The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition is a good ereader, but the few premium perks, like wireless charging and an auto-adjusting display, don’t quite justify the price leap from the standard Kindle Paperwhite. Still, upgrades to USB-C and a wider screen with thinner bezels are a good refresh for an ereader that hasn’t been updated since 2018.
Bigger screen area than predecessor
Longer battery life
USB-C is convenient
Wireless charging is finicky
Slow page turn speed
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Among Amazon’s current ereaders, the new Kindle Paperwhite (2021) is a middle-of-the-road model that has everything you need to read – but the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition has just a little bit more.
The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition is essentially a rebranded version of the previous Paperwhite’s higher-storage configuration, with those aforementioned extras (wireless charging and an auto-sensing screen dimmer). We don’t feel the bonus perks justify the Signature Edition’s significantly higher price, but if someone did want to pay for more features, this is the model to choose.
The Signature Edition has the same design as the standard Kindle Paperwhite 2021, which is the first upgrade on the ereader since 2018. Both versions have some obvious improvements from the 2018 ereader, like smaller bezels around the screen and a bigger 6.8-inch display (up from six inches on their predecessor).
While the 2021 ereader doesn’t have a drastically different visual design than its predecessor, keeping the E Ink front display and plastic back, Amazon claims the screen is 10% brighter at maximum brightness than the 2018 model, though it keeps the same 300 pixels per inch density.
Kindle fans will cheer the addition of some long overdue Paperwhite upgrades including the swap out of the micro-USB for a USB-C charging port. The battery life has also increased to 10 weeks, per Amazon’s claims, which is significantly longer than the six weeks we got with the 2018 Paperwhite.
The Kindle Paperwhite 2021 still starts at 8GB of storage, which is enough space for plenty of books and some additional media. If you want the larger 32GB option, go with the Signature Edition.
The Signature Edition is an improvement for an ereader slightly more affordable than the luxe Kindle Oasis, especially with the wireless charging – a feature even the pricier model lacks.
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition 2021 price and release date
The Kindle Paperwhite 2021 remains Amazon’s mid-entry ereader, between the basic Kindle and the Kindle Oasis, and the Signature Edition is a pricier version that costs $189 (around £139 / AU$250). For that price, you get a higher internal storage (32GB) and some premium features like wireless charging and auto-adjusting brightness.
Given the extra features, it makes sense that the new Signature Edition got a price bump from the 32GB version of the 2018 Kindle Paperwhite, which retailed for $159 / £149 / AU$249. It still costs more than the standard Kindle Paperwhite 2021 with 8GB of storage, which has a price tag of $139 (around £100 / AU$190), but if you want more space for books and a bigger display for reading them, the Signature Edition is right for you.
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 Ink front screen and plastic black. It’s still a flat slate with no buttons, so you’ll have to swipe and tap to navigate around the display. This is fine for those with the patience to withstand the slow transitions when turning a page, but it can be annoying for faster readers trying to get through a real page-turner.
If you want buttons, you’ll want to opt for the Kindle Oasis, a more expensive model than the Signature Edition. But you should know that the Oasis hasn’t been updated since 2019, so the new Signature Edition has upgrades that its more expensive sibling lacks (the aforementioned wireless charging and an auto-dimmer).
New in the 2021 Paperwhites is a USB-C port at the bottom, which replaced the aging micro USB. Next to the port is the power button, which really only gets 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 2018 Paperwhite. But don’t expect the 2021 display to be any sharper since it still has the same 300 pixels per inch density.
Still, text is displayed clearly on the ereader. The Paperwhite’s front light allows users to read in the dark without harsh blue light. The ereader also features an adjustable warm light and a white-on-black dark mode to ease eye strain for those reading in dim surroundings.
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, but don’t leave it in water for too long.
Like most ereaders, the Kindle Paperwhite 2021 has a non-glossy E Ink display that looks like paper. This means reading on a Kindle is easier on the eyes than reading books or viewing media on the LCD or OLED displays on tablets. The Paperwhite is also easy to hold, and pretty light at 205g (the Signature Edition is only slightly heavier at 208g). These Paperwhites are only a bit heavier than most smartphones.
The 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 when navigating the Paperwhite.
Being restricted to swiping can be annoying if you’re used to different ereader interfaces. Even the smartphone Kindle app has different touch controls: tap on the center of the screen and you’ll bring up menu and navigation bars when reading on a phone. With the Signature Edition, you’ll need to tap the top of the display.
The Paperwhite also features Amazon’s assortment of reading tools: you can look up word definitions, sync pages between Kindle devices and apps via the Whispersync feature, and keep track of characters and terms with X-Ray. Note that these features are only available for ereader formats, though there are limited format, sizing, and font choices for other file formats like PDFs.
The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition packs 32GB of storage, but with the OS and other core data taking up space, you’ll have about 27GB for storing media. Still, books usually only take up around 1MB apiece, so you can conceivably store tens of thousands of works without any issues. We downloaded our entire Kindle library and didn’t even use up a single gigabyte (full disclosure, we don’t have a lot of large-file formats like audiobooks or graphic novels).
Amazon claims that the Kindle Paperwhite lasts up to 10 weeks on a full charge. Whether that holds true for you will depend on various factors. In our experience, we were able to drain 4% in a 24-hour period by keeping the display at maximum brightness while we casually read. Under those conditions, the battery wouldn’t last longer than about 3.5 weeks without a charge. The battery range can also fluctuate depending on other factors, including the length of reading sessions.
Suffice it to say that it’s tough to fully verify Amazon’s claims, but using energy-saving methods like keeping brightness down and keeping the Power Saver mode switched on (on by default) will definitely help the battery to last longer.
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 fast compared to other devices, but it might not be necessary to have a faster one since you can fully charge the device in about 2.5 hours, according to Amazon estimates.
Exclusive to the Signature Edition is wireless charging, which is compatible with any Qi charger, but it can be finicky to get working. We were able to charge our device on a pad sometimes, but at other times we couldn’t get it in the right position to allow the wireless charger to do it’s thing.
Should you buy the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition?
Buy it if…
You want a sleeker ereader with less bezel
The Paperwhite 2021 design is a step up from the 2018 model, with thinner bezels and a larger 6.8-inch display. The new model looks a bit sharper, too.
You want more storage space on your ereader
While you could surely store a ton of books in the 8GB standard Kindle Paperwhite 2021, the Signature Edition’s 32GB storage ensures enough space for plenty of audiobooks and graphic novels, too.
You want more premium ereader perks at a (relatively) lower price
The Signature Edition has several perks like USB-C, wireless charging, and an auto-adjusting display that not even the more expensive Kindle Oasis has, making this a more enticing option (if you don’t need button navigation).
Don’t buy it if…
You want to read comics (or anything in color) on your ereader
E-Ink screens like on the Signature Edition are monochrome, which is great for battery life but not for media that deserves to be seen in color, like comic books. If you like colorful graphic novels and vivid comic books, opt for a traditional tablet like the Amazon Fire HD 8 or even a cheap iPad.
You want a more premium-feeling ereader
The Signature Edition has smaller bezels, but still the same plastic case and back. If you want a more premium ereader, pick up the pricier Kindle Oasis (which has a more refined metal frame).
You want an ereader that’s easier to hold in one hand
The Signature Edition has a symmetric design that looks nice, but can be tough to use one-handed. If you like reading on the go or while you cook, opt for the Kindle Oasis or the Kobo Libra H20, both of which have asymmetric layouts conducive to holding with one hand.
First reviewed: November 2021
David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.