There are plenty of reasons not to bother with a dedicated e-reader. After all, their primary function is one that can – at least in theory – be met by a smartphone or tablet. Even though they’re a little more durable and possessed of longer battery life, they often fall short on the waterproofing and display fronts. No matter how ergonomic their design, their singular focus on replacing paperbacks remains a double-edged sword – and when you consider that in many markets traditional print books are rebounding, their expense doesn’t become much easier to justify.
It’s that reality that makes the Kindle Oasis such a perplexing item, at least at first glance. These days any e-reader is a hard sell, let alone a premium one. However, there’s an aura of confidence surrounding the Oasis on display that works quickly to win you over and make you think that maybe – just maybe – this dedicated e-reader might be worth it.
The Oasis is a little more square-like in design that most e-readers and while this form factor does require a minor adjustment-period, the end result is a notably smoother experience than older Kindles. I found myself reading and turning pages faster and always felt like the Oasis was comfortably secure resting in my palm.
It’s also a more solid package than its predecessors. The Oasis comes bundled with a leather cover. The cover wraps around the back and front of the device, snapping into place with the help of magnets. The kind of leather used here is soft to the touch but sturdy in its shape. Although the Oasis is certainly more durable with the cover than without, it doesn’t feel like it’d offer too much in the way of protection from anything falls of a meter or more. Still, as someone who’s broken a Kindle in the past, it’s certainly an addition to be appreciated.
More than anything else, it adds aesthetic value to the product. The snappy leather helps bolster the idea that of all of Amazon’s Kindle models, The Oasis is the cream of the crop. Reading from it is incredibly satisfying from start to finish and it’s a delight to hold for even five minutes let alone five hours.
The Oasis is touch controlled and runs on much the same software foundations. The resulting experience is good over long stretches but doesn’t hold up in responsiveness if you’re trying to navigate too quickly.
The Oasis’ 300ppi e-ink display looks a little sharper than competitors but it doesn’t quite feel like it’s enough of a difference to justify the premium cost. Still, it remains easy to read and the micro-etched glass cuts, which cuts down the interference of glare, is a nice feature – but it doesn’t hold up overall. The book doesn’t quite match the allure of the cover.
While it doesn’t really offer maximum protection, the case does jack up the battery life of the Oasis significantly. It feels like the device has been built from the ground-up for people travel a lot and want their e-reader to hold up to that level of use. On its own, the e-reader has a battery life of roughly two weeks of frequent use but with the case attached that number bumps up to eight weeks. The two can even be detached from one another so you continue to read while you recharge the case.
The Kindle Oasis is absolutely gorgeous to behold. As a product, it both looks and feels exceptional. In fact, it doesn’t feel like hyperbole to say it sets a new high bar for luxury e-readers. However, in terms of using the device, the experience just doesn’t hit those same heights. When all is said and done: it’s still the standard Kindle experience and subject to the usual strengths and weaknesses.
The e-ink screen doesn’t always feel as responsive as it should and environmental lighting remains a factor even if there are some cool gains in battery life to be found here. If you’re looking to spent $400 on a dedicated e-reader, this is definitely the one to get – just be aware that at the end of the day that premium is driven by aesthetics more than it is functional improvements.