Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition full review

Amazon began making Kindle eReaders all the way back in 2007, but the upgrades that arrived in 2021 were well overdue. The Paperwhite range was updated for the first time in more than three years, bringing a larger display and USB-C to the Kindle for the first time.

You also get a bigger display with adjustable warm light and improved battery life. However, the focus of this review is the brand-new Signature Edition, which adds three extra features to bridge the gap between the Paperwhite and high-end Oasis lines.

But does it do enough to justify the extra cost and become the best eReader you can buy? Read on to find out.

Design & Display

  • New 6.8in display with adjustable warm light
  • Auto brightness exclusive to Signature, but ineffective
  • USB-C, but no other ports

The design of the Signature Edition will be familiar if you’ve used any recent Kindle Paperwhite, with one notable exception. Amazon has increased the screen from 6in to 6.8in compared to the 2018 model, although it’s the same size as you’ll find on the regular 2021 version.

Despite the extra screen real estate, it stays at a solid and now essentially standard 300ppi. As with all Kindles, it’s an e-ink screen, so can only display content in black and white.

This makes it best suited for text-based content – there's no real benefit to reading colourful comics or books which rely heavily on photography. That’s what the Kindle app on your smartphone or tablet is for, with content able to sync between them.

Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review

The choice of e-ink makes it much easier on your eyes for long reading sessions, emitting far less blue light than a colour display. That makes it a great option for reading before bed, especially with the new adjustable warm light.

Amazon debuted this feature on the Kindle Oasis in 2019, but it’s available on both new Paperwhites. Coming from a Kindle without a warm light, I was initially sceptical of how useful it might be. But after a few nights of reading before bed, I’d be reluctant to do without it.

Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review

In theory, the big advantage you’re getting on the Signature Edition is brightness that automatically adjusts according to your environment. However, I found it took a long time to actually recognise I was in a darker or brighter location and make any changes. I often ended up just adjusting this manually, which rather defeats the point.

Amazon has managed to increase the display size without big changes to the total footprint of the device. At 174 x 125 x 8.1mm, it’s fractionally larger than the 2018 Paperwhite (167 x 116 x 8.18mm), but it doesn’t fundamentally change the way you use the device.

This has been achieved thanks to a significant slimming of the top and side bezels – going any further would make it difficult to easily hold. At 207g, it’s a bit heavier than the 2018 model (182g Wi-Fi, 191g 4G), but I still found it comfortable to use one-handed.

The other big design change has been years in the making. Both new Kindle Paperwhites now use USB-C for charging and data transfer after persisting with Micro-USB for many years. Better late than never!

Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review

Elsewhere, the design of the Signature Edition is much the same as previous Kindles. A plastic exterior makes it easy to grip and use case-free. There’s no alternative to Black here, but Amazon’s official case lineup allows you to add a splash of colour.

A Kindle logo is still emblazoned on the chin, but it didn’t distract me while reading. The power button is also still awkwardly positioned on the bottom of the device - there's no reason Amazon couldn't move it to the side or top instead.

Both new Kindle Paperwhites also retain IPX8 water resistance, meaning they'll still work after being immersed in up to 1m of water for up to 30 minutes.

Specs & Performance

  • New processor and RAM upgrade
  • Much-improved performance
  • 32GB storage big advantage for Signature Edition

Performance is clearly an area Amazon has prioritised on the new Kindle Paperwhites. The company says both the regular model and Signature Edition supposedly have a new and more powerful processor.

From some online research, this appears to be the 1GHz NXP I.MX7D, which now combines with 1GB of RAM – that's the first upgrade we’ve seen here since 2014.It yields a huge jump in performance compared to the 2012 Paperwhite I usually use, but you’ll also notice an upgrade over the 2018 model.

You can now freely move between the home screen, your library, quick settings and the Kindle Store without worrying about frequent stuttering and lag. Things still aren’t perfect – the Signature Edition froze on me a couple of times – but I didn’t ever feel like it was underpowered.

Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review

Internal storage is one of the main reasons to buy this premium model over the regular 2021 Paperwhite. The Signature Edition increases capacity from 8GB to 32GB, but this is probably only necessary if you plan on downloading audiobooks from Audible.

There’s still space for thousands of regular books with 8GB of storage. Just make sure you choose the right model, though – there's no option to expand storage via microSD.

Amazon has ditched 4G support on the new Kindle Paperwhites, presumably due to lack of demand. You’ll have to be content with WiFi-only models, but that’s unlikely to be an issue for most people.

Without any built-in speakers or a 3.5mm jack, you’ll need to connect wireless headphones or a speaker to enjoy Audible. This works well via Bluetooth – provided your audio device is in pairing mode the first time you connect.

Software

  • New Kindle software out of the box
  • Changes prioritise easy navigation

The Paperwhite Signature Edition runs Amazon’s new Kindle software out of the box. It was released in August, although most Kindles since 2015 have now been updated.

It brings significant changes to the user experience, primarily aimed at making navigation easier. The main screen is now split into ‘Home’ and ‘Library’, although the former seems to be an opportunity for Amazon to advertise books you haven’t downloaded yet. One-tap access to the book you last opened and reading lists is useful, though.

Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review

The smartphone-style quick settings menu has also changed. It's now available by swiping down from the top of the screen, rather than via a dedicated button. However, I did notice a small bug here.

The name I'd given to the Kindle wasn't fully displayed - I could only see 'Anyron's Kind', with the bottom half of each letter cut off. I assume this will be fixed in the next software update.

Elsewhere, there are also some new-look icons available within each book, as well as the option to display the cover of your current book on the lock screen.

Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review

The Kindle Store has a new design, making it look similar to the home screen. You can quickly toggle between Kindle and Audible books here, something I wish was available within the main library page. Currently, you have to filter by Audible each time, which feels clunky.

In the store, I also noticed that the star ratings for each book were tiny, making them extremely difficult to read. Another element that I hope will be fixed with a software update.

The Kindle can be set up and used without ever connecting to a computer these days, but you are heavily reliant on content from the Kindle Store. Loading Mobi files onto your device via software such as Calibre feels clunky by comparison.

Overall, the new software makes using a Kindle feel more intuitive and easier to navigate than before. However, I don’t agree with all the changes Amazon has made here.

Battery Life

  • Excellent battery life
  • Decent USB-C charging
  • Qi wireless charging support too

Kindles always deliver great battery life, but Amazon has turned things up a notch here. Both the regular Paperwhite and Signature Edition can now supposedly get up to 10 weeks from a single charge, up from 8 on the 2018 model.

However, that’s based on 30 minutes of reading per day, with Wi-Fi off and brightness set to 14 – that’s right in the middle.

I tried to push the Signature Edition a bit further in testing, keeping Wi-Fi on and bumping up the brightness slightly. With around 20 minutes of reading each night and plenty of other testing, battery only dropped by around 35% in four weeks.

That suggests Amazon’s estimate isn’t far off the mark, although keeping Bluetooth on will likely deplete the battery much faster.

I’m glad Amazon has finally embraced USB-C for charging, although only the cable is included in the box as per usual. Still, there’s no fast charging of any description, with a full charge taking around 2.5 hours.

The other big upgrade on the Signature Edition is the inclusion of wireless charging. It’s the first time we’ve seen the feature on a Kindle, and it’s compatible with all pads which support the Qi standard.

Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review

However, there are two caveats to be aware of here. Speeds are much slower than you’ll get via USB-C and you’ll need a pad that’s big enough to accommodate the Kindle – regular smartphone wireless chargers may not be big enough. It’s still nice to have the option, but you probably won’t use it very often.

Price

The Signature Edition is the most expensive Kindle Paperwhite to date - it usually costs £179.99/US$189.99, but discounts are often available.

Your main decision will probably be between this and the regular 2021 Paperwhite, which costs £129.99/US$139.99 or £139.99/US$159.99 if you want to remove adverts from the lock screen. The Signature Edition is ad-free by default.

As you’d expect, the Kindle dominates our best eReader chart, with the standard Kindle (2019) and Kindle Oasis (2019) also worth considering. If you’re looking for alternatives to Amazon, the Kobo Libra H20 and Kobo Forma are good options.

If you’re in the market for a dedicated reading device that’ll last you many years, dropping almost £200/US$200 on the Signature Edition feels like a worthwhile investment. Just make sure everything you’re looking for isn’t also available on the cheaper regular model.

Verdict

The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition is the best eReader you can buy, upgrading the reading experience in several key areas.

A larger 6.8in display includes an adjustable warm light for comfortable nighttime reading, while a new processor and extra RAM deliver much-improved performance.

A full charge will now last up to 10 weeks, while USB-C charging is finally here. The new software experience isn’t perfect, but does make navigation easier.

However, all these features are also available on the latest regular Kindle Paperwhite. Unless you value an extra 24GB of storage or Qi wireless charging, the cheaper model provides everything you’re looking for.

An underwhelming auto-brightness feature, the only other difference, definitely isn’t a reason to upgrade.

Specs

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition: Specs

  • 6.8in e-ink display with 300ppi
  • 17 LED backlight with adjustable colour warmth and auto brightness
  • 32GB storage
  • Dual-band Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • USB-C
  • Qi wireless charging
  • 174 x 125 x 8.1mm
  • 207g

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