Introduction and design
Amazon’s Kindle range hasn’t seen an innovation like the Oasis since 2014, when the Kindle Voyage appeared.
Ever since the original Amazon Kindle hit the virtual shelves back in November 2007 the company has managed to refine the design with each passing generation, nipping here and tucking there to make it one of the best-looking ereaders around.
What this latest Kindle shows is that Amazon has struggled to refine the device any further in its current form: the Kindle Oasis heralds a time for change.
The new ereader sits at the top of the Kindle hierarchy as the highest-priced ereader so far – it’s even more expensive than the Kindle Voyage, which was itself criticised for being too pricey.
The Kindle Oasis costs a whopping US$289.99 (£269.99, about AU$425), which at first glance seems like way too much money to spend on a device you can only read ebooks on.
But if you’re an avid reader, then arguably it’s worth getting the best possible experience from your ebook collection.
If you want the 3G version you’ll need to shell out even more: US$359.99 (£329.99, about AU$520); and if you’re in the US you’ll also need to spend an additional US$20 to get rid of adverts.
That’s a lot of money for prospective purchasers – and Amazon, and the Kindle range, need a win right now. Figures from Pew Research have revealed that ereader ownership has dropped from 32% in 2014 to 19% in 2015. That means that a lot of people who have previously bought ereaders have left them behind for alternatives, or the traditional printed word.
How does a company like Amazon generate sales of a product people aren’t as interested in any more?
Much as the iPad Pro 9.7 has been used to spur tablet sales for Apple, Amazon is looking towards the high-end market to boost Kindle sales once again; to reKindle them, if you will.
Amazon has assured me that the Oasis isn’t just for those who have owned a Kindle previously; the aim here is to entice new customers who haven’t experienced ebooks before. But if you haven’t read books on a screen before, are you really going to spend the best part of $300 to find out what it’s like?
Amazon wants to offer the best possible reading experience in the Kindle Oasis, and it’s designed for those who don’t mind how much they spend on it.
Whether you’re an avid ereader fan looking to upgrade, or a traditional reader who’s thinking of dipping their toes in the e-ink and can afford the best experience out there, the Kindle Oasis is aimed at you. But is it worth all that cash?
The design of the Oasis is radically different to that of the last few Kindles, and I was assured by a Kindle rep that this is the next step toward Amazon’s future vision of an ereader.
The company eventually wants to create a device that acts just like a sheet of paper, and this is certainly the closest it’s got to this ambition becoming a reality. Even though the Kindle Oasis is thicker than a single sheet, it’s by far the most comfortable ereader you can buy right now.
There are three key elements in the Kindle Oasis: the screen, the battery and the processing unit. These are all contained in a metal case which is covered with a plastic body.
Amazon has slimmed everything down to the smallest-possible form factor. If you’re looking for something that feels entirely different to a traditional Kindle, this won’t disappoint.
For one thing, one side of the Kindle Oasis is drastically thinner than the other. At its thinnest point it’s 3.6mm, and while the other end is slightly thicker it’s still thinner than all the other Kindles.
The thick side is designed for gripping the device, while the thinner and lighter side enables the device to feel comfortable and well balanced in the hand.
I found the Oasis easier to hold than other ereaders, and it was noticeably more comfortable to use for extended periods on my commute than other Kindles I’ve used.
On the front of the device are two buttons that you can press to flick through pages; you can also tap the display, as on other Kindles. The buttons come in useful when reading one-handed, as you can hit them with your thumb without having to shuffle the device around in your hand.
In my time with the Kindle Oasis I’ve found myself using the buttons rather than the touchscreen controls. Flipping pages with the touchscreen isn’t always reactive, and there’s something satisfying about pressing a physical button to turn the page.
If you’re left-handed, you’re covered here too. You can just flip the device the other way round and the screen will follow suit. From there you can use your dominant hand for grip and page flicking.
The only issue here is that the power button and micro USB charging slot will now sit at the bottom of the device rather than at the top, although you won’t be constantly using those.
There’s a plastic grip on the side you’ll be holding with your fingertips, which doesn’t look as premium as I’d have liked at this price. The other side features the Amazon logo emblazoned on the back and was a bit of a fingerprint magnet, but fortunately you won’t be touching this much unless you use the device two-handed.
On the grip section there’s a connector for Amazon’s new range of cases, one of which comes in the box. It’s a flip case to cover the top of your Kindle, but it also houses a larger battery which sits against the thinner side of the Oasis, making the device even thicker than the rest of the Kindle range.
Display and key features
The screen on an ereader needs to be of good enough quality that you can read for a long time without the experience becoming comfortable.
Some early ereaders made reading a strain, and those without backlights, such as the cheapest Amazon Kindle, can be really uncomfortable to use for extended periods.
That isn’t an issue with the Kindle Oasis.
Some may be disappointed that the screen isn’t of higher quality than those on the Voyage or Paperwhite, but in all honesty it doesn’t need to be. Clarity of text is fantastic, and there’s no reason for Amazon to up the pixel count here.
The big focus here is on brightness, and this screen features 60% more LEDs than any other Kindle you can buy right now.
Amazon has made the brightness jump possible by moving the light from the top of the display, where you’ll find it on other backlit Kindle devices to the side.
When I first picked up the Kindle Oasis, the screen struck me right away as being the big USP for the device. Right out of the box the Oasis was on full brightness, and it really took me aback.
The high brightness is useful in direct sunlight, but it could get irritating at night, so the wide range of brightness settings are welcome – you’ve got 24 options as well as off, so there’s a suitable level for any lighting conditions.
The screen size on the Kindle Oasis is the same as on the rest of the range, while the size of the body has been reduced. Having settled on the optimum screen size some time ago, here Amazon has concentrated on improving usability and readability.
Throughout my time using the device I’ve tried to keep the screen at full brightness as much as possible, just to make the most of the screen.
You can always turn the backlight off if you don’t find it useful and want to save a little on the battery life – although in all honesty you won’t want to turn it off very often once you’ve seen it in action.
The new design does mean the Kindle Oasis has a smaller battery than every other Kindle before it, and Amazon is attempting to compensate for this with a range of battery flip cases that click onto the back of the device.
At the time of this review Amazon is only offering one case design, which is made of leather and is available in red, brown or black.
For this review I had the rather dull black case, but after using the other two previously I’d recommend picking up the classier-looking red or more rugged-looking brown versions.
That said, I think that offering such a limited range of cases is an oversight on Amazon’s part. Some people are against the use of leather for ethical reasons, and others don’t like wrapping their gadgets in leather for aesthetic reasons, so Amazon really ought to provide a non-leather option.
That doesn’t seem to be on the cards though. A spokesperson for Amazon told me: “For customers looking for a non-leather, high-end alternative to Kindle Oasis, we recommend Kindle Voyage. There are a number of non-leather case options available for Kindle Voyage.”
So if you’re ethically against leather, Amazon has apparently decided that this isn’t the Kindle for you.
Personally, I really like the leather feel. The material travels round to the back of the ereader, so that when you’re holding it within the case it feels a lot more premium than the plastic backing of the device.
The battery pack is slim, and it’s easy to connect to the back of the device. The problem is, you lose the beautiful design and slim profile that are the Kindle Oasis’s big selling points, and the part of the case that covers the screen sometimes flops around.
You probably won’t be using the case all that often though. I found myself forgetting the case on many occasions when I took the Oasis out in my pocket, and the only thing I missed about it was the extra battery life.
Before you can charge up the case you need to attach it to the Oasis, and both the case and the device will be charged at the same time.
Performance, connectivity and battery
Performance is a hard thing to judge on an ereader – I can’t download GeekBench 3 software and give you the exact results here.
What I can say is that the Amazon Kindle Oasis is the fastest ereader I’ve ever used. Amazon doesn’t share details about its processor setup for Kindle products, but it’s certainly improved on what was in the Kindle Voyage.
One area in which you notice this is the page-turning speed – it’s almost instantaneous on the Oasis, which is a surprise considering that it’s using e-ink technology.
Downloading books from the Kindle store proved quick over both 3G and Wi-Fi, so you won’t be slowed down there either.
The Kindle Oasis comes in Wi-Fi-only or Wi-Fi + 3G variants. The 3G version costs more, but the internet will be free for the Kindle’s life in 100 countries around the world.
So you could be sitting on a beach in Thailand, Oasis in one hand and a piña colada in the other, and be able to download a new book without getting off your sun lounger.
The signal will be limited in some territories, but the service stretches from Japan to Chile and from South Africa to Finland.
You’ll have to decide if it’s worth shelling out the extra £60/$70/$AU95 for the 3G version – I don’t think it’s particularly useful, as I download my books at home before taking my ereader out and about with me.
It all comes down to how often you’ll use the Oasis when you’re away from home.
Storage-wise Amazon has seen fit to put 4GB in the Kindle Oasis, and while that may not sound like much it really isn’t a problem – you’re unlikely to ever fill 4GB with ebooks, as the files are so small.
Even in the rare event that you do fill up the storage on the Oasis, you’d just have to go in and delete a few files from the device – they’ll still be in your library if you want to download them again.
The battery is one of the more controversial features of the Amazon Kindle Oasis. You get two weeks’ battery life from the device itself, but that has been pared down from almost a month on other Kindle devices in the pursuit of thinness.
To make up for this, the leather charging case is included to give you an extra month’s charge – when you have it connected the Oasis will have six weeks battery life, and that’s the longest of any Kindle device ever.
It’s also as much as you’re ever going to need, and if you’re happy to use the case you can throw your Oasis in your bag and be confident it’ll have some charge left in a week’s time.
It’s still a shame, though, that you lose out on the battery life of the device itself – if you lose the case, or leave it behind when you go on a long trip, you’ll be restricted to those two weeks battery life.
And, as I’ve mentioned, using the Oasis with the case on means you’re not enjoying the optimum reading experience, which is the whole point of the revolutionary design.
That said, two week’s battery life is still phenomenal for a device this thin. In the time I’ve used the Oasis I’ve only had to recharge it once, and that’s because it wasn’t fully charged when I started. The claim of two weeks’ battery with moderate usage is borne out.
It takes about three hours to fully charge the Oasis with the case attached, and the device on its own takes an hour or so to charge, so it’s not like you have to leave the device plugged in overnight before you can use it again.
Ultimately I am disappointed that Amazon decided to reduce the battery life of the Oasis – but then I am used to devices with longer life, and I guess putting it on charge once a fortnight isn’t that big a deal.
Interface, store and media
Amazon has continually refined the reading interface on its Kindles, and the experience on the Oasis is the best yet. While the interface is pretty much what you’ve come to expect from a Kindle, and feels familiar, it’s still worth talking about.
No matter what your experience with touchscreen devices, you’ll be able to use the Kindle Oasis with ease. The slight delay on the screen, as it’s e-ink, may prove a little frustrating, but apart from that everything is simple and smooth.
After turning on the Oasis I registered the device, and everything I’ve ever bought from Amazon’s store was there instantly, ready and waiting to be downloaded.
Tapping on a book added it to my download queue, and it was sent to my Oasis in about 10 seconds flat – the exact speed will depend on how fast your internet connection is.
On the home page there’s a ‘Recommended for you’ section, which offers suggestions based on what you’ve previously bought. If you’re new to the Kindle world this will be pretty generic, throwing up popular choices like A Song of Ice and Fire and Gone Girl, but having used Kindles for a while I found the recommendations quite well tailored to my tastes.
Along the top bar of the home page are the back, settings, ‘Goodreads’ and store buttons, as well as search and ‘more options’ buttons.
Search enables you to look for any book in the Amazon store, but if you have any downloaded or purchased books that match the search criteria these will appear in the list as well.
The keyboard is very basic, which is fine, as you won’t be using it much. The keys are now evenly placed around the bottom of the screen, and it works well.
Goodreads is a social network for bookworms. It’s easy to integrate your account and share what you’re reading with other users, but it’s a little irritating that Amazon has decided to put this niche feature front and center.
When it comes to the actual reading experience, the interface on the Kindle Oasis is super-simple.
Tap the left side of the screen to go back and the right side to go forward, or use the separate buttons, and tap the top of the screen to bring up the options menu – this latter maneuver takes some getting used to though, and I’d prefer it if there was a physical button for this too.
When you’ve opened the menu, adjusting the screen brightness when the lighting changes is a simple matter of three screen presses.
The dictionary feature has always been a highlight of the Kindle range, and it’s no different with the Oasis. Tap and hold on a word and Amazon will bring up the dictionary definition; I find it particularly useful when reading something a little more high-brow than I’m used to.
One thing about the Kindle experience that still impresses me is that you can get any book that’s in Amazon’s Kindle store in an instant.
There are now more than four million titles at the store, including around one million Kindle exclusives. Some of these are newspapers and magazines, but Amazon still has the most comprehensive ebook range on the planet.
If you go with a rival ereader brand, this is one of the biggest things you’ll be missing out on. When I’ve used devices from the competition I’ve invariably found that that one big best-seller I’m looking for is missing, and it highlights that Amazon is the best when it comes to its collection of ebooks.
You can also sign up for the Kindle Unlimited platform, which enables you to read as many books as you want from a collection of over a million titles, whenever you want.
It doesn’t come particularly cheap at US$9.99 (£7.99, about AU$16) a month, but if you get through a lot of books you could find that it pays for itself quite comfortably.
You won’t be disappointed by the Kindle interface, or by Amazon’s vast trove of books, magazines and newspapers. If you go for one of the competitors’ devices though, you might be.
So the real decision then, is which Kindle to go for.
The ereader market is dominated by Amazon devices, and the company has three other Kindle products to choose from. Here’s our quick verdict on those, along with one non-Amazon device.
This is the cheapest Amazon ereader you can buy right now, and if you’re just looking for a device to read the odd ebook on it might be the best Kindle for you.
It features a 5-inch touchscreen with 167 pixels per inch, so the reading experience isn’t as clear as on the Kindle Oasis.
The big feature you miss out on here is the backlight. It means that if you don’t have a beside lamp or other means of illumination, reading in the dark isn’t an option.
However, considering that this basic model is less than a quarter of the price of the Oasis, it might just take your fancy.
Before the Oasis, the Kindle Paperwhite was the middle-ground device I recommended for those who are keen readers, but who don’t want to spend a lot of money on an ereader.
The Paperwhite offers a better screen than the basic Kindle, with 300ppi and a built-in backlight, but it’s nowhere near as gorgeous as the Kindle Oasis.
You can also get a 3G version of the Paperwhite, which isn’t an option with the basic model.
This may be worth your attention if you’re looking for a higher-end Kindle but don’t want to take the plunge with the latest and most expensive device.
Just as with the Oasis, when the Kindle Voyage was announced I was struck by its high price for an ereader.
The Voyage includes an adaptive front-light, the same screen as in the Paperwhite, and PagePress technology, which reacts to light pressure on the bezel to turn the page.
The arrival of the Oasis may now make the Kindle Voyage look like a cheaper option, but there’s little functionality in the Voyage that you don’t get in the Paperwhite.
And remember, you’re still getting that black, blocky old-school Kindle design here.
Kobo Aura H20
The Kobo Aura H20 is something very different to the Kindle range and offers something Amazon hasn’t managed yet – the perfect ereader for your beach holiday.
It’s waterproof and dust-proof, so you can take this ereader wherever you want without worrying that it’s going to be damaged by sand getting in the sockets or water flooding the internals.
Pages turn quickly, and the battery life of the Kobo Aura H20 will beat the Kindle Oasis (without its case) every time.
It suffers from a slight lack of processing power, there’s no 3G option, and the choices at the Kobo store are a little limited – but if you’re after a durable ereader that you can take anywhere, this may be the best option for you.
In some ways the Kindle Oasis is something quite different to other ereaders I’ve used – but in other ways it’s reassuringly familiar.
All the usual Kindle features are here, but the improved screen quality, the radically new design and the included case together produce something more premium than any of the other Kindle products you can buy right now.
But is it really worth the sizeable premium in terms of price? Or you should just settle for the Kindle Paperwhite, with the extra money better spent elsewhere?
With the Kindle Oasis Amazon has redefined the way in which we use an ereader. Comfortable one-handed reading is now possible when you’re on a crowded bus or train and need to hold onto a seat-back or handrail.
There’s never been an ereader this comfortable to hold – it really does just sit on your fingertips.
The screen is gorgeous as well. As soon as you pick up the Oasis it jumps out at you how much better this display is than on previous Kindles, allowing you to read comfortably for longer periods.
The clarity of the words hasn’t changed, but the real issue lay in the brightness of the screen, as you were straining your eyes in some lighting conditions.
The Amazon Kindle store is still second to none. The selection of ebooks on offer is fantastic, the pricing still beats most of the competition, and Kindle Unlimited is a big selling point if you read a lot.
And while the last few Kindles have been fast enough the Oasis pushes it that little bit further, so that turning a page now feels properly instantaneous.
The drop in battery life is a problem for me, and slipping on the chunky battery case takes away from the slimline design that’s such a key selling point of the Oasis.
I found myself taking it out and about without the case, as I didn’t want two devices taking up space in my pockets – but that meant drastically reduced battery life.
The limited case options are also an issue, especially if you don’t want real leather, whether it’s for ethical or style reasons. You can’t buy the Oasis without the case, and Amazon should address this by making it available case-free, or at least offering a non-leather case option.
Last, but by no means least, is the price. When I was told the price at my Amazon briefing I struggled to keep a straight face. It’s genuinely a jaw-dropping amount of money to spend on an ereader, which isn’t going to do anything other than let you read ebooks.
The cheapest model is US$289.99 (£269.99, AU$425). For that money you could buy a mid-range Android tablet or smartphone, and use it for reading ebooks and a lot of other things besides.
Without a doubt the Kindle Oasis is the best ereader you can buy right now. The new design is gorgeous, as is the new screen tech, and it offers everything we’ve come to expect from a Kindle product.
If you love to read ebooks and money is no object, there’s no other choice on the market that will offer such a comfortable and enjoyable reading experience.
Amazon’s ambition is to bring the Kindle down to the thickness of a piece of paper. The Oasis is still some way off that target, but it certainly brings major advances in the form factor, and ebooks have never been such a joy to read.
But the fact remains that this is a very expensive device. Amazon was criticised for the pricing of the Kindle Voyage when it launched, and it’s no surprise that the Oasis is attracting similar complaints.
That said, the Kindle Oasis will find a market. If you use an ereader daily, and want the best experience money can buy, take yourself down to the Oasis.