MEGATech Reviews: Amazon Kindle Oasis E-Reader
It's thin. It's light. It's square. And it comes with a battery-boosting cover. But are you willing to spend the extra dough on a new Amazon Kindle Oasis?
Pros
  • Exceptional battery life
  • Physical page turn buttons
  • The lightest Kindle ever
Cons
  • The most expensive Kindle yet
  • No adaptive screen brightness
  • Did I mention the price?
7.5Overall Score

How much are you willing to spend on a device that only serves one purpose? What if it serves that purpose really well, better than any other device that came before it? What if that single, solitary purpose was just to display some words on a screen for you to read and not much more than that? These are the questions you'll need to ask yourself before you even consider buying the all-new Amazon Kindle Oasis. It's pretty great for what it does, but is it worth all that extra cash?

What's New with Kindle Oasis?

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Daenerys Targaryen may have spoken about changing wheels and breaking wheels, but the one thing that the new Kindle Oasis doesn't do is reinvent any wheels. It's still "just" a Kindle, meaning you get a flat slab with an e-ink display that'll let you thumb through your favorite books, novellas and short stories on the go.

Announced last month, the Kindle Oasis still has the same 6-inch e-ink display as its predecessors with the same 300ppi pixel density. What's different is that you get ten LED lights for more even backlighting, though the Oasis lacks automatic brightness adjustment. The form factor has also been altered, switching from a largely symmetrical rectangle to a less symmetrical square. The profile is also asymmetrical with a "hump" on the back (like a camera grip) for easier one-handed reading.

And unlike every other Kindle that has come before it, the Oasis comes bundled with a protective leather cover. To make it more enticing, this is a battery boosting cover that should extend your reading time "to last months." Take a look at my Kindle Oasis unboxing video for a quick overview of the box contents and device features.

It's Hip to Be Square

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The "reimagined design" is perhaps one of the most striking features on the Kindle Oasis. This also happens to be the thinnest and lightest Kindle ever. That doesn't sound like it matters all that much, since Kindles have never weighed very much, but it is immediately noticeable when you pick this up. Slap on the battery cover, though, and the "OMG this is so light" experience disappears... not that it becomes overly heavy anyway.

As mentioned, you'll also notice that the design is decidedly asymmetrical. On the same side where you'll find the physical buttons for changing pages (you can still tap on the touchscreen to do that if you prefer), the Kindle Oasis is about twice as thick as it is on the other side. This shifts the center of balance so that it really is more comfortable to hold in one hand.

But herein lies a bit of a conundrum. If you want to have that ideal one-handed experience, you need to use the Kindle Oasis on its own. But one of the most useful features is the included battery cover. Slap that on -- it attaches magnetically and snaps into place -- and you end up with a mostly flat back again. It's not uncomfortable, but you do lose that "camera grip" experience.

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Speaking of the page-turning buttons, I find these physical buttons to be a vast improvement over the PagePress of the Kindle Voyage. I found I accidentally pressed the pressure-sensitive areas on the Voyage more often than I would have liked, whereas it's practically impossible to press these physical buttons accidentally.

The asymmetrical design also helps with this, because the buttons are placed on a far wider bezel than the other side. This means I'm less likely to touch the screen accidentally too. By default, the top button moves to the next page and the bottom button goes to the previous page, but you can change that in the settings. And don't worry if you're left handed, because the screen will automatically flip if you hold the Oasis the other way (with the buttons on the left).

Last Longer with the Battery Cover

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The included battery cover (remember that the "origami" cover for the Voyage was $60 on its own and it didn't have a battery in it) is pretty well the same size and weight as the e-reader itself. It doesn't do any sort of fancy folding, instead resembling a regular book. The front cover is a single flat piece that completely covers the front of the Oasis with ever-so-subtle indentations on the inner side to accommodate the page-turning buttons. The front cover still serves the same automatic sleep/wake function that we've seen with other magnetic covers too.

The battery back effectively protects about 2/3 of the back of the Oasis, leaving the final third "exposed" and unprotected. There is a (proprietary?) five-pin connector near the middle that snaps into place with the Kindle Oasis. It's really convenient. If you plug in the Kindle while the cover is on, both the internal battery and the cover's battery will charge. When unplugged, the cover will keep the Kindle's internal battery as topped up as possible at all times.

Your real world performance will vary based on your sleep/wake frequency and screen brightness, of course. For me, after a little over a week of regular use, the Kindle battery itself stayed at 100% (since it kept getting recharged by the cover), while the cover's battery sat at about 60%. The promise of lasting "weeks" is easily upheld. Lasting "months" may be more of a stretch.

Compared to Kindle Voyage and Paperwhite

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If you're in the market for a new e-reader, the Kindle family is still going to be the Kleenex of e-book reading devices. The biggest challenge that you'll face with the Oasis, though, is its price. We have to remember that it costs about three times as much as the already terrific Kindle Paperwhite (which itself is worth the small upgrade over the entry-level Kindle).

Despite the price premium, you basically get the same screen and same core features. The backlighting might be more even, but I don't really notice it. What I do notice is the lack of automatic brightness. Maximum and minimum brightness levels are comparable and the pixel density is identical, as is the user interface. It's the "same" Kindle in a slightly different package.

I will say that I've come to prefer the square form factor with the physical buttons over the rectangle shape and pressure-sensitive buttons on the Voyage. Realistically, though, are you willing to spend that much more so you don't have to tap on the screen to advance the page? There are rumors that the Oasis might also have Bluetooth, but until Amazon activates those wireless powers (possibly for some great Audible integration), we can't give them any points for a non-functional feature.

MEGATechie Oasis for the Thirsty vs. MEGATechie Priced Beyond Reach?

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I'm not going to comment very much on the actual reading experience on the Oasis, because it's identical to what you'd get on every other Kindle. The home screen is the same. Tapping near the top to access the menu system is the same. The responsiveness of the device is the same. The menus don't load any more quickly and advancing to the next page in your book takes the same few milliseconds.

But I have to keep going back to two of the best features on the Oasis. The asymmetrical design really is more comfortable, particularly because it shifts the center of balance into your one hand. The physical page turn buttons are easier to use one-handed than tapping on the screen. It's nice, it really is. It's comfortable and slick and beautiful, even if it's fundamentally the same Kindle we've had for years.

And so we go right back to the questions in the beginning. Is this the best Kindle yet? Absolutely and unequivocally. But it's only an incremental evolution. Despite its name, the Oasis isn't waterproof. The screen isn't better in any real way. The battery cover is appreciated, but it's not like Kindles have suffered from poor battery life.

The Amazon Kindle Oasis is better. It's just not "three times the money" better, even with the bundled battery cover. The Oasis is on sale now for $289 on Amazon.com (more if you want to remove the "special offers" lock screen or add 3G connectivity) and $399 on Amazon.ca (more if you want "free 3G"). For my money, you're better off buying a Paperwhite and spending the extra cash on something else.



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