KINDLES ARE FANTASTIC little devices, but I was staunchly against them until recently. “How could you give up real books?” I screamed into the void. Then I tried the Oasis, and suddenly I was hooked. After reading with the new Paperwhite Signature Edition, I can confidently confirm that Amazon’s latest update to their beloved ereader is still great.
Nothing compares to the feel of flipping through physical pages, but I’ve spent a lot of money on books. Not all of them were good. They sit, half-read, gathering dust on a bookshelf and getting moved from apartment to apartment. It’s nice to be able to spend less on ebooks or check them out for free from the library without leaving my house.
The Paperwhite has always been the midlevel upgrade in the Kindle family—better than the basic Kindle, but not as feature-packed as the pricey Oasis. With its first update since 2018, it has turned into three models of its own: the standard Paperwhite ($140), the Signature Edition ($190), and a kids version ($160). I tested the Signature Edition here, but I included information on how all three compare. Prices vary depending on whether or not you have ads, so read the Amazon page closely before checking out.
The screen on the 2021 Paperwhite is larger, at 6.8 inches over 2018’s 6 inches. The bezels are also smaller, less than half an inch from the top and sides. The screen gets more room overall, and the whole thing looks a little more sophisticated. Compared to the Oasis, the Paperwhite is taller, and because it doesn’t have the page-turn buttons, it’s not as wide, so it’s easy to palm for one-handed reading. The matte backing helps to prevent slippage, too. (The Oasis still has a slightly larger, 7-inch screen.)
All three of the new Paperwhites get adjustable warm lighting—it gets super orange at its brightest—and brighter screens overall (10 percent brighter, according to Amazon). Thankfully, e-ink screens don’t hurt your eyes the way blue light from your phone does. Side by side, it’s not quite as bright as the Oasis, but it was still easy to read, even outside. It also now has dark mode, if you prefer that.
Only the Signature Edition has the ability to auto-adjust brightness to the lighting around you, so you can read outside without tinkering with settings every time the sun comes out from behind the clouds. At this point, auto-adjust should come standard on all screens without having to pay more for it.
The Paperwhites get faster page-turn rates, which is noticeable and appreciated. There’s even an animation you can turn on that gives the slight effect of a real page turning. I thought I’d hate it, but I didn’t. However, there’s still an infuriating lag and some screen blinks when you scroll through menus. There’s also a delay between pressing a button and it registering. I hoped by now that kind of lag wouldn’t exist, but it’s not a dealbreaker. I just hope it gets addressed in a future update.
The major upgrades that the Paperwhite gets are power-related. The Signature Edition now has wireless charging capabilities. If you already have a Qi charging pad, it should work, but Amazon lists those that do not. It also has more storage than the base model, with 32 gigabytes instead of 8 gigabytes. That’s a significant jump, especially if you read audiobooks. It’s worth noting, though, that you can delete books off the Kindle and still access them in your Amazon account.