An e-book reader is not a device that you have to update frequently, but if you are thinking of swapping yours for a new model, Amazon’s new Kindle Paperwhite incorporates enough new features to make it worth the jump.
Before we start, a clarification. Amazon calls this model the “new Kindle Paperwhite.” It is the fifth iteration of the Kindle Paperwhite range and, at the same time, the first model of the 11th generation of Kindle devices. For this reason, you can find it as Kindle Paperwhite 5, Kindle Paperwhite 11th generation or Kindle Paperwhite from 2021.
To complicate matters even more, it is available in two versions: the basic, which you can buy with or without advertising, and the Signature Edition. The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition is directly ad-free, adding three hardware features: automatic brightness adjustment, wireless charging support, and increased storage capacity.
The latter is the version we have tested, but it is identical to the basic version, except for those three features.
A better display in all respects
The great novelty of the new Kindle Paperwhite is its screen, which grows from 6 to 6.8 inches thanks to a significant reduction in frames. After 11 generations, the iconic Kindle finally has a slightly more modern design, but still retains the large bottom edge, which is good for holding the device.
The screen maintains a pixel density of 300 dpi (which means it actually increases its resolution) and is 10% brighter. Compared to the previous model, which had 5 illumination LEDs, the new Kindle Paperwhite comes with 17 LEDs to evenly illuminate the screen from the sides.
These LEDs come in white and amber to adjust the screen’s color temperature to warmer tones, a new feature in the Kindle Paperwhite range inherited from the next-generation Kindle Oasis. The idea is that we adjust the screen to a warm tone at night so as not to alter our circadian rhythms in an attempt to better fall asleep, something that our phones can do for a long time, but which also makes a lot of sense in a book reader .
The warmth setting (not to be confused with the “dark mode” introduced by last year’s Kindle Paperwhite) can be changed manually from the “shutter” at the top edge of the interface, but can also be scheduled for specific hours. Within the scheduling options, you can define a manual schedule or an automatic schedule, determined by sunrise and sunset, depending on your location.
The two-tone LEDs have another advantage: the screen of the new Kindle Paperwhite has a more neutral white, which does not tend to blue, as happened in previous models. The Signature Edition version also includes automatic brightness adjustment, which uses an ambient light sensor to raise or lower the brightness of the screen without user intervention.
As in the previous model, the screen is flush with the frame, making it impossible to distinguish the pixels. In addition, content appears 20% faster thanks to a higher refresh rate and a more powerful processor. This is especially noticeable in comics and magazines, but also when flipping through the pages of a book.
And I still have praise for the screen. There is nothing like a light leak, even though the lighting is done from the sides. And beyond the refresh rate, the touchscreen seems more responsive, bringing the experience closer to a tablet, although it’s still a long way from being that fast.
To read in the bathtub and in the pool
The large screen has a disadvantage, and that is that it has forced Amazon to also increase the dimensions of the device, despite having reduced the frames. The new Kindle Paperwhite measures 174.2 by 124.6mm, and is 8.2mm thick. It’s a bit taller and a bit wider than the previous model (167 x 116 x 8.2mm), and also heavier (205 vs. 182g), which is starting to be a problem for people with small hands. Personally, I have not noticed much of the difference, but it is that my phone weighs even more.
The construction materials are the same, which means that the back is a magnet for fingerprints, and in general for any greasy substance, but the screen does not suffer the same problem, and as it does not have reflections, it is perfectly visible under the Sun.
This is not the only reason to take your new Kindle to the pool or the beach. Like its predecessor, the 2021 Kindle Paperwhite has an IPx8 rating for water resistance. According to Amazon, it supports an immersion of up to 2 meters for a maximum of 60 minutes in fresh water, and up to 0.25 meters for a maximum of 3 minutes in salt water.
Finally with USB-C (and wireless charging)
According to Amazon, the new Kindle Paperwhite offers up to ten weeks of autonomy, something that logically I have not been able to verify because the version I am testing went on sale on November 10. It’s four weeks longer than the previous model promised, but it’s “a shame” that the battery lasts so long because Amazon has finally gotten serious with connectivity.
As incredible as it may sound, this is the first Kindle with a USB-C port, which means it charges faster (from 0 to 100% in two and a half hours) and is compatible with the chargers you probably have at home. In addition, the Signature Edition version incorporates wireless charging, compatible with any Qi charger.
I have to say that the latter sounds more convenient than it actually is, because being a considerably larger device than a phone, it’s not easy to get right the first time where you need to put the wireless charger for the Kindle to start charging. So it is not a deciding factor in deciding on the Signature Edition.
Two other issues to mention in the connectivity section are: 1) that you can use Bluetooth to connect headphones and play Audible audiobooks or use the screen reader, but first you have to configure the device in English. And 2) that Amazon has stopped selling a version with free mobile connectivity, so you need a Wi-Fi connection to buy and download books (you can also transfer them from a computer with Caliber).
Kindle Paperwhite (2021): models and prices
Let’s see, it’s not cheap. At least not until Amazon introduces its usual discounts. The new Kindle Paperwhite (8 GB) is on Amazon for:
- 140 euros with ad on the lock screen
- 150 euros ad-free on the lock screen
The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition (32GB) is on Amazon for:
- 190 euros ad-free on the lock screen
A price difference of 40-50 euros seems excessive to go from 8 to 32 GB. You would have to store many books to fill them. But it also adds automatic brightness adjustment and wireless charging. Still, I’d stick with the basic option and bear the brunt of manually adjusting the brightness and plugging the cable (included in the box) into the USB-C port.
By the way, Amazon continues to sell a cheaper model, the Kindle for 90 euros, with a worse screen, and a high-end model, the Kindle Oasis for 250 euros, with physical buttons to turn the page, among other improvements, but the Kindle Paperwhite is still the most balanced option for reading e-books with close-to-paper definition without straining your eyes.