Amazon’s new, fifth-generation monochrome device may not have the flash of its high-tone Kindle Fire HD cousins, but don’t overlook this new version of the basic e-reader.

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – I’ve only had a hands-on demonstration of the new Kindle Paperwhite electronic reader that Amazon announced on Thursday. Amazon didn’t provide review units. But it is immediately obvious the first time you pick up the thin and light reader and look at its impressive display that these new Kindles are very sweet.

As a conventional monochrome e-reader, Paperwhite may not have the sex appeal of color tablets such as its new and more expensive siblings, notably the Kindle Fire HD devices. But if reading books is your primary purpose, the Paperwhite models have plenty to recommend them. The company sells two versions, one with Wi-Fi for $119; one with Wi-Fi plus 3G cellular for $179. Prices climb to $139 and $199, respectively, if you order the Kindles without what Amazon refers to as “special offers” — meaning ads. Units ship Oct. 1, though you can pre-order one now.

Amazon says the touch display on this fifth-generation Kindle boasts 62% more pixels (212 pixels per inch resolution) and a 25% increase in contrast over earlier versions, with whiter whites and blacker blacks. All this sounds good, well, on paper. But in fact it’s all borne out when you examine the screen and see just how crisp the fonts look.

Another major selling point is the built-in, front-lit display that lets you read on the beach — or in a dark bedroom without disturbing your partner. Through its patented technology, Amazon distributes light evenly underneath an anti-glare layer and down toward the display, away from the reader’s eyes. To my eyes, the light did indeed seem evenly distributed across the screen, much more so than on the rival Nook with GlowLight that Barnes & Noble began selling earlier in the year. I liked the Barnes & Noble device a fair bit, but Amazon leaps pasts its rival with Paperwhite.

The light on Paperwhite is actually on all the time. Before you fret about the strain that might put on the battery, keep in mind that Amazon is claiming battery life of up to two months, based on half an hour of reading a day. Obviously, I haven’t been able to put that to the test. You can tap the screen to summon a control to adjust the brightness of the light. There’s no sensor that would automatically choose the optimal level.

I’m also looking forward to putting another new feature to the test. It’s called Time to Read and the idea is that the Kindle can detect your reading speed and clue you in on how long it will take to finish a chapter or the entire book. That’s especially useful, I’d think, at bedtime.

Another plus is the X-ray feature that will let you find all mentions of fictional characters or ideas in a book, and explore them in greater detail.

As with any Kindle, you can tap into Amazon’s massive bookstore, with millions of titles, including 180,000 that Amazon says are exclusives.

Read more: First look: Kindle Paperwhite an easy read.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email