The Kindle Oasis was designed to be Amazon's ultimate reading device. Lightweight, high quality and wonderfully slim, its 2016 launch surprised many, not only by its radical design, but in the ambition that Amazon was exhibiting. Would anyone really pay that much for a reader?
The shortcomings became more apparent with the Kindle's top device because they were set in context of those core devices that were dropping in price, like Kindle and Paperwhite. There was a hint of form over function and while the 2016 Oasis was a wonderful device, this rethinking rights a lot of wrongs.
Amazon Kindle Oasis preview: Design
- Single piece metal body
- IPX8 proofing
- Expanded size
Glance at the Kindle Oasis and you'll recognise the design from the previous version. The newer model, however, is sleeker and more refined, thanks to the use of a single piece of aluminium that covers the rear and wraps around the edges.
There's a fundamental change in the approach here, dropping the necessity of using the cover to boost the battery life. In the original model there was only 2-weeks of battery life so you needed that cover to bring it back into the reach of regular Kindle models.
The new Kindle Oasis has 6-weeks of life, so there are now no pogo pins on the on the underside and a more seamless metal finish instead. At the same time, this is bigger in all directions, expanding to accommodate a 7-inch display, rather than 6-inch display that Kindles have offered since they first launched in 2007.
Yes, it's not only the iPhone that's 10-years-old in 2017, the Kindle is too.
We suspect that the increase in size might have been the thing that gave Amazon the space to make the changes to this model, but it might also indicate a change of screen sizes across Kindles - time will tell.
Otherwise, the design of the Kindle Oasis remains the same, with all the brains in one side of the device forming a grip, while the body stretching to support the display is only a few mm thick. It's still lightweight, skinny and pocketable, so still every inch as portable as it was before. The use of a single piece back means there's no longer a rubberised covering over the "bulge" which also provides grip. We don't know how gripping the new Oasis will be, but we'll update once we've spend some time with it.
There's also two physical buttons on the edge, so you can still press to turn pages, as well as tap or swipe as you prefer, so the interaction and the feel in the hand is very much as it was before.
There is, however, a significant update that you can't see and that's waterproofing. The new Kindle Oasis carries an IPX8 rating, so if you happen to drop it in Umm al-Maa, it won't make any difference. For a premium device it adds an extra degree of protection whether you're camping in a leaky tent or prone to spilling your champagne in the First Class lounge. Importantly, it fends off devices like the Kobo Aura H2O.
Amazon Kindle Oasis preview: Display and hardware
- 7-inch E Ink display, 300dpi
- 6-week battery life
- 8 or 32GB storage
At the time of writing, Amazon hasn’t revealed the full hardware specs to us, despite us having already spent some time with the new Oasis. For a Kindle there's little that really matters on the spec sheet apart from the display.
The new 7-inch display suddenly makes the 6-inch display (that's dominated Kindles until now) look a little small. It doesn't make a huge overall difference, but it did suddenly make us think that Amazon might be looking to appeal to those who want larger text to make reading easier.
Indeed, there are other "accessibility" features in the new Oasis, including lots more options for larger formatting, as well as full page customisation such as changing the margins and spacing that you currently get. There's also the option to invert the text and background so you can read white text on black, which some might find easier on the eyes.
The new 7-inch display is front-lit by 12 LED arrays, an increase over the 10 of the 2016 Oasis. Our first impression is that things look very much the same; it's the same 300dpi, so the same resolution as the 6-inch display it replaces.
One of the omissions from the old Oasis model was that it skipped over the Kindle Voyage's adaptive illumination feature. At the time Amazon said that it couldn't accommodate the sensors needed to detect light levels in the design, but it seems to have figured that out. There are two sensors hidden in the bezel that can automatically change the brightness of the illumination depending on where you are.
That means that it can be brighter in brighter conditions and, importantly, dimmer when it's really dark so if doesn't dazzle. That was one drawback of the previous Oasis - you had to turn the level up and down depending on where you were. Now it should happen automatically - although you might be just as happy to manually turn it off in bright conditions and only have low level illumination for when you're reading at night.
Glancing across the other specs that matter, we've already mentioned that there's a 6-week battery life on the Oasis, removing the need for a battery cover. There's also a bump in storage to 8GB standard, or 32GB, meaning you can store a lot more.
Amazon Kindle Oasis preview: Bluetooth and Audible join the book party
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Audible integration with syncing
Most people who encountered Amazon in its early years will remember that it was very much about selling books. It started as an online bookstore, before expanding to be an online department store. It was no surprise that Amazon launched a device specifically for reading, so it could then supply the content for that book too.
Amazon has over 5 million titles in its catalogue, from bestsellers to self-published, from top price to free, with a range of ways to access that content - pay as you go, Prime Reading or Kindle Unlimited for example. Then there's Audible, the audio book side of Amazon that's never really got a look-in on Kindle until now.
In the Kindle Oasis there's support for Audible books provided partly by that bump in storage, but also in the addition of Bluetooth. That means that you can connect to speakers or headphones - or indeed your car or motorhome - can play Audible books through that connection. There is no speaker or 3.5mm headphone socket, it's Bluetooth or nothing.
We're happy with that, because it means that for those who don't want Audible, they're not encumbered with design features that ruin the aesthetic for a function they'll never use.
However, if you have Audible versions of the book you're reading, you'll be able to tap the icon and switch to playback. We tested this with A Song of Fire and Ice and found seamless switching back and forth was easy. We can see the appeal too, as you'll be able to move from reading, to listening on that 4-hour drive, and then back to reading once you're tucked up in bed.
It's worth noting that these Audible files need to be stored on the Kindle - there's no streaming from the cloud.
Of course the rest of the reading experience remains very much as it was before with integration into the Kindle Store and WhisperSync across your books. The standard version gets Wi-Fi to take care of this, while there's also the network connected version that allows you to roam around the world, always syncing, and able to download new books on what ever beach you happen to be lying on.
The overwhelming feeling that we get from the 2017 Kindle Oasis is that you're now getting more for your money. Not only is the Oasis cheaper than it was before - starting at £229 compared to £269 of the original - but you're now getting a larger display, waterproofing, added functionality and a Kindle that's more advanced than any other in Amazon's catalogue.
Yes, it's still expensive, especially when you can get the excellent Kindle Paperwhite for £109 (or $119), but once you've spent some time reading with an Oasis, you'll start to appreciate why it's worth the extra money.
The new Kindle Oasis will be available to pre-order from 11 October and we can't wait to get our hands on it again and settle down to get lost in a few good books. Deliveries will be from 31 October.
This time around, the Kindle Oasis is a proper rock'n'roll star.