Amazon Kindle Oasis review

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If you’re looking for a premium ereader, you’re almost certainly looking at Amazon’s Kindle Oasis (or the Kobo Forma, but that doesn’t have the name recognition of Amazon’s Kindle range, which is synonymous with ereaders). 

The Kindle Oasis line are Amazon’s top-of-the range ereadrers, with the base Amazon Kindle sitting as the most affordable device, with its basic screen, limited storage space and few features, and the Kindle Paperwhite bumping up the screen resolution and storage space and adding a few tricks like waterproofing. Now Amazon has released an upgraded version of the Oasis, adding some important new features.

With display features including adaptable brightness, impressive backlighting, and in this latest model a warmth setting to reduce eye strain, the Kindle Oasis line is for people who want the most luxurious reading experience, at a price point to match. But is that price tag really justified for a device that’s a relatively minor step above the Kindle Paperwhite?

If that price tag is a bit high for you, we'd recommend waiting a tiny but until the end of November for the Black Friday sales, or perhaps Cyber Monday which is just three days after.

Amazon has a habit of cutting the price of its own products on deal days, and while we might not see a dramatic cost slash, there could be something. Or there could be nothing, we don't know yet. Either way, Black Friday isn't far away, so it's worth waiting to see. 

Given the status of the Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019) as Amazon’s most premium ereader, you should be prepared to wince at its $249.99 / £229.99 / AU$399 / AED 999 price tag. That’s for 8GB onboard memory; if you want 32GB storage the price goes up to $279.99 / £259.99 / AU$449 / AED 1,099.

There’s also a version with 32GB memory and free 4G for downloading books on the go in limited markets, which will set you back $349.99 / £319.99 / AU$559.

In comparison, the base Kindle costs $89.99 / £69.99 / AU$139 / AED359 for 4GB storage, and the Kindle Paperwhite will set you back $129.99 / £119.99 / AU$199 / AED649 for 8GB memory, so even the cheapest Oasis is still a big step up from the Paperwhite.

Design

The Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019) doesn’t follow the mini-tablet design of most ereaders – one half of the device is noticeable thicker than the other, which gives you a ridge down the back so that it’s easier to hold (in theory).

In practice, we found the ridge wasn’t quite thick enough to offer a comfortable hold – at 8.4mm thick, it’s only 5mm thicker than the 3.4mm of the main body, which doesn’t provide a deep enough ridge to really get your fingers into. We found the Kindle Oasis a little hard to hold when only using this ridge, so we wouldn’t recommend it depending on what position you like to sit in to read.

The Kindle Oasis (2019)’s other dimensions are 159 x 141mm, so it wouldn’t be big compared to a tablet, but its display is bigger than those of the other Kindles – more on the display later.

One of the more ‘premium’ features of the device is the metal build, which you won’t find in other Kindles. This makes it feel more hardy, which offsets the fact the 3.4mm part of the device, and its relatively lightweight of 188g, can make it feel a little delicate – the overall effect is a device the looks and feels sleek.

The device is also water resistant, with its IPX8 rating meaning that in theory it can survive being immersed in two metres of water for a whole hour. We can’t imagine that you’d want to take it underwater for that long, but it’ll certainly be fine if you accidentally drop it in the bath while reading, or get it splashed here and there.

Something a little less premium is the micro USB charging port, as most tablets and smartphones have done away with it in favor of USB-C, which is faster for charging. You’re not going to be using that much power with an ereader, so it’s not a huge issue, but we could do without the inconvenience of swapping out the charging cables we use for the rest of our devices.

There’s no 3.5mm headphone jack either, nor loudspeakers, so if you want to listen to audiobooks you’re going to need to use Bluetooth headphones or speakers. 

There are two buttons on the right of the Kindle Oasis, used for skipping forward or backwards through pages. It felt a lot more snappy using these to turn pages than touching the screen, due both to the fact they’re in positions that fall naturally under the fingers, and also because pages turned quicker when we pressed the buttons than when we touched the screen.

There were occasions, however, when the buttons didn’t register our touch, and other times they did but the device stuttered before the next page loaded, prompting us to press again then accidentally skip pages. This often happened when reading books that were complicated in terms of their layout and design, like comic books and our own PDFs, and we didn’t notice it as much for text-based books.

It’s worth noting that for the most part, the design is exactly the same as the previous generation of Kindle Oasis, and that ereader costs quite a bit less now.

Display

The display is where you’re seeing the main improvements on the Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019), as there are quite a few additions and changes that improve its quality, and the reading experience.

The display is 7 inches diagonally, which is bigger than the 6-inch screens in the Kindle and Kindle Paperwhite, so you can fit more words or comic book frames on the screen at once, and it’s also higher quality, with 300 pixels per inch, so content looks good too. 

This screen is backlit by 25 LEDs, a big jump over the 12 LEDs in the 2017 Kindle Oasis, and you can see the different – max brightness is really high, so you can read in a variety of situations, and there’s better contrast between light and dark, which makes comic books in particular more vivid.

The brightness can be changed through the easily-accessible settings menu, but there’s also the option to have it automatically change depending on your environment, as on many smartphones.

It’s in the settings menu that you’ll find another of the Kindle Oasis’ big new features, in the form of the ‘warmness’ light setting. This gives the display an orange hue, which makes it more comfortable to look at during night-time reading, and protects your eyes over long reading binges.

The feature is primarily designed to make it more comfortable to read at night, but we also found that when we used it on a low setting we could read more easily in daylight. There’s not a huge range when you change the warmth, but it’s an appreciated upgrade anyway.

The refresh rate of the screen is appropriate – being an ereader display, you’re not seeing as snappy a refresh as on a smartphone screen, but it was far from slow. When zooming into parts of a document we could see the zoom increments, and this made it easier to zoom to the right part of the file.

Battery life

Amazon estimates that the battery in the Kindle Oasis (2019) will last you for six weeks, but that’s with a few caveats: to achieve that figure you’ll need to limit your reading to half an hour a day, keep Bluetooth turned off, and the brightness setting on 13, which is roughly half brightness.

While that might sound slightly limiting, in practice, if you’re going to be reading for an hour or so daily, and with the display a little brighter than Amazon recommends, your ereader is still going to take a fair few weeks to run flat, and this is exactly what we found in our testing.

We read for a good two-three hours daily, and it took about a week for the battery to drop down to 50% – that’s roughly the rate of battery consumption quoted by Amazon. In short, the battery life is pretty impressive – this thing will last you for ages.

This is one of the perks of E Ink, as the tech uses barely any battery power to show content on the screen, and it’s certainly an eco-friendly alternative to reading books on your smartphone.

Charging via the micro USB port isn’t exactly snappy though – we found it took a few hours to charge the Oasis up to full power, but this doesn’t really matter too much if you’re only going to be powering up once in a blue moon.

Software

The Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019) runs on software that’s very tightly integrated with the Amazon Store – so much so that it can be easy to get confused between which books you own as part of your library, and which are suggestions from Amazon.

Once you get the hang of the software, though, it’s easy to find your way between the home page, your library, the settings, the store, and everything else you’ll need.

​As is the case with ereaders in general, it’s not the snappiest device in the world, and it can often take quite a while to navigate through menus. This sluggishness can be particularly annoying when you’re trying to type, but it’s a price you pay for using a device that’s optimized for reading books rather than for smooth navigation of the user interface.

As on other Kindles, you there are a few useful features you’ll find in the Oasis that make it a useful reading tool. One of these is the ability to change text fonts for ebooks, so if you absolutely must read your books in a sans serif font, you’re set. You can also change the page spacing, margins, and orientation, to fully customize your reading experience.

Amazon Store

The Amazon Store is the biggest collection of ebooks around, so you’re almost certainly going to find the fiction or non-fiction book, comic book or audiobook with relative ease.

If you’re a keen reader you may be interested in Amazon Kindle Unlimited, a subscription service available in some parts of the world that lets you ‘rent’ ebooks. It costs $9.99 / £7.99 / AU$13.99 per month, and you can download and store up to 10 books or comics at any one time, so it’s perfect for quick readers. 

Kindle Unlimited is particularly good for fans of comic books and graphic novels, as those are typically quite quick to get through but the physical versions cost quite a bit; and the Kindle library has many of the classics, so you can use Kindle Unlimited to make your way through lots of titles quickly.

The selection of books on Kindle Unlimited is rather limited, certainly compared to the standard Kindle store, but it’s great for classic novels like War of the Worlds and 10,000 Leagues Under The Sea, as well as comic books, and a smattering of other titles you may not have heard of but might want to try.

Depending on your tastes and reading habits, Amazon Kindle Unlimited may or may not be worth the regular outlay for you, so do have a look at which titles are supported before you commit.

Alternatively, Amazon Prime members can use Prime Reading, which is like Prime Video in that it offers you free reading of certain ebooks as part of your Prime membership.

You can access both of these services from your Kindle or computer browser, as well as the standard library of books which you can buy, and overall we were able to find any book we wanted.

Verdict

If you want a luxury reading experience (and don’t want those large, expensive, lumps of dead tree known as a ‘book’), the Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019) is where you should look. 

The Oasis has a range of features you won’t find in lesser ereaders, like its high-quality display and the range of customization options for screen color and brightness. The fact that you’re plugged into the Amazon Store doesn’t hurt either.

But how much value do you put on this experience? Are you willing to splash out on such an expensive device when you’re going to have to buy the books on top? We think for many people the Kindle Oasis is going to be prohibitively expensive.

Who's it for?

The Amazon Kindle Oasis is for people who value their reading experience above all else, and are willing to throw a good chunk of money at a device that will deliver that experience.

Should you buy it?

If you’re in the market for a premium ereader you could do worse than the Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019), but it’s not much of a jump in quality over the previous-gen Amazon Kindle Oasis, which has now had a price reduction thanks to there being an upgrade on the market.

If the upgraded screen quality appeals to you, and you’re willing to stump up the cash for it, buy the new Kindle Oasis – but if you can take or leave those features, the older version will serve you just as well.