Hardware Reviews

Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review: is it worth the extra money?

Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition
Easy reading: what does the Signature Edition offer?

Alongside the most recent Kindle Paperwhite, Amazon released a new model: the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition. What does the Signature Edition offer that the regular Paperwhite doesn’t? Is it worth the extra cost? Find out here in our Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review.

Kindle Paperwhite 11th Generation: What’s new or updated?

Before we get to the Signature Edition, let’s see what’s new in this generation of the Paperwhite.

The latest 11th Generation of Kindle is also known as the Paperwhite 5 or Paperwhite 2021 (yes, yes, it’s confusing) and is the first update to this device for three years. It was a necessary refresh, as the standard Kindle had advanced to a point where there was little difference between that and the Paperwhite.

So what’s changed from the previous Paperwhite?

  • The 6in 1,072 × 1,448 pixel screen has been increased to a 6.8in 1,236 x 1,648 display
  • The screen is 10% brighter at its maximum setting
  • You can manually adjust the shade of the display from a white light to a warm amber, or schedule when the light changes
  • The memory has doubled from 512MB to 1GB
  • Battery capacity has increased from 1,500mAh to 1,700mAh. This gives up to 10 weeks of battery life, according to Amazon
  • The weight has increased 14%, from 180g to 205g
  • There is only a Wi-Fi version available, no 3G option
  • The processor has changed from NXP i.MX6 to NXP i.MX7D, which gives a 20% increase in page-turn speed
  • Finally, finally, it has a USB-C port for charging and data transfer

What’s stayed the same?

  • It remains IPX8 rated, so you can drop it in the bath or a swimming pool
  • The screen is 200dpi – despite a higher resolution, the increase in physical size means that the dpi is identical
  • Wi-Fi connectivity is still stuck firmly at Wi-Fi 4

What’s the difference between the Kindle Paperwhite and the Paperwhite Signature Edition?

There are really only four differences between the two models:

  • The 8GB of storage increases to 32GB
  • There is Qi wireless charging available
  • A light sensor automatically adjusts the light brightness
  • The weight increases by a further 5g

Are these changes worth another £50, though? The RRP of the standard Paperwhite is a penny under £130, whereas the Signature Edition is £180. Even when on sale, both usually drop by the same amount so the difference remains the same.

The Signature Edition charging wirelessly

Unboxing the Paperwhite Signature Edition

Since the last time I bought a Kindle, Amazon has certainly scaled down the packaging – it’s much smaller and more environmentally considerate. From an outer cardboard case slides out another, this one holding the Kindle in place, along with the USB-C charging cable (a 1m USB-C to USB-A) and a small instructions booklet. The cable isn’t tied, which is great, but the Kindle itself does come in a plastic sleeve, which is disappointing.

Generally, the packaging is an improvement over past devices. I look forward to Amazon getting rid of the final piece of plastic wrap in future.

The Paperwhite 11th Generation: worth the upgrade?

Before we reach a conclusion about the Signature Edition, let’s see if the 11th Generation of Paperwhite that it’s based on is worth an upgrade from a previous model.

If you’re considering an upgrade from the previous generation, I’d say it’s not worth it. The stand-out features of the flush screen and IPX8 rating were all present before and I don’t think any of the new options are enough of a draw. The increased memory and improved processor speed isn’t noticeable (even from my previous Paperwhite, which was a few generations old). Yes, the battery life is longer but when something lasts for weeks without a recharge, a bump like this is unlikely to be a game-changer.

black android smartphone beside black ceramic mug on brown wooden table

Which model of Kindle do you have?

The e-ink screen on the Kindle is a delight and it remains as simple to download and read a book as before. Essentially all the quintessential things that makes a Kindle a Kindle are still there.

The upgrade might be more tempting if you haven’t upgraded for a few years, when all those incremental updates will be more noticeable. Even so, my wife is using an even older version of the Paperwhite from 2015 and is more than happy to stick with it.

In my case, there was one feature of the new Paperwhite that I was grateful for – the bigger screen. In my giant hands, the older Kindles looked tiny and I struggled to find them comfortable. This new version is better, but still not great.

What’s disappointing is Amazon’s reluctance to touch the network connectivity. The Wi-Fi remains stubbornly outdated on shorter range Wi-Fi 4 and Bluetooth is a black box, with little known about what is inside the device. But this is an issue across the range, even the top-end Kindle Oasis. I’d say this is indicative of a wider issue – the Kindle always appears to be given the lightest of touches when it comes to upgrades. The fact that Amazon’s only now adding USB-C reveals how little Amazon seems to care about being on the latest hardware.

Is the Signature Edition worth the extra money?

Well, as I’ve already spoilt this conclusion by saying the standard Paperwhite isn’t worth it, it’s unlikely that I’m going to suggest an extra £50 for some wireless charging is, right? And you’d be correct.

Okay, it’s more than the charging – you also get a four-fold increase in storage and a light sensor but, no, it’s difficult to justify a 40% increase in cost for these features. And it’s probably unfair for me to single out the wireless charging too as, in my opinion, it’s the least useful of the additions. When you measure a product’s battery life in weeks, how useful is this?

If you simply must have the best possible Kindle, this is now it. Due to the ad-hoc and rather confusing way that Amazon updates its Kindles, I’d say this is now better specified than their £230 Kindle Oasis. Apart from the Oasis’s slightly larger screen and the handle on the side, the specifications of the Paperwhite Signature Edition is the same or better than the Oasis. That still doesn’t make it worth buying over the standard Paperwhite, though.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition
  • Features
  • Physical design
  • Value for Money

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition Verdict

The best specified Kindle yet, but it’s not worth the extra money over the latest Kindle Paperwhite

Overall
3.3

Pros

  • A bump in storage from 8 to 32GB
  • Adjustable light warmth

Cons

  • £50 extra is a lot to pay for the added features
  • Wireless charging adds little

About the author

David Artiss

Currently working for a technology company based in San Francisco, David has worked in IT for nearly 30 years. He is a keen gamer and happily admits to being a gadget nerd too.

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