Amazon's new Kindle Oasis is here (No, it has nothing to do with the band).
The Kindle Oasis costs $289.99, which makes it the priciest ebook reader currently on the market. But here's why: It's 30 percent thinner, over 20 percent lighter, comes with a leather charging cover that contains an extra battery, and has a dramatic new shape.
I held the Oasis in my hands, read a few words, and felt its new feather-light design. Weighing an impressive 4.6 ounces and measuring just 3.4mm (0.13-inch) at its thinnest point, the Oasis is the lightest and slimmest Kindle so far. Instead of a uniform, flat surface like previous readers, the Oasis looks like a wedge, with a slightly raised bump at one end that shifts the Kindle's center of gravity to your palm. It stayed balanced in my grip, like the spine of a book, making it perfect for one-handed reading. And it doesn't matter if you're lefty or a righty—a built-in accelerometer recognizes which hand you use to hold the reader, and automatically flips the screen to accommodate. Two small, vertical, built-in buttons located on the bezel handle page turns.
As for the screen, the Oasis uses a similar display as last year's Kindle Paperwhite. It's a 1,448-by-1,072-pixel, 300ppi E Ink Carta screen, with a 60 percent bump in brightness. A new diffractive pattern within the screen reduces glare and improves reading in different lighting scenarios. It was difficult to tell exactly how different the new screen is from previous Kindles, but text looked perfectly legible under indoor office lighting.
Font fiends will be happy to hear a new typeface called Ember comes with the Oasis. Like Bookerly, the font that debuted alongside last year's Paperwhite, Ember could be released for other Kindle products and apps via a software update, but Amazon hasn't confirmed whether or not that will happen.
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Besides the slimmer shape and the ergonomic grip, the biggest difference between the Oasis and past Kindles is its dual-battery design that incorporates a leather cover with a built-in lithium-ion cell. Once you magnetically connect the cover to the Oasis, it starts recharging automatically and adds up to nine weeks of battery life to the reader, according to Amazon. Without the cover, the Oasis will last about two weeks before it needs a charge. The cover itself, made of high-quality leather in black, merlot, or walnut, comes with every Oasis—one of the reasons the price is so high this time around. The other big reason is the special metal alloy Amazon used to make this the thinnest Kindle yet.
Don't worry, though. The Oasis and its near-$300 premium won't change the pricing for the rest of the Kindle lineup. At $80, the basic Amazon Kindle is still the most affordable reader out there, with access to Amazon's wide selection of ebooks. The Kindle Paperwhite, our favorite ebook reader, still goes for $120, and the Amazon Kindle Voyage, which seems kind of redundant now that the Paperwhite has the same display, costs $200. The $290 Oasis is simply a more expensive, luxurious addition to Amazon's lineup.
Given its high-end trappings, I'm somewhat surprised that the Oasis isn't waterproof like the Kobo Aura H2O or the Nook GlowLight Plus. It also doesn't seem to make for a significantly different reading experience from the Paperwhite, based on the limited time I spent with it.
That said, the ebook market is slowing down, and the Oasis can be seen as an attempt to renew some of the interest that has faded over time. I just wonder if Amazon should have gone in the opposite direction, with an ultra-low-cost ebook reader rather than a top-of-the-line model. After all, its inexpensive Fire tablet seems to be selling just fine. We'll have to wait to check out a review unit before we can really make a call.
The Kindle Oasis is available now for pre-order and will start shipping April 27. Check back soon for a full review.
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