Where many companies are obsessed with making the latest, greatest smartphone, Amazon has found success with other modern devices. Along with the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot line of personal assistants, the former bookseller shines when it comes to giving you a modern way to read those books. The Kindle line started in 2007, but here in 2016, the line of e-readers serves the same function: offering a convenient way to consume your ever-growing book collection. The latest iteration of the e-reader, Amazon’s Kindle Oasis, continues to pursue that mission—with longer battery life, a squatter form-factor and a very high price tag.
The Kindle Gains Love Handles
The first thing you’ll notice about the Kindle Oasis is its asymmetrical shape. While every other Kindle’s left and right side were similar, the Oasis puts the device’s page-changing buttons in a single row. Meaning you can hold the device with one hand, and go back and forth between pages while barely lifting your thumb or adjusting how you’re holding the device. The larger bezel on the side doubles as an easy way to hold the device. Lefties can rotate the Kindle Oasis 180 degrees and the page onscreen rotates with it, much like any modern smartphone.
Unfortunately, the improved ergonomics make this Kindle a little uglier than previous versions. Visual preferences being a matter of opinion, you may not mind the lopsided look of the Oasis since the side sans-bezel handle is very thin. Those who prefer the slimmer rectangle look of last year’s Kindle Voyage may find the design change jarring.
Kindle’s Outstanding Strength Is The Reading Experience
Above all else, the Kindle line’s greatest advantage over full-fledged tablets is the reading experience. A full-color screen is purposefully absent from a device like this. Not only does the e-ink screen that the Kindle Oasis look almost identical to an actual page, being easier on the eyes, it uses far less battery than an LCD display. Amazon rates the battery at “months” when used with the included battery/cover hybrid (more on that later).
The Kindle Oasis screen may look smaller than screens belonging to previous versions like the Voyage, Paperwhite and others, but Amazon promises this is simply an optical illusion. Each one has a 6-inch screen. The Oasis version, however, offers 300 pixels per inch for clearer text. A backlight allows for nighttime reading, but in general the screen looks much better with it off.
Graphic novels are supported, but you may be better off reading a comic book on something like an iPad. The black and white nature of the screen, and the slowness of the zoom function, makes traversing your way through comic panels a hassle.
This Kindle has 4GB of storage space, which holds at least one thousand books. Books can be downloaded over wi-fi when you’re at home or nearby a remembered wireless network. If you opt for the more expensive 3G version, you’ll be able to download books when on the move: a feature less important for those with easy access to wi-fi, and more important to those who are more susceptible to impulse buys.
Kindle Oasis’s Second Great Strength: The Leather Case
Many Kindle owners opt for a third-party case that adds heft to the device. Amazon decided to preempt the third parties this time, and provide a case within the Kindle Oasis package. Not only is the case made by Amazon itself, the cover also has a built-in extra battery—extending the life of your Kindle.
Charging the case happens whenever you charge your Kindle and the e-reader is wearing its black, red or brown leather cover. The Kindle’s settings menu shows a percentage of how much battery life is left in both the Kindle and the battery case. While the case isn’t always charging the Kindle, it hasn’t let my book-reader dip below 90 percent battery.
The Kindle Oasis, sheds heft at every opportunity. One side is thinner than the other. When the case is attached, the thinner side fills out, and a nearly uniform shape is formed. While the depth of the Kindle is evened out, the device’s footprint remains the same—in width and height, that extra big bezel is still visible on the right (or left).
Everything Else Is Fine At Best, Sluggish At Worst
Amazon has mastered the reading experience here. But don’t buy a Kindle for the great web browsing experience, or thinking you’ll run apps. Amazon touts this as a device that limits distractions when you want to escape reality and enter the world of a book. Only certain apps, like read-it-later clients Pocket and Instapaper, make sense on the device.
Even the experience of finding and buying books isn’t exactly enjoyable. Finding and downloading a book feels oddly like being taken back to the internet of the past, although features like trying samples or borrowing a book for free from the Kindle library are thoughtful inclusions. The next welcome addition would be adding an optional passcode requirement before purchasing anything, to keep pranksters out.
Price & Final Word
Those who have used a Kindle in the past know exactly what to expect. Except the price. The Kindle Oasis will run you a whopping $289.99, almost triple the price of a Paperwhite. The 3G cellular version will cost users an extra $70 at $359.99. One can’t help but wonder how many books one could get by simply buying a Paperwhite or Voyage instead and saving some cash for novels.
But for those looking for the flagship Kindle experience, here it is. The battery case is perfect for traveling as it extends the battery life, offers slightly more protection, and doesn’t cost extra. And the reading experience remains topnotch. But if all you care about is reading words on a digital page, the premium Kindle Oasis experience may be more than you need.