Tech Review: Kindle Oasis (Amazon, 2016)

The Kindle Oasis e-reader is beautiful, slim, light as a feather and feature-rich, but it also commands a price point that will sound like a joke to many. Price aside, if you’re looking to buy a Kindle and then never need another one ever again, this is the one to buy.

The niche that Kindle Oasis fits into is an odd one. If you currently own anything other model of Amazon’s extensive Kindle range, from Paperwhites to Voyages, you almost certainly won’t have a use for the Oasis.

The next hurdle is the price, especially here in Oz. As much as I love the Oasis, recommending you buy one almost feels asking you to be deeply reckless with your finances. However, as I said in the introduction, if you’re looking to pick up a Kindle that does just about everything the lower-tier models do but will likely last you the rest of your damned life, maybe you’d be okay with ponying up the AU$449 Amazon are asking for it.

Here’s a super fast rundown of the specs and updates because, let’s be honest, if you’ve read one Kindle review then you’ve kind of read them all.

The Kindle Oasis is smaller, lighter and has a clearer screen than any previous device in the Kindle family. it now commands a 16-level greyscale screen with a resolution of 300ppi which means it now sits comfortably on the same level as smartphone screens from two or three years ago. It sports 1GB of RAM, which is double what is available in the lower-end models, and it means the unit’s response times are just a touch faster as a result. It’s still an e-ink device, however, which means there’s a sluggishness to it that you just don’t see in Android or iOS tablets. Like other Kindle devices, what the Oasis has over the big tablets is that it strips away everything those devices can use to distract you so that you can focus on your book.

See? You’ve likely heard all of this before. Kindles don’t change much iteration-to-iteration. They always thinner and lighter and the interface gets a little more stripped back each time. The actual experience, the using of the device, remains functionally the same.

A model holds Amazon's Kindle Oasis, Thursday, April 28, 2016, in New York. The Oasis is meant to be a luxury e-book reader, and is the company's sleekest, lightest e-book reader yet. It's designed strictly for reading, without Facebook, streaming video and other distractions common on full-functioning tablets. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) NYKW102

It’s still not waterproof, however. Don’t take it in the bath with you, you’re just asking for trouble. C’mon, Amazon. Nearly five hundred clams and I can kill it with a spilled drink? Lift your game.

This is not to say that Amazon have rested on their laurels with the Oasis. It weighs in at just 131 grams (before you put the cover on) and its about as thin as your iPhone 6. While  it does have a more assymeterical shape to it, it means the Oasis leaves its near negligible weight in your palm making reading one-handed easier than it’s ever been.

How does a device get to be so thin, I hear your ask? You scoop out a chunk of the battery. Don’t worry, a) it still holds a ridiculously long charge with half the battery Kindle’s usually have and b) the other half of the battery is now located inside the folio case packed in with the device. Snap this magnet case onto the side and on a long enough timeline, you might live long enough to see it run out of battery. The Oasis weighs just a hair under 200 grams when you pop the case on and it does bulk it up slightly, but I didn’t find it bothered me too much.

The LED backlight now fires from different sides of the 6″ screen which helps it feel a bit more dynamic and less situational than on previous models. The on-board OS is still a clunker, however since you’ll really only be reading on this thing, it is at least pretty easy to ignore.

Another thing the Oasis has that I really like is probably its simplest and most lo-fi feature — page-turn buttons. Two long, thin buttons adorn the side of the device, one to take you forward a page, one to take you back. Doesn’t matter if you’re a righty or a lefty, if you flip the device over it will adjust not only the screen orientation but also the button controls.

Oasis isn’t going to change the hearts and minds of anyone in the market for a new e-reader — if anything, it may make the decision of which one to purchase significantly harder. What it does do is make it really hard to recommend other brands (unless you’re still looking for something that isn’t afraid of water, in which case Kobo has your back).

For most people, the Kindle Paperwhite is still going to be the go-to model. It’s already a lot of Kindle and it does everything the Oasis does. The Voyage is going to attract those who prefer a nice screen without going crazy on price and, again, it does everything the Oasis does. The price is what really all that makes the Oasis difficult to recommend.

With that in mind, if your hair doesn’t turn grey just looking at the price tag and you absolutely have to have the very best, then the Kindle Oasis is undoubtedly the one you want. It’s easily the best e-reader I’ve ever picked up.

Score: 8.0 out of 10
Highlights: The best e-reader Amazon have ever produced
Lowlights: WOW is it expensive
Manufacturer: Amazon
RRP: AU$449
Available: Now


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David Smith

David Smith is the former games and technology editor at The AU Review. He has previously written for PC World Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @RhunWords.

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