The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition, despite the fancy name, is a simple device. It’s exactly the same as the new, fifth-generation Kindle Paperwhite, but it costs $50 more and has four upgrades: 32GB of memory (up from 8GB), wireless charging, an automatically adjusting front light, and no ads.
Since we already established that the standard Paperwhite is a great e-reader, the focus of this review is simple: To figure out whether these four improvements are worth the extra money.
A thoroughly great e-reader
My colleague Alex Perry reviewed the regular fifth-gen Paperwhite, but here are my basic impressions (coming from someone whose primary e-reader before now was a second-gen Paperwhite).
The new Paperwhite is just the right size and sat perfectly in my hand. It’s also beach ready, with an IPX8 rating, which is a big deal to me, especially when compared to my iPad mini, which officially isn’t water resistant at all.
The USB-C charging port on the bottom was a much-needed upgrade from the microUSB port on previous Paperwhites. Credit: Stan Schroeder / Mashable
I have only one beef with the device’s design, and that’s the fact that Amazon moved the power button to the bottom from the top, which took some getting used to. (It’s worth noting that this change happened on a previous iteration of the Paperwhite.)
The new Paperwhite is a lot faster than my old model, but it could be faster still, especially when browsing through menus. The battery lasts forever, and having a USB-C port instead of the old microUSB connector is a blessing.
So, what do you get for that extra $50?
Compared to my ancient, 3rd generation Paperwhite, the new one is shaped a bit more like a typical book, which isn’t a bad thing. Credit: Stan Schroeder / Mashable
One thing you won’t get on this Kindle is ads. Compared to ads on certain other devices, advertisements on the Kindle aren’t nearly as intrusive, but I still prefer zero ads on something I paid for. You can remove the ads from the base model Kindle for an extra $20, but then the price difference between the two is a mere $30, which means you should really look at the other extras you get with the Signature Edition.
You know what they say about memory: More is always better. That said, unless you’re a voracious reader, or you constantly send a bunch of periodicals to your Kindle, you won’t need more than 8GB. The Kindle Paperwhite SE has 32GB, which is overkill, but it is comforting to know you’ll never have to worry about storage.
Whether wireless charging will be worth it for you depends entirely on whether you normally use it in other scenarios. All Kindles have great battery life, so you won’t be charging them very often. I do have wireless chargers in my car and scattered all around the house, so the ability to just toss the Kindle onto them and have it charge is a nice, if marginal, improvement.
The MagSafe isn’t the best way to charge your Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition, but it works! Credit: Stan Schroeder / Mashable
Fun fact: I tried to charge the Kindle Paperwhite SE using Apple’s MagSafe magnetic charger for the iPhone, and not only does it work, but the charger sticks (though just barely) to the Kindle like it does to the iPhone. Pretty great.
The display, automated
The last big improvement on the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition is the display.
The 6.8-inch, 300ppi display is sharp, crisp, beautiful to look at, and won’t tire your eyes even after long reading sessions. The bezels on the sides and top of device are far smaller than on the previous iteration, but there’s still enough room to rest your fingers without accidentally flipping the page.
The display now makes brightness adjustments on its own. Credit: Stan Schroeder / Mashable
Now for the big difference between the regular and the SE version of the Paperwhite: Automatically adjusting front light. The best way to explain the importance of this feature is to think of smartphones: Literally every single modern smartphone has this feature. You don’t think about it much, but if someone took the feature away, you’d definitely notice.
It’s similar on the Paperwhite. The display automatically sets brightness depending on the amount of light in your environment. I like reading in very dim light, and the Kindle set the screen’s brightness pretty much as I would do. The device supports dark mode (bright text on dark background), and if I switched to that, it readjusted the brightness accordingly. I love the feature and though I could live without it, I’d be slightly annoyed about having to adjust brightness manually again.
Upgrades on the cheap
For $50, you get no ads (a $20 value), wireless charging, 32GB, and an improved display. None of it is essential, but it does feel like you’re getting a decent value for your money.