The new Kindle Paperwhite takes one small step forward. But the small step brings the Kindle much closer to closing the gap between e-readers and real paper books.
My first Kindle was the Kindle 4. It got rid of the unnecessary keyboard of previous generations but kept the physical backward and forward buttons that I thought worked so well. I think Amazon could have stopped there and I would have been happy. Touchscreens and “front-lit” displays didn’t interest me.
But then they bumped the resolution. When I heard about it, I didn’t really care. My four-year-old Kindle looked fine. I wasn’t looking at images on it. Then I saw it in person and I was a changed man. The 300 pixel-per-inch screen on the Kindle Voyage was nearly indistinguishable from a book. The only reason I didn’t upgrade was the $300 price tag.
One change makes all the difference
The new Kindle Paperwhite now features that stunning 300 ppi e-ink screen (with more pixels than an HD television) but retains the $119 price tag, making it the best Kindle you can buy. I’ve been testing it this week, and if you’ve been waiting to upgrade, now is the time.
When combined with the new Bookerly font or the other rounded, serif font options, you’ll see less pixelation around the curves and corners. While the previous Paperwhite’s 212 ppi was an improvement over my 167 ppi Kindle 4, there was still plenty of pixelation around the curves. On the latest Kindle Paperwhite, even at smaller font sizes, I couldn’t see the pixels with my naked eye.
The front-lit screen that gives the Paperwhite its name is also improved from the previous version. The screen can get a little brighter, for using when it’s only slightly dim in the room. However, it’s also a little blue at the highest brightness, which may lead to sleeplessness according to some studies. But lowering the brightness also helps to keep the blues away.
The touchscreen is nice, but familiar to anyone who has used a previous Kindle Paperwhite. It hasn’t been leveled with the bezel like the Voyage and doesn’t have the premium Kindle’s high contrast. But it changes quickly to the next page and has minimal ghosting from previous screens. I still prefer the hardware buttons to turn pages, like on the Voyage, but I don’t think that’s worth the $80 more that the Voyage costs.
The new font
During my testing, I’ve been reading with the Bookerly font. It’s a pretty big shift from the Caecilia of the Kindle 4. Caecilia’s square serifs helped reduce pixelation on lower-resolution Kindles, but the high-definition screen of the latest Paperwhite does a great job of showing off Bookerly’s curves. The nicer font combined with the better screen really builds up to that book-like experience.
While the new font adds to Paperwhite’s book-like qualities, the layout of the words still suffers. The new layout engine allows publishers to set up dropcaps and works better at hyphenation than previous layouts, but there’s still no built-in option for left-justified text. That means uneven word spacing from line to line, which can make some people struggle with keeping an even reading pace.
The newest Kindle Paperwhite is the best e-reader for most people. The new screen combined with the front-lit display and light hardware make it the perfect reader for almost any condition. And at just $119, it’s way more affordable than the Voyage, which has few advantages now that the Paperwhite’s screen is updated. I honestly think Amazon could stop working on new hardware right now and just sell this forever. Unless they wanted to add buttons.
You can preorder the new Kindle Paperwhite now for $119 to ship on June 30.GeekWire Picks is a regular feature linking to our favorite products and deals. GeekWire or its partners may receive a share of the revenue from your purchase through affiliate referral fees.