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Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Editon review: What does $50 more get you?

The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Editon has perks that you may or may not need

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Henry T. Casey)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Editon gives you some added bonuses for a lot more

Pros

  • +

    Automatic backlighting a plus

  • +

    USB-C and Qi charging

  • +

    Larger display

  • +

    Perfectly even backlighting

  • +

    Waterproof

Cons

  • -

    No cellular option

  • -

    $50 more than Kindle Paperwhite

The new Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition sits between the $139 Kindle Paperwhite and the $249 Kindle Oasis. Not only is the $189 e-reader pricier than the Kindle Paperwhite (2021), our pick for the best Kindle, but it's got one feature that used to be only available in the Kindle Oasis. But should you really spend $189 on an e-reader that's incredibly similar to one that's $50 less?

That's the question we're here to figure out, because while I like one of the Signature Edition's signature features, I'm not sure everyone else will think it's worth spending an extra 36% to get. That said, this is still an excellent e-reader, especially for those who live the Amazon Prime lifestyle. The big benefits, wireless Qi-charging and automatically-adjusting light, are the kind of thing that benefit the folks trying to gain a more seamless, minimalistic experience. It's also got more storage and no ads. 

And for those who feel like the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite hasn't evolved fast enough over time — gaining small perks year after year — this model may be perfect. But that same crowd may not like how much more they have to spend.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review: Specs

Kindle Paperwhite (2021)
Price$189.99
Display size6.8-inch
Resolution (points-per-inch)300ppi
Storage32GB
Battery lifeUp to 10 weeks (claimed)
Dimensions6.9 x 4.9 x 0.3 inches
Weight7.3 ounces
PortsUSB-C
Wireless chargingYes
ExtrasDisplay warmth settings, automatically-adjusting light

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review: Price and configurations

The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition starts at $189 (opens in new tab), $50 more than the $139 Kindle Paperwhite 2021 (opens in new tab).

While this is a new model, the higher price, when compared to the Paperwhite 2021 is, reflective of Amazon's gradual price increases over the last years. Both the 2018 and 2021 Kindle Paperwhites were $10 more than prior models.

The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition shipped on October 27, 2021.

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

The default Paperwhite comes with 32GB of storage, four times as much as the Kindle Paperwhite 2021 (8GB). The Oasis starts at 8GB can be purchased with 32GB for an extra $30. The newly-announced Nook Glowlight 4 has 32GB standard and costs $149.

Unlike with the regular Paperwhite or Oasis, Amazon doesn't charge you $20 to remove the lock screen ads that may annoy you (they annoy me). This means your Kindle screen is free to show the cover of the book you're currently reading.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition in box

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

As you may have noticed, Amazon's added two features (32GB of RAM and no ads) that it would normally charge $50 for. Looking at the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition like this, the Qi-charging and automatically-adjusting lights are bonuses. 

Amazon no longer offers a cellular-capable Paperwhite, a feature exclusive to the $249 Kindle Oasis (opens in new tab).

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review: Design

The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition looks just like the Kindle Paperwhite (2021), so much so that I kept getting them confused. Both feature a matte-black shell and 6.8-inch e-ink display, which is larger than the 6-inch screen in the previous Paperwhite. Barnes & Noble's new Nook Glowlight 4 has a 6-inch panel.

That larger screen comes at a slight price on size: the Paperwhite Signature Edition (just like the normal Paperwhite) measures 6.9 x 4.9 x 0.3 inches, making it slightly larger than the 6.6 x 4.6 x 0.3-inch 2018 Paperwhite. I didn't find this made it harder to hold, but the slightly thinner bezels made me have to hold it in different ways to avoid actuating the screen. If you want more space to grip, you may prefer the Amazon Kindle Oasis' design, which has an asymmetrical design, with page turning buttons. 

The Paperwhite Signature Edition weighs 7.3 ounces (a hair heavier than the 7.2-ounce Paperwhite 2021), a tad heavier than the 6.4-ounce Paperwhite 2018.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition with USB-C cable and directions

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

Looking across the lineup, the 6-inch entry-level Amazon Kindle (6.3 x 4.5 x 0.3 inches, 6.1 ounces) is smaller and lighter and the 7-inch aluminum Kindle Oasis (6.3 x 5.6 x 0.3 inches, 6.6 ounces) is shorter, wider and a little lighter.

And the Paperwhite Signature Edition also offers USB-C charging. This may be great for you — I'm trying to consolidate around this relatively new cable and remove the crummy non-reversible micro-USB port from my life — or it may be no big deal. One of my Kindle-loving relatives had no idea when I brought it up. No other Kindles offer USB-C, but the Nook Glowlight 4 does.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition's port and button

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

Amazon isn't offering any claims of faster charging for USB-C charging vs micro-USB.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review: Durability

Just like the 2021 Kindle Paperwhite, the Paperwhite Signature Edition has a waterproof resistance rating of IPX8. Even though previous waterproof Kindles did well on their water tests, I put this model through its paces again. I dropped the Paperwhite Signature Edition in about 5 inches of tap water in my NYC apartment sink and letting it sit for 20 minutes.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition in the sink

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

And when I took it out? The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition worked as if nothing had happened. 

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review: Display

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

The Paperwhite Signature Edition's 6.8-inch, 300 ppi display is nearly identical to that of the 2021 Paperwhite. It's got amazingly evenly-lit backlighting (17 LEDs vs 2018's five LEDs), plus a perfectly crisp 300ppi screen, so that text looks great at all sizes, which I noticed as I tried to start She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker Chan (which didn't click with me). The resolution is no upgrade, as Kindles dating back to 2015 have had this sharp screen quality.  The entry-level Amazon Kindle has a 167 ppi screen, and Kindle Oasis and B&N Nook Glowlight 4 are also at 300ppi.

The automatically-adjusting brightness, however, is an upgrade. As I brought the Paperwhite Signature Edition around my apartment, I saw its brightness jump from 5 to 16 points of brightness, depending on the ambient lighting. As someone who can get lazy enough to prefer his tech to take some of the work away? This is a nice touch. As I moved around on my sofa one night, I saw brightness shift a bit here and there to adjust. "It's always thinking," I told myself.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition

The perfectly evenly lit Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition in the dark (Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

As I noticed while reading How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell late at night in my living room, I noticed that the Paperwhite Signature Edition's lighting is perfectly even. I tested this out at multiple settings, going as low as 5 points on the Brightness bar. Throughout, the lighting stayed even. 

The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition also features a Display Warmth setting, so you can get a yellowy/amber hue. This isn't a blue light filter meant to help you fall asleep easier, but just an aesthetic change. I prefer the colder settings, as I'm trying to replicate paper.

You may (as I did while working on my Kindle Paperwhite 2021 review) notice that there's a small gap between the screen and the bezel. It's nothing huge, and I got used to it. But The reMarkable 2 has a much smaller gap.

When I brought the Paperwhite Signature Edition to my local park to read, I noted that the Paperwhite display stayed crisp and legible in direct sunlight (Again, I had more trouble getting into She Who Became The Sun than actually reading it).

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review: User experience and bonus features

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition on home screen

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

In 2021, Amazon made notable changes Kindle home screen and smaller tweaks to the rest of the interface, and they it feels like they're for the better. Now, your home screen is now split between "Home" and "Library" sections. The former shows you some of the books you have, along with suggestions for stuff you might like, as well as your reading lists. Just want to see the stuff you have? Tap the Library tab. 

Now, you have a much wider Search bar at the top of the home screen, and only there. The menu bar that used to show up when you tapped that area while reading now just shows you small buttons for font, bookmarks and search, and you tap a wide arrow at the top to open the menu for airplane mode, sync, Bluetooth, dark mode and display brightness and warmth settings.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition on Goodreads screen

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

Amazon's made it slightly easier to remove Goodreads (its social network for readers up front). Why would you? Well, I've never really found it to be a place where I've gotten much value, and it can take up parts of the menus and screen. I'm not alone in my disapproval of Goodreads (opens in new tab).

I wish the Kindle OS made it easier to remove all the other sorta-neat (but not for everyone) interactive stuff in their reading experience. Tired of seeing popular highlights (this is my book, not the community's book)?  You need to do this for each book: open the book, open the top of screen menu and tap the Font button, tap More and turn off Popular Highlights (I also disable About This Book).

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition with airpods pro case in Bluetooth mode

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

Amazon's also recently added Bluetooth listening for audio books. It works fine in my testing, but I'd never use a Kindle for Audible. I don't need an e-ink screen for an audiobook, and my phone is right there.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review: Battery Life

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition with Qi-Charger

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition has lengthy battery life to spare. Amazon claims it should last up to 10 weeks, but that's based on 30 minutes of reading per day, with Wi-Fi off and brightness set to 13 out of 24. 

In one day of testing, I read for approximately two hours with varying levels of brightness and downloaded a few books over Wi-Fi and kept Bluetooth off, and that knocked out 4% of battery life. By the numbers, that would last me 25 days (and 1% per half-hour would be 70% in 10 weeks, so, their math seems right). 

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition charging on Qi-Charger

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

That's still a lot of time to remember to either plug it into a USB-C cable or place it on a compatible wireless charger. Yes, unlike any other Kindle before it, the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition charges over Qi-based chargers, and it refueled that 4% I'd lost in 24 minutes. 

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review: Content

In the way that Arby's has the meats, Amazon has the books. The mega-retailer doesn't publish numbers of how many books it sells, estimates (opens in new tab) suggest it stocks around 9 million titles.

Kobo boasts that it offers "6 million eBooks and audiobooks," while Barnes and Noble, on the other hand, claims it has "millions of eBooks." 

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition Amazon Store

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

Amazon's also got other ways to give you books, such as the $9.99 Kindle Unlimited (opens in new tab), a Netflix-for-books with "over 2 million titles and thousands of audiobooks." They even throw in three magazine subscriptions. 

In case you're not made of money, the Kindle Paperwhite still supports borrowing books from public libraries (opens in new tab) for free, using the Overdrive service.

Prime members (opens in new tab) can take advantage of First Reads (opens in new tab) (formerly Kindle First), which grants early access to editor's picks. Members also can access two free Kindle books per month, and get access to discounted print editions.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review: Verdict

I wish the Paperwhite Signature Edition was just the Paperwhite 2021. While USB-C and display warmth are nice updates, the rising price of the Paperwhite Kindle feels annoying. All of these features combined would make for a compelling reason to upgrade, but the $189 Paperwhite Signature Edition delivers sticker shock for anyone who remembers the $129 Paperwhite (2018). 

Yes, Amazon's adding a little here and there, and so the reason to upgrade to this model will vary greatly by use case. We recommend the $139 Kindle Paperwhite to most, and I hate ads, so I've accepted that $159 is the price I'll probably pay for a Kindle. Is an automatically-adjusting light (which means more to me than Qi-charging) and 4x as much storage worth another $30? For me, even though I like the lighting to be adjusted for me? I don't think the answer is yes.

So, I'll still send people to the regular Kindle Paperwhite, which has the right screen crispness and that waterproofing that you'll love at the beach. The Signature Edition exists because the $249 Kindle Oasis may be too rich for some folks' blood, but they still want a little more than the regular Paperwhite offers. 

When you add up the extra storage space, the lack of ads, Qi-charging and automatic brightness? The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition is kind of a bargain bundle that mixes and matches features of its more affordable and more expensive siblings. The question is "is this bargain still too much?"

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.