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- The 11th-generation Amazon Kindle Paperwhite now has a larger 6.8-inch screen.
- The Kindle Paperwhite also comes with an adjustable warm light and is waterproof.
- While more expensive, the Paperwhite offers a better value than the cheaper basic Kindle.
The first of Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite e-readers was released in 2012, and since then it has received a few updates. For the latest version (2021) Amazon trickled down a few high-end features from the flagship Oasis model, but with a more reasonable starting price.
With a larger 6.8-inch screen, words and images look sharper than ever, thanks to the LED front light and adjustable brightness and warmth. Even with the slightly larger screen than the previous generation, it’s still compact and lightweight for on-the-go reading. The newest Paperwhite is only the second Kindle to offer waterproof and drop-protection attributes.
After testing several ereaders I now find myself reaching for the Kindle Paperwhite often, especially when I’m traveling. For the price and set of features, it is the best e-reader for both casual and voracious bookworms.
The 2021 Paperwhite’s larger 6.8-inch touchscreen is a nice improvement over the 2018 model’s 6-inch screen, and the 17 LED front lights and 300-ppi-resolution make it the crispest-looking e-reader screen I’ve read on. The adjustable brightness has 24 settings, but I found that keeping it on 13 (which is Amazon’s recommended setting) is perfect during the day and at night.
The Paperwhite is very responsive to page-turning, which uses an onscreen gesture instead of physical buttons. Some touchscreen e-readers have a lag time between tapping the screen and the page-turning, but this is not an issue with the Paperwhite. Even changing fonts and other settings are done quickly.
The device is thin (0.32 inches) and lightweight (7.23 ounces), and has the dimensions (6.9 x 4.9 inches) of a small paperback, with a textured backing and bezel around the screen to hold onto. It’s also now waterproof and more rugged, so you can take it poolside or on the beach. Otherwise, it’s a basic-looking device with few physical buttons.
To download books or access the internet, WiFi is your only option as there’s no cellular connectivity.
is available for connecting to wireless audio devices, like headphones and portable speakers. Unfortunately, there’s no headphone jack, but if reading is your primary pleasure, that shouldn’t matter.
The base Paperwhite comes with 8GB of storage, which should be plenty for most people. If you have a large library of books or other digital content, Amazon offers the Paperwhite Signature for $50 more, an upgraded version with 32GB of storage, wireless charging, no-ad lockscreen, and auto-adjusting front light
Easy to set up
Setup is still incredibly simple: Make sure it’s charged (via the included
cable), power it on, connect it to WiFi, and log into an Amazon account to start buying and downloading books. When you purchase a Kindle Paperwhite from Amazon, you also have the option to link it to your Amazon account in advance, so that it’s set up upon arrival. Either way, because ebooks you’ve previously purchased are stored in the cloud, you can re-download at any time. Also, services like OverDrive and Libby let you borrow ebooks from public libraries.
Amazon uses the same menus and navigation across all Kindle models, so Kindle owners will find it familiar. If this is your first Kindle, you’ll be buying or borrowing books, comics, and magazines in no time, since understanding the interface is intuitive.
The home screen is where you’ll find the Kindle store, while the library tab contains all of your books, which can be filtered by status (downloaded, unread, etc.), type (book, comic, magazine, etc.), and program (if they’re borrowed from your local library or Kindle Unlimited).
I tested the Paperwhite’s battery using Amazon’s recommended brightness setting of 13, which the company claims will last 10 weeks based on half-hour of reading each day. For this review, I had been using it consistently for one-to-two hours a day, for about a month on the same charge and it never dipped below 50%. I found it lasted longer than any of the other e-readers I tested with the same brightness settings.
If I don’t need to access the Kindle online store, I turn off the Kindle’s WiFi and Bluetooth to make the battery last longer. However, if you’re planning on using your Kindle to listen to Audible audiobooks, you’ll need to keep the Bluetooth on for use with wireless headphones.
What it’s like to read on the Kindle Paperwhite
Before I started testing e-readers, the one I used daily was the basic Kindle. After using the Kindle Paperwhite for a few weeks, I’m not sure I’ll go back.
I was drawn to page-turn buttons initially (like the ones on the Kindle Oasis or various Kobo models), but I don’t miss them with the Paperwhite. It’s also easy to hold, thanks in part to the slightly curved edge and rubbery back.
It’s also not very heavy which makes holding the e-reader one-handed comfortable, but only if you’re holding it in your right hand. You can’t change the page turn configuration, so the right side of the screen is always going to go one page forward. And, it’s just large enough that it’s hard to comfortably hold the Kindle in only your left hand and still turn the pages.
When you’re reading a book, you can adjust the font, text size, line spacing, and margins to your liking. You can also highlight and annotate quotations, which you can then share to your Goodreads account if you link it to your Kindle. The built-in dictionary is also super-handy when you want to look up the meaning of a word without the distraction of a smartphone.
In addition to brightness, the 2021 Paperwhite lets you adjust the display from white to warm. Amazon says this function cuts down on eye strain from blue light, but I found it more useful for reading at night. There’s also a night mode that inverts the background and text colors.
Overall, reading for hours on the Kindle Paperwhite has been a great experience.
Should you buy it?
Yes. Unless you want to spend over $100 more to get page turn buttons with the Kindle Oasis, the Kindle Paperwhite is one of the best ereaders you can buy. Although you can get a regular Kindle for less than $100, the more advanced features of the Paperwhite justify the extra cost.
It’s worth noting that the $139.99 price point is for the ad-supported model. Ads show on the lockscreen when not in use, and typically they’re for books available on Kindle Unlimited. They’re not intrusive since they only show up when the Kindle is locked, so they don’t affect the reading experience. If you’d prefer an ad-free lockscreen, you can pay a fee or purchase the Kindle Paperwhite ad-free for $159.99.
In addition to buying books a la carte, Amazon Prime subscribers also get access to a limited amount of free books with Prime Reading, which could save you money. For an additional $9.99 a month you can access over a million titles with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.
What are the alternatives?
As mentioned earlier, Amazon recently released a Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition, which updates the Paperwhite even more with 32GB of memory, wireless charging, and automatically adjusting brightness, which was previously a feature only available with the Kindle Oasis. If you need more storage, but still want a touchscreen e-reader, the Paperwhite Signature is the way to go.
The Kindle Oasis with its 7-inch screen is also a terrific ereader, but it is a large price jump from the Paperwhite, which has many of the advanced features of the Oasis.
If you want an alternative to Amazon, Rakuten Kobo is the main ereader competitor. The Clara HD ($119.99) is the closest in design to the Kindle Paperwhite, but it has a smaller screen and is not waterproof. For a similarly sized screen, the Kobo Libra 2 ($179.99) is one we recommend, and it does have page turn buttons.
The Kindle Paperwhite is a great ereader that we highly recommend. It’s lightweight, easy to hold, and has a big, bright screen that makes reading enjoyable. Plus, you’ll have access to the Kindle store, which has a huge selection of books and frequent ebook sales.