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Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2021) review: The e-reader to beat

Updated Dec 27th, 2022 10:37AM EST
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2021
Christian de Looper for BGR

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The Kindle

is synonymous with e-books and e-readers, but Amazon hasn’t really updated the Paperwhite, its best-selling Kindle, in almost three years. Finally, though, that time has come. The 2021 Kindle Paperwhite adds a laundry list of actually helpful features while improving on the features that users already know and love.

It’s the small things that count. For example, the Paperwhite finally has a USB-C port, so you can charge it with all your other USB-C cables. And, it has a better display.

But the 2021 Kindle Paperwhite still isn’t perfect. Here’s why.

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2021 Kindle Paperwhite models

In 2021, Amazon is offering a few different Paperwhite models. The cheapest is the standard model with ads, which displays ads on the lock screen. The middle option is the same but removes ads. And the most expensive is the “Signature Edition,” which adds wireless charging, an automatically adjusting backlight, and has 32GB of storage. We’re reviewing the Signature Edition, however, the standard models will be very nearly the same in day-to-day use.

2021 Kindle Paperwhite design

The new Kindle Paperwhite looks like…a Kindle. But a little sleeker, with a larger display. Like previous iterations, the device is largely built from black plastic, and has relatively large bezels around the e-ink display, and the Kindle logo at the bottom. But the screen-to-body ratio is larger, making it look ever-so-slightly more modern.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2021 Front
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2021 Front Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Speaking of more modern, the device finally has a USB-C port on the bottom, in place of the MicroUSB port found on previous models. This is great news for anyone not living in 2017. It’s 2021, and it’s pretty frustrating that it has taken this long to get USB-C, but at least it’s here now. Next to the port, you’ll get an on/off button. It’s a slightly awkward placement for the button, but you’ll get used to it.

The plastic on the Paperwhite very easily picks up fingerprints, and as a result, it doesn’t take long for the device to look dirty. It doesn’t really impact using the e-reader, but still something to note.

Thankfully, while the Paperwhite is slightly larger than previous-generation models, it’s still very lightweight. It weighs in at 7.2 ounces, which is easy to hold during even longer reading sessions.

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2021 Kindle Paperwhite display

While the updated design is nice, perhaps even more important is the updated display. The 2021 Kindle Paperwhite offers a 6.8-inch e-ink display with a 300 pixel-per-inch resolution, and a backlight that Amazon says is 10% brighter than the previous generation.

Generally, the display looks great. With the backlight off, text appears crisp, and there’s enough room on the display to show plenty of text for most users. The screen is about as large as a standard paperback, and I never really felt like I wanted more text on the screen. I did, however, adjust the font size, as the default seemed a little large to my eyes, and I have good enough vision to be able to see smaller text anyway.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2021 Logo
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2021 Logo Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

In the dark, of course, the reading experience is a little different, and the backlight can make it feel more like you’re looking at a tablet display than an e-ink display. But the backlight in general looks pretty good. It’s a 17 LED backlight, which appears relatively uniform. You can tweak the color of the display to be warmer or cooler, and you can set it to work on a schedule, allowing you to see warmer colors at night, which is a bit more gentle on the eyes.

The display on the Kindle Paperwhite is plenty crisp and gets bright enough for casual reading in the dark.

2021 Kindle Paperwhite performance

It’s a little weird to talk about an e-reader in terms of how it performs, but this is one area where the Paperwhite could improve. For most casual use, the Paperwhite is plenty fast. After all, it doesn’t really need to do much except turn the page, download new books, and so on. But I did find that at times it choked on seemingly easy tasks. For example, when trying to switch to a new Wi-Fi network, the device froze up completely until I rebooted it. And, it can take a second or two to respond when diving through the settings.

You’ll get used to waiting for the device to respond, and still, it’s fast enough where it counts. But the bottlenecks are a little annoying.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2021 Port
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2021 Port Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Network performance is decent. The device was able to download books in a matter of less than 10 seconds or so, and extra information, like covers, appeared pretty quickly. For most people, this means that 8GB will be more than enough — as you don’t have to wait long to download new books when you’re ready, making storage management easier.

The battery life on the 2021 Kindle Paperwhite is excellent. We were unable to truly put it to the test during the review period considering the fact that it should last at least a few months for most users. And, when it starts running out, you can quickly charge it up through the USB-C port, or through wireless charging, if you have the Signature Edition.

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2021 Kindle Paperwhite software

Amazon also updated the software of the Paperwhite, in an effort to make it easier to navigate. Ultimately, the software will vary a little depending on whether or not you buy the no-ads Kindle, or the one with ads. But either way, there are some meaningful changes that can come in handy.

For example, on the home screen, you can easily jump right back into the book that you were reading, minimizing the amount of time you have to spend navigating through the software to get to your book. Smaller changes also make a difference. You can now show the cover of the book you’re reading on the lock screen, for example.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2021 Software
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2021 Software Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

All the features you know and love are still here. For example, X-Ray can give you information about a character and their backstory.

Of course, all of this hinges on using the Paperwhite with your Kindle library. It’s possible to get EPUB or PDF books on your device, but it’s a hassle, and doesn’t always work properly.


BGR Gold Award 2021

The 2021 Kindle Paperwhite is a solid upgrade from the 2018 model, and an excellent option for those who want an e-reader in 2021. It has a larger display, a better design, and finally, a USB-C port — and ultimately, it’s the way to go for most people that want a solid e-reader.

The competition

The Kindle Paperwhite doesn’t have a whole lot of competition, especially for those who want to be able to buy books from the Kindle store. If you’re so inclined, you can upgrade to the Paperwhite Signature Edition, which adds wireless charging and an automatically adjusting display. Most, however, will be perfectly happy with the standard, no-ad model, which comes at $160.

If you don’t need to stick to the Kindle store, then you could consider something from Kobo or Onyx. Most, however, should stick with the tried and true Kindle line.

Should I buy the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2021)?

Yes. The 2021 Kindle Paperwhite is the best e-reader for most people.

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Christian de Looper Senior Reviews Editor

Christian de Looper is based in sunny Santa Cruz, California. He has been expertly reviewing tech products for more than 8 years, and brings experience in deep technical analysis of consumer electronics devices to BGR's reviews channel.