For years, whenever someone would ask for an e-reader recommendation our response would be simple: The Kindle Paperwhite.
The Paperwhite always had enough features, namely a backlit display, to differentiate it from Amazon’s standard Kindle, without requiring you to shell out $280 for the Kindle Oasis, which has non-essential but nice-to-have extras like a larger display. These design compromises made the Kindle Paperwhite one of the best “happy medium” tech purchases you could make. But times have changed. The basic Kindle has a backlit screen, while the Oasis’ display has gotten better enough to justify the splurge for heavy ebook readers.
Amazon’s response to this shakeup is the 8th-Generation Kindle Paperwhite and its first ever Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition. These new e-readers cost $140 and $190 respectively, and will both be released on October 27. After testing the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition for the past few days we can confidently say it has reclaimed its position as the best e-reader to get.
The biggest change is that the Paperwhite’s screen size has increased from 6 to 6.8-inches, which greatly improves the reading experience. Reducing the number of times you have to flip through digital pages makes it easier to get lost in a book, especially if you use a larger text size. This change in screen size coincides with an increase in display resolution, which means type will still look eerily close to text on an actual page.
In practice, the Kindle Paperwhite’s 6.8-inch display is transformative, even as someone who’s used to reading on the Kindle Oasis, which has a 7-inch screen. That’s largely because the Paperwhite is half an inch narrower and horizontally symmetrical, which makes it more comfortable to hold. It’s slightly taller than any other Kindle, but not enough to be noticeable while reading.
The Kindle Paperwhite is designed for one task: reading, and Amazon introduced a whole bunch of little improvements with this generation that greatly improve that experience. Turning pages, navigating through the Kindle’s settings, and shopping for new books are all appreciably faster because of the Paperwhite’s updated screen. Its display isn’t as responsive as a smartphone or tablet, but it’s still better.
This hardware improvement comes shortly after a recent software update that made it much simpler to get to settings like brightness, typeface size, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth on newer Kindle models. Tasks that used to take 30 seconds and several taps can now be done in less than half the time. To be frank, getting around a Kindle used to feel like a slog, but we didn’t get nearly as frustrated during our time with the Paperwhite, which was snappy by comparison.
Amazon has thrown people who like to read at night a bone by bringing color temperature settings to the Kindle Paperwhite. This feature, which was previously exclusive to the Kindle Oasis, allows you to make the Paperwhite’s screen amber. There are 24 color temperature settings to choose from, and the granularity allowed us to find one that made night reading easier on the eyes. If you don’t want to fuss with this setting, you can ask the Kindle to gently turn up the screen’s color temperature at night.
Everything we’ve mentioned up to this point is present in both the Kindle Paperwhite and its Signature Edition, but the higher-end model does have a couple of exclusive features. Its auto-adjusting light sensor can turn the display’s brightness up or down depending on the lighting conditions in your room. This is nice, but we preferred taking control of this setting for ourselves.
The other one is support for wireless charging, a first for any Kindle. You can use any standard Qi charger with the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition, but we’re guessing third-party accessory makers will release stands purpose-built for this device in the coming months.
If you prefer charging your devices with a cable, you’ll be happy to know that both models of the new Kindle Paperwhite have a USB-C port, which replaces the Micro-USB connector found on previous generations. We applaud Amazon’s decision to embrace this universal charging standard, which allows us to charge this device with cables and power adapters we use for other devices. We hope all of Amazon’s future Kindles have this port.
While this change is welcome, you may not need to plug the Kindle Paperwhite in as often as you’d think. Amazon says it can last up to 10 weeks on a single charge with regular use, up from six. Getting double the battery performance from a device without making it appreciably bigger or any more expensive is no small feat.
The 8th-generation Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition are hands-down the best e-readers Amazon has ever made, and that’s saying a lot. They raise the bar for what we’ll expect from similar devices going forward, and feel like the first in an entirely new generation of e-readers.
The Kindle lineup seemed a little muddy for the past few months, but the new Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition have provided some much-needed clarification.