Amazon Kindle Oasis (2016) review: The best e-reader comes at a price

£270
Price when reviewed

Listen carefully. I will say this only once: £270 is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on an e-reader, however good it is. That’s 4.5 times as expensive as the most basic Kindle and 2.5 times more pricey than the Kindle Paperwhite.

Surely, nobody’s going to fall for this? Well, Amazon clearly thinks otherwise; its new Kindle Oasis is part of a new move at the company to produce products that can actually turn a profit themselves, as opposed to being loss leaders. It’s easy to see why Amazon is going down this path. What’s less clear is why on Earth anyone would spend so much on such a thing, especially when the self-same company produces a range of eminently practical and perfectly serviceable alternatives for so much less.

What’s more, the company recently unveiled a new colour option for the 2017, more “advanced” Kindle model – the successor to the Kindle Oasis we’ve reviewed below. From 13 March, you can pre-order the Kindle Oasis in “champagne gold” for £259.99 and shipping starts on 22 March. For this, you get a 32GB, Wi-Fi-enabled waterproof e-reader. Buy the champagne gold Kindle Oasis from Amazon.  

Amazon Kindle Oasis review: Design

If all you looked at was the price, then, you’d have to laugh, but the Kindle Oasis is so much more than just that. Let’s consider the design for a moment. First things first, it’s gorgeous. As light as a feather and small enough to be slipped into a pocket, the Oasis is thinner and lighter than any Kindle that has gone before it.

Tipping the scales at a mere 131g, and tapering to a miniscule 3.7mm at its thinnest point, it’s more art-house novella than full-blown crime thriller in size. And yet, despite its film star looks, it remains a very practical device. The offset screen at the front and the grip at the rear gives you somewhere to put your fingers and thumbs while reading without having to worry too much about turning the page by accident.

The power button is sensibly positioned in the top corner, and finally – after experimenting with touchscreen-only designs and virtual, haptic feedback-based buttons for the past few years – Amazon has finally brought back physical page-turn buttons.

You can still use the touchscreen to swipe back and forth through your texts if you want to. Indeed, the touchscreen is required for navigating around the user interface and entering text via the onscreen keyboard but it’s good to have something you can rest your thumb on and click without having to reach over the screen surround. It all adds up to a device that’s a joy to hold for long periods; just what you want from an e-reader, in fact.

And, if all that isn’t justification enough to pay the £160 premium, then perhaps the premium leather cover Amazon is including in the box will be. Like the rest of the Oasis, this is beautifully designed. It clips magnetically to the rear of the reader, so you don’t have to lever out the device if you want to use it out of the case for any reason, and it’s made of real leather – the best kind of leather – black or brown, full-grained, soft to the touch and perfectly fitted. It’s a proper, luxury accessory of the kind you’d expect when you’ve spent the equivalent of a year’s supply of paperbacks on a thing.

Want to know its best feature, though? The magnetic flap that attaches to the rear of the Oasis has its own built-in battery, which in conjunction with the e-reader’s main battery delivers stamina in months rather than the weeks you got with the Voyage. With the cover attached, a single charge will last up to eight weeks, although that’s based on only half an hour of reading a day with the light set to ten – just below half brightness.


Amazon Kindle Oasis review: Display

And that screen is just as good as it ever was. It measures 6in across the diagonal – exactly the same size as the screen on the Voyage and the Paperwhite – and has the same resolution as well, with a pixel density of 300ppi. I can see why Amazon hasn’t changed it. Text is as crisp as it is on the printed page, which is all you need, while the front light boosts contrast and allows you to read at night without a bedside lamp.

As with the Voyage last year, the Oasis’ display is topped with a layer of toughened glass that runs across the entirety of the surface of the device, and this has a silky, semi-matte finish that keeps reflections and glare at bay. I prefer the slightly rougher feel of the Paperwhite’s screen under my finger than the slipperiness in evidence here, but that’s not a criticism, just my own predilection.

Surprisingly, the Oasis lacks one of the features Amazon was keen to crow about on the Voyage last year. There’s no ambient light sensor on the front, so it’s unable to adjust the intensity of its front light to match its surroundings. It does, however, have an orientation sensor, so you can hold the Kindle in your left or right hand and keep those all-important buttons comfortably accessible under your thumb – the text rights itself automatically when you rotate the screen, just like on a smartphone.

Another improvement is that the Oasis’ front light employs 60% more LEDs than the Voyage, ensuring a more even, consistent illumination than any I’ve seen on any other e-reader.  With past Kindles, and rival devices from other manufacturers, it’s always been possible to see the source of the light – along either the top or the bottom edge of the screen, just beneath the bezel – but here it’s all but impossible to spot where its source light is coming from, no matter how much you lean on the brightness control.

Amazon Kindle Oasis review: User interface and performance

If you were hoping for more UI for your money, however, you’ll be disappointed. The Amazon Kindle Oasis uses exactly the same front-end as other current Kindles, which means if there’s something you don’t like about it, tough luck.

It’s not something that’s ever bothered me, however, and the recently updated UI is a joy, complete with its attractive homescreen, which showcases covers of recently downloaded and read books in the centre, plus suggestions on what to read next at the bottom. You can still view books by cover or in a list if that’s what takes your fancy, but I’d hazard a guess that most of your time will be spent actually reading books on the device the rest of the interface won’t bother you a jot.

It’s just as well, then, that Amazon’s reading UI – perfected as it has been over the course of time – is great for just that. Features such as X-Ray, Smart Lookup, Whispersync and Wikipedia integration all add greatly to the reading experience and make ploughing through the latest Booker nomination much more rewarding than on any other ebook reader. Page turn speed, too, is very nippy indeed, so much so that I didn’t notice it at all while I was reading on the Oasis, whether I had it set to fully refresh every time or not.

There’s only one area in which the Kindle Oasis’ front-end falls short. Despite recent improvements to its text setting engine which lead to a more “book-like” appearance, and the introduction of the new Bookerly font, the range of visual adjustments and tweaks still can’t match those on other e-readers.

Still, most people will be able to find a combination that works for them from the seven fonts, eight font sizes, and three variations of line spacing and margins and it’s worth remembering that Amazon’s content choice and prices are still head and shoulders above the rest. I’m particularly fond of the Amazon Lending Library and new Prime Reading service, which provides free reading material to Amazon Prime subscribers.

Amazon Kindle Oasis review: Verdict

There’s no arguing that the Kindle Oasis is a fabulous device for reading on. It’s thinner, lighter, faster and more thoughtfully designed than any Kindle before it. The screen light has been improved and it has great battery life. It’s a fantastic thing to read your books on – the best in the business, no question.

And so, if you spend a lot of time with your e-reader and don’t mind paying the hefty premium or you’re desperately hunting for that extra-special birthday gift for someone you love, it’s something I can wholeheartedly recommend. Is it great value for money? Absolutely not, but that – after all – was never the point.

READ NEXT: Amazon Kindle Voyage review

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