Scott Hanselman

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite SECOND GENERATION Review - plus new Kindle Software Update

April 11, 2014 Comment on this post [21] Posted in Reviews
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I'm a longtime Kindle fan. Love it. It's not a tablet, not a computer, my Paperwhite Kindle represents books for me.

I have a first-generation Kindle Paperwhite and use it almost every day. It's my go-to reading device. I originally gave it a mixed review but the game-changer was the addition of the magnetic cover, specifically the Kindle Paperwhite Leather Cover in Black. The Kindle turns on and off when it opens and closes, which is lovely, but the important point is the thickness it adds to the bezel. For my hands, a Paperwhite is an insubstantial thing that's too small to hold comfortably. This cover adds just a fraction of an inch all around the Kindle and effectively the cover subsumes the Kindle. The cover melds with the Kindle in a firm and crisp way and you'll never take it off. It's perfectly sized, plus protected enough that I throw it in my bag without worry.

I recently came into possession of a second-generation Kindle Paperwhite and didn't know what to make of it. It's "one better" right? It's the new version. It looks the same.

The main improvement they say is a clearer and higher-contrast display. Here are my 1st and 2nd gen Kindles next to each other, which is the Second Generation Paperwhite?

amazon kindle paperwhite comparison

There's a little glare here but the second gen has a whiter background and darker blacks.

The first gen has a fantastic screen...

photo 4

But the second gen has darker blacks and crisper text.

photo 5

The second generation is definitely faster, they say 25% faster. Turning pages is quicker and the screen updates faster. The new updated software also includes a fast "skim" ability so you can move WAY faster around a book to find your place.

They also added GoodReads (a social network for readers) integration directly into the Kindle. This is a fun way to discover new books and see what your friends are reading.

It also includes "Kindle Freetime," a special mode for kids where you can limit the books they see and tracks their reading time, as well as set goals for the number of minutes they read each day.

Upgrade your Kindle Software

Speed and clarity is nice but the most dramatic difference was the software. This new 2nd gen Kindle had a bunch of new software features that my 1st didn't have. Unacceptable! ;) I checked, and I can get many of these new features by manually upgrading my Kindle's software.

If you have a Kindle, head over to and get updated. Most Kindles update themselves, but more and more I'm seeing that these updates roll out either slowly, or not at all. My first-gen was many versions behind.

It's a basic process, just connect a USB cable and drag the update file into the ROOT (top) of the Kindle Directory. Disconnect and reboot and wait.

Now both my 1st and 2nd gen Kindle Paperwhite's share the same software features!


It's not a "must upgrade" but it's a nice generational step. If you don't have a Kindle reader, this is a great Kindle. If you're a fan (as I am) and your partner needs a Kindle, get a new 2nd gen and pass the 1st gen along with updated software. Everyone wins.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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April 11, 2014 2:30
"The cover melds with the Kindle in a firm and crisp way and you'll never take it off."

Agreed. I had never removed mine, in fact I think it might have come "in it" since I ordered it as an add-on to the Kindle order. Then I went through security at Heathrow on one occasion, and they stopped my bag going through and pointed out that I had to remove the cover. I gave the guy a blank stare for a few seconds... "cover?"
April 11, 2014 6:03
Amazon bought GoodReads, which was pretty controversial among GoodReaders....

Anyway, I have a Kobo and love it. I can't get into the Kindle ecosystem because local Canadian public libraries use Adobe DRM ePub ebooks. The Kobo supports them fine, but I've never heard that the Kindle does.
April 11, 2014 10:10
You didn't mention the poor pdf support. I previously had kindle keyboard (3rd gen kindle) and it worked much much better. The 2nd gen paperwhite crashes every few pages with pdfs (not enough memory) so it's almost impossible to use it. Converting doesn't help since stuff like formulas and code don't convert well. And also zooming in is pretty strange. Sometimes it works as it should and sometimes it zooms only on the titles, or quotes,...

Also the touch UI to advance the pages is quite troublesome. I often advance the pages by mistake. The old buttons were much better in my opinion. Apart from that it's quite good.
April 11, 2014 11:02
I have a "Nook" and absolutely hate it. I guess, being positively ancient (55 this month) I'm of the wrong generation, but I try to read on the nook and it holds no appeal to me at all. Even good subject matter doesn't help as the device itself becomes a distraction. It doesn't feel like a book, PDFs render too small to be read and converted eBooks don't handle simple things like tables.

I've also tried reading books on the iPad. That's just as bad. The bigger screen helps but there's no weight to it. It doesn't feel like a book. I can't stick page markers in there for quick reference. And the damn thing keeps dimming the screen!

Guess I'm a luddite, but until a book reader gives me content that looks like a printed manual, where everything fits on the page on a typeface large enough for me to read it, I'll have to pass. The nook, meanwhile, sits on a table and is never turned on. It's very efficient, I last charged it in October and it's still 77% full.
April 11, 2014 11:04
The Kindle seems US oriented, so I have the Sony prs-t1 and t2. If I every need to buy a new one, I will but the prs-t3 (or the new version of that one). It also has evernote integration.
April 11, 2014 12:29
That cover is very handy for placing a 50€/$ bill in as a backup and then only use it when there is no other alternative. (being too lazy to make a trip to the ATM doesn't count).

I travel around a lot and it came in handy once or twice.
April 11, 2014 12:34
I was thorn-ed between what cover to buy for my Paperwhite. I got the OMOTON cover. It is very sleek .
April 11, 2014 13:19
I'm not a huge reader but I have the Kindle (the one that came after the keyboard one but before the touch). I keep getting the feeling I'd use it more if I had the touch version as the text entry for search is a nightmare on a D pad and so stops me using the lending library. That said I have about 3 half read books on it, so maybe this reading thing is just for travel!
April 11, 2014 14:21
Horatiu Popovici, thanks for the tip on the OMOTON cover. Saved me quite a few bucks.

April 11, 2014 15:04
Is the light source still splotchy at the bottom of the screen?
April 11, 2014 16:39
If I recall correctly in the review of the 1st generation paper white, you had some comments about the backlighting, the (un)evenness of the it, etc. Have any of those issues been sorted out in the 2nd generation?
April 11, 2014 16:58
I always ask Kindle readers why you just not buy any android or apple tablet to have full colors ,smooth screen and unlimited options for reading , I kind of see kindle was good before the tablet invade the market, but now I hardly see any benefit from it .
April 11, 2014 17:20
I just picked up a Kobo Aura HD last week and love it. It's a little bigger at 5.8" but has a 1920x1080 resolution while still using eInk. Makes all the difference in the world when it comes to PDFs.
April 11, 2014 18:32
I always ask Kindle readers why you just not buy any android or apple tablet to have full colors ,smooth screen and unlimited options for reading , I kind of see kindle was good before the tablet invade the market, but now I hardly see any benefit from it .

Try reading an LCD screen outside or taking it on a week long hiking trip with no recharge.
April 11, 2014 20:34
warning: paperwhite software update put us between a rock and a hard place.

We gave my son a 2nd gen paperwhite for his birthday and using parental controls and connecting it to my amazon account it worked out pretty well. Then one day it auto updated to the latest software (with the new FreeTime feature I was looking forward to when we bought it), and our troubles began.

Before FreeTime we used our local library to feed kids books to his device and after FreeTime was activated all our library loans disappeared. After chats with customer service I confirmed that the library loaned books don't work in FreeTime.

Bummer, but not too big a deal I thought. We'll just go back to the old way. Now the problem is that the new "Cloud Collections" means that even with parental controls my son sees all my collections and he can rename/remove them. I guess the good news is that he doesn't see the actual books in my collections. The whole family is bummed about this "update".

FreeTime is pretty neat for a new reader, he loved getting the achievements, but I'm not pleased that Amazon is blocking Library loans for it.
April 11, 2014 23:10
great! :<
April 11, 2014 23:36
Amazing plenty of useful info!
April 15, 2014 0:50
Interesting you reviewed your Kindle not three days after I bought a book for mine in which you wrote the foreword. Mine's a Fire HD, and it is excellent for books. I can read with absolute clarity in total darkness without glasses/contacts.
April 15, 2014 21:11
@Sam, because reading on a backlit screen is really painful. Reading on a Kindle doesn't strain your eyes on a long flight or just a long reading session.

Also you can't read an iPad in sunlight. Kindle, no problem at all.
April 18, 2014 22:18
Kindle Keyboard 3g, text-to-speech and 50mb data/month for emergency web browsing world-wide! I am jealous of the display quality these days, but that's about it.
April 22, 2014 17:46
Do technical books render well? One of the things that keeps me from using Kindle as much as I would otherwise is that code rendering is ass-poor. And that's native format, not even the disaster that is PDF on a Kindle.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.