Kindle Oasis put to the test: It's dead fancy, ultra-compact and costs an arm and a leg
“So what does it do?” was the first question my colleagues asked me when I told them about my new Kindle. “It costs more”. Laughs all round. Even though my reply was meant as a joke, there is a massive grain of truth in it. Amazon has not made major leaps when it comes to developing its electronic books – neither have all other manufacturers. Kindle Oasis is the name of the latest member of the e-reader family and it’s the smallest and lightest of them all. The display still measures 6 inches with the same resolution (1080 x 1440 pixels) as its predecessor but the edges have visibly shrunk. Its asymmetrical shape and the return of physical keys is definitely a plus. Having said that, the latter did get on my nerves a bit at first. I’m used to holding the device in one hand with my thumb resting on the lowest key to page back. Fortunately, the keyboard layout can be changed in the settings.
Kindle with its kit off
Once Oasis is stripped of its case, it’s a true lightweight (136g). However, you’re hardly going to use the Kindle without the case as the actual stripped-down device only contains a teensy battery. According to German techportal Heise, it runs out of juice in under 12 hours. On the plus side, Amazon throws in a very fancy case that snaps neatly on with magnets. If the manufacturer is to be believed, the case will keep your e-reader going in stand-by mode for a whopping 20 months. Sounds impressive but, when used in real life, doesn’t seem to be much different from previous models.
The Kindle itself and the case are charged via a micro-USB cable port. I went for the premium leather brown version (aka walnut). To be honest, it’s so fancy that it makes me feel downright scruffy in my faded jeans and washed-out t-shirt. Not sure how well it will fare at the beach – think leather and sun cream-slathered hands. Don’t like Amazon’s three models? Check out the cheaper models by other manufacturers).
Thanks to its asymmetrical design, the Oasis sits comfortably in your hand and can be read with either hand – it automatically rotates the page orientation to match. You can still tap the display to turn the page but you’ll probably be holding the Oasis by the wider end where the keys are as the other side is too slim. The included cover is easy to grip and even with the built-in battery, the Oasis is still lighter than my old Kindle Voyage with its case (236 grammes vs. 266 grammes).
Not much has changed in terms of software. Most updates are available for all Kindles as it is. And the start page with book recommendations, extracts and so on were already introduced with the Paperwhite and Voyage. Unfortunately, the handy built-in social reading network Goodreads is exclusively available in the US – unless you turn your account into a US version. The disadvantage of doing so is that you can no longer purchase books in German. I’m also still waiting for the reading achievement feature available for the Kobo Aura. I’d definitely be a rank 35 bookworm by now.
Instead, Amazon’s got rid of the automatic brightness control. The Voyage was great for reading in bed as the display automatically dimmed. The Oasis needs to be adjusted manually. Sure, you can live without it but when the wife hits the lights, you’ll be half blinded by the glare as the Oasis is brighter than its predecessor – totally unnecessary, if you ask me.
Don’t be fooled by the name, either. The Oasis is not waterproof. Fancy a romantic night in a candle-lit bathtub, sipping a glass or wine? Well you’d better go easy on the wine or you’re kindle will be sleeping with the fishes.
The bottom line
The new Kindle Oasis is a remarkable little gadget provided that you’re using it in its case. However, this case-dependence is a blessing and a curse. The case gives the Oasis a touch of class and provides for a wonderful reading experience. But purists will be turning their noses up. Take off the cover and the lightweight skeleton can only be used for a few hours and then it’s lights out. And then there’s the steep price: 359 or 339 for the version with the special offer ads – a price tag that’s hardly justifiable for an e-reader. If you’re not a sucker for the latest gadgets like I am, a cheaper version will do just fine as it pretty much does the exact same thing as the Oasis.