Top positive review
A stellar improvement over the Paperwhite 2018.
Reviewed in the United States on October 27, 2021
+ Best screen of any Paperwhite or Kindle released to date
+ Best response time of any Paperwhite or Kindle
+ UI improvements
+ Weight and feel are exceptional
- Screen has uneven area with color temp on high brightness
- Previous Kindles still do things in much the same way
Coming from the 7th gen Kindle, this is a gigantic improvement on all fronts. The Paperwhite 2021 also handily beats the pulp out of the Paperwhite 2018 version due to its new LED array, and for my money it's a better choice than the Oasis 3 as well due to ergonomics. Add in some extra screen real estate compared to previous Paperwhites, a much nicer bezel, a few more options for the UI, and what we have is an extremely polished device for reading digital books. It's never going to make me switch totally from physical, but I will definitely be using this to read a lot more than my previous Kindle.
The screen here is mostly beautiful, and it will be the main factor attracting those coming from the previous 2018 model. If things were cheaper, this would be an essential upgrade for most people. I would not do without it if given the choice. Feel free to browse all the negative reviews from 2018. They were all right. But now it seems Amazon has finally finished their beta device. The screen itself is more matte than shiny, easy to wipe off, clear but not distracting, and fully able to replicate a physical book with its nearly perfect dimensions. The Oasis 3 for instance irritates me with its dimensions. The Paperwhite 2018 has an awkward bezel as well. This is exactly what I wanted out of an E-Reader.
The Paperwhite 2021 is lit by 17 LEDs compared to 5 LEDs in the 2018 model, which leads to vastly superior balance. There are 24 gradations for both brightness and warmth, from off to super warm, and they make a tangible and visible difference in proper aesthetics related to actual physical books. The color options are great, but after some use there still seems to be a portion near the bottom half of the screen on mine that is a slightly greener hue. Very hard to pick up for some people, but it's worth noting. I usually only use around 10 brightness to get proper coloring, and it's not as noticeable in lit rooms with this setting. The very slight color temp shift is mostly salient in the dark with a slightly higher brightness setting, so it's definitely something I would notice more at night. Not a huge deal, just worth mentioning.
Make no mistake, though, the 2018 Paperwhite had an awful screen, with a horrendous LED array, and this one is a massive upgrade. This 2021 version still has a fully stable lighting array that doesn't evoke a poor production run or haste in design, yet it's not perfect either. Blacks could definitely be deeper with an OLED screen or something of the sort. Dark Mode still looks good, but on higher brightness it looks a little too grey. But overall, I am satisfied at the advances that have been made.
6.8 inches of screen along with 300 PPI is definitely enough to satisfy most demands for resolution, and the extra space may be convincing for one to switch from physical books. The bezel itself also looks properly designed finally. That alone is also another huge deal. The sides are thin, the screen is the main attraction, and there is no awkwardness in reading versus a real book. All additions that make this is a positive buy over the other Kindles.
There is an extremely tiny trail of adhesive in one corner and edge at the very bottom right near the backing material and black area of the bezel. Pretty minor all told. Most won't even notice things like this, and most Kindles will probably have such a minor flaw. Compared to the 2018 version, this thing seems like an actual professional product.
The UI responsiveness was another issue in previous models, and I am happy to report this one is very fast. Massively faster than my 7th gen, and a decent improvement over the older model. The Paperwhite 2018 uses a Freescale/NXP i.MX6 SoloLite 1 GHz processor. Not terrible, but also not quite enough to match the newer NXP i.MX7D 1 GHz chip used in the Oasis 3 and this model. Again, a more refined version at every level compared to the older Paperwhite.
For memory and storage, I can't see many people needing more than 8GB. I did fine on my last Kindle with much less. Unless you plan on starting a small library, 8GB of memory is a perfect fit for anyone's lifetime.
As for the user interface, major changes have resulted in a much better flow in overall design for most Kindles from 2015 onward. The swipe down mechanic is leagues better than anything they've had before. The library UI that you tap in the upper left is again fast and finally consistent. These UI details are easy to spot in the included pictures with various lighting values. But they are available to most users outside of this product.
Response and animation are a cut above their predecessors, and that should not be understated. I finally feel the Kindle is quick enough for my needs with digital reading. My 7th gen was abysmal. The 2018 version was slightly problematic. The newer page turn animation, however, was not to my liking, and I ended up sticking with the normal style. As a plus, the web browser is snappy and usable for those that need to quickly look something up on a search engine. Exiting in and out of menus is a breeze, and opening or downloading books was efficient. I still wish there was a download all option, so I will be downloading from the website instead.
And speaking of default, the designers have made sure that this Kindle is ready to use without even touching a setting. They clearly invested a lot in understanding how people want their Kindle to look. I found almost all default options to be optimal. I added one step to boldness in fonts, and have toyed with the variable warmth quite a bit. Bookerly is a great font for reading, but there are obviously other options if you prefer. These things are basically as good as they need to be on this digital reader. More improvements with font selection could be possible, but are entirely superfluous to the current experience.
Updating the firmware was painless for me past having to click no thanks for all the subscriptions Amazon wants to get you hooked on. No thanks. No issues with connections or anything of the sort. Charging works perfectly via USB-C, a far better connector than the micro version. Adding and subtracting to the library was fast and convenient.
Aesthetics and materials are premium for the most part. Other than the aforementioned pinprick trail of adhesive, there were no outright imperfections that I can see. I don't really like the Oasis 3, but it's definitely similar to that version, with a better form factor.
The leather case included with this bundle is what it is: completely overpriced but nearly mandatory for the perfect feel and weight. I can't stand the feel of the device without the included case. I highly recommend the bundle. The aesthetics look nice, and overall it's mostly the same as my last one. A bit easier to get in and out compared to 7th gen.
At the heart of it all, this is still just another updated version of the Paperwhite. But it could be mandatory because it polishes the lighting and page turning to a degree that makes the old devices feel awkward. I don't see myself getting another one for a decade. And that leaves two questions remaining: How is the battery life, and is this worth the upgrade if you own the 2018 version...
Battery life seems slightly improved. I wouldn't call it all that great on full brightness, but readers will want to check in sporadically if they are concerned, as I will be delving further into the device to sort out its issues. Battery life is critical, and I will be doing a full report on low, medium, and high brightness settings to test the Kindle over time. Right now, I can see that it drains decently fast on max brightness, but it also has an array of 17 LEDs lighting it. On lower brightness, it appears to be very conservative with battery life, much the same as last time. On the lowest brightness it is off, for those that prefer the older Kindle experience and extended usage without a charge. This produces a charge that lasts a long time.
For me I see no reason to keep Wi-Fi on, and the complaints about that particular setting, coming from 2018, seem slightly obtuse. Shut it off when your library is downloaded. Problem solved. With full brightness, you aren't going to get a ton of life, but I also recommend against full brightness as it doesn't really resemble paper at that point. On medium settings, which I prefer, battery life seems completely acceptable and better than before.
If you are currently using a device below the Paperwhite 2018, then definitely you could think about an upgrade if you are in the market for a new E-Reader. I cannot overstate how much better this is than my 7th gen. I rarely even used that model, and I will definitely be clocking in some time with this one due to the screen and response time. It's a huge motivating factor to actually take out my Kindle now. Previous versions do not match up, and this is the first time I can say I am impressed by a Kindle.
Coming from 2018, I would say this is a fairly huge upgrade, and most will want to eventually make the change. The screen is too versatile to pass up, and the faster response time basically nails the previous version in its coffin. I don't think an immediate upgrade is necessary, but most will want this as their baseline going forward. The 2018 version has too many issues, and this fixes most of them.
Economically, this might not be an option for many. To somewhat help out, you definitely will want to get this in the bundle with the leather case, which I included a picture of at the bottom. It's a nice case, way too expensive by itself, and kind of mandatory in my experience. The bundle also includes a trade-in option. Definitely DO NOT buy the case separately. No need to give Amazon any more of your money than necessary.
Outside of that you can be sure I will remain critical of this device. If anything goes wrong, becomes damaged or defective, I will immediately add that info to my review. No shilling is allowed here. Freezes have gone completely away as of the recent firmware update in 220.127.116.11.
For those on the fence, it is best to wait a few months to see how things turn out. For now, I enjoy the device and have only a few issues. Going forward I hope to actually use a Kindle consistently for the first time. If I rated the Paperwhite 2018 one star, then this one is around four stars. A worthy upgrade for anybody in the market. Will it replace my physical collection? Never. Paper lives on forever.
"A beggar's book outworths a noble's blood."