Review: Bigger screen, better lighting for a near-perfect Kindle Paperwhite

Enlarge / The 11th generation Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition.

Andrew Cunningham

It’s the most reliable upgrade in technology: take something that was already good and make the screen bigger.

From laptops and televisions to phones, game consoles, tablets and watches, the centuries-old tradition of making the screen bigger has resulted in some great upgrades, at least as long as the screen does not spoil anything else.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (11th Generation, 2021)

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And that’s Amazon’s playbook with the $ 140 Kindle Paperwhite 11th Generation. Next to the 10th gen model, the designs look almost identical, but the new one has a larger screen enabled in part by thinner bezels around the top and sides.

But just because the bigger screen is the most remarkable thing about the new Paperwhite doesn’t mean it’s the only thing. It now has a USB-C port for charging, replacing the aging micro-USB port. The performances are improved in a modest but noticeable way. Its front light adds more LEDs, so the lighting looks smoother and more even, and it also picks up the automatic light sensor and warm light functions of the $ 250 Kindle Oasis.

It all comes together in a $ 140 e-reader that’s the best Kindle – and, by extension, the best e-reader – you can buy right now.

Bigger screen with better front lighting

The new Paperwhite (left) has a 6.8-inch display, which looks and feels much larger than the older model's 6-inch screen (right).

The new Paperwhite (left) has a 6.8-inch display, which looks and feels much larger than the older model’s 6-inch screen (right).

Andrew Cunningham

The main feature of the new Paperwhite is its 6.8-inch screen, a big step up from the old 6-inch screen from Paperwhite (and the standard Kindle). It doesn’t change the Kindle’s user interface much, but it does mean a lot more words per page when you use the same font sizes, margins, and spacing.

The space for the larger screen comes mainly from the Kindle’s top and side bezels, which are much thinner than before (although the bottom bezel is a bit thicker than before, probably to ensure you still have plenty of room for your thumbs while you hold the device). Even with the bezel settings, the new Kindle is taller and wider than the old one, but not so much that it’s harder to hold for long periods of time. The 11th Gen Paperwhite and 10th Gen Paperwhite are otherwise identical in design, with bezels that sit flush with the screen and the same soft-touch plastic back.

The new Paperwhite also benefits from improved front lighting which makes it much more like the more expensive Kindle Oasis. The front lighting now uses 17 LEDs, compared to five in the last-gen Paperwhite and four in the standard Kindle. And it now has a warm light option that can change the screen color temperature from standard cool blue to warm orange yellow.

Two separate sliders control backlight brightness and light color temperature. Even if you don’t care about the yellow display effect that most phones / tablets / computers now offer, increasing the screen heat of a few ticks removes the hard edge of the Kindle’s bluish front light and makes the display much more pleasing to the eye. A built-in automatic light sensor also helps in this.

The Kindle Oasis has even more LEDs in its 7-inch display (25 instead of 17), but the Paperwhite’s screen is so bright and evenly lit that I doubt I can tell the difference even with the two devices side by side. .

Better performance (with a serious bug)

Amazon claims the new Paperwhite has “20% faster page turns” and although I didn’t measure anything with a stopwatch, the 11th gen Paperwhite felt more responsive than the 10th and 7th gen models that I did. I normally use. This is true not only for page turns, but also for navigating through menus, highlighting passages, and entering quick notes. The new Paperwhite is still prone to the kinds of random, inexplicable minor freezes and snags that every Kindle I’ve used occasionally suffered from, but these pauses take less time to resolve than on older models.

That said, I can still get the new Kindle to fully lock up by quickly adjusting the backlight and heat sliders and then opening a book, almost like giving the screen too many extra inputs. little time prevented him from answering completely. The front light will always turn on and off, but the screen will not refresh or respond to input until the device is restarted.

I suspect this is a bug that can be fixed with a software update, and it’s not something you will encounter if you don’t change the settings a lot in a short period of time. But it’s something to be aware of – I’ve reached out to Amazon to see if this is a known issue and if a fix is ​​coming.

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