Amazon’s Kindle Oasis gets big and waterproof
It’s fitting that Amazon’s flagship Kindle is called Oasis. The E Ink-based tablet survives on its own island among more complex tablets and smart phones. It’s for reading and, really, not much else.
The Kindle Oasis, however, isn’t stranded on this island. Amazon has consistently updated it and the core technology behind it year after year. Sure, it doesn’t get the big splashy event, but, as Amazon told me recently, consumers still love and buy the devices. This year’s Prime Day marked Amazon’s single biggest day for Kindle sales.
With that kind of enthusiasm, it’s no wonder Amazon is updating its premier Kindle, and in a radical way.
At 7 inches diagonally, the all-new Kindle Oasis, which Amazon unveiled and will start selling on Wednesday, is — leaving the paper-sized DX aside – Amazon’s largest Kindle e-reader ever. It’s also the company’s first waterproof device.
The new Kindle Oasis resembles the old Oasis, the $289 device Amazon introduced over a year ago. It’s incredibly, almost paper-thin on one side (0.13 inches) and then fattens considerably to a third of an inch on the other to accommodate the battery.
There are, though, some big differences. The composite body has been replaced with a unibody aluminum chassis and the curve that connects the fat side with the thin side of the Oasis is now a scallop design. When I held the Oasis in one hand, the pads of my fingers settled neatly into it, giving me a more secure grip than I ever had with the original Oasis.
Then there’s the screen. At 7 inches, it’s noticeably larger than the 6-inch screen (30 percent, said Amazon) on the original Kindle Oasis. It still has the same 300 ppi resolution, but more reading area than ever. Next to the screen is an expanse of black with just two physical buttons positioned so you can press one or the other to turn pages forward and back. They are customizable.
Amazon also increased the number of over-the-screen LED lights to 12 (it was 10) for more uniform lighting.
As a larger device with a metal back, the all-new Kindle Oasis is heaver than the original: 194 grams versus 130 grams. I felt the difference, but, thanks to the updated design, the new device wasn’t uncomfortable to hold.
That shape is not just about the grip. Like the first Oasis, the new one slips neatly into a battery-pack companion cover that adds roughly four weeks of battery life. Without the case, the new Oasis offers an impressive six weeks of battery life. That’s the core benefit of E Ink; it needs almost no power to keep an image on screen. The new case includes a bendable flap so you can turn it into a stand for the Oasis.
Amazon also did some software work, most notably in the page-turn (really a screen refresh) speed. In my brief hands on time, it was almost instantaneous. Granted, I have no complaints about the refresh time on my Paperwhite.
The other big change is the integration of the Audible Audio Book service. Amazon owns Audible, but it’s never been part of the Kindle. Now you can browse and buy Audible Books on the device, provided you sign up and pay for the service ($14.99 a month).
In addition, you can effortlessly switch between the print and audio versions of books. You’ll know the book has an Audible version by the headphone icon on the cover image. Clicking it brings up the play option. We had our Oasis connected to Bluetooth speakers. When we stopped playing and switched to the print book, it picked up exactly where the audio left off.
Since this is a software change, Amazon is also bringing Audible to Paperwhite and Voyage Kindles.
The other change is that the starting price of the Kindle Oasis is now $249 with 8 GB of storage. It’s still pricey, and the Wi-Fi and, now, AT&T LTE-enabled Oasis will cost you $349. There’s also a 32 GB model intended for those who love Audible (larger files than ebooks) and rich-media magazines.
There are other small software changes, like more boldface text options, gradients between lighting controls and a reverse text accessibility option, but the big screen and waterproof capability are the stars of this reading show.
Amazon didn’t say if or when it might upgrade the hardware on the rest of the Kindle line, but its commitment to the e-reader categories is one for the books.