Kindle Paperwhite: New must-have e-reader?

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Amazon rolls out an impressively beautiful device.

By Oct 1, 2012 12:27PM logo copyright Spencer Platt, Getty ImagesWhen it was first announced in September, Amazon's (AMZN) new flagship e-reader, the Kindle Paperwhite, inspired a cheery chorus of wows from the tech press, mostly due to its innovative new "Paperwhite" display. 

The high-contrast e-ink touchscreen doesn't strain the eyes the same way an iPad display does, but still lets users read in the dark, thanks to a front-lit display. 

Now, tech product reviewers actually have their hands on the gadget, and they're noticing even more impressive features: A long-lasting battery that reportedly can go eight full weeks between charges; optional take-anywhere 3G (you'll pay $119 for WiFi only with ads; $139 for WiFi ad-free; and $179 for 3G); and access to Amazon's unrivaled selection of digital books and media. 

With the holiday buying frenzy just around the corner, is the new Kindle Paperwhite the e-reader to get? 


It's the best e-reader there is: "The Kindle Paperwhite is the successor to a long line of innovative and daring products," says Joshua Topolsky at The Verge. The battery "more than lived up to Amazon's promises," the text and line art look "extremely crisp," and the new Paperwhite light is "uniform and well distributed," making it quite possibly the best screen on the market. Amazon's goal is to make "great reading devices for the masses, and with the Paperwhite, they just took the game to a whole new level."

But where are the buttons? "The new Kindle Paperwhite isn't the perfect character," says Roberto Baldwin at Wired. "Just like the literary creations that live and die on its screen, it has flaws." For one thing, I wish the Paperwhite had physical page-turn buttons. "When you end up losing your place in a book, all the touchey-swipey technology in the world can't sway my belief that sometimes, a physical button is better."

And the ergonomics aren't great: The Paperwhite is "not ideal to hold," says Kyle Wagner at Gizmodo. Sure, it's light and small, and a "definite improvement" over its predecessors. But it's not "quite as comfortable to hold one-handed" as its chief rival, the Nook Simple Touch. The problem is the relatively small side bezel; since the border around the touchscreen is tiny, "you've got to worry about blasting off to another page by accident." It's not a deal breaker, but it is annoying.

If you buy it, get the 3G version: "I'm wildly impressed with the simplicity and beauty of this device," says John Biggs at TechCrunch. But it's worth paying more for the $179 3G version, "as it makes it easier to grab books on the go." You'll be glad you did, as the Paperwhite is a huge leap forward in the e-reader game, and the clearest indication yet that "we are well on our way to existing in a paperless future."

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