(Pocket-lint) - The Amazon Kindle has always been one of our favourite devices. It's not all singing and all dancing like a smartphone or tablet, it won't play games and it isn't a multi-tasker.
The Kindle is, and always has been, a singular device for a singular purpose: the consumption of digital books. And while Amazon has been driving down the prices and upping the spec at its entry point to Kindle, at the top end - here with the Kindle Oasis - we're still getting improvements, as shown in this 2019 model.
Slim design is practical
- Measures: 159 x 141 x 3.4-8.4mm
- Weighs: 188g
- Compatible covers
- IPX8 waterproofing
We're going to start with a bit of a confession. This review is a bit of a cheat, as the 2019 version of the Kindle is the same design as the 2017 Kindle Oasis. It looks the same, it feels the same and - as a device that we highly recommended previously - it's good to know that it mostly is the same.
Amazon's aim is to create a slim and light device with a premium finish. There's a metal body, slightly more bulbous at one end, which is where all the hardware is packed, including the control buttons. Conveniently, the shape of this device makes it convenient to hold, fingertips lightly caressing that protrusion, leaving the thumb to depress those page turning buttons.
It's lightweight, too, meaning we've always found it comfortable to hold. The chances are that you'll opt for one of the covers for protection and that will increase the weight, but it's a trade-off that's worth it to protect what is a premium, and fairly costly, device.
A change with the 2019 version is that it now comes in gold as well as graphite. We've not actually seen the gold in the flesh, but it does provide another colour option for those who want something a little more exciting than the understated grey, as pictured here.
Interlining the whole thing is IPX8 waterproofing. That brings protection for those wanting to read in the bath or by the pool. As we've seen a Kindle slide precariously into a paddling pool before now, it's a protection that you don't want to dismiss. However, where this was once the preserve of the Oasis, the latest Kindle Paperwhite also offers waterproofing and is a lot cheaper than this model.
It's all about the display
- 7-inch, 300dpi E Ink display
- Adaptable front illumination
- Adaptable warmth
The place that the Kindle Oasis really sets itself apart from the rest of the family is in the display size. It's 7-inches on the diagonal, so it's the largest of the Kindles. That gives a nice proportionality and we much prefer this slightly larger size, having spent a number of years with the smaller 6-inch models.
Where illumination was once the preserve of the high-end of the Kindle family, it now stretches all the way down to the Kindle - which is a bargain at £70 or $90. The big difference is that the new Kindle Oasis has 25 LEDs that project light across the front of the display, whereas the lower-spec models have fewer - the entry-level Kindle has just four.
While all of these devices have the same benefit - you can read in low-light conditions without any external lighting - they don't all look the same. The Kindle Oasis has the most even distribution of light and while there isn't a huge difference in brightness compared to the 2017 Oasis, there is a new trick, which comes down to how these LEDs work.
Automatic adaptive brightness was available on the previous generation (and on the Kindle Voyage before that) but is now joined by adaptive colour temperature. This is something of a growing trend in mobile devices, with smartphones and tablets moving the display to warmer hues as you move into the evening. Those 25 LEDs are divided into 12 white and 13 amber - enabling the different colour temperature of the light.
The idea is to the reduce the blue light emitted by the display, which should make it less of a strain on the eyes and less likely to stimulate your brain and keep you awake. Some of that logic doesn't immediately apply to reading on a front-lit device, which is a lot less harsh than watching or playing on a backlit device, and you've always been able to turn Kindle illumination down to suit the conditions.
But there's something to be said for this shift. With some research saying that such colour changes helps people stick to better sleeping patterns, it's a welcome addition. It's also completely customisable, so you can change the warmth to suit your preference or you can schedule it to match the sunset in your location. And once you've set it up, you really never need to think about it again.
Having first been sceptical about it, the flexibility - and the fact you don't have to pay more for it - means that it's a solution that should work for everyone. Certainly, having spent some time reading on a warmer display, the 2017 model now looks a little harsh late at night.
Connectivity for convenience
- Bluetooth for Audible support
- Wi-Fi and 4G options
As with other Kindles there is Bluetooth that will allow you to connect the Kindle to speaker or (most likely) headphones and that will allow you to listen to Audible books. In many cases, when browsing the Kindle Store you'll find options to buy the Audible version alongside the ebook. Because of Amazon's clever Whispersync arrangement, you'll get syncing between audio and ebook, meaning you can jump from one to the other.
Syncing has always been one of our favourite features of the Kindle, letting you read to a point, pick up reading on a different device like a phone, all without losting track of where you've got to. This relies on a data connection of course.
The most affordable Kindle has 8GB of storage and comes with Wi-Fi only, while the step-up version has 32GB of storage. You only really need that expanded storage if you plan to use it for audio books.
The top Oasis model has 32GB storage and 4G connectivity. That means you don't need the Wi-Fi connection to buy more books or for Whispersync - it just works globally. There's no ongoing cost for this, it's part of the original purchase price. We love the 4G option and there's nothing like getting to the end of a book and being able to find something else, download and start reading straight away.
However, anyone with a smartphone they can use that as a hotspot and, therefore, can probably opt for the cheaper Wi-Fi only version without missing out too much.
- Up to 6 weeks of charge
- Micro-USB charging
There's perhaps one niggle that remains with this device and it's the use of Micro-USB for charging. This legacy connector has now been removed from many devices in place of USB-C and it does mean you'll have to pack an extra cable when charging. We do wish it was the same USB Type-C cable found with most Android phones these days. On a device at this price point, we really think it should be.
The Kindle is famed for its battery life though. Thanks to using an E Ink display, it's hugely power efficient compared to the OLED or LCD backlit display - as you'll find in a phone or tablet. That means you can get up to six weeks of charge according to Amazon, although if you're an avid reader, you'll have to charge more often.
For example, if you go on holiday and spend hours reading on the beach, then hours reading in bed at night (which some of us do…) then you might need to charge it weekly. What the Kindle doesn't do, however, is drain the battery when it's not being used anything like a smartphone does. So it can sit idle for ages and still be ready to go.
The Kindle ecosystem and software
With only one real job - providing books - there's not a huge amount that the Kindle software has to do. The setup on the latest Oasis is broadly the same as previous devices, with a few additions to support the new display warmth feature.
As we alluded to above, the real strength of the Kindle is giving you access to lots of content to read. Amazon wants that to be through the Kindle Store and direct access through the Kindle itself makes that easy. You can also shop through a browser and choose to send that book to your device, from a PC or phone.
While browsing and buying is easy - and Amazon will offer discovery suggestions based on what you read - the Kindle ecosystem isn't always very good at keeping track of what you've read. If you read in series (Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels for example), it's easy to get lost and sometimes we find ourselves starting to read a book that we've read before.
It feels like there could be more tracking of reading - aside from the integration of Goodreads. It's also undeniable that people who love to read also read "analogue" books - yep, good ol' hard/paperbacks - and we'd love to be able to record something we read offline in the Kindle Store.
Some of this comes down to a sense of anonymity that can come from reading on a Kindle. With no spine, cover or bookshelf presence, you'll often find yourself reading books with no idea what the title is or who it was written by. Amazon will guide you towards the next in the series once you finish, but we still think more could be done to help you navigate the millions of books available and what you've read from where.
When you're seeking out bestsellers and buying them this isn't such a problem - you know you've read the summer blockbuster - but if you're an Amazon Prime member there are free books to read that are easily accessed and we never really remember anything about them - apart from enjoying the writing.
The same applies for Kindle Unlimited subscriptions. It's convenient and gives you access to loads of books for a monthly price, but again, it's easy to lose track.
Ultimately, for those who read a lot, Kindle facilitates the process and makes it a great experience, but it's not yet great at managing your appetite for books and cataloguing it.
The Amazon Kindle Oasis remains our top choice for reading devices. Yes, it's expensive, but if you read a lot then there's pleasure in having a premium device for the pleasure. The larger display plays a part in this and the new option to adapt the colour temperature adds a point of distinction from those models further down the line - and will make things softer on your eyes at all times of day.
At the same time, with the basic Kindle offering the same essentials with front lighting, and the Kindle Paperwhite now offering the convenience of waterproofing, selling the Oasis is a little harder. It's whether you'll really value that colour temperature adjustment or not.
At the end of the day, it's reading and access to books that's the winner - and with the range of Kindles getting stronger all the time, the offering is strong no matter which Kindle you choose to buy. If you can afford the Oasis then it is the best of the bunch, but only by a margin.