Hands on: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2021) review


In September 2021 Amazon introduced a new trio of Kindle Paperwhite models – a pricier Signature, a kid-friendly model, and the standard version, which hadn’t been updated since the Kindle Paperwhite 2018. 

The new version has some obvious improvements, like a bigger 6.8-inch display than the 6-inch screen on the 2018 model. There’s also some long-awaited upgrades, including swapping out the micro-USB charging port for USB-C.

The Paperwhite still starts at 8GB of storage, which is enough for plenty of books and some media. But now the larger 32GB version has been made into its own distinct model – the Kindle Paperwhite signature Edition – with its own perks, including wireless charging, but the same design. Thus, we’re looking at both devices here, and will specify when we’re only referring to the standard and Signature editions.

The new regular Kindle Paperwhite has a bigger 6.8-inch screen (up from 6 inches) and thinner bezels, though it keeps the same 300 pixels per inch density. Amazon has upgraded the display, claiming it gets 10% brighter at maximum brightness than the screen on the older Paperwhite, as well as new capability to auto-adjust the front light based on the brightness of the user’s surroundings. 

While the ereader doesn’t have a drastically different design than its predecessor, keeping the e-ink front display and plastic back, the bezels surrounding the screen are smaller, allowing for more screen real estate without needing to make the device larger.

As such, it’s an improvement in the ways that matter for an affordable ereader. Read on for our early thoughts on the Amazon Kindle 2021, and whether it’s worth it to pick up the Amazon Kindle Signature Edition.

Kindle Paperwhite 2021 Signature Edition

(Image credit: Future)

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2021) (8GB Black) at Amazon for $139.99

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2021 price and release date

The Kindle Paperwhite 2021 remains Amazon’s mid-entry e-reader between the basic Kindle and the Kindle Oasis, and is priced accordingly. The standard Kindle Paperwhite has 8GB of storage and a price tag of $139 / £129 (around AU$190), which is a bit higher than its predecessor, the Kindle Paperwhite 2018, which started at $129.99 / £119.99 / AU$199.

The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition is significantly pricier at $189 / £179 (around AU$250), adding several additional features like wireless charging and auto-adjusting brightness.

Kindle Paperwhite 2021 Signature Edition

(Image credit: Future)

Design and display

The new Kindle Paperwhite 2021 hasn’t changed much from its predecessor in terms of looks, as it’s still an E Iink front screen and plastic black. New for this model is a USB-C port at the bottom in place of the aging micro-USB – an upgrade a long time coming. Next to the port is the power button, which is only in the way if you’re standing the ereader up (say, for some product photos), so you’re unlikely to accidentally bump it and power off your device.

As previously mentioned, the new Kindle Paperwhite 2021 has a 6.8-inch e-ink display, which is noticeably larger than the 6-inch screen on the Paperwhite 2018. Don’t expect a sharper display, as it still has the same 300 pixels per inch density. 

Yet the text is displayed clearly on the ereader. The Paperwhite’s edge on the cheaper basic Kindle is its front light, allowing users to read in the dark without harsh blue light, though there’s the usual array of adjustable warm light and a white-on-black dark mode to ease eye strain when reading in dim light.

The Paperwhite has an IPX8 waterproof rating (but no dust resistance), which means it can be submerged up to two meters for an hour – enough to save it from accidental spills or dips into the pool.

Kindle Paperwhite 2021 Signature Edition

(Image credit: Future)


Like most ereaders, the Kindle Paperwhite 2021 has a non-glossy E Ink display that looks like paper when read, and is easier on the eyes than the LCD or OLED displays on tablets. The Paperwhite is easy to hold, and pretty light at 205g (the Signature Edition is only slightly heavier at 208g) – which is just a bit heavier than most smartphones.

The Kindle Paperwhite 2021 has Amazon’s Kindle operating system and interface, with simplified swipe navigation and an animation when turning pages. Unlike other ereaders that have buttons for getting around, you’ll only be able to swipe to get around with the Paperwhite. 

The Paperwhite has Amazon’s assortment of other reading tools, so you can look up word definitions, sync pages between Kindle devices and apps via the Whispersync feature, and X-Ray which lets users keep track of characters and terms. 

The Kindle Paperwhite 2021 packs 8GB of storage, while the Signature Edition bumps that up to 32GB – and with books taking up around 1MB apiece, you can store thousands on the former and tens of thousands on the latter. 

Kindle Paperwhite 2021 Signature Edition

(Image credit: Future)


Amazon claims that the Kindle Paperwhite lasts up to 10 weeks on a full charge. The ereader includes a USB-C cable in the box, but not a wall charger – you’ll have to supply that yourself. The maximum charge speed of 9W isn’t that high compared to other devices, but it’s not really needed, as you can juice the device back up to full in around 2.5 hours, Amazon estimates.

Exclusive to the Signature Edition is wireless charging, which is compatible with any Qi charger.

Kindle Paperwhite 2021 Signature Edition

(Image credit: Future)

Early verdict

The new Kindle Paperwhite 2021 models offer a few crucial updates, like USB-C charging and an even bigger display – but for the most part, it’s a lot of the same ereader at a slightly higher price than its predecessor.

If you want a more premium experience but don’t quite want to pay for the Kindle Oasis, you can opt for the Kindle Paperwhite 2021 Signature Edition, which adds a bit more storage and a couple premium features, but they don’t feel worth the 36% price hike to get them. 

Still, the Kindle Paperwhite 2021 is the best version of Amazon’s mid-tier ereader that’s come out yet, so top adopters (or those who don’t want to deal with micro-USB cables) may find it worth picking up. Everyone else may be fine picking up an older Kindle Paperwhite 2018 at a discount.