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Fast Charge: Amazon’s new Kindle Paperwhite is a joy

OPINION: Amazon’s new Kindle Paperwhite finally hit shelves this week, ending a number of years without a notable upgrade to the best e-reader around.

A few days before Amazon unveiled the Paperwhite 2021, I wrote a piece longing for a new version of the tired reading device. Hoping mod-cons like USB-C, wireless charging and thinner bezels would finally be added. Well, Amazon certainly listened…

I’ve been using the regular version of the Paperwhite 2021 for a few days now, so while it’s not quite long enough for a full review I do have a number of thoughts – and on the whole, they’re very positive.

First impressions of the new Paperwhite are very positive

Coming from the previous Paperwhite, there are a number of immediate differences. First off it’s a lot bigger – but not so much that it’s hard to grip or feels heavy. This is definitely a device you can still hold for extended reading sessions.

The screen now measures 6.8-inches (up from 6-inches) and it’s paired with thinner borders so the size jump doesn’t feel quite as dramatic as it could, The chunky bezels surrounding the display on the previous model were at odds with what we expected from a modern device, so it’s nice to see the new model fix that.

The quality of the 300ppi e-ink screen is great too. Text is sharp and jagged edges are virtually impossible to spot unless you really go looking. The bigger size just makes the reader far more pleasant as it’s more akin to a size of a paperback book.

Around the screen, there are now more LEDs (17, rather than 5) and these make a huge difference. The light is far more even, just about on par with the Kindle Oasis on first look, this rids it of any darker spots. Having more LEDs also let the panel get brighter, although this is less noticeable so far.

Other new features like longer battery life and faster page turns haven’t been instantly noticeable either – but this could very well change as I get further into the review process. There’s also a new homescreen and UI rolling out soon, however the software on my review unit seems to be exactly the same as the older Paperwhite I am upgrading from with no new look in sight yet.

USB-C…finally!

It might sound ridiculous, but probably my favourite upgrade is the switch to USB-C. In my review of the previous-gen Paperwhite, which came out over three years ago in 2018, I said “A switch to USB-C – a newer, reversible connector seen on most new phones and laptops – would have been welcome; micro-USB feels almost antiquated at this stage. Still, you’ll likely have plenty such cables lying around.

If micro-USB felt antiquated in 2018, it felt positively prehistoric in 2021 and it’s great to finally see it ditched. No longer will I need to carry around that sole micro-USB cable to charge this one device.

If you are interested in the new Paperwhite, then there are two options to consider. The regular model (£129.99 with ads or £139.99 without) which I have here has 8GB storage, a light that can be manually adjusted and standard wired charging. The Signature Edition (£179.99) ups the storage to 32GB, adds in Qi wireless charging and has a few sensors to automatically adjust the display.

If you use the Kindle a lot for audiobooks, the extra price is probably worth it for that 32GB of storage alone. If you take one audiobook at being around 500MB, you’ll need a good amount of space if you want to carry around a lot. Wireless charging is a neat trick but maybe not the most vital of features here. For most people, the cheaper version will probably suffice.

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