Sharp, bright screen. Long battery life extended by leather charging cover. Ergonomic design. Built-in accelerometer. Vast ebook store.
Expensive. Not waterproof. Cover doesn't protect entire reader.
- Bottom Line
The Amazon Kindle Oasis is the best ebook reader money can buy, but the Kindle Paperwhite remains a more realistic choice for all but the most well-heeled readers.
The Kindle Oasis is the finest ebook reader Amazon offers. At $289.99, it's also the most expensive. For the price, you get the company's lightest and thinnest reader, a new design built around an ergonomic handgrip, and a leather charging cover that packs an additional battery. And the Oasis uses a brighter version of the 1,448-by-1,072-pixel, 300ppi E Ink Carta screen you'll find on the Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Voyage. There's no doubt that it's the loveliest Kindle yet, but is it worth the $170 premium over our Editors' Choice, the Kindle Paperwhite? For all but the most well-heeled readers, the answer is no.
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Pricing, Design, and Display
There are multiple configurations of the Oasis available. The base Wi-Fi-only model costs $289.99 with Special Offers (which are ads that appear on-screen when you aren't reading), and $309.99 without. A 3G model (so you can download books wherever you are, without the need for Wi-Fi) increases the price to $359.99 with Special Offers, and $379.99 without.
As mentioned above, the Oasis uses a six-inch Carta E Ink touch screen with a resolution of 1,448 by 1,072 pixels that squeezes 300 pixels into each inch for crisp, defined text. A new diffractive pattern within the screen and a boost in the number of LEDs—which light the screen from the back—helps set it apart from the Paperwhite and Voyage. The Oasis uses 10 LEDs, while the Paperwhite uses four and the Voyage uses six. When you put them next to one another, the Oasis is clearly gets the brightest. I was able to read in harsh sunlight, under office lamps, and in dim subway halls without issue. Like the Voyage, the screen on the Oasis is flush with the bezel.
The reader measures 5.63 by 4.80 by 0.13-0.33 inches (HWD). Instead of a uniform, flat surface, it resembles a wedge that measures 0.13-inch at its thinnest point, and has a raised 0.33-inch on the other end that fits in your palm like the spine of a book. The bump is where the battery and most of its weight is located, but the Oasis feels perfectly balanced in hand. It also doesn't matter if you're right- or left-handed, as a built-in accelerometer automatically flips the screen based on how you hold it.
The Oasis weighs 4.7 ounces on its own, and 7.36 ounces with the included leather charging cover attached. I found that I preferred to read with the cover connected, as it gives the reader a more substantial feel. The leather cover, available in black, merlot (red), or walnut (brown), has an embedded Amazon logo on the front and soft felt on the inside. A strong magnetic connection keeps the cover attached to the Oasis.
Aside from the slimmer, more ergonomic shape and improved brightness, what sets the Oasis and past Kindles apart is its dual-battery design. The Oasis itself contains a lithium-ion cell; the leather cover does as well. Once you connect the cover to the Oasis and plug it in with the included micro USB cable, you can charge both at the same time. Amazon claims the cover adds up to nine weeks of battery life to the reader (based on 30 minutes of usage per day). Without it, the Oasis should last about two weeks before it needs more juice. With the cover on, that's nearly double the battery life Amazon estimates you'll get with the Kindle Voyage (six weeks).
One nitpick is that the case doesn't entirely cover the back of the Oasis—the battery bump remains bare. Three of the sides are exposed too, which makes sense since the top houses the power port, power button, and an LED charging indicator. As with previous Kindles, there is still no headphone jack, so there's no audiobook support. There's no waterproofing either, which is disappointing given the premium price. For a waterproof ebook reader, you'll want to check out the Barnes & Noble GlowLight Plus or the Kobo Aura H2O.
Features and App Store
The Oasis has the same 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM as the Paperwhite, which is plenty responsive. It connects via 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi, or to AT&T's 3G network to download ebooks to its 4GB of internal storage (which can hold thousands of titles). There is still no external memory support, but free cloud storage lets you access your ebook collection across any device that can download the Kindle app.
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When you turn it on, you'll see the familiar row of icons at the top of the screen for Home, Back, Brightness (now indicated as a sun icon rather than a lightbulb), Goodreads, Cart, Search, and Menu. Below the toolbar, you'll see covers of three of your recent books, along with options to view your Library, Reading Lists, or Recommendations. Tapping Brightness also reveals Quick Options for Airplane Mode, syncing, more options for Wi-Fi networks, and a battery life indicator for both the Oasis and the charging cover.
As far as features go, if you already own a Kindle, you pretty much know what to expect—the Oasis doesn't offer a significantly different software experience than any other model. But I'll go over some of the big things.
You can register a Goodreads account while setting up the Oasis, which has you select your favorite genres and rate books to better narrow down your preferences. The more books you rate or add to your Want to Read list, the more books are publicly visible on your Goodreads profile, and the better Amazon can tailor recommendations. You can also follow friends, see what other people are reading, and share passages.
Kindle FreeTime lets you create profiles for kids so you can set reading goals for them; it sort of game-ifies reading by tracking accomplishments, awarding achievements, and encouraging better reading habits. You can also sign up for FreeTime Unlimited, which starts at $2.99 per month, and gives kids get unlimited access to hundreds of titles specificially curated for age-appropriateness.
Whispersync saves and synchronizes your last pages read across all of your devices and Kindle apps. I started reading Frank Herbert's Dune on the Oasis and picked up right where I left off on a Samsung Galaxy S6 easily. X-Ray lets you see all of the passages across a book that mention relevant ideas, characters, or other topics of interest. For example, there are 427 mentions of Sirius Black in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. About This Book provides further details about what you're reading. And you can link accounts using the Family Library feature, which makes it easier to share books.
Left to right: Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle, Kindle Oasis, Kindle Voyage
The Oasis comes with a new typeface called Ember, but I'm not a fan. It looks like a barely-there Arial font that you'd find in a word processor. Amazon hasn't said whether Ember will be pushed to other Kindle devices, though I suspect it eventually will.
Amazon's ebook store remains the best in the business. In addition to buying books, you can subscribe to magazines and newspapers. Amazon offers a number of Kindle-exclusive titles. And Kindle Unlimited gives you access to over a million books and thousands of audibooks for $9.99 per month (after a free one-month trial).
In addition to support for native Kindle formats AZW and AZW3, the Oasis also supports TXT, PDF, MOBI, PRC, HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP files. EPUB is still notably absent, which limits your Internet and public library sharing options are limited. That said, there are still plenty of ways to get free or cheap new ebooks.
Reading and Conclusions
Reading on the Oasis is sublime. Simply tap the right or left side of the screen to turn pages, as you would on any other touch-screen Kindle. You can also use the physical Page Turn buttons on the side, which I found to be perfectly situated beneath my thumb. I didn't have to move my hand at all while reading—I could just use my thumb to press both buttons. I flipped through Dune, Prisoner of Azkaban, and It without issue. The Oasis feels even more like an actual book than other readers thanks to its size and the leather cover.
The Amazon Kindle Oasis is the best ebook reader available. It has a brighter screen and longer battery life than any other reader we've tested. The physical buttons make reading even easier, and the built-in accelerometer is a nice touch. But at the end of the day, there just isn't enough here to separate the $290 Oasis from the $200 Voyage, or, more importantly, the $120 Paperwhite. The Paperwhite's screen is just as sharp (if not as bright), it holds just as many books, and aside from the Page Turn buttons, the reading experience is virtually identical. It's still the best pick for the vast majority of readers, and remains our Editors' Choice. Amazon is hoping you will judge the Oasis by its cover, but as the saying goes, you shouldn't.
Timothy Torres is a Junior Analyst on PCMag's consumer electronics team. He covers wearables, digital home, and various cool gadgets including the occasional video game. He has written all manner of copy for Computer Shopper, The Jersey Journal, Radio One, Random House, and 2D-X. Before entering the tech world, he attended New York University and worked in education as an art instructor. In his spare time he dabbles in theater, sketches comics, eats a lot of sushi and watches too many movies. Twitter: @pleasedtomeetya… More »
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