Having used the Kindle Keyboard for quite some time and enjoyed it to the point of returning my Kindle Touch when it didn’t quite meet the same standards (it was fine and had its own perks, but wasn’t as strong in some of the areas I cared about), I didn’t jump on the Paperwhite when it was first available. I’ve played with it enough to know what I’m talking about in various capacities, but only recently have I picked up my own. Aside from one small complaint, it’s exactly what I was hoping it would be.
The contrast of the Kindle Keyboard was pretty much ideal for me. It created the experience of reading an old, familiar paperback. The new screen was troubling at first because the contrast was actually too extreme. I would say that it more or less resembles a newer high-gloss trade paperback. Not my favorite presentation, but it was very simple to get used to and quickly became a non-issue. All the other benefits of E Ink displays were naturally still around.
The Paperwhite’s signature feature is obviously the front-lighting technology. It was definitely an improvement over the Nook Simpletouch w/ Glowlight. The light was more evenly distributed and brighter without creating a greater drain on battery life. The issues with banding on the bottom of the display are not exaggerated necessarily, but they also have little effect on reading. I found it somewhat annoying to have trouble seeing the progress bar at some points when reading in complete darkness, but the dark areas are still readable and don’t tend to extend into the text in any meaningful way.
The overall experience beyond simply the screen is also worth noting. The loss of 1.2 ounces compared to the Kindle Keyboard makes a small difference overall, but I could see it being meaningful over long reading sessions for some people. As a reader used to holding the old model for hours at a time, it didn’t stand out as particularly useful (especially if you’re using a case anyway) but the reduction was still big enough to note.
The “Time to Read” meter is better than expected. It comes up with an accurate measure of your reading pace after a few minutes, basically enough time to fall into a measured pattern, and generally gets things right from there. Obviously it can’t account for breaks and distractions, but how could it?
If you’re in the market for a new eReader, the Paperwhite is the only real option at the moment. Nothing else comes close to offering the same quality.
Is it enough to consider going out of the way to upgrade from a previous model? Under most circumstances I would say yes. The only really obnoxious shortcoming the device has is a lack of physical page turn buttons. In every other way it’s a functional upgrade. For me, the weight of the accumulated features made the Paperwhite an appealing option, but it isn’t at all unreasonable to consider that a make or break factor. If you can, give it a try and find out for yourself.