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Battery life is only a slight improvement on previous Kindles
Amazon has been credited with revolutionising reading thanks to its Kindle e-reader. Other devices are available, of course, but their market share is relatively small and the word 'Kindle' has become synonymous with e-readers.
The Kindle Oasis takes e-readers into a new sphere of premium pricing, the top-end model. with wi-fi and 3G, costing £329.99 (inc. VAT). That's more than the entry-level £319 wi-fi-only -- but much more versatile -- iPad mini 4. Has Amazon made a shrewd move in taking the Kindle so far upmarket, or has it completely lost the plot?
The Kindle Oasis is certainly an impressive piece of kit. I've used every (non-Fire) Kindle that has been launched in the UK for extended periods and regularly switch between e-books and the paper variety. The Kindle Oasis quite simply delivers the best e-reading experience I've ever had.
That's not to say that other Kindles are bad, or indeed that the Oasis delivers such a vastly superior experience that all other models should be immediately consigned to history. But if you're looking for the apex of e-reading, then this is currently it.
The device itself is exceptionally small, measuring just 143mm tall by 122mm wide. Two thirds of its width tapers to just 3.4mm thick, with the remaining third comprising an 8.5mm-thick section that incorporates the battery. It's a featherweight to hold, weighing just 133g.
A thick bezel down one long edge makes it comfortable to use the Oasis one-handed. A pair of long buttons can be used to go back and forth in an e-book, or you can tap the touchscreen using all the usual conventions. For example, you tap at the top of the screen to get to the home screen, controls and settings; tap the right side of a page of text to go forwards in a book, and the left side to go back. It's as easy to use the Oasis right- or left-handed as the screen automatically reorients as you flip the device around.
The Kindle Oasis comes with a cover, available in three colours, that's a key part of its makeup -- it is detachable, but the two elements should be regarded as a single entity. The e-reader and its cover are connected by magnets and held very firmly together. The cover increases the overall weight to 240g and thickness to 10mm, largely because it adds a second battery. Both batteries charge from a single Micro-USB connector on the Oasis itself, and Amazon claims up to eight weeks of life from the pair of them.
The cover battery charges the one on the Oasis itself, so that if the two elements are detached the e-reader has the maximum power available. Amazon's eight-week battery life estimate is based on 30 minutes of reading a day with wireless off and the light setting at 10. This isn't as much of an advance as you might think: the Voyage and Paperwhite models both have a 6-week battery life based on the same usage pattern.
The trouble with long battery life is that it's easy to forget to charge, but the Oasis charges relatively quickly. Amazon says it'll charge fully in three hours, and I found it easy to keep the battery topped up. I also noticed less battery loss after periods of non-use than with the Voyage and Paperwhite, which is consistent with Amazon's claim to have reduced power loss when the Oasis is inactive.
The cover provides welcome protection for the e-reader's screen, and when it's opened up the Oasis switches on automatically ready for a reading session. The cover flap is magnetically drawn to the back of the Oasis, anchoring it nicely.
Even with a metal-infused chassis, screen protection afforded by the cover and what Amazon says is the strongest screen glass ever, I found I wanted to take much more care of this Kindle than its predecessors. Other models get thrown into a bag with all kinds of random kit, and end up a little battered as a result. The Oasis feels like more of an investment, so it's likely that owners will want a separate outer shell case to keep the cover and Oasis itself in pristine condition.
The 6-inch E Ink screen's 300ppi resolution and 16 greyscales are the same as on the Voyage and Paperwhite, but there are ten LEDs behind the screen here, as opposed to six in the Voyage and four in the Paperwhite. This helps ensure greater lighting uniformity, which is welcome.
Despite the lack of new screen features, even very small text is clear and sharp, and in my purely subjective view the screen appears a little whiter than on the two aforementioned Kindles. I found reading a more pleasurable experience than on the Voyage and Paperwhite, but the difference is marginal, and screen refreshes don't seem any faster than on other recent Kindles.
The adaptive front-light technology that appeared in the Voyage is not here -- you need to adjust the light manually if you want to use it. I personally prefer that arrangement, although I feel it should be present on this premium model along with the option to disable it.
Software-wise, there's nothing special about the Oasis, and no features that are exclusive to the premium device. Nor has Amazon chosen to take the relatively easy option of bumping up the internal storage. There is 4GB of storage here -- the same as the Voyage and double the Paperwhite's capacity. True, this will hold an awful lot of ebooks, but more storage would have potentially been a draw, and a relatively easy way to differentiate the Oasis as a premium product.
The Kindle Oasis is a pleasure to use, and it does have some improvements over recent Kindles. But the price premium is high considering the range and scope of those improvements, and the uplift they offer is poor value for money compared to the £183.99 (inc. VAT) Kindle Voyage with wi-fi and 3G or the £135 (inc. VAT) Kindle Paperwhite with wi-fi and 3G.
The Kindle Oasis looks good and works well, but lacks the show-stopping features it really ought to offer considering its premium price.