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Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2021) review

Once again the best ereading experience for most people

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2021
(Image: © TechRadar)

TechRadar Urteil

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite remains the must-have ereader for those who don’t want to spend a lot of money on a gadget but also don’t want the most basic option out there. The introduction of USB-C and a larger battery are exciting, but it may not be worth upgrading if you own a relatively recent Amazon ereader.

Pros

  • +

    Large and clear display

  • +

    Switched to USB-C

  • +

    Comfortable reading experience

Cons

  • -

    More expensive than previous models

  • -

    Lacks wireless charging

  • -

    Limited to Amazon’s store

Two-minute review

The Kindle Paperwhite remains the best ereader for those who are looking for a simple gadget that lets you read for hours on end. It isn’t the top of Amazon’s range and the new Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition means some features aren’t included here.

Instead, the Kindle Paperwhite is built for those who want a comfortable reading experience with top-end tech but don’t need the extra features of an all-metal design or wireless charging.

The design of the Kindle Paperwhite is largely unchanged from what we’ve seen before. There’s still a clear 6.8-inch E Ink display with 300 pixels per inch resolution at the core of the device that makes for enjoyable reading.

Its plastic rear isn’t a premium touch, but it’s easy to grip and the lightweight design means you can read this device without cramping your wrist. 

Battery life remains strong on the Kindle Paperwhite with it lasting for around five weeks from a single charge. It’s not as long-lasting if you’re reading for long periods, but it’s still enough for most people’s library habits.

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2021

(Image credit: TechRadar)

A big upgrade is the introduction of a USB-C port for the first time. Amazon stubbornly stuck to the micro USB method for recharging its readers in recent years, but now you can use the more modern charging standard on this device.

That isn’t a reason to upgrade your recent Kindle, but it is a useful quality of life improvement that makes for a more well-rounded product.

If you own a Kindle Paperwhite from 2018 onward, you’re unlikely to see a big improvement on this device. If you’ve never owned an ereader, you want to upgrade from the standard Kindle, or you have an aging Paperwhite, this is the ereader to get right now.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite price and release date 

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2021

(Image credit: TechRadar)

This edition of the Kindle Paperwhite was launched in September 2021, and it went on sale soon after. It was unveiled alongside two new editions: the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition and the Kindle Paperwhite for Kids.

This standard Paperwhite version is available directly from Amazon and a variety of other retailers. Its launch price was $129.99 / £129.99 / AU$199.99 (around £100 / AU$190) with ads included or $139.99 / £139.99 (about AU$260) without ads. 

That’s the price for an 8GB model, which should be enough storage for hundreds of ebooks and some audiobooks too.

That Signature Edition comes with some premium features, including 32GB of storage, an auto-adjusting front light and support for wireless charging. This is a new addition to this series of Kindles, and it costs far more at $189.99 / £179.99 / AU$289.

Design and display

The form factor and design of previous Kindles is relatively unchanged on this new model, but it’s a look that didn’t need changing.

The defining feature is its 6.8-inch display which means the device has a footprint similar to the average paperback book. It’s easy to hold as it only weighs 205 grams, which is just a touch more than the average smartphone.

That’s particularly helpful if you’re reading a hefty tome as it makes for a more comfortable reading experience.

Its overall dimensions are 174.2 x 124.6 x 8.1 mm. The rear of the device is a plastic material that doesn’t feel particularly premium but after some use you’ll find it allows for a stronger grip than the metal rear of the Kindle Oasis.

The Amazon “smile” logo is emblazoned on the rear of the device, but otherwise it’s particularly limited in its design. This is only available in black, so you’ll have to buy a new case for your Kindle Paperwhite if you want a more vibrant look.

The left, top and right edges are all clear from buttons with the power button, LED light and USB-C port all sitting at the bottom edge of the device. That means you won’t accidentally hit any buttons during long reading sessions.

And this device is built for long reading sessions with bezels along the edges of the screen where you can rest your thumbs so you can grip the device without pressing on the screen to turn the page.

The screen is the most premium we’ve seen on a Kindle Paperwhite yet, with a 300 pixels per inch resolution and strong brightness levels. These are easily changed in the software, but you won’t get an auto-adjusting display.

That’s one of the biggest draws of the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition, which makes that process much smoother. For example, if you’re reading outside but then you next open up your book when reading in bed the Signature Edition will realize you’re in a darker location and dim the screen.

The borders around the side of the display sit flush with the screen, which is something the company’s standard Kindle model doesn’t have. If you’re looking to upgrade from that device, you’ll notice this as a big difference.

Reading

The Kindle Paperwhite offers a very comfortable reading experience with a clear display that is easy to look at for hours at a time. 

The E Ink technology means the screen is easier on the eyes for long periods than the one on your smartphone or TV.

You can easily edit the display options to find your optimum reading experience. For example, you can change the font style, the font size, the brightness of the screen, the dark mode setting, and much more.

Other features include a dictionary, so you can quickly look up words that you haven’t come across before, and Whispersync, which means it’ll sync pages across your ereader and any other Kindle apps you have (such as on your smartphone).

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2021

(Image credit: TechRadar)

To navigate through the pages, you swipe on either side of the screen to go through to other parts of the book. This is useful, but some may miss the buttons that other ereaders provide if you prefer something more tactile.

You’re unlikely to fill the Kindle Paperwhite with ease. It comes with 8GB of space, but ebooks generally take up around 1MB of space each. Amazon claims this device will hold 1000s of books, and it’s right about that.

You can upload audiobooks (through Audible) onto the Kindle Paperwhite so you can listen to them through Bluetooth headphones. That will start to take up a lot more space though. If you’re worried about that you’ll want to opt for the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition as it comes with 32GB of space as standard.

Battery life 

Amazon claims the Kindle Paperwhite will last for 10 weeks from a single charge, and we got similar results in our testing. If you’re reading every day, you may find the battery will run out quicker but it still lasts a long time.

Extra battery is a helpful element with an ereader as it allows you to have this in your bag without worrying about whether it has enough charge. It’s much more pick-up-and-go than your phone or a traditional tablet.

It’s charged with a USB-C cable (which is provided in the box) and this is the first time we’ve seen a Kindle move away from micro USB. That’s a big deal as it means most people can use their modern smartphone charger to recharge the ereader.

If you own an iPhone, it’ll mean you have to have a different charge for your Kindle but it’s still a much more common standard than micro USB that we’ve seen on previous ereaders.

The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition has wireless charging built-in, which is unlikely to be a must-have for your Kindle but you may want to spend more on your ereader if you want that.

Software 

Amazon’s Kindle platform has become more mature in recent years, and it’s some of the best software you’ll find in an ereader. In addition, you’ll find a huge selection of books on the brand’s bustling estore to download directly to your Kindle.

If you buy books directly from the store they’ll appear on your ereader within a matter of seconds (if you’re on a solid internet connection).

Navigating around the Kindle Paperwhite is smooth for an ereader, and it’s always easy to find the different options you’re looking for.

Simply press on books in your library to download them, and then press on the right-hand side of the screen to cycle through the pages. If you want to go back, you’ll press on the right.

As with most ereaders, this can be slow but Amazon claims it’s 20% faster than previous editions. It isn’t noticeably faster on this edition, but it does feel smooth and it’s unlikely to be something you find frustrating.

Should you buy the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2021? 

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2021

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Buy it if… 

You’re looking for a comfortable reading experience

The Kindle Paperwhite has an ergonomic design that makes it comfortable to hold for long periods. The screen is clear and bright and the display settings are easily adjusted, so you’ll find this a pleasant reading experience overall.

You want your Kindle to work on USB-C chargers

This is a minor thing, and it isn’t a valid enough reason to upgrade your Kindle, but we’d recommend opting for this if you want it to work with a better charging standard than micro USB.

You’ve got an older Kindle model

The upgrades over recent generations of Kindle Paperwhite are minimal, but if you’re running a much older ereader it may be the time to upgrade to this version. It’s also a great stepping stone if you’ve previously used less feature-rich ereaders.

Don’t buy it if… 

You’re looking for the cheapest ereader

If you just want the cheapest option, you should look to the standard Kindle or an alternative from a brand like Kobo. The standard Kindle is a suitable product for most people, especially if you’re looking for the lowest price possible.

You want wireless charging

Wireless charging is far from a must-have feature on an ereader, but it’s one of the standout features of the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition. If you’re keen to drop all the wires from your gadgets, look to that ereader instead.

You don’t want an Amazon product

You can download other books and upload them to your Kindle, but it’s far more complicated than buying books directly from the Amazon store. If you’re looking for a product that isn’t reliant on Amazon’s store, this isn’t the ereader for you.

First published: February 2022

James is Senior Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones and the mobile space for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones and other portable gadgets. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He's currently most excited about the Samsung Galaxy S22, God of War: Ragnarok and the rumored foldable iPhone.