The Kindle is synonymous with e-readers.  When you think of digital books the mind automatically goes to the Kindle.  Every year or two Amazon refresh the Kindle and this year they have refreshed the Kindle Paperwhite with not just the standard edition but also a new Signature edition.

We were sent the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition to check out and it was great timing considering we have just finished reviewing the Kobo Libra 2.  After using the new Kindle for a week or so now we can say that neither is better overall with each having their positives and negatives and also what is right for one person may not be right for someone else.

Read on to find out what we thought about the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition (2021).

More than a new display

The display is a 6.8-inch display with a relatively sharp 300ppi E Ink Carta 1200 screen, the same that is in the Kobo Libra 2 we reviewed last week.  The bump in resolution from the entry-level Kindle to this allows for a much more comfortable reading experience, especially when reading at night in a low light environment.  

The display itself is flat to the front of the device and along with the glare-free display allows for a comfortable and actual premium-feeling reading experience.  Mind you, if the Kindle Paperwhite can’t get this right then it is just not doing its job — after all what else does it have to do.  

The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition varies from the plain old Kindle Paperwhite in the front light adjusting to the ambient light in the room, allowing for a quick increase or decrease in the display brightness and thus a nice read.  It’s not that difficult to adjust the brightness manually yourself but it’s still nice to have the device do it for you automatically.  

The Signature Edition also has Qi wireless charging as opposed to only USB-C charging and while it works, it is problematic trying to get it to charge on a Qi charging stand.  To be honest, with USB-C charging and a battery life of weeks (“up to 10 weeks”) you could easily just plug it in for an hour or two here and there and never have to worry about the slow Qi charging.

The final difference between the two Paperwhite 2021 models is the 32GB of storage you will find on the Signature Edition compared to just the 8GB on the regular edition.  Books don’t take up much room, but audiobooks might — if you listen to audiobooks (though I dare say using your phone would be a much better solution with much more storage anyway) then maybe the 8GB model is not for you.

At just 208 grams the Signature Edition it is super light, making it a comfortable read — mostly.  The issue I had with reading it was the cover.  You can buy an official book cover for it which works well if you are holding it in your hand like a normal book but if you are lying down with the book resting on the bed or sitting eating your lunch with the book on the table then you will need to prop the book up on something.  The Kobo SleepCover doubles as a stand allowing you to view it landscape or portrait at an angle without having to support it yourself.  

Both Kindle Paperwhites are IPx8 rated meaning it’s waterproof enough for you to read in the bath (or at the beach) without having to worry about any water damaging it.  

A smoother experience

The Kindle Paperwhite features a new Kindle experience with a new interface with some new features and what Amazon are calling a more intuitive experience.  One thing for sure: the UX is smooth and polished.  The interface and software experience feels a lot more polished and mature than that on the Kobo Libra 2.  The Kindle has been around a long time and the software has evolved nicely over that time.  The navigating through the user interface is a lot smoother and feels faster and more touch sensitive than the Kobo — I put this down to the more mature software given they have the same display.  

You can look up words within the middle of a book to check their meaning with a dictionary, translate text to a different language and explore Wikipedia while reading with a simple tap on a word.  Kobo has these same options though so there’s nothing new to the e-reader world here.

A big advantage of the Kindle Paperwhite is the massive library that you have access to (for a fee of course) in the form of the Amazon store.  You can use your standard Prime account to access a small amount of books through Prime Reading, you can buy specific books you want to read from the Amazon store, or you can access books through a Kindle Unlimited account — all directly through the Kindle itself. 

I’m not a huge fan of the Kindle Unlimited experience though as I like certain writers and rarely venture too far off that path — I probably should but I just don’t.  If you like to try out new authors, then you could do worse than signing up to a Kindle Unlimited account — at $13.00 per month you should make sure you read enough to make use of that but if you can only stretch to a book a month you may be better off just buying whatever book you want to read at the time.  This is similar to my experience with Kobo Plus, Kobo’s new subscription model.  

Where the Kindle falls behind the Kobo is in its support for other formats.  It will support MOBI, PDF files (and a few others) but to get them onto the book you need to email them to your Kindle email address — which you will find in the settings and can change to something easier to remember on your Amazon account.  You can attach up to 25 books to a single email and they will appear in your Kindle’s library automatically.  I tested it out for MOBI, PDF and also Amazon’s AZW3 files.  It worked some of the time for MOBI files, sometimes for the AZW3 files but always for the pdf files.  It may have been the converting of files into the correct format that made it not work sometimes but that is kind of the issue — it should not be that difficult and should not need conversion, just support all formats damnit.  

For your local library’s OverDrive support on a Kindle is not as simple.  There are some instructions in OverDrive but to be honest it is a very large roundabout way to do it compared to the simple connection required with Kobo’s e-readers.

Who should buy it?

If you already have a lot of money and time invested in the Amazon bookstore, or already have a Kindle Unlimited account and don’t feel like changing then this is for you.  It is a definite upgrade over several years ago with a better display and smoother interface. 

The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition is a bit more of a hard sell.  If you don’t need 32GB, and most people won’t when it comes to plain old books, I would say to look at the cheaper Kindle Paperwhite.  The Qi charging is a bit of a gimmick in a device this big and the automated ambient light sensor is not a huge issue — it will save you a few taps here and there but that’s about it.

If you aren’t invested in Amazon already and would prefer to steer clear of them (some people do), then maybe have a look at the Kobo Libra 2 as well.  Although the interface is not as mature, nor as smooth it will support a lot more formats and still offers access to a large library of books you can buy (or borrow if you sign up to Kobo Plus).  The Kobo Libra 2 though is more expensive than the Kindle Paperwhite, normally priced at $239 — and that $40 difference can set you up with a few books.  

The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition will set you back $50 more at $289 which is just $9 more than the Kobo Libra 2.  I’m not sure on the value of the few extra features over the standard Kindle PaperWhite at $50 difference and especially at the moment.  Amazon has the 8GB Kindle Paperwhite 2021 on sale during the Black Friday sales for just $169 making it exceptional value and something I can highly recommend.  If you need a new Kindle it’s difficult to go past at that price.