like other models can, and you can’t listen to mp3s on it either. Â I don’t think I ever used either of those features, so I don’t mind the loss. But if either are critical to your use, keep it in mind.
The newÂ capacitiveÂ screen is great, but it doesn’t work with gloves. Â I read at the bus stop every morning, and in the winter this makes it trickier to turn pages. Â The older IR touchscreens could be poked with anything, gloved or not.
In conclusion, I feel like the lit screen will be the last major innovation in e-ink readers for a while. Â I could be wrong about that, but the Kindle paperwhite feels like a device with the feature list I’ve always wanted.