Confession: I’ve finished surprisingly few books since graduating high school.
It’s not that I don’t like books or have trouble understanding or anything. Instead, my particular brand of ADHD makes it hard to find the motivation to start and focus when I do, plus I just don’t like holding books in my hands that much. Depending on their size, both paperbacks and hardbacks can be a bit cumbersome to work with, especially if you like to read with one hand like I do.
Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review: The upgrade is worth the money
I’m happy to say that the 2021 edition of the Kindle Paperwhite is almost perfect for people who would like to read more if it weren’t for all the little annoying things around reading. Both the ad-supported $140 model (which I used for this review) and the ad-free $190 Signature Edition feature larger 6.8-inch displays that look fantastic in any light, weeks of battery life, and a flawless form factor , suitable for lazy one-handed readers like me.
Even with some price and performance concerns, Amazon’s newest Kindle may, uh, rekindle your interest in reading.
All the best Kindle deals for Black Friday shopping
Better than books
The screen is bright without hurting your eyes.
Credit: Molly Flores/Mashable
In its first Paperwhite update of 2018, Amazon hasn’t strayed too far from its previous efforts. Both the cheaper Paperwhite and the Signature edition have nearly identical specs:
6.8-inch display with 17 LEDs and 300ppi (up from 6-inch on the 2018 model).
New USB-C charging port with up to 10 hours of battery life on a full charge.
The Signature Edition supports Qi wireless charging.
8GB of storage on the $140 model, 32GB on the Signature Edition.
IPx8 waterproof rating, can be fully submerged.
Amazon managed to increase the screen size by almost a full inch without making huge sacrifices in weight. At 205g (208g in the Signature Edition), it’s only marginally heavier than the 182g model from three years ago, perhaps due to the dramatically thinner bezels around the screen
The best Kindles to buy during Black Friday 2023: Every Amazon e-reader reviewed and ranked
As I mentioned before, part of the reason I don’t read as often as I should is because I’m lazy and prefer to lounge around with one hand free. Some actual books just don’t lend themselves to this lifestyle due to their size and weight distribution. This Kindle Paperwhite is just heavy enough that it doesn’t feel cheap and flimsy without being a hindrance to the one-handed readers among us.
It’s an all-touch Kindle with no page-turning buttons. A simple tap or swipe does the trick. Tapping the top of the screen while reading brings up a quick toolbar with options to return to the home screen, change the font size and style, and enable a simple page-turning animation. Swiping down from the top brings up another menu for turning on Bluetooth for listening to audiobooks, adjusting screen brightness and warmth, and turning dark mode on or off.
You can adjust the warmth of the screen to make it more comfortable to watch in different settings.
Credit: Molly Flores/Mashable
Highlighting passages, looking up word definitions and bookmarking pages are also here. All of these nifty features are secondary to reading books, though, and the Paperwhite’s excellent display makes that a pleasure.
Text is clear even when you hold the device right up to your face. The glare-free screen is incredibly readable and pleasing to the eye in all types of lighting. I’ve read Frank Herbert’s meandering epic Dune (what can I say, I have sandworm fever) on the new Paperwhite both outdoors in the blazing sun and indoors at night with the lights off. In both scenarios, it was as comfortable as reading an actual page with a light shining on it. Even at high brightness, the screen didn’t hurt my eyes either. You really can take the new Paperwhite with you everywhere and have a good time reading.
I would be remiss not to mention the small but important addition of a USB-C charging port. As we move more and more into the USB-C world, this is a godsend and was probably overdue considering how the 2018 model didn’t have it. It’s located at the bottom of the device next to the power button, which is the only button you’ll find here.
At this point, it should go without saying that I loved everything about the physical design of the new Kindle Paperwhite. It’s a perfect e-reader for me once you actually have a book ready to hit the screen. Unfortunately, getting to that point can be somewhat unsettling.
Slow and mostly steady
Amazon isn’t aiming to make iPad-level powerful tablets with the Kindle Paperwhite line. You use these devices to read or listen to books and that’s it. Amazon promised better overall performance and responsiveness with the latest Paperwhite, and while my experience with it was mostly good, I did run into a few technical glitches.
Simply navigating the Kindle’s simple menus is sometimes more difficult than it should be because this screen is designed to display only static text. Scrolling up and down through lists of books or settings is jittery and slow, not as smooth as you’d expect from almost any other touchscreen device in 2021. It’s responsive enough that you can achieve whatever you’re trying to achieve, be it search for a new book or change the brightness of the screen without much trouble. But you won’t have much fun doing it.
USB-C is always welcome.
Credit: Molly Flores/Mashable
I totally get that Amazon designs these Kindles that way very good for reading books at the expense of doing something else. The huge form factor and premium display outweigh these minor performance hurdles for me because, again, I’m not expecting an iPad or even a Fire HD tablet here. Even with those low expectations in mind, though, it still feels a little behind the times.
It doesn’t help that on one occasion the Paperwhite froze and became completely unresponsive while reading Dune. I waited a few minutes for it to disengage and it didn’t. Holding down the power button for about 40 seconds rebooted the device and I was able to go back to reading after that, but I still thought it should be noted.
Barring that one anomalous freeze, the Kindle Paperwhite’s performance was at least consistently at this slightly too slow level in my time with it. I respect the consistency because at least I know what to expect.
One final performance aspect to note is battery life. Amazon rates the new Kindle Paperwhite for up to 10 weeks of the battery when fully charged. I’ve only had the device for a little less than a week, so it wasn’t possible to fully test it. That being said, though, the battery drained about 10 percent during that time period. You probably won’t get 10 weeks out of it if you read for hours every day, but it will last a long time no matter how you shake it.
A big leap to get rid of ads
I can learn to live with the Kindle Paperwhite’s sluggish performance and even the odd freeze every now and then. Everything else about the actual use of the device is largely excellent and actually made me, a person with severe attention problems, willingly sit down to read dense sci-fi about religion and feudalism. The only thing that actually stops me from recommending it to people is the price.
At $140, I think the standard 2021 Kindle Paperwhite might be a bit too expensive, but avid readers will find it worth the money. It’s the Signature edition that adds an extra $50 for the privilege of not seeing ads, getting extra storage, and being able to have the Kindle automatically adjust brightness based on the light level in the room, which bothers me. Tying storage and bonus features to price increases is standard fare in tech, but this with advertising is just slimy. Is Amazon not making enough money anymore?
The good news is that these aren’t your only Kindle options. The basic Kindle costs $99.99 and will probably do the trick if all you want is a competent e-reader. However, if you can afford to pay extra for the Paperwhite, you won’t regret it. This little tablet-book’s huge battery, gorgeous and versatile display, and maximum comfort in the hand made me enjoy reading more in the few days I spent with it than I did a few years ago.
And if you are so strict Dune– since I’m nervous right now, it’s much better than lugging a massive book.