Amazon Kindle Oasis review: the luxury e-reader really is something special

Top-end e-reader is a cut above the rest, rethinking the Kindle design and experience, cutting 20% weight and costing a pretty penny in the process

Amazons latest high-end Kindle breaks with the mould of the basic e-reading experience to become a luxury item in a class of its own.

The new Oasis Amazons biggest step forward towards its goal to creation paper 2.0 is a whole new entry in the Kindle range. It takes technology from the others, refined and placed into a thinner, lighter and rethought design.

Asymmetrical

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The back tapers to a 3.4mm thick edge, with the battery, processor and buttons contained in the grip. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The Oasis has no new standout features. It runs the same version of the Kindle software. It loads ebooks, magazines and newspapers from Amazons store or side-loaded from a computer on an E-ink screen. It has the same screen technology as the 110 Kindle Paperwhite, just with 60% more LEDs lining the displays side for a brighter, slightly more even frontlight.

The screen is excellent, with text looking sharp and clear and easily readable in all conditions. With the backlight on around level 15 the text appears to almost float out from the screen, with the matt black bezel disappearing from view.

Instead, the Oasis is all about making the e-reader get out of the way of the ebook-reading experience. The device itself is 20% lighter than previous Kindles. The design has been rethought; it is no longer symmetrical, with one side thicker and wider than the other and page-turn buttons that stick out of the front.

The asymmetric design means that the majority of the weight of the Kindle – all 131g of it is distributed closer to your hand making it easier to grip and hold steady.

Its a subtle difference, but is a big improvement when reading for long periods meaning your hand doesnt get as tired and is easier to hold and read than a paperback.

The body also feels a lot more sturdy and durable. Its made of electroplated plastic, which makes it light but strong, while the glass and display has been toughened against impact, meaning it should survive being tossed into a bag without issue.

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The brown leather cover closes over to protect the screen, held in place by magnets. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Included in the box is also a protective cover that attaches magnetically to the back of the Oasis. It adds weight, but also battery life to the e-reader (more on that later).

With the cover attached the Oasis becomes a more uniform thickness and weight distribution. The flap attaches to the back of the Kindle magnetically when reading, exposing the soft felt lining. It provides quite a nice grip surface. Its not quite as nice and balanced as without the battery cover, but is still nicer to hold than previous Kindles thanks to the larger bezel one side of the screen which makes for a larger area to hold it.

Specifications

  • Screen: 6in Paperwhite with frontlight (300ppi)
  • Storage: 4GB
  • Dimensions: 143 x 122 x 8.5mm (3.4mm at thinnest point)
  • Weight without cover: 131g (133g 3G version)
  • Weight with cover: 238g (240g 3G version)
  • Rated battery life: 28 hours (30 minutes a day for 8 weeks, Wi-Fi off, brightness level 10)
  • Native format support: Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC

Battery life

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The battery case on the left, the Kindle Oasis on the right. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The e-reader is only one part of the Oasis. The other is a battery and protective cover, which come in the box and attaches magnetically to the back slotting into the tapered edge. Without the battery cover the Oasis has a rated life of seven hours reading. With the battery attached it will last for 28 hours between charges, which take three hours via microUSB. The battery case charges the internal battery of the Kindle too, at a rate of 1 hour of reading per 10 minutes attached to the case.

During my testing, with data connectivity on and the brightness set to level 15 I managed to read 200 pages or around 6 hours without the battery case before getting a warning that only 10% battery was left. With the battery case attached I could easily have read two, maybe three books under the same conditions.

Software experience

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The Oasis comes pre-loaded with Amazons latest version of its Kindle software with a homescreen that resembles a magazine. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The recently updated Kindle home screen now resembles a modern landing page, with your current book prominently featured along with reading lists and suggestions from Amazon and Goodreads. The touchscreen is also fast and responsive for an E-ink screen, making switching books or browsing for new ones easy.

Theres a new quick settings panel from which you can enable aeroplane mode, sync the Kindle, adjust the backlight, view battery levels for the Oasis or the cover as well as access the rest of the settings menu.

The basic Kindle reading experience is excellent with a choice of seven typefaces, including Amazons own Bookerly and Amazon Ember, which are specifically for screen reading. The font can be adjusted through eight sizes from really quite small to very large while line-spacing and margins can all be adjusted.

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Typeface and font size are adjustable so that it suits your reading preference. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

In addition to simply showing you text, the Oasis is filled with great additions and helpful tools that aid the reading experience when needed, but get out the way when not.

X-Ray, for instance, shows you extensive character and book information, while built in dictionary and Wikipedia access help readers understand what the author is trying to say with words they may not recognise, or translate them if theyre in another language.

Simply holding your finger on a word invokes options to look up a meaning, highlight it, share it or add a note to it. Whole passages can be selected in a similar manner and shared to Twitter, Facebook, email or Amazons Goodreads book-based social network. Bookmarks help keep your place, while the Kindle will sync your reading progress so you can pick up where you left off on another device.

You can also access Goodreads straight from the Kindle, view your friends books, reading progress, rate books and get recommendations, but only over Wi-Fi even if you have a 3G-capable Oasis, which is a bit strange.

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X-ray really adds something to experience, from reminding you of characters to pointing out places and landmarks. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Price

The Amazon Kindle Oasis comes in a choice of three cover colours costing 270 with Wi-Fi only or 330 with free global 3G, shipping on 27 April.

For comparison, the Kindle Voyage costs 170 with Wi-Fi only, the Paperwhite costs 110 with Wi-Fi only and adverts, and the standard Kindle costs 60 with ads. Kobos Aura H2O costs 140.

Observations

  • Brown leather cover is sumptuous to hold and touch found myself wanting to carry it around when not in use because it feels so nice
  • The back is not protected with the cover on
  • The cover switches the Kindle on and off
  • The Oasis will enter a deeper state of hibernation when not used for a bit with the cover closed but doesnt take long to wake up
  • Reading the Oasis was the least tiring on the eyes I have experienced, even more comfortable than the excellent Voyage
  • The soft-touch plastic back where the handgrip is on the Oasis makes for quite a reassured grip, allowing you relax your hand

Verdict

The Amazon Kindle Oasis is the best e-reader available at the moment. Others may be waterproof, or have more advanced features, but the Oasis is just a nicer reading experience, from the way the software works to the way the device feels in your hand.

But more than that the Kindle Oasis is a very nice thing. Its a luxurious-feeling item that makes you want to hold it, to read it. Like a fine pen makes writing a more enjoyable act, the Oasis accentuates the reading experience.

Is it a 100 better than the already expensive 170 Voyage or 160 better than the Paperwhite? No, it is basically the same experience minus the buttons and body. But is it worth the extra 100 as a luxury item, absolutely. Should you buy it? Probably not.

It certainly isnt for everyone, and the Paperwhite will likely be all the e-reader most will need, but Oasis is the one youll want. The Oasis is the Bentley to the Paperwhites Golf – both will get the job done, just one is a cut above the other.

Pros: long battery life, light, easy to hold, excellent screen, even frontlight, great page-turn buttons, luxurious feel, large selection of ebooks

Cons: expensive, front cover doesnt protect back, not waterproof, Goodreads access requires Wi-Fi on 3G version

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The new quick settings panel makes it easy to check battery life, adjust the brightness and put the Kindle into aeroplane mode. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/26/amazon-kindle-oasis-review-luxury-e-reader