Saturday, 9 December 2017

Kindle Oasis Review: The Oasis is a stylish e-reader

Without a doubt, the latest iteration of Kindle Oasis is the best e-reader from Amazon. This is expected considering the pricing and premium tag. The question is if the device offers that much extra to justify the price differential in comparison to other e-readers. Overall, while Amazon should have done more to distinguish the Oasis, the device sets the benchmark for a feature rich and immersive e-reading experience.

An asymmetric design that doesn’t work 

I am not a fan of the device’s design. The metallic back, without a case, is cold to the hand and the device’s lopsided design makes it uneven to hold. Amazon designed its official case to attach magnetically to the thicker end to provide a flat reading surface. Unfortunately, this leaves part of the metallic back exposed when the case is closed (Amazon withdrew the official case due to design flaws).

The buttons are a real plus. They are located at the thicker end and make page turning so much easier with one-handed reading. The buttons can be used left and right handed, as the Oasis supports automatic rotation.

Extra-size makes a difference

The extra inch makes a significant difference. The device is seven inches across and this means a thirty percent increase in reading screen estate. I find the extra space helps with text immersion and the extra width makes PDF text more legible in landscape mode.

Nice screen but nothing special

If you are coming from the Kindle Paperwhite then you will notice little difference in screen quality (both devices come with an E-Ink Carta screen and 300 DPI). I found the Oasis’s contrast slightly lacking but text sharp.

The adaptive front light has twelve LEDs that produce uniform lighting with little shadowing. The front light is the best I’ve seen on an e-reader and is significantly better than the Kobo Aura One. The Kindle Oasis, unlike the Aura One, does not support front light colour shifting for night-time reading.

Kobo Aura One vs. Kindle Oasis front light comparison 

Solid and stable software

As stated in a review of the Kindle Basic, Amazon’s Kindle software is feature rich and stable. Amazon runs the near same software on all its e-readers. Software differences that do exist cater for device-specific hardware features, e.g. Bluetooth support and adaptive display lighting.

One software issue that continues to frustrate is the limited control over text size. Font size options are set to an absolute scale and the difference between, for example, size two and three is disproportionate.

The Oasis comes with in-built Bluetooth support and Audible integration. I would recommend going for the 32GB Oasis if Audiobooks are something important (audio books take a lot of storage). Personally, I find something like a smartphone, laptop or tablet better suited for audiobooks.

Battery life & waterproofing

This is Amazon’s first e-reader with waterproofing. I haven’t tested the feature but Amazon advertises the device with an IPX8 rating that can withstand immersion in up to 2 metres of fresh water for one hour.

I expected better battery life, considering the pricing. Based on personal estimation, I found the Oasis’s battery life to be behind the Paperwhite and closer to the Aura One. This is not surprising as the Paperwhite has a larger battery capacity - the Paperwhite has a 1320 mAh battery capacity. In comparison, the Kindle Oasis 2 has a 1000 mAh battery capacity). Of course, the battery life depends on, for example, front light intensity, indexing and WiFi.

Too expensive for an e-reader?

Is the Oasis too expensive for an e-reader? Many technology websites answer in the affirmative. I think the device is dedicated to the e-reading community and for this segment of users, the Oasis might be worth it.

The better question to ask, directed at dedicated e-readers, is if the Oasis is worth it considering the existence of, for example, the cheaper Kobo H20 and Aura One? In my view, if it is merely a question of hardware then the Aura One would be the better choice. Even so, Amazon’s superior and polished software experience gives the Oasis an advantage.

Verdict

Initially, when the Oasis was released, I judged the Oasis to be priced too high for what it offers. After using the device, I have changed my mind. Yes, the bigger screen finally distinguishes the Oasis compared to the Paperwhite and Voyage. However, more than just hardware, the software is what makes the Oasis standout. Most things just work better, compared to other e-readers, e.g. smoother highlighting, syncing of personal documents across Amazon devices/apps, consideration of PDF support and the ability to export annotations in different formats etc.

The downside with the Oasis is that it is not innovative enough. I expect more from a high-end Kindle e-reader, e.g., stylus support, a larger screen, better contrast and improved battery life. I think the broader issue is not just cost but also Amazon’s conservative strategy in the development of its e-readers.

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