Kindle Paperwhite Video Review and First Impressions

Kindle Paperwhite vs Non-Paperwhite Basic Kindle

I’ve been having fun testing out the new Kindle Paperwhite since it arrived so I thought I’d better go ahead and take some time to write down some initial first impressions and put together a video review showing the Kindle Paperwhite in action for those of you eager to know more.

The video gives a complete walkthrough of the new features and shows the Paperwhite’s screen next to the $69 basic Kindle (pictured together above), the GlowLight Nook Touch, and the Sony PRS-T2 with the lighted cover to get some perspective on the new screen and the nature of the frontlight.

The first thing that struck me about the Kindle Paperwhite’s screen is that it really is a lot whiter than regular E Ink ebook readers and is definitely a step up from the GlowLight Nook Touch in terms of how even the lighting is and the overall contrast.

In short, I’m a big fan of the frontlight and will probably use the Kindle Paperwhite as my primary ebook reader because of it, but the lighting isn’t as perfectly uniform as I’d been hoping.

At the bottom of the screen there’s a faint wavy shadow where the four LED lights are located, and in certain lighting conditions there’s sort of a bluish shadow toward the upper center of the screen. Otherwise the lighting is very even. And during the day and in brighter lighting the shadows are almost invisible; they are more noticeable in lower lighting, like a dark room when reading at night. It seems to depend on the amount of ambient light.

The second thing that struck me about the Kindle Paperwhite is the odd fact that the light can’t be completely turned off. It’s always on, even at the lowest brightness setting. The only time the lights turn off is when the Kindle is turned off.

That makes it very hard to directly compare the screen with other ebook readers to get a feel on overall screen contrast and clarity with the new HD screen and the fact it has not one but two layers over the screen—the frontlight light guide layer and the capacitive touchscreen layer.

The only thing that really stands out when comparing the Kindle Paperwhite side-by-side with the $69 basic Kindle is that fonts are slightly sharper and clearer on the Paperwhite, especially smaller fonts. Text is slightly bolder on the basic Kindle, but is rougher around the edges.

Overall I’ve been impressed with the Kindle Paperwhite and its new screen. The lighting isn’t perfect but it’s close. I like how much whiter the screen is than without the frontlight at all, even during the day in regular light.

I’ll post a full review and some comparison reviews over the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned for more.

Kindle Paperwhite Video Review

25 Responses to “Kindle Paperwhite Video Review and First Impressions”

  1. Thanks for your review. I guess i’ll wait until they perfect the uniformity of the front-lighting. I was waiting on your review/first thoughts, to hear your experience with the uniformity. I thought i could handle the uniformity problems (some experience with borrowed nook glowlight), but i’ll pass this time. I guess i was expecting too much. Next year, i guess …

  2. Nathan, are you planning to get your hands on Kobo Glo and compare it to Paperwhite? It’d be very interesting given they use the same hi-res screens but different lighting implementation.

    • Yeah, I’ll be getting one eventually, but Kobo always has a delayed release in the US for some reason so it takes longer to get them in.

  3. Nathan, how’s the .pdf support on the new Kindle? Amazon appears to be reluctant to support other formats than their own. And of course there’s no .epub support, correct?

  4. Nathan, I have noticed the same issues that you have (with the exception of the blueish tinge; this doesn’t seem to be present on my display), and I must admit I am a little disappointed. Part of the excitement surrounding the Paperwhite technology was the incredibly uniform light distribution featured on test units and in advertisements. I went back to check the Amazon press conference video from last month, and the close-up images of the KP that Bezos is using for his demonstration doesn’t seem to have the fading/shadowy contrast near the bottom. The first 3/4 of the display looks amazing, but then some wavy blotches of light and show creep into my text in the other 1/4.

    The higher resolution text definitely looks better with the light on. It is strange that the LEDs stay on the whole time. Overall, I enjoy reading on this device, but the lighting consistency has been a bit annoying.

  5. Very nice review! Just one question: what languages are available?

  6. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the paperwhite I bought for my wife and I. Thanks for the honest review, Nathan…its the first I’ve read about the screen having any flaw whatsoever. Yet another reason I frequent this blog…you won’t find company propaganda here.

    You should probably lock your doors though, I’m sure you’ll be visited by Bezo’s militia sometime in the night. 🙂

  7. As much as I wanted to like this misnomer, it is just not happening for me. Rainbow hues, light green, purple/blue, medium grey, are not what I think of in connection with ” Paperwhite”. Less than 1/4 of my screen appears as white (bottom righthand area). Amazon may have rushed this one to market before it’s time. Hopefully, the later models will have more even lighting.
    The good things about my Paperwhite: 
    1. The HD screen is very nice with the light turned to 0 or 1. 
    2. The touchscreen is very responsive. 

  8. The Kindle Paperwhite may turn out to be a bit of a flop with customers who were expecting a truly uniform display. All of the promo images showed this nice, crisp, evenly-balanced glow feature, but, alas, it didn’t quite turn out that way. I thought that there might be some bleeding near the LED source, but I never anticipated the wavy mix of shadows and light at the bottom-quarter of my screen. I could deal with this if it didn’t cut so far into the text of my eBooks. My eyes have a hard time accepting the multi-contrast whites and greys. The rest of the display is exactly as advertised, though. Text looks sharp and clear, and the background is quite pleasing. I just wish it would continue down the screen.

  9. NOTHING like the nook glow!
    Posted from my nook glow

  10. Is not the upper picture modified with Photoshop? I have a Kindle 4 and I don´t think my display shows as dark as that picture.
    It seems there is no contrast at all compared with Kindle Paperwhite!!

    • I don’t even use Photoshop; it’s a total ripoff. I use Gimp, it’s free. I’m not a very good photographer and E Ink is a lot harder to get an accurate picture of than one would think, and that picture was sort of in half light so the frontlight would show. No modifying though.

  11. The light can be turned off. It’s in the manual, page 8.

  12. Are you actually doing what the manual says, or just moving the slider all the way to the bottom?

    • Pressing and holding does the same thing; it’s just a shortcut. The more I think about it the more it makes sense, Amazon opting not to let customers decide for themselves if they want the light on or off completely—that’s a very Amazon thing to do.

      • I think you press and hold the light icon on he top toolbar, not the – button on the slider.

  13. “… Amazon opting not to let customers decide for themselves if they want the light on or off completely …”

    In normal lighting conditions, can people tell the difference? I don’t have one but from reports unless staring directly at the lights or remove just all ambient light the user can’t really tell if it is off or not.

    The nominal light left is only so that the “white” aspect of the screen doesn’t disappear completely. But in the “off” position, the users is likely using ambient light to read the text on the screen.

    I think the huge disconnect is that folks want to only assign usefulness for the light when in a dark room. The light has usefulness in all lighting conditions.

    In very dark contexts, other illumination solutions for e-ink all present the same issues. Amazon didn’t change physics. [ I think there is a substantially more expensive way around the problem. However, expense is also a constraint. Extremely few are going to pay 2x for a device with a front light. ]

    The pictures and the media presentation were as much “deceptive” as representative of the screen when there is substantive ambient light added to the mix.

  14. Forget for one moment all related to “paperwhite”, light, marketing and related.

    I wonder why new “Pearl HD” and increased resolution (a lot in %) is not commented or so noticeable for users. Maybe just a matter of hardware controller, time for software, or something related. But very few comments and real tests and opinions about this, supposed, new big plus, with -no lighting-


  15. Finally the Kindle Paperwhite has a release date in Europe: November 22nd.
    Anyway, talking about Amazon-kinda impositions, what about memory? I mean, I know they cut it half (“the rest on the cloud”… someone forgot to mention it is available ONLY for Amazon content), but what’s the real amount of memory available for usage?

    Thank you in advance.

    • It’s about 1.25GB. And you can use cloud storage for all your personal documents/ebooks too. You just have to email them or use a send to Kindle app to get them in the cloud.

  16. Really? Has it always been so? I remember I had tried once to get my ebooks on the cloud and discovered it was only for Amazon content. Maybe I imagined that, though.