Amazon’s most expensive, luxury e-reader, the Kindle Oasis, has taken a leaf out of the modern smartphone’s book for 2019 with a colour adjustable light that gets warmer as the sun sets.
It’s a small thing that makes quite a difference to the reading experience, which is just as well as the rest of the £230 Oasis is basically the same as it was two years ago.
That’s not a bad thing, of course, as the 2017 Kindle Oasis provided the indulgent experience required for a luxury single-use product. As such, the new Kindle Oasis has the same aluminium body, asymmetrical design, flush screen and page turn buttons as the previous version. It’s actually 6g lighter than the old model, and 0.1mm thicker, not that you’d notice.
The buttons are just as responsive, and for many they will be the reason to buy it, as page-turn buttons are simply better than just a touchscreen when reading. The screen is also as good and responsive as e-ink displays currently get. The 7in display, about the size of a small paperback, is crisp and a delight to read. The 25-LED frontlight is even across the whole page with auto-brightness or manual control.
The warm light function moves from brilliant white to a warm yellow over 24 gradations. It’s very similar to the white ambience smart bulbs available from Hue and others that shift in tone of white for less clinical lighting when needed.
Like a smartphone you can set it to gradually shift to a warmer white as the sun sets removing blue light to aid with sleep. But some might prefer to have a warmer light all the time. Set to between 12 and 19 on the sliding scale, it matched the colour of a traditional paperback page, which is a game-changer for those looking to replicate the feeling of reading paper as much as possible. A yellow-tinted page appears slightly friendlier than clinical white.
Screen: 7in Paperwhite with colour adjustable frontlight (300ppi)
Dimensions: 159 x 141 x 8.4mm (3.4mm at thinnest point)
Connectivity: wifi, optional 4G, Bluetooth, microUSB
Storage: 8 or 32GB
Rated battery life: six weeks reading 30 minutes a day
Native format support: Kindle (AZW/AZW3), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC, Audible (AAX)
Power and charging
The new Oasis is water resistant to IPX8 standards, which means it’ll survive up to 60 minutes at depths of 2m in water. Accidental dunks in the bath or pool should be fine.
Despite it being 2019, the Oasis still has a microUSB charging socket (the one typically used on older, cheaper smartphones). Given smartphones, laptops, tablets and Apple are standardising around USB-C charging, having a microUSB socket means you might have to carry a dedicated Kindle cable in the future.
Luckily the battery life is excellent. Amazon rates it for six weeks of 30 minutes of reading a day at brightness level 13 set to airplane mode, which works out at 15 hours of reading. In reality, the Oasis lasted long enough for me to get through the equivalent of two 300-page books at a fairly slow reading pace with a mixture of brightness levels and 4G on and off to sync progress.
Charging took the best part of three hours with a 5W USB charger, or slightly faster with something more powerful.
Cases and reading
While the Oasis is well made, with no overly sharp edges and a solid-feeling aluminium frame, the flush screen feels vulnerable. You’ll need some sort of case for it, which is where Amazon has made a backwards step.
The 2017 Oasis had magnets on the back allowing a case to snap into place against the thin part, slotting into the groove of the aluminium body. It would then close over the screen, turning on or off the screen as you open it like a book, but also being able to be easily removed. This meant you could easily read the Oasis in its best, balanced and ergonomic state: naked.
While Amazon sells cases that do something similar, they cover the entire of the back, clipping in around the edges, which makes them slightly harder to remove for the best reading experience. They are at least attractive, with the premium leather case providing the supple and sumptuous finish of a really expensive notebook - something that was a key selling point for the first generation Kindle Oasis from 2016.
Amazon’s Kindle software still nails the mechanics of actually reading a book. There are plenty of customisation options for formatting, including nine fonts, a sliding scale of font size, differing levels of boldness, page spacing, margins and alignment adjustment and new themes, which roll all the settings together into one-tap options. You can even create your own themes and change the size of font on the fly with a pinch-to-zoom on the screen.
Amazon’s dictionary, Wikipedia and X-Ray look-up system continues to be excellent for figuring out unfamiliar words, concepts or characters. The quick setting panel makes getting to brightness controls easy, while integrated Goodreads, Audible for audio books and the Kindle store make finding and downloading your next book easy. Syncing locations between audiobooks and ebooks is remarkably good if you have both.
The only weakness is the organisation of your library on the home screen, which makes if difficult to find the next in a series of books if you’ve bought a lot. There doesn’t seem to be a way to list something like Ian Rankin’s Rebus series by book order. Still, the search works well enough if you know what you’re looking after.
You can play audiobooks via Bluetooth headphones
I swapped the page turn buttons over so the top one went to the next page as my thumb naturally fell there
Turn the Oasis 180-degrees and the screen swaps orientation automatically, but you can also make the page display in landscape if you so wish.
You can set a passcode to protect your Kindle
The 4G is significantly faster and has better reception in the UK than 3G
The Kindle Oasis 2019 comes in either grey or gold with 8GB of storage for £229.99, £259.99 with 32GB or £319.99 for 32GB with 4G.
For comparison, the 2019 Kindle costs £70, 2018 Kindle Paperwhite costs £120 with 8GB, while Kobo’s Forma costs £240.
Amazon hasn’t changed much for the latest edition of the Kindle Oasis. Side-by-side they are identical on the outside. But what looks to be a small change – the ability to shift the colour of the frontlight from cold to warm white – makes a surprising amount of difference to the reading experience.
The warmer tones of white can match the colour of paper novels, not just the brilliant white of printer paper, and ease strain on your eyes as the sun sinks below the horizon. This is the best e-ink screen going, in the most sumptuous of e-readers.
But not every change is good. The loss of the magnetic cases means it’s more difficult to use the Oasis in its purest, most balanced form without anything attached to it. Amazon’s premium leather case is particularly nice, but given I’d want a case just to protect the screen I’d be more inclined to find a slip case or similar.
It’s also still difficult to justify spending twice as much on an e-reader over the excellent £120 Kindle Paperwhite, or even the great new £70 basic Kindle. And £230 is really not that far away from the cost of an iPad.
But in the era of constant distractions by notifications and the hubbub of modern life, the Oasis is the luxury antidote to overload. It only does one thing, but it does it better than anything else.
Pros: long battery life, light, easy to hold, excellent screen, auto-brightness and colour frontlight, great page-turn buttons, luxurious feel, Audible integration, water resistant
Cons: expensive, cover not included, no magnetic covers, no support for third-party audiobooks, no headphones socket, microUSB