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Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2021) review

·6-min read
Photo credit: Good Housekeeping UK
Photo credit: Good Housekeeping UK

Whether you’re an avid on-the-go reader or on the lookout for an ideal Christmas present for the book lover in your life, Amazon’s new Kindle Paperwhite is an upgrade that ticks all the right boxes. It’s been three years since there was an update for the mid-range option – the most popular model in the Kindle lineup – so this long-awaited refresh is welcome news for e-book fans.

The new Paperwhite has a longer battery life, waterproofing, 32GB of storage (enough room for around 3,000 books), a 6.8-inch display (almost an inch bigger than its predecessor), and it finally added USB-C for charging too, meaning you can now get it back up to 100% full battery in 2.5 hours.

We got our hands on the new model to put it to the test, and think it’s a great pick if you want a highly capable e-reader to rival the Kindle Oasis without stretching to that high-end model’s £200+ price tag.

Key specs

Screen size: 6.8-inch
Screen resolution:
300 ppi
Waterproofing: IPX8-rated to withstand immersion in two metres of water for up to an hour
Storage space: 8GB
Connectivity: Wifi-only
Backlight: Built-in light with 17 LEDs
Battery life: Up to 10 weeks based on 30 minutes of reading a day
Size:
17.4 x 12.5 x 0.81 cm
Weight: 205 g

Kindle Paperwhite review: Design and display

It has an uncomplicated design that isn’t too different to older versions of the device. The step up in size means this one is almost as big as the the 7-inch premium Kindle Oasis, so it’ll be great if you want to fit more text on the display and use larger font sizes.

However, that size will be noticeable if you’ve got used to the way the 6-inch one felt to handle. The previous version weighed 182g and this one increases that to 205g. Yes, it’s a small difference but given the overall difference in dimensions, we did find it more unwieldy to use one-handed.

When it comes to the screen itself, this one is also brighter, with 17 LEDs rather than five in its front light, making it 10% brighter than its predecessor, according to Amazon. We also loved how the adjustable backlight works (something the old model lacks), and we think it’s definitely a bit easier on the eyes when you switch it to a warmer setting for reading at night.

Kindle Paperwhite review: Battery life

We’ve only been testing the Kindle Paperwhite for two weeks so haven’t put its claims of 10 weeks of battery life fully to the test. It’s definitely going to be easier to charge this one via USB-C as you’re sure to already have a few cables and USB-C plugs, and the bigger battery should make for an improvement on the six weeks of life from the old version.

While we couldn’t tell if it’ll last for the full promised 10 weeks, we only saw the battery drop by a mere five or six percent during our time with the e-reader, during which we completed a software update and read the latter half of Matt Haig’s bestselling novel, The Midnight Library.

Photo credit: Amazon
Photo credit: Amazon

Kindle Paperwhite review: What’s unchanged?

While there are a fair few new features here, there are some things that are mostly unaltered when compared to its predecessor. This one has the same resolution as the 2018 variant, the same level of waterproofing as each other (an IPX8 rating – meaning they should withstand submersion up to 2 meters of water for an hour), and the same base 8GB storage.

Levelling up from the standard Kindle? If you want the sharper display and waterproofing but think the longer battery life, USB-C port and display tweaks don’t matter to you, the old version of the Paperwhite has now dropped in price, making it an absolute steal at £74.99.

Kindle Paperwhite: Verdict

Whether you’re looking for an upgrade on your old basic Kindle, need a device that’ll encourage you to read more books in 2022 or want to pick up a present for a bookworm, we think the new Paperwhite is the most well-rounded e-reader Amazon makes. The adjustable warm display, larger size and improved battery life make for an improved reading experience overall.

As mentioned above, though, there are areas where it’s similar to the old version. If you’re at all unsure about the cost, we’d recommend grabbing the discounted one.

What about the “Signature” edition?

To make things a little more confusing, Amazon also added a “Signature” edition of the Paperwhite to its lineup too. This one adds a sensor that automatically adjusts the backlight, much more storage (32GB - or space for roughly 15,000 books), and wireless charging that’ll allow you to pop the e-reader on any Qi-certified charging pad to top it up.

We’re not sure many people will use the wireless charging as the Kindle itself is bigger than most charging pads. However, the clever backlight tech and the huge storage (especially great if you listen to long audiobooks) might make it worth forking out the extra £50 for the £179.99 Paperwhite Signature.

Paperwhite for Kids

At the same time as it unveiled its new Paperwhite, Amazon launched a Kids edition too. On this, there’s also 8GB storage, the same 6.8inch display, and the big battery.

You can sign up to Kids+ (starting from £3.99 a month) to unlock unlimited access to thousands of kid-friendly books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games. There’s also a month-long free trial if you haven’t signed up before.

This subscription gives children a huge library of content, from the likes of Cbeebies, Disney, and Warner Brothers. You can download and read great titles like all the Harry Potter books, or watch episodes of Peppa Pig and play educational Star Wars-themed games on your phone or tablet, with parents able to set restrictions on reading-times, challenge their children with educational goals, and set reading targets.

There are other tools to help improve literacy skills as well, like Word Wise, which helps kids look up difficult words, or OpenDyslexic, which changes the font to be easier for dyslexic children to read.

Where to buy the Kindle Paperwhite

Both the all-new Kindle Paperwhite (2021) and the Kindle Paperwhite Kids edition are available to buy in the UK now for £129.99 and £139.99 respectively. If you’re signed up to Amazon Prime, you can get free next-day deliveries and access to exclusive offers on Amazon’s products in time for Black Friday.

Related: Best Kindles in 2021

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