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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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I got a new Kindle, the Kindle Paperwhite. The very first thing I noticed was how heavy it was. At 217.7 grams, it’s heavy. My previous favorite Kindle, the non-touch keyboard-free Kindle, comes in at 168.7 grams by my measurements. 50 grams may not sound like much, but the difference is very obvious in your hands. I presume this is largely because of increased battery weight to support the reader being on for 8 weeks with the lights left on. I have not evaluated this claim, but if it lasts me a vacation without recharging (usually an order of magnitude smaller time frame), it still will rate as incredible with me. Every other electronic device I take with me (some subset of iPad, iPhone, iPod, transport, DAC, amplifier) requires charging at least once. So that’s cool.

Just kidding. The 8-week claim is a total marketing pipe dream, let’s take a look at reality. The 8-week claim is based on 30 minutes a day with a minimal lighting setting. I’m going to estimate based on a small amount of data that one will actually get about 16-20 hours worth of continuous reading at a reasonable lighting setting. This is still good, but barely better than an iPad. The press release was a bunch of bullshit, surprise. To their credit, they explain this on the product page, but don’t be fooled – the lighting takes substantial battery life.

The second thing I noticed was the new textured coating on the device. It makes the Kindle easier to grip, especially with one hand. It seems like an upgrade, if you’re going to use it without a case. With the new coating, extra heft, and a few other changes (redesigned bezel, lack of a home button, fewer apparent seams), this Kindle feels more solid than any previous one. Much of the flexibility, creaking seams, and flimsy feel is outright gone. Nice work.

The Paperwhite for some reason retains the stupid pushbutton on/off switch that can easily be triggered by resting or bumping the bottom of the device on anything. The only upside is the actuation force is a little higher now. Because of this I feel using the Kindle with a case that shields the bottom button from being pushed is still necessary. The slider buttons of the generations before are still vastly superior.

So, I’ll use it with a case. Opening the incredibly cheap-feeling but solid magnetic-closure case from Amazon, the device turns on. Closing it, the device turns off. A nice feature that I swear I’ve seen elsewhere, but I’m not going to complain – it’s a good thing.

The texture of the screen is different from the Touch. It’s hard to describe, but it has a more matte feeling – not rough per se, but feels almost like paper, rather than smooth plastic. It’s a nice aesthetic detail, but I’m not sure it makes any difference.

The increased resolution of the screen was something I thought would make a huge difference – all of the previous kindles have text rendering that looks obviously rasterized and junky at normal reading distances. It still looks sort of junky and rasterized, just different. I’m looking forward to 3-600 DPI e-ink displays, I must admit.

The lit screen is then the big thing. The implementation is cheap – there are a lot of dark spots and the lighting uniformity across the page is basically a study in not being uniform. It’s downright distracting, sort of like my shitty 27” iMac display and its top-right corner of blotchy awfulness. With that said, it’s vastly better than anything that’s come before it for Kindle – this beats the pants off little clip-on lights, lit cases, and overhead airplane lamps. This by itself is more than reason enough for the upgrade for me – if not the reason; it works, it does what it needs to, and it makes reading in any lighting environment a breeze. If you want to ditch the lit case or clip-on light or are tired of fighting to get the screen into the lamp light on a plane, just go buy one of these now, stop thinking about it.

The touch interface is still sort of crappy, and will still lead to me advancing pages or chapters unintentionally. There are still times where I definitely touch the screen and it just misses it. I don’t like this, but I knew it was going to be an issue going into it; it’s worth the trade-off now to me, whereas there were far too many irritations with the Touch the first time around. Increases in performance are apparent, to the extent that the device feels almost responsive at times. A lot of this is trickery rather than outright improvements (partial/localized screen redraws), but I don’t care, it’s clever trickery, and perception is reality, right? Whatever the story, it’s definitely an improvement over the Touch with its newest firmware. Nice work.

If you’re going to buy a new Kindle, this is the one to buy. If lighting isn’t a concern, I’m still not convinced it’s that much different/better than any of the previous three models.