Amazon Kindle Oasis is the Best e-Reader (Review)

It was fun handing Amazon’s new Kindle Oasis e-readers to unsuspecting coworkers.

Ooh, it’s so thin. It’s so light. Is it too small? It might be too small,” one coworker told me.

Too small?” I asked.

I’m worried it might fly out of my hand,” she said.

She was not alone.

As Amazon continues making the Kindle reading experience more book- and paper-like, it is finally approaching paper-thinness. And some people simply can’t handle it.

It’s not just that the Kindle Oasis is thin — 0.13 inches until you get to the much thicker battery and component side. Even the size and shape threw some people who were used to the rectangle form factor Amazon had been honing since the days of the second-generation Kindle.

Amazon Kindle Oasis

The new Oasis is on the left and the last, best generation Voyage is on the right.

Image: BRITTANY HERBERT/MASHABLE

The last model, Amazon’s pricey, 6.6-ounce Voyage, seemed like the apex. I assumed future Kindle e-readers would get somewhat thinner and lighter. I didn’t foresee radical change. Perhaps that’s why people have such strong reactions to the Kindle Oasis.

A rewrite

The Amazon Kindle Oasis e-reader is a top-to-bottom rethinking of the near-decade-old product. It still serves the same purpose — reading — but is now even more purpose-built. Amazon told me its goal with this product is for everything else to fall away so the reader can lose themselves in the text. The Kindle Oasis is as close to this ideal as Amazon has ever — or may ever — come.

Amazon Kindle Oasis

With its physical buttons, light weight and pleasing ergonomics, the Amazon Kindle Oasis is perfect for one-handed reading. Too bad this hand-model didn’t get the memo.

Image: brittany herbert/mashable

At 5.6 x 4.8-inches, the Kindle Oasis is fairly close to a square chassis. The 6-inch diagonal screen looks square compared to the screen on, say, the Voyage or Kindle Paperwhite, but that’s an optical illusion. The size of the screens are identical.

Most, but not all of that screen sits on an almost impossibly thin 0.13-inch thick case that runs to the outer edge where it sharply expands to 0.33 inches. This area, which houses the device’s 2-week battery and components, is where you hold the Kindle Oasis. It feels good in the hand and has just enough weight to counterbalance the cantilevering screen, making for an excellent one-handed reading experience.

That same area houses the Kindle Oasis’s two physical buttons. It’s been a while since Amazon used actual buttons for page navigation. Early Kindles were festooned with buttons; one had an entire keyboard. These two, which are placed equidistant from the top and bottom edge of the device, are designed to sit right under your thumb for left or right handed reading (the screen has an accelerometer so it will orient itself properly if you switch hands).


As with recent Kindles, the Kindle Oasis has a touch screen. This one is easily the most responsive they’ve ever build for an e-reader and you can still tap and swipe to turn a page. So why did they need to add buttons? Amazon told me it was so you never have to move your thumb, just press to turn a page and stay deep within the text. As a long-time Kindle e-reader owner, I actually had to train myself to stop swiping the screen (there are, by the way, many reasons to touch the screen, but we’ll get into that later). Eventually, I got used to using the buttons and did find it kind of nice to read a page, press, read a page, press, read a page…you get the idea.

I’m also glad Amazon let me program which button turns the page back and forwards. Amazon kind of hides the customization option under a few menus, but when I found it, I probably switched three times before I finally settled on the bottom button as forward.

Amazon Kindle Oasis

The Amazon Kindle Oasis has two navigation buttons, which are positioned so you can reach them with your thumb.

Image: BRITTANY HERBERT/MASHABLE

There is, by the way, one other button on the device: The power button. It sits along the top of the fat edge, right next to the device’s Micro USB port (the Kindle Oasis ships with a cable but no power brick). The only notable thing about this is that because it’s not along the bottom edge (Paperwhite) or on the back (Voyage), I kept forgetting where it was.

Words on a page

This is probably the first major Kindle e-reader redesign to not feature a significant E Ink screen resolution update. The Kindle Oasis offers the same 300 pixels per inch (PPI) as the Voyage. Amazon told me they expanded the white range on this screen, but in side-by-side comparisons with the Voyage, I couldn’t tell the difference. Both have enough resolution for me and, while they’re getting closer to true-white, there is still a faint whiff of gray in there.

Amazon Kindle Oasis

The 6-inch Kindle Oasis screen has the same 300 ppi resolution as the last model.

Image: BRITTANY HERBERT/MASHABLE

Differences were more discernable in the screen lighting technology. Lights on an E Ink reader shine light over the top of the screen (just below the protective glass). LCD displays, by contrast, shoot light from behind the screen and, basically, at your eyes. Amazon added 60% more LEDs, which makes the light more uniform and much brighter. The light also shoots in from the fat edge of the device, as opposed to the Paperwhite and Voyage, which shoots it up from the bottom edge. In daylight, you obviously don’t need the light, but for night reading, it’s a much better solution (for your bed mate) than turning on your night light.

Amazon added 60% more LEDs, which makes the light more uniform and much brighter.

Amazon wants Kindle e-reading to be as close to book reading as possible, but it has never shied away from integrating technology and information into each tome — something clearly not possible with a traditional book.

For example, I can still hold my finger down on a word to reveal a considerable number of options. There’s the New Oxford American Dictionary definition, a Wikipedia entry, even the option to translate the word to another language. For some books, I get X-Ray, which offers, among other details, character descriptions and all the times they appear in a book. I can also select sentences and paragraphs to highlight, add notations and share on social media. Aside for the fact that I can carry thousands of books (the Kindle Oasis starts with 4GB of storage) and magazines in one tiny device, this is one of the great benefits of a digital reading experience. I often use the dictionary when I’m reading, and even the highlight option. I don’t, though, use X-Ray a lot or share very often from within a book

Amazon Kindle Oasis

Amazon’s Kindle ereader system has a ton of smart features hidden behind the text, like a dictionary and highlighting.

Image: BRITTANY HERBERT/MASHABLE

There are, as I noted earlier, ample reasons to touch the screen. It’s the only way to access the menu (you tap the top of the screen), shop for new books and magazines, adjust the screen lighting and even change the font size (you use two fingers to pinch or expand on the screen). Much of this works just as it did on recent Kindles, so I won’t rehash it. Suffice to say, these features all benefit from the more responsive screen.

Powerbook

The Kindle Oasis is, at $289.99 base price, the most expensive Kindle e-reader ever. It’s also the first Kindle to ship with a case and it’s not just for protection. The leather case includes an integrated, magnetized battery pack, which features five exposed connectors that marry with the five on the thick edge of the Kindle Oasis. The magnets pull the case and Kindle Oasis together to form a neat little slab that sits inside the case (available in merlot, walnut and black).

Amazon Kindle Oasis

The Amazon Kindle Oasis in its special, leather case.

Image: BRITTANY HERBERT/MASHABLE

According to Amazon, the case adds another seven weeks of battery life. My experience with Kindles has been that they sip battery life as long as you keep the Wi-Fi radio (and/or cellular Whispersync radio) off. I can’t test this thing for nine weeks, but what I can tell you is that I’ve charged it exactly once since I received it almost a week ago. It still has a lot of battery life.

Amazon Kindle Oasis

The underside of the Kindle Oasis (left) next to its power brick case.

Image: BRITTANY HERBERT/MASHABLE

There’s no doubt the Kindle Oasis is an excellent e-reader. It’s a pleasure to use and hold. You get the case and extra battery with it, a potential $60 value. However, it’s still hard to justify the $289.99 price tag, and if you add 3G and remove the ads that appear on the sleep screen, you could pay $379.99. That’s an insane amount for an e-reader. Of course, with the ubiquity of Wi-Fi, you really don’t need 3G (Whispersync will work without it) and the ads do not get in the way of your reading experience.

Amazon Kindle Oasis

You may think the Kindle Offers that appear on the device lock screen are annoying, but keeping them there is probably worth the $20 you’ll save on the price of the Oasis.

Image: BRITTANY HERBERT/MASHABLE

If you want the ultimate ebook e-reader experience, the Kindle Oasis is it, but you can also get an excellent one with the $119.99 Kindle Paperwhite.

As for my co-worker who was almost afraid to use the ultra-light device, she calmed down when I slipped the Oasis into its battery case.

Oh, this is better. I like it much better like this,” she said.

You get the case with it,” I told her.

She seemed relieved.

Amazon Kindle Oasis

  • Excellent, ergonomic design
  • Super light Integrated battery case
  • Strong, responsive screen

The Bottom Line

The Amazon Kindle Oasis is the best e-reader Amazon, or anyone else, has ever made, but it costs a pretty penny.

Originally published on MASHABLE

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