My initial thoughts when the Kindle Oasis (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) was announced was that it was a WTF ebook reader. With an odd shape, a case with a built-in battery, and a stratospheric price, it simply didn’t make sense. Nevertheless, I ordered one in order to try it out and see if I was wrong. I think I was, in part.
The Kindle Oasis comes in two parts: the reader itself, and a leather case that contains a battery. The two link together using magnets, so when you slip the reader into the case, it automatically starts charging, if there’s any power in the case’s battery.
The two items together weight 230g, a bit more than the Kindle Voyage, which is 179g. However, if I add the felt case I use with my Voyage, it comes to 219g, so there’s not much of a difference. The Oasis is a bit wider, but not as tall as the Voyage, yet the display on both devices is the same size.
As with the iPad smart cover, the Kindle Oasis wakes up when you open the cover of its case. It’s very quick, so you can start reading immediately. You can read the device with the case on, folding back the cover, or you can remove the reader, which then weighs only 131g. The only downside I see to the case is that it doesn’t cover the entire back of the Oasis, because of the way the reader connects to the case.
The case is interesting. When the Kindle Oasis is connected to the case, and you tap the Settings button, you can see the charge levels of the device and the case. But to charge the entire unit, you have to connect the Oasis itself, not the case, which means that you charge the two together. I would have preferred being able to charge the case on its own, then slip the reader in the case to charge it.
It’s interesting to see that the battery indicator at the top of the display – which you see when you tap in that area – shows the battery level of the case, if the reader is connected to the case, or of the reader, if not. You don’t get a sort of hybrid battery level indicator, which might be more useful. however, tap the Settings button to see the charge levels of each one, in percentages.
Now to the reader itself. I thought the one-handedness of the device was a bit wacky when I first saw it, but once I held it in my hand I could see why Amazon designed it like this. I generally hold my Kindles with two hands, but you can still do that; you just grip the right side, and steady the device with your left hand. Or, if you prefer, turn it the other way; like an iPad, the display automatically flips.
There are two physical buttons on the wider side of the reader – gone are the press-and-pray buttons of the Voyage – and the are set up so the top button goes to the next page, the bottom button to the previous page. You can change this is the settings (as I did; it seems to make more sense to me that the bottom button is the next button).
The display is an improvement on the Kindle Voyage, with more LEDs to light the page. However, mine seems a bit cloudy on the right side of the display where the LEDs are. While the extra light makes the display a bit crisper – it’s the same resolution, 300 ppm – it’s not that different from the Voyage. However, comparing the two, the Voyage is noticeably bluer. Perhaps Amazon has made the display warmer because of the theory that bluish displays prevent you from sleeping.
Surprisingly, the Oasis doesn’t have an auto-brightness option like the Voyage. This means that you’ll need to manually change the brightness if you’re reading, say, in the evening as it gets darker. Also, battery life of the reader is poor; reading for about an hour, with the light fairly bright, I found the reader was down to 63% of its battery. This means that you have roughly three to six hours of reading time, if you use the backlight; considerably more if the backlight is turned off and you’re reading outside. But since there’s no auto-brightness, you’ll need to remember to lower the brightness to save battery. Of course, all you need to do is put it back in the case to charge it, but woe betide you if you ever lose or forget the case!
Page turns are faster than with the Voyage, but typing is just as slow. When you’re used to typing on a tablet or smartphone, you immediately realize that you have to pause after each letter when typing on any Kindle.
The Oasis offers some different fonts from the Voyage. There is Amazon Ember, a sans serif font, and there’s no Futura or OpenDyslexic. If you depend on the latter, you’ll want to stick with the Voyage.
(Update: My Kindle Oasis updated the day after I bought it, and both the missing fonts are now available.)
We have to discuss the price. At $290 or £270, the Kindle Oasis is expensive. That’s $90 or £100 more than the Kindle Voyage, and it makes this a luxury ebook reader. If you add the cost of a case – Amazon charges a fortune for their leather cases, $85 or £80 for the Kindle Voyage’s case – it comes out a lot closer than it looks. However, that’s a lot of money for a case. To be fair, this case has a battery, that claims to offer “months of combined battery life.”
Should you buy the Kindle Oasis? If you don’t have a Kindle Voyage, and you want to upgrade your device, I’d consider it, but only if you have money to burn. The Voyage is nearly as good, and even the Paperwhite is a fine ebook reader. If you don’t count your dollars or pounds, and use the Kindle a lot, I’d recommend the Oasis. You’ll probably like the overall lightness of the device (when not in the case), and the ease of charging. It’s a nifty idea, one that’s not perfect – especially because the case doesn’t protect the entire back of the reader – but one that makes sense if you read a lot.
So check out the Kindle Oasis (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) if you’re willing to spend this much to read ebooks. But there’s no hurry; it looks like it won’t be in stock until June 1, so you have plenty of time to make up your mind.