Bigger is even better with Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite 2021 ($139.99), which uses a new E Ink panel to show more words per page than its predecessor. While the prices of Paperwhite models are slowly increasing, this new version still offers the best combination of features at a price that’s right for most readers, including a flat front panel and a Waterpoof design. Combined with its updated screen, these features help it remain an Editors’ Choice award winner for eBook readers.
Amazon Kindle Assortment
There are two and a half e-reader players in the US market, although others play larger roles overseas. Amazon Kindles dominate the American side. It’s best for reading books from Amazon and works well for titles from public libraries. For other sources and formats, there is Kobo. Barnes & Noble’s Nook models are still around as well, although the future of this group looks uncertain.
Amazon has four E Ink Kindles in 2021, including the $89.99 Kindle, the $139.99 Paperwhite, the $189.99 Signature Paperwhite, and the $249.99 Oasis. The Paperwhite has major and important advantages over the base model. For starters, it’s water-resistant, making it safe to read on the beach and in the shower. Its flat front design prevents sand and dirt from getting into the crevices. And its screen is sharper, with a color-changing front light that’s easier on the eyes.
Once you move on from the Paperwhite, the additional features become less important. The Paperwhite Signature adds more storage, wireless charging, and an auto-changing front light. These are useful add-ons, but they won’t change your reading experience. The Kindle Oasis has a pleasing design with its gorgeous metal frame, lighter weight than the Paperwhite, and physical page-flipping buttons (I have one and I love it), but it’s really expensive for an e-reader.
Keep in mind that while the Paperwhite starts at $139.99, like most Amazon e-readers, it shows ads on the lock screen by default. If you want to get rid of these ads, you have to pay an extra $20.
Left to Right: 2021 Paperwhite, 2018 Paperwhite, 2021 Paperwhite Signature (Photo: Sascha Segan)
More Square Inches, Less Page Flips
The 2018 Paperwhite design offered a flat, water-resistant front. The new model is slightly larger. The 2021 Paperwhite is still a sleek, matte black device, but now measures 6.8 x 4.9 x 0.3 inches (HWD) instead of 6.6 x 4.6 x 0.3 inches. At 7.2 ounces, it’s 0.8 ounces heavier than the previous model, which I initially thought would bother me, but I didn’t; It’s still light enough to comfortably hold in one hand for hours.
The bigger news is the bigger screen. The new Paperwhite goes from a 6-inch, 300ppi E Ink Carta display to a 6.8in panel that maintains a 300ppi resolution. The headlight is also 10% brighter. The entire device still has an IPX8 rating, so it can survive an hour of immersion in fresh water or a three-minute dive in seawater.
The new Paperwhites and Oasis have color-changing headlights that can go from blue and white to yellow using two sliders. Yellow can also be associated with a watch, so that the screen turns yellow as the night goes on to save your eyes. The 17-LED system is much more than the 4 LEDs on the base Kindle model.
The bottom-mounted power button, a relic of the 2018 model, annoys some people, but I don’t find it prone to inadvertent pressing on the base Paperwhite model. (In the case of the Signature model, though, wireless charging mounts sometimes trigger the button.)
A USB-C port has brought the Kindle into line with other portable devices of the past few years. However, it does not support fast charging – charging and playing still takes several hours at no more than 9W. The new Paperwhite lasts about a week with heavy use, but you can significantly extend battery life by turning off the headlight and Wi-Fi.
Amazon includes a power cable, but there is no power adapter. The Paperwhite works with just about any power cable and USB-C adapter, but if you don’t have one, Amazon sells one for $20. Amazon also sells a range of covers for Kindle devices that cost between $30 and $60.
While I was reading Susannah Clarke’s book Jonathan String and Mr. Norell At Amazon’s standard font size, I saw 17 lines of about 8 short words each on the older Kindle and 21 lines of 9 words each on the newer font. This translates to 20% less page flips on the newer model – and in my opinion, a 20% more comfortable experience.
The new Paperwhite (right) shows more words per page than the old one (left) (Photo: Sascha Segan)
An old Kindle screen is about the same width as a mass-market paperback, but displays less text that goes down the page. The new edition is wider than most mass-market paperbacks and about the same height. Trade paperbacks and paperbacks alike on older and newer Kindles.
The manga volumes in Tankobon format can be read on the previous Kindle, but they are more visible here because the text is a bit larger. Charming manga for kids Yotsuba and Reads well on the new Kindle.
The 2021 Paperwhite (right) is the right size for the Japanese manga, which tends to be smaller and less colorful than the American comics, although it still looks good in the 2018 model (left) (Photo: Sascha Segan)
However, the Paperwhite is still not the right e-book reader for American comics, graphic novels, or highly illustrated children’s books. The screen is very small, so the text remains unreadable. Most people prefer reading these formats on a color device like the Amazon Fire HD 10 or the base Apple iPad model anyway. But if you really want to try those works with the soothing tones of the E Ink, you need to look for a 10-inch E Ink like the Onyx Boox Note Air.
Amazon recently updated the Kindle interface to make it easier to navigate. This improvement isn’t limited to the new Paperwhite; The software update is coming to the base Kindles model, some older Paperwhites, and the Oasis. The main shift is that on the main screen, there’s a new icon that helps you go straight back to the book you’re reading. If you have a Kindle without ads, the lock screen now shows the cover of the book you’re currently reading as well.
If you have a large Kindle library (I have over 200 books), some of the new features help reduce clutter. I like the way series are automatically categorized under one cover, so I don’t have to go through all my kids wings to shoot Books (of which there are many) for access to Lavi Tidhar.
All the usual Amazon features are here, of course: X-Ray tells you who the character is, the dictionary tells you what the word is, and the Goodreads integration lets you tell others what to read.
Kindles work best with Amazon or public library e-books. We have a story on How to Get Free eBooks on Your Kindle that shows how to email PDF or EPUB eBooks to your device, but I’ve never had a great experience with support for these formats because fonts and navigation often get stuck in translation. Other brands of e-book readers, most notably Kobo, handle these formats better.
X-Ray helps you keep track of the characters in your book (Photo: Sascha Segan)
Goodbye 3G, hello best WiFi
Remember Whispernet, which lets you download books anywhere? It’s dying It’s relied on AT&T’s 3G network, which will be shutting down in 2022. If you have an older Kindle, based on Whispernet, that service will expire in the US. (There are 4G LTE versions of the 2018 Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Oasis, but these are not heavily marketed in the US.)
As a result, Kindle relies on Wi-Fi more than ever. Fortunately, the Paperwhite 2021 has significantly better Wi-Fi than the 2018 model. When I tested it on 5GHz Wi-Fi, I generally downloaded books in 5-8 seconds instead of 14-17 seconds on the older model. Book covers, pages in the Kindle Store, and pages in the Kindle web browser also fill more quickly. That performance bump might not be a huge issue, but it’s a noticeable upgrade.
Better Wi-Fi support also reinforces that you probably don’t need 32GB of storage for the Signature Edition. 8GB okay. You can download books when you want to read them, at home or over a free Wi-Fi connection. Kindle books in text format are only a few megabytes each; Audiobooks take up much more space.
Bluetooth functionality is the same here as on the previous Paperwhite. You can use bluetooth headphones for audible audiobooks. You can also synchronize listening to your audiobook for pick-up or departure at the same point in a text-format book. Unfortunately, wired USB-C headphones will not work.
E Ink Kindles don’t have built-in speakers or immersive reading, which is a neat mode where you see text highlighted as the voice reads it. For all of that, you need an Android or iOS phone or tablet with the Kindle app.
As with previous Kindles, a range of covers are available
Time is ticking… in the future
People keep their kindles for a long time. they must; An e-book reader is a simple device, and if it works, it works. As part of this review, I looked at Amazon user complaints from 2018 model buyers. For the record, there are still people with 2009-era Kindles with keyboards.
The 2021 Paperwhite is similar to the 2018 model in many ways, and a few differences with newer models will irritate users of older Kindles. For example, the battery life reading is shorter due to the more sophisticated and complex front-light system. There is no built-in speaker or headphone jack like on older models either. As mentioned, a lot of people hate the bottom-mounted power button. The flat front also has a bit more glare than some previous models.
I’m not including this section to lament the features on devices you can’t buy anymore, but folks who are upgrading should know what to expect. The new design offers some advantages. I think bathroom and beach reading are great use cases, and I hate the way the fronts of old models collect dust and dirt.
The matte black back is comfortable to hold (Photo: Sacha Seguin)
the right choice
An e-ink e-book reader should get out of the way and allow you to read your book. That’s what the new Kindle Paperwhite does. Offers the right features at the right price. For example, the Paperwhite is water-resistant, which is great for its versatility, but it ignores the wireless charging you get with the Signature Edition, which is less important. Kobo’s Closest Competitor Ebook Reader, $179.99, Balance 2, is a bit more expensive and doesn’t deal with Amazon books locally. Kindles and Kobos are like iOS and Android nowadays; Not many people switch because they use different content stores. So if you buy your books from Amazon, the Kindle Paperwhite is the right e-book reader for most people, and it’s our Editors’ Choice winner.
Amazon Kindle Paper White (2021)
The Amazon 2021 Kindle Paperwhite Edition is similar to the premium 2018 edition, but adds a more spacious screen that provides a better reading experience.
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