Technology

Evaluate: Larger display screen, higher lighting make for a near-perfect Kindle Paperwhite

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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 enlarge the screen.

From laptops to TVs to phones, game consoles, tablets and watches, the time-honored tradition of making the screen bigger has resulted in some excellent upgrades, at least as long as the screen doesn’t screw up anything else.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (11th Generation, 2021)

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And that’s Amazon’s playbook with the 11th generation Kindle Paperwhite, priced at $ 140. Aside from the 10th generation model, the designs look almost identical, but the new one has a larger screen, made possible in part by narrower bezels on the top and sides.

But just because the bigger screen is the most noticeable thing about the new Paperwhite doesn’t mean it’s the only one. It now has a USB-C port for charging, replacing the aging micro-USB port. Performance is improved in small but noticeable ways. The front light adds more LEDs so the lighting looks smoother and even, and it also takes over the auto brightness sensor and warm light capabilities of the Kindle Oasis for $ 250.

All of this comes together in a $ 140 e-reader that is the best Kindle – and therefore the best e-reader – you can buy right now.

Bigger screen with better front light

The new Paperwhite (left) has a 6.8-inch screen that looks and feels much bigger than the 6-inch display on the old model (right).

The new Paperwhite (left) has a 6.8-inch screen that looks and feels much bigger than the 6-inch display on the old model (right).

Andrew Cunningham

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

Most of the space for the bigger screen comes from the Kindle’s top and side bezels, which are much thinner than before (although the bottom bezel is a bit thicker than before to ensure you still have plenty of room for your thumbs while gaming hold the device). Despite the adjustments to the bezel, the new Kindle is bigger and wider than the old one, but not so much that it is harder to hold on to for long periods of time. The design of the 11th gen Paperwhite

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  • An adjustable warm light can also relieve the eyes of the new Paperwhite.

    Andrew Cunningham

  • Color temperature and brightness are set separately in the Kindle settings.

    Andrew Cunningham

  • The recess for the auto brightness sensor is faintly visible in the upper center of the device.

    Andrew Cunningham

The new Paperwhite also gets an upgraded front light that makes it much more similar to the more expensive Kindle Oasis. The front light now uses 17 LEDs, up from five on the previous generation Paperwhite and four on the standard Kindle. And it now has a Warmlight option that can be used to shift the color temperature of the display from the standard cool blue to a warm orange-yellow.

Two separate sliders control the brightness of the backlight and the color temperature of the light. Even if you’re not interested in the yellow display effect most phones / tablets / computers now offer, turning up the display heat by a few ticks takes the rough edge of the bluish Kindle front lighting and makes the display a lot more pleasant at the same time . A built-in auto brightness sensor also helps.

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

Better performance (with one fatal bug)

Amazon claims the new Paperwhite has “20% faster page turns,” and while I haven’t measured anything with a stopwatch, the 11th generation Paperwhite felt more consistent than the 10th and 7th generation models I normally use . This not only applies to turning the pages, but also to navigating in menus, highlighting passages and entering short notes. The new Paperwhite is still occasionally prone to random, inexplicable minor hangups and issues that all of the Kindles I’ve used have suffered from at times, but those pauses take less time to clear on their own than the older models.

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That said, I can completely block the new Kindle over and over again by quickly adjusting the backlight and heat sliders and then opening a book – almost like the screen causing too much input in too short a time to stop it reacted. The front light will continue to turn on and off, but the display will not update or respond to input until the device is hard restarted.

I suspect this is a bug that a software update can fix, and it’s not something you will run into unless you tweak the settings a little in a short amount of time. But there is something to be aware of – I contacted Amazon to see if this was a known issue and if a solution was coming.

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