Back in September 2021, Amazon launched its new Kindle Paperwhite (11th Gen) and a Paperwhite Signature Edition with additional features. Previously updated back in 2018, the Kindle Paperwhite (10th Gen) received an IPX8 rating and optional LTE capabilities. The new Kindle Paperwhite (11th Gen) maintains the IPX8 rating and has a bigger display with an adjustable warm frontlight, a USB Type-C port, and a slightly bigger battery than the previous model, but only Wi-Fi connectivity. The Signature Edition, which is the one we'll be reviewing today, builds on the standard Kindle Paperwhite and adds more storage along with other handy features.
I have been using the Signature Edition of the Kindle Paperwhite (2021) for a few weeks, and it's easy to conclude that it offers good value for money at Rs. 17,999 compared to the Kindle Oasis (2019), which is priced higher at Rs. 21,999 for its slightly larger display, more buttons and premium build quality. Despite the Signature Edition's relatively reasonable price, I still find that it will only appeal to a select set of buyers. Here's why.
The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition looks identical to the standard Kindle Paperwhite. It has a plastic chassis with a rubberised texture on the back for grip. A small design change that easily differentiates the 2021 models from previous ones is that there's just one big, curved arrow (or smile) now instead of the Amazon logo on the back panel. The slightly bigger 1,700mAh battery adds to the new Kindle's weight of 204g which is still very light.
The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2015 (left) and Kindle Paperwhite 2021 Signature Edition (right) side by side
The biggest design change to the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition is on the front. The bezels on the sides and above the display have been reduced drastically when compared to the previous model. The space below the screen is still quite broad, but the overall reduced bezel size together with the larger display (that sits flush with the front face), gives the new Paperwhite a sleeker profile and a modern look. There's a slightly raised border running along the edges which should provide some protection for the screen when the device is placed face-down.
The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition has a Type-C charging port at the bottom, next to the power button. The IPX8 rating should provide protection “against accidental immersion in up to two metres of fresh water for up to 60 minutes, and up to 0.25 metres of seawater for up to three minutes,” as per Amazon. In short, it should survive a few splashes of water or a light drizzle, but it's best if you don't try using it underwater.
The 6.8-inch display is quite big and the slimmer borders around the top and sides make it more prominent compared to any previous-generation Paperwhite. It maintains the 300ppi pixel density of older models and still has a matte glass frame around it. This glass is quite prone to smudges, and fingerprints are noticeable here. The display is quite sharp and the legibility of text is excellent in all types of reading conditions. Whether you are out in a park on a bright sunny day or indoors, the display appears like paper and makes for a strain-free reading experience.
A new feature is the auto-adjustable warm frontlight. You can change the colour temperature of the display, and there are 24 levels between white and yellow, making reading a lot more comfortable at night. Colour temperature selection is also available on the standard Kindle Paperwhite (2021), but only the Signature Edition can automatically adapt to surrounding lighting conditions. It's a useful feature and it worked well, both indoors and outdoors. The frontlight even switches off entirely when not needed. If you hate adjusting it manually or are in the habit of moving around while reading, this feature alone will make for a worthy upgrade from any previous-generation Kindle you own. Do note that keeping it switched on will have an impact on battery life.
The narrow bezels on either side didn't end up being very good for ergonomics. This is because I often touched the screen and unintentionally turned pages, as there's very little space to place your thumb when holding the device, but this could be different for other users depending on habits.
A firmware update last September brought a couple of new software features to recently launched Kindles (7th through 10th generation Paperwhites included). The interface also received an overhaul. There's now a swipe-down menu (much like the notifications tray on Android phones), which can be accessed from anywhere by tapping or swiping downwards from the top of the display. It offers quick access to toggles for Airplane mode and WhisperSync, and the Settings page.
The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition also has a Dark Mode button in the same drop-down menu. This basically inverts colours, giving you white text on a dark background. I found it quite useful when reading at night as it cuts down on glare coming from the frontlight. I wish that the Dark Mode on the Kindle also worked in sync with the adjustable light feature, and could be activated automatically after sunset. The software experience in general feels as responsive and smooth as on previous models (maybe even a bit faster), but it's still an e-ink display and won't feel as fluid as today's smartphones.
Battery life in general was quite good. Your experience will depend a lot on your usage, especially the brightness of the frontlight and how often your device is connected to Wi-Fi. With my casual usage (about an hour every day), I did not need to charge it during the review period, and was left with roughly 60 percent after two weeks. Serious readers who use this device for a couple of hours per day can expect to go about two weeks between charges, which is still excellent.
Wireless charging is supported, and worked as expected with a standard Qi wireless charger for smartphones. Placing the unit on a wireless charging dock throws up a small pop-up with an animation showing that the device is being charged. The only catch is that the Kindle (being a lot broader than most smartphones) must be placed with its exact centre making contact with your wireless charger, for this to work.
The new Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition has 32 GB of storage out of which 27.3GB is usable. For most users, the 8GB capacity of the standard Kindle Paperwhite (2021) will be sufficient, but if you are a voracious reader and want to have a tonne of books accessible all the time, the 32GB of the Signature Edition might be of use.
Priced at Rs. 17,999, the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition is worth the price considering its 32GB storage and all the extra features it offers over the standard version. The auto-adjusting frontlight and wireless charging are quite useful once you get into the habit of using them, but they might only appeal to a niche crowd. More useful updates such as the larger display with thinner bezels and USB Type-C port are also available on the standard Kindle Paperwhite (2021), which retails for Rs. 4,000 less. Meanwhile, the Kindle Oasis (2019) remains the most premium Kindle experience, with more colour options, a premium ergonomic design, dedicated buttons for turning pages, and optional free 4G connectivity.