There are few brands in the world where the product itself becomes a category of sort. When it comes to copying, there's Xerox. When it comes to cola drinks, Coca-Cola stands out. Google is synonymous to search. And when it comes to e-readers, Kindle is the name with the most brand recall.
Last year, Kindle released the Kindle Voyage at Rs 16,499, making it the most expensive e-reader we tested. This year, Amazon has upped the price bar for the Kindle in the form of the Oasis. Unlike previous generations, Amazon has played around with the form factor this time around. So let us see how good this is over the Voyage and the Paperwhite.
Build and Design: 8.5/10
This is the one feature which makes the Kindle Oasis stand out from almost all previous generation Kindles. Amazon has ditched the rectangular form factor and gone with a very radical square shape which maintains the 6-inch diagonal length of the e-reader.
The Kindle Oasis also shaves off a lot of the thickness. So on the back, you have like a step design, where-in one edge measures 8.4mm thick and it houses the battery section and then the e-reader tapers down to a mere 3.4mm thickness. Kindle Oasis also thankfully brings back physical buttons, which were missing since the last two generations. The thick edge paired with the buttons in the front, make the Kindle Oasis quite ergonomic to hold. And there is enough bezel thickness around the buttons, as compared to the other edges which are thin.
Only the top edge has the physical power/sleep button and beside it is the microUSB charging and data transfer port. All the other edges are clean. In a word, the Kindle Oasis looks like a refreshing design.
Also this is the first time that Amazon has bundled the Kindle with a cover. So the leather cover attaches to the Oasis in the centre on the rear side. There are five contact points to which the cover sticks on to. The cover itself conceals a battery section, which tends to complement the thicker portion of the rear side of the Kindle Oasis. The leather cover has the Amazon logo embossed in the front, and it looks quite elegant. We got the black coloured cover, but there are other colours available as well.
The Kindle Oasis comes with a 6-inch e-ink display which offers the same pixel density of 300ppi that is there on the Kindle Voyage as well as the new Kindle paperwhite. There is no differentiation between the bezel and the display, as it is covered with a layer of glass just like the Voyage. 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 buttons controls also change with change in orientation - this is a wonderful addition.
Page turning can either be via touch or through the physical buttons, which are a welcome change since last generation. 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 is the same that has been recently seen with the update on the Kindle Paperwhite. In terms of the software, most of the Kindles are on the same page. Thanks to this, it supports features such as Time to read - which gives you an indicator of how much time is left in the chapter or book; Vocabulary builder - which lets you test your vocabulary, by arranging the words you marked to look up, by using flash card like training technique; X-Ray feature - which allows you to do a deep-dive on a character or a place in the book and you can also find out areas where that particular character or place has appeared in the book.
It comes with 4GB of internal storage and there is no audio jack like we had seen years ago with the Kindle Keyboard. The Kindle Oasis supports Wi-fi b/g/n and 3G cellular data. But on the cellular data you can only use it to buy and download books from Amazon. In terms of the book format 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.
Over the years, Kindles have become quite responsive and the case is no different with the Oasis. Page turns are quick and thanks to the physical buttons, even more so. I barely noticed any ghosting while page turns when reading books, even for the tiniest of fonts. The experimental browser still needs a speed bump though and that is where things get a bit slow, specially with scrolling or opening new links and so on. But then, I’d rather use my smartphone to browse on the go. So although the Kindle offers browsing as a feature, it is certainly not its strongest aspect.
Getting a lock on the Wi-Fi networks is a bit of task, and you will notice a lot of ghosting when you are entering your user name and password on the display. But while reading, thanks to the 300dpi pixel density, there was barely any instance where we noticed dithering of text. The brightness is quite good and we did not notice any issue with legibility irrespective of the conditions. Unlike the Kindle Voyage, the Kindle Oasis does not have a sensor on the front for adaptive front-lighthing.
Holding on to a word will bring up three tabs namely – dictionary, Wikipedia and Translation (which is a great addition, specially 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 not lend itself well to quick typing. So if you want to make quick notes, you will need to be patient as the response of the keyboard is not the fastest. One way I do it is mark the important areas in the book, open that book on my smartphone and due to syncing, I know which areas have been highlighted. Then make my notes, if I feel like. Kindle Oasis doesn’t give a drastic improvement in the touchscreen typing department over the previous generation models.
Battery Life: 8/10
According to the official product page, the Kindle Oasis battery life can last up to 8 weeks provided you do “half an hour of reading per day with wireless off and the light setting at 10.” For any self-respecting book lover that dosen’t really hold any value, because we tend to end up reading books for hours. And if there is weekend that comes in, then a couple of hours at the very least. Not to mention the marathon book reading sessions, when you are really in the grip of that thriller. So that 8-week battery life should be taken with a sack of salt. In my testing, while reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, I exhausted the battery within 15 days from full charge. So it all depends from user to user, how soon the battery will go kaput. For regular reading sessions - say an hour a day, the battery will easily last you for a good 20-25 days. In our month long testing, which included marathon reading sessions, we had to charge the Oasis from 0-100 percent only twice. Charging time isn't much - around 2.5 to 3 hours.
Now the battery module is divided into two components - you have the Kindle Oasis battery and the additional juice provided by the cover. The cover battery is the one that depletes first, followed by the Kindle Oasis battery. In fact the cover is charging the Kindle Oasis, to keep it topped up. But once the cover battery is depleted, the Kindle Oasis runs on its own battery. This implementation is good, but you cannot charge the cover separately - even though it is removable. The Cover needs to be attached to the Kindle Oasis when its charging via the microUSB charging port beside the power button.
Verdict and Price in India
Everything about the Kindle Oasis is great - slim ergonomic form factor, physical buttons, high resolution display, accelerometer, good battery life. But the one thing that completely pours water over that is the price point. At Rs 23,999 for the Wi-Fi only model and Rs 27,999 for the Wi-Fi + 3G model, I really have no idea what Amazon is getting at. Specially when it has a brilliant value for money competitor in the form of the Kindle Paperwhite in its own arsenal?
While reviewing the Kindle Voyage last year, we had observed that the price point was high. The verdict remains the same with the Kindle Oasis. The Oasis, like the Voyage, is only meant for purists - and purists who have a very high bank balance. With the user interface across all Kindles the same, it becomes really hard to justify this price premium. Also, whatever happened to the sales model of selling e-readers at cost and making money from the e-books sold on Amazon later?
Bottomline: If you have the moolah - go for the Kindle Oasis, it is the best e-reader out there. But for majority of the prospective buyers or broke bibliophiles - the incentive to get the Kindle Paperwhite at half the price just got justified.
Tech2 is now on WhatsApp. For all the buzz on the latest tech and science, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Tech2.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.