If someone asks us what Kindle they should buy, we’re almost certainly going to tell them to buy a Kindle Paperwhite.
Amazon’s most popular e-reader nails that goldilocks combination of price, design and features, and the most recent model can withstand a dunk in the swimming pool too.
All we’d advise is that that person doesn’t go near the Kindle Oasis post-purchase. Because while it might (rightly) be considered outrageously expensive for something you use exclusively for reading books, the premium design and physical page-turning buttons make it a marked step up.
Since the last iteration in 2017, the Paperwhite has played catchup on some of the Oasis’ best features, namely waterproofing and Bluetooth functionality for audiobooks. But Amazon hasn’t radically reinvented its priciest Kindle for 2019. It only really has one new feature, a colour adjustable front light that can turn the display from cool to warm, making the transition from day to nighttime reading more comfortable.
It might not sound like much, but the yellowish hue makes pages on the new Kindle Oasis resemble paper more than ever, and surely the ultimate goal of any e-reader is to replicate the feeling of reading a book.
Design: if it ain’t broke
From a design perspective, the new Kindle Oasis is indistinguishable from its 2017 predecessor. It’s still made of aluminum, and it still has that bulge on the back designed for ergonomic one-handed reading.
It feels a bit odd at first, but you get used to it, and it means your thumb rests just next to the two front buttons, which remain far superior alternatives to the occasionally unresponsive touch screen for turning the page. Symmetry is sacrificed for the existence of these physical controls, but it’s a worthy tradeoff. The screen rotates when you flip the Kindle 180-degrees, so you’re not punished for being a left-hander.
The 300ppi 7in glare-free display is still flush and satisfying to prod, illuminated by 25 LEDs for even distribution of light.
Things I don’t like? The enormous ‘Amazon’ logo splashed across the metal back is just a bit much, and don’t get your hopes up about USB-C either - Micro-USB survives another update. Urgh. You’re probably going to want a case too. The most satisfying way to hold this thing is naked, but it feels more fragile than its cheaper contemporaries. Sadly, Amazon’s own leather cases don’t come cheap.
Just as previous, 2019’s Kindle Oasis is IPX8 rated, so feel free to fall embarrassingly through the middle of your rubber ring in the pool while you’re reading.
Display: And it was all yellow
Or perhaps amber, if you prefer to avoid Coldplay references. The Kindle Oasis’ standout (and only) new feature is its colour adjustable front light.
Dive into settings and you’ll find a second slider under brightness, labelled ‘warmth’. Here you can select any setting from 0 (totally white) up to 24, which casts a yellow/amber cloak across the display.
Screen warmth can be scheduled to coincide with sunset and sunrise, gradually applying colour to the display until the allotted time period comes to an end. You can also manually choose when you want the process to start and how strong you want the screen warmth.
Most modern smartphones have a similar feature, and given what we know glowing blue light can do to our sleep-deprived brains in the evening, it’s a really useful addition here. I found myself preferring to have warmth set to at least 18 by default, partly because it’s soothing to look at, but more importantly because towards the top of the scale the screen matches the tone of actual paper. It’s just more natural.
Otherwise, this is the display we’re used to on Kindles Paperwhite and above these days. The resolution is as high as it needs to be for the job, the touchscreen works fine most of the time, and it can go very bright if required. You won’t have any problems reading in the sunshine either.
Software: Book club
If you’ve used a Kindle before you’ll know exactly what to expect here. Amazon seems to have settled on a simple user interface that works well, putting your library and reading list at the top of the homepage, with recommended books, best-sellers and new releases at the bottom. Books you own live in the cloud and can easily be deleted or downloaded with a few taps.
Head into the store and you can browse Amazon’s enormous library of e-books, and if you have an Audible subscription there's a separate store for audiobooks. The Kindle Oasis can be paired with a pair of Bluetooth headphones if you’d rather the author did the reading for you.
For £8 month you can sign up to Kindle Unlimited, which gives you unlimited access to over 1 million titles, as well as thousands of audiobooks and selected magazines. Hardcore bookworms will definitely find the value here.
Everything from page layout to font style, size and boldness can be tinkered with in settings, and it’s really worth spending some time exploring the different sub-menus so you can settle on something that suits your needs.
Performance and battery life: gold standard
Reading on a Kindle Oasis is as good as reading on an e-reader gets. While it’s obviously not as snappy to navigate as a high-end tablet, the display refreshes quickly, and with the buttons it’s remarkably easy to hop back and forth between pages. The built-in dictionary allows you to hold down on a word for a definition, with the delay never being long enough to put you off.
According to Amazon, the new Kindle Oasis comes with ‘the next generation of e-ink for fast page turns’. If it is indeed any faster than its forerunner I struggled to tell, but put it this way: you’re not going to find it sluggish.
As you’d expect, battery life is enormous, with Amazon rating it at around six weeks depending on usage. It didn’t get close to running it flat during my pretty rigorous testing period.
Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019) verdict
The Kindle Oasis remains the ultimate e-reader that very few people need to buy, especially now the far cheaper Paperwhite model has nabbed that all-important waterproofing feature. It’s also annoying that the best device in the line still doesn’t charge with USB-C.
However, if you do have the cash to burn and want your e-reader to come as close to the experience of reading a physical book as possible, you won’t regret the additional outlay. Even if the warm screen function is the only notable new addition to this year’s model, it really is a significant one, and makes reading for long periods more pleasurable.
If Amazon decides to make the same feature available on its next Paperwhite, the Oasis will need to raise its game again. Until then, it’s clearly the superior model, and once you’ve held one in your hands it’s hard to go back.