Beautiful design. Lightweight. Waterproof. Excellent screen. Long battery life.
- Bottom Line
If you don't mind paying a premium, Amazon's Kindle Oasis is the waterproof ebook reader you've been waiting for.
While many other gadget categories have been stamped out by smartphones, ebook readers endure because they speak of focus, rest, and freedom from the world of alerts, multitasking, and intrusion. Amazon's new Kindle Oasis (starting at $249) is the Everything Store's ultimate expression of ebook reading, expanding the screen slightly, making the body waterproof, and stretching the battery life so you can read anytime, anywhere. I got a chance to use the new Oasis ahead of its release on October 31.
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The Oasis is a flat-front aluminum slab with no raised bezel around its 7-inch, 300ppi E Ink screen. The screen is noticeably bigger than Amazon's other Kindles, and the Oasis now feels larger than a paperback book, although it's still easy to hold, and at 6.8 ounces, it's lighter than the Kindle Paperwhite (7.2 ounces). The battery bulges along the back, creating a hand grip, and there are page turn buttons on the front. You can use it in your right or left hand; the reader orients itself automatically.
Amazon updated the Kindle software to support 10 fonts in 14 sizes with 5 levels of boldness, as well as a white-on-black text mode, which is very easy on the eyes. This Oasis, like the previous one, has adaptive front lighting, so the backlight brightens and dims based on your surroundings, although the screen doesn't have a blue light filter.
Excitingly, the Oasis is the first waterproof Kindle, with an IPX8 rating. Kobo has made several generations of waterproof ebook readers, but Kindle fans have had to rely on cases so far. With its flat front that won't trap sand, this a perfect beach device.
The Oasis also supports Audible audiobooks, synced with your reading progress; you can bounce back and forth between reading or listening. Because it doesn't have a speaker or a headphone jack, though, you have to use Audible through Bluetooth headphones or speakers, which seems a bit kludgy. I see this being most useful in Bluetooth-capable cars, where you can put down the book you've been reading in the morning and pick it up to listen to on your commute.
Amazon says the Oasis has six weeks of battery life (based on 30 minutes of reading per day). That's triple the battery life of the first Oasis, which was cited at two weeks. Six different fabric and leather magnetic covers are available ($44.99 for fabric, $59.99 for leather), and they feel great in the hand; unlike with the last generation's covers, these don't need a supplemental battery on board.
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A Costly Choice
Handling the Oasis, I had the same reaction as with the original model: This is the finest ebook reader available, to be sure, but it can be hard to justify the price. The Oasis is $249 for the 8GB version most people will buy (ebooks don't take up much space). A 32GB version, for $279, is for heavy audiobook users. And a model with unlimited 4G LTE for book purchases costs $349. That's less expensive than the previous Oasis generation, which went from $289 to $389, but it's still a lot. For what it's worth, Amazon told me that even at the higher price, original Oasis units were selling very well.
Kindles have very little real competition. Barnes & Noble's Nook business is dead, and Kobo has never been able to get real traction in the US (although it's popular in Canada) outside of free-software fans and hardcore Amazon haters.
Amazon Kindle Oasis 2016 (left) and Kindle Oasis 2017
The Kobo Aura H2O has many of the Oasis' features for less: It's waterproof, about 7 inches, has an adaptive backlight, long battery life, and costs $179. It isn't quite as elegant, but more importantly, it isn't a Kindle, which means it doesn't have the near-guarantee that you'll always find the book you want in its store. Amazon also has the $200 flat-front-but-not-waterproof Voyage, the $120 Paperwhite (our humbler but still very functional Editors' Choice), and the $80 frills-free baseline Kindle. We'll rate the the Oasis after we test it in the coming weeks. Check back for a full review soon.
PCMag.com's lead mobile analyst, Sascha Segan, has reviewed hundreds of smartphones, tablets and other gadgets in more than 9 years with PCMag. He's the head of our Fastest Mobile Networks project, one of the hosts of the daily PCMag Live Web show and speaks frequently in mass media on cell-phone-related issues. His commentary has appeared on ABC, the BBC, the CBC, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, and in newspapers from San Antonio, Texas to Edmonton, Alberta. Segan is also a multiple award-winning travel writer, having contributed… More »
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