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Kindle Oasis review: is it better than a book?

Kindle Oasis Review: Is It Better Than A Book? Matthew Reynolds

8/10

Wired rating

  • Wired

    Screen works well in all light conditions; excellent design; great selection of ebooks in Kindle Store

  • Tired

    expensive; cover slightly ruins the e-reader’s balance; not waterproof

  • Price

    270

Kindle Oasis2, oozes sophistication. With each new version of the Kindle3, Amazon has taken a step close to the ereader holy grail: paper. The reading surface of choice for the last two millennia, paper’s infinite battery life and very low reflectivity are two qualities that Amazon has strived to match. The Kindle Oasis is Amazon’s thinnest, lightest and most expensive ereader yet, but is it any match for pulp and glue? WIRED put the Oasis head-to-head with an old-fashioned book to find out.

Design

With the Oasis, Amazon has moved away from the symmetrical tablet-esque design of earlier Kindles.4 The six-inch screen is bordered on three sides by about half an inch of matt black bezel, but the right hand side is wider and has two protruding buttons for page-turning. Want to hold it with your left hand? Flip the Kindle and the page-turning edge is now on the left.

Kindle Oasis Review: Is It Better Than A Book? Matthew Reynolds

Flip the Kindle on its edge and this right-hand edge also gives the Oasis its distinct asymmetrical look. This wedge-shaped block is 8.5 mm thick and houses the battery and motherboard. It also shifts the ereader’s centre of gravity towards your hand and feels a lot like holding a book by its spine. The rest of the Oasis is a svelte 3.4 mm, and at 133 grams (240g with cover) is comfortable to hold for hours on end. Reinforced cover glass, similar to Gorilla Glass, and an electroplated plastic and metal back cover ensure the Oasis is robust enough to stand up to key scratches and the toil of daily life. Our test book, A Brief History of Seven Killings5 by Marlon James in paperback, weighs in at a hefty 488 grams. That’s a forgivable weight for a 686-paged tome but holding it for a significant length of time does induce a bit of wrist ache. It also proves hazardous if you’re a fan of holding the book directly above your face while laying down in bed.

Kindle Oasis Review: Is It Better Than A Book? Matthew Reynolds

One last point on design. If you’re reading a clever book (Seven Killings won the Booker Prize didn’t you know?) then a subtle bit of a cover-boasting is always tempting. Not so with the Kindle Oasis. Whether you’re reading 50 Shades of Grey or The Iliad, the Oasis’ leather cover reveals nothing. It does, however, radiate an air of erudition, so whatever you’re reading, you’re likely to impress. Or not impress.

Screen

The Oasis has a 300 pixels-per-inch Paperwhite display with 60 per cent more LEDs than the Kindle Voyage6. The result is a crisp and clear display that’s a pleasure to use. The black bezel seems to fade into the background while you’re reading as the device gets out of the way and lets you get on with reading. The e-ink display is particularly good in near-darkness, being plenty bright enough the be visible without any of the eye-burning glare that usually emanates from backlit screens. Under bright, focused lamplight the screen was slightly reflective, however, which might prove annoying if you’re likely to be reading under harsh lighting.

Kindle Oasis Review: Is It Better Than A Book? Matthew Reynolds

As a touchscreen, the Paperwhite display is as responsive as e-ink screens get, but still nowhere near the level of responsiveness of tablets. It’s is more than adequate for selecting a book from your e-shelves, but navigating the Kindle’s limited-functionality browser with this screen is not a fun experience.

Don’t miss

But how does the Paperwhite display compare to the real thing? The paper of Seven Killings is certainly less reflective than its digital descendent’s screen, and there’s something about the smell of books that no ereader can match, but otherwise, the Oasis utterly outclasses the lo-fi alternative.

Software

The Oasis’ home page displays your current book alongside suggestions pulled from Amazon searches and your Goodreads7 profile. It’s also possible to browse Goodreads directly from the Oasis, but for some reason this functionality only works when connected to Wi-Fi and not on 3G. Buying a book from the Kindle Store8 only takes a few taps and the option to continue reading from where you left off across a range of devices, from smartphones to computers, is a nice touch. There are nine different fonts available and eight text sizes, so it’s simple to find a setup that’s easy on the eye and won’t have you reaching for the varifocals. There are also options to change spacing, margins and page orientation to suit your reading preferences.

Highlight any word in a book and you’ll be able to view its dictionary definition and share it with friends on Twitter9, Facebook10, email or Goodreads. While the prospect of inspirational quote-spamming on social media sets the on edge, reading isn’t always a solitary activity, and the option to send a ‘saw this and thought of you’ message is a useful touch. The Oasis also remembers which words you highlighted and stores these in a ‘vocabulary’ bank which is designed to familiarise readers with unusual words. You can test yourself using on-screen flashcards and then dismiss the words from the bank once you’ve mastered them. By definition, books don’t offer much in the way of software, and Seven Killings‘ font was readable enough that I wasn’t left wishing I could switch to a sans-serif. Against older books with tiny and cramped text, however, the Oasis’ adaptability is a huge advantage.

Battery

The Oasis’ slimmer build means a smaller battery, and this only has enough juice for two weeks of standby time, in comparison with the Voyage’s six. Amazon has compensated for this by shipping every Oasis with a cover (in red, brown or black leather) that doubles as a battery pack, increasing standby time to seven weeks. But this also makes the Oasis considerably heavier. When the Oasis is docked with the case, it’ll draw its juice from there and recharge itself automatically. Both batteries can then be charged via a micro-USB cable. Ten minutes of charging adds an hour of reading time to the Kindle.

Kindle Oasis Review: Is It Better Than A Book? Matthew Reynolds

The leather case snaps neatly onto the Oasis with magnets, but it also makes the Kindle feel less balanced in the hand. It does, however, do a fine job of keeping the Oasis dust-free, fully charged and looking great. Opening the cover automatically wakes the Kindle up and it goes back to sleep again when the cover is closed.

Don’t miss

The ereader’s battery life was nothing compared to the book-version of Seven Killings, though. Battery life is essentially infinite. Makers of smartphones, take note.

Verdict

The Kindle Oasis is a wonderful ereader and is a pleasure to use. Its asymmetrical design is the biggest jump forward for any Kindle yet.

Kindle Oasis Review: Is It Better Than A Book?

The Oasis’ cover comes in three colours: brown, black and red

Matthew Reynolds

But that doesn’t make it worth 270. The Kindle Paperwhite costs less than half that and is still an excellent ereader with a great screen. Ebooks are slightly cheaper than ‘real’ books, but they’re not so cheap that buying a 270 Oasis will save you much money in the long run. The Oasis is wholly desirable, but not wholly justifiable. It’s something you’ll pick up in the shop, love the feel of, but will inevitably pass over for a much more sensibly-priced device. The Kindle Oasis is a fantastic luxury item, but it’s not quite the paper-replacement Amazon was hoping for.

Specifications

Dimensions 143 x 122 x 8.5mm (3.4mm at thinnest point) Display Six-inch Paperwhite (300 ppi) Storage 4GB (room for thousands of books) Battery two weeks standby without cover, seven weeks with cover Weight 133 grams (without cover), 240 grams (with cover)

References

  1. ^ Amazon’s (www.wired.co.uk)
  2. Kindle Oasis (www.amazon.co.uk)
  3. ^ Kindle (www.wired.co.uk)
  4. earlier Kindles. (www.amazon.co.uk)
  5. ^ A Brief History of Seven Killings (www.goodreads.com)
  6. Kindle Voyage (www.amazon.co.uk)
  7. ^ Goodreads (www.goodreads.com)
  8. ^ Kindle Store (www.amazon.co.uk)
  9. ^ Twitter (www.wired.co.uk)
  10. ^ Facebook (www.wired.co.uk)

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