Amazon is celebrating 10 years since the launch of its first-generation Kindle. Back then, the Kindle tried to amalgamate an e-ink display with a QWERTY keypad along with physical buttons for page flips. The Kindle has since evolved and undergone many design refinements.
The Kindle Oasis (second-gen) is Amazon’s way of celebrating a decade of e-reading. Sitting at the top of the Kindle e-reader hierarchy, the Kindle Oasis (second-gen, to be referred to as Kindle Oasis from here on) is priced at Rs 21,999 for the 8 GB Wi-Fi variant and Rs 27,999 for the 32 GB Wi-Fi and 3G model.
Having used the Kindle Oasis for a month, it is easy to say that it is the best version of the Kindle out there. But is it for everyone? Not really. It also makes the positioning stronger for the Kindle Voyage and the Kindle Paperwhite, in case you are not looking to spend upwards of Rs 20,000 on an e-reader. So let me make my case as to why I think so.
Build and Design: 7.5/10
This is the biggest change with the new Kindle Oasis. Amazon has continued with the asymmetrical design language that we had seen with the 2016 Oasis and refined it with a bigger display. The new Kindle Oasis comes with a 7-inch Paperwhite display with 'E Ink Carta HD' technology. It has the familiar physical page-turn buttons on the large bezel on the right-hand side, a power/standby button on the top and a microUSB charging and data transfer port below. The bezel and the display are seamless. All the buttons have a good amount of tactility.
To make it stand out from all the other Kindles we have seen so far, Amazon has used an aluminium construction for the rear side. This is also the first Kindle which you can take with you to the shower or bathtub or by the swimming pool, in case you want to carry on reading that ‘unputdownable book’. The Kindle Oasis comes with an IPX8 certification making it water resistant up to 2 metres in fresh water for up to 60 minutes.
The asymmetric design means that the Kindle Oasis is 3.4 mm at its thinnest edge and around 8.3 mm on its thicker end. It measures 159 mm tall and 141 mm wide. Thanks to the larger dimensions, Amazon was able to fit in a larger capacity battery, but we do not have an exact specification in terms of the mAh count of the battery. It also does away with the need for a cover battery flap which was seen on the 2016 Oasis.
The metal gradually slopes from the thicker edge to the thinner edge, instead of the sharp, angular slope which was noticed on the 2016 Oasis. And this is where the design decision somehow doesn’t end up leading to good ergonomics. The thickness of the gradual slope isn’t enough to give your fingers (which wrap around it) a good grip. Also, thanks to aluminium finish, it’s slippery.
Now when you are sitting and reading a book, there is no issue as the weight of the Oasis is supported by the fingers resting on the slope on the rear side. Your thumb is free for page turns using the physical buttons or via the touchscreen. But when you are trying to read the Oasis while lying on the bed, with the Oasis held above your face while reading, you quickly realise that it is an ergonomic nightmare. The fingers on the rear side now do not provide any help and you will have to grip the Oasis with your thumb and try to balance it on the palm of your hand, which makes it inconvenient when it comes to page turning.
It just does not lend itself well to this use-case. I ended up gripping the Oasis around its edges, with the fingers stretched which isn’t really ideal. And this leads to another issue – sharp edges. When holding the Oasis in the palm of your hand, you will notice the sharp edges burying into your palms. This is not very convenient, but you will have to get used to it.
The Kindle Oasis comes with a larger 7-inch display with Amazon's e-ink Carta HD technology having a 300 dpi resolution. The resolution is the same as the previous generation Oasis and the Voyage, but is spread out over a larger area. The Oasis comes with Amazon's now famous front-lit display, as has been seen in the Paperwhite, Voyage and Oasis (2016) before it, but with this generation, the brightness levels have got a boost and you get 24 levels of gradation. It also supports 16-level gray scale.
The Kindle Oasis comes with an in-built accelerometer which determines which way you are holding the book and accordingly changes the orientation of the text. This makes it convenient for both the right-handed as well as left-handed users to hold the Oasis on the side of the buttons. Also, the physical button controls also change with the change in orientation – this is a wonderful addition. But there is no way to lock the orientation.
Page turning can either be via touch or through the physical buttons. Due to the wide berth given to the bezel on one side of the Oasis, there is enough space to hold the reader and turn pages while holding it.
The user interface on all the Kindles has recently undergone a change and look slightly different from the older Kindles. But the learning curve isn’t too steep and if you have (or even if you haven’t) used a Kindle in the past, you’ll be right at home. The homepage shows you the three most recently read books from your library upfront, with a list of four recommendations from the Amazon library below it. You can add four books to the Reading List, which is present on the right-hand side. The library gives you two sections, All and Downloaded, which are self-explanatory.
When inside a book, you now get some additional features in terms of more fonts, the ability to have a bolder font and page alignment can be left aligned as we see in regular books. This was a feature that hasn’t been present on earlier Kindles as it requires a lot of background processing when it comes to rearranging the flow of the text. Amazon has used a faster processor to take care of this. You also get a 3x3 matrix to preview your pages, for those times when you want to just go back a few pages to check something. The Settings menu is quite detailed letting you change wireless settings, adjust language and dictionaries, add parental controls, vocabulary builder flash cards are also present on the Oasis and much more. On the top navigational panel, you have a link to the GoodReads account as well as the shopping cart.
The Kindle Oasis comes with 8 GB of internal storage and there is no audio jack like we had seen years ago with the Kindle Keyboard. However, there is support for Audible audiobooks and that is one of the reasons why Kindle Oasis comes in an 8 GB and a 32 GB variants. Anyone who has read a Kindle book would know that these two storage capacities are overkill just for ebooks. A Bluetooth chip inside the Kindle Oasis can pair with your Bluetooth headphones, which will let you listen to your downloaded audiobooks. This feature is currently not available in India as there is no Audible service available here, so I wasn't able to test it out.
The Kindle Oasis supports Wi-Fi b/g/n and 3G cellular data. But on cellular data, you can only use it to buy and download books from Amazon. In terms of the book formats support, you have these: Kindle Format 8 (AZW3), Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively, HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.
Things are fast with the Kindle Oasis and it is quite responsive to touch as well due to the tactile buttons. Ghosting was noticeable, but only for a short duration while reading graphic novels. But for pure text content, this isn’t that much of an issue irrespective of the font size. The 16-level gray scale seems a bit inadequate as it does not really lend itself well to the different gradations when reading a graphic novel. The gray levels don’t stand out that much when reading a purely text-based book.
The brightness levels are great, but Amazon-recommended level 10 to get weeks-long battery life can only make sense if you are reading in a well-lit room. The auto brightness feature works well and the adjustment is gradual and non-distracting.
Holding on to a word will bring up three tabs namely – dictionary, Wikipedia and Translation (which is a great addition, especially when you come across tricky foreign words while reading). At the moment the languages supported include Chinese (simplified and traditional), Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. With characters, there is an additional X-Ray tab which comes up. If the book is X-ray enabled then you get a lot of insights into the character or a place within that book.
You can sideload books from other sources that you may have by just copy-pasting it into the Documents folder once you connect your Kindle to the computer. Else you can mail ebooks to the Kindle email account associated with your device. But please note that certain features such as X-ray and cloud syncing will be disabled for these books as they are device specific and not really on the cloud.
The onboard keyboard does marginally well in the typing department, thanks to the larger display canvas. It is good to make quick, short notes, but anything longer and you will be better off typing on your smartphone or laptop. One way I go about doing this is by highlighting the important areas in the book, then open that book on my smartphone and because everything syncs, I know which areas have been highlighted. I then make my notes.
Battery Life: 7.5/10
Amazon does not reveal the exact battery capacity ever. The only way it talks about battery life is in terms of days, with some conditions. “A single charge lasts up to six weeks, based on a half hour of reading per day with wireless and Bluetooth off and the light setting at 10,” is the specification stated under Battery Life. Now if you are a voracious reader (well, if you are investing in a Kindle, let’s just assume you are), then six weeks is a mythical number. 30 minutes of reading per day is laughable for most avid readers. You will end up consuming the battery much faster.
In my month-long testing, I ended up charging the Kindle Oasis twice from no charge to full charge, as my reading patterns would be multiple hours over the weekend, and maybe a couple of hours spread out over the work week. Plus with the auto-brightness mode on – where the brightness varies based on the ambient lighting – battery life can vary based on where you are reading the Kindle Oasis. Also, Amazon is expected to bring Audible support on the new Kindle Oasis, so the battery depletion rate for audio output should be quite different from just mere reading.
To cut a long story short, there are too many variables involved, which can determine how long the battery lasts. If you are someone who loves reading every day, it is safe to keep the charger handy as the Oasis will not last you for six weeks, unless you follow Amazon’s 30-min per day, brightness level 10, instructions to the letter. The battery charges faster than the previous generation Kindle Oasis as there is no battery housing cover with the new Oasis. However, Amazon only bundles the charging cable without an adapter with the box. The cost-cutting here seems to make little sense.
Verdict and Price in India
Amazon Kindle Oasis is easily the best iteration of the Kindle out there. The idea to go with a larger display size is quite interesting and you get a lot more text per page as compared to the older Kindles. The Oasis is well-built and the water resistance feature will be liked by a lot of readers who want to read near water bodies.
The ergonomics of the Oasis are not really the best. This is just something that you will have to live with, as there is nothing that can be done about it. Maybe an optimised cover could solve some issues. The 3G + Wi-Fi Kindle Oasis which is priced at a whopping Rs 28,999 has a slightly rubberised finish along one edge, which offers some additional grip.
If you are interested in the Oasis, then the Wi-Fi edition is the one to go for, as there is little reason to justify the Rs 7,000 price jump for the 3G variant. The Rs 21,999 price for the Kindle Oasis is still on the higher side and certainly not meant for everyone. Considering, however, the popularity of the Kindle e-readers, there certainly is a market for high-priced Kindles. I think purists are willing to invest that kind of money.
If you don’t want to spend that much on an e-reader, there’s always the Kindle Paperwhite, which offers a great value-for-money proposition. The Kindle Voyage has also got a price drop (selling for Rs 16,499), and it is one good looking Kindle as well for which you can also buy an origami cover. The good part of the Kindle ecosystem is that the software experience is the same across all Kindles. Of course, the Kindle Oasis is much faster when compared with the older and more affordable Kindles in terms of page refresh, loading times and so on.
In the end, it all boils down to how much you are willing to spend on an ebook reader.