Amazon’s premium e-reader is bigger and tougher than ever and has Audible audiobook playback, too
If there’s one feature Amazon’s range of e-readers has been in desperate need of over the years, it’s waterproofing. While Kobo is now into its second generation of bath-proof devices, Amazon has only just introduced the feature – and then it’s only the latest, pricey flagship Kindle Oasis that benefits.
Still, we should be thankful for small mercies and the new Kindle’s IPX8 rating isn’t the only big improvement Amazon has made to its top-of-the-range model.
Amazon Kindle Oasis (2017) review: What you need to know
The other big change for the Kindle Oasis is a massive 7in screen, the largest ever on a Kindle, and a full inch bigger than the original Oasis, which was introduced in the summer of 2016.
That screen has a pixel density of 300ppi and displays text that looks as sharp as it does on the pages of a paperback. It has a front light with more LEDs than before for more even lighting and Bluetooth for streaming Audible audiobooks. Unlike last year’s Oasis, there’s no magnetic, snap-on battery cover, but Amazon says battery life is much improved, too.
Amazon Kindle Oasis (2017) review: Price and competition
The new Oasis starts at £229 for the model with 8GB of non-expandable storage, rising to £259 for the 32GB version and £319 for the 32GB model with a cellular connection. The latter allows you to download books wherever you can get a phone signal, not just at Wi-Fi hotspots.
It’s a luxury device for keen readers and, at this end of the market, there isn’t much in the way of competition, other than from Amazon’s own stable of cheaper e-readers.
If it’s waterproofing you want, there’s the Kobo Aura H20, which has a 6.8in high-resolution display, IPX8 waterproofing and costs £80 less, but the flip side is that it doesn’t have access to the Kindle ebook store.
The Amazon alternatives are the Kindle Voyage (£170), the Kindle Paperwhite (£110) and the regular Kindle (£60). If you want to know the difference between all these models, check out our in-depth comparison article here. The long and short of it, though, is that they all do the job and cost an awful lot less than the Kindle Oasis.
Amazon Kindle Oasis (2017) review: Key features and first impressions
In profile, this updated Oasis doesn’t even look all that different from its predecessor. It’s wedge-shaped with a cutout at the rear that helps you grip the reader more comfortably one-handed. There are two physical page turn buttons on the front, plus a flush-fit, glass-covered capacitive touchscreen.
The only obvious physical differences between this and the original are its size – it’s now a bit of a stretch to hold edge-to-edge with one hand spanning the rear of the reader – and its finish, which is now a silky matte-gunmetal grey.
Despite the increase in size, though, 2017’s Oasis remains ridiculously light at 194g – 10g lighter than the lightest Kindle Paperwhite – and tapers to a super-slim 3.4mm at its thinnest point. If you have the money, this is the e-reader to end all e-readers; in its category, it’s stupendously desirable.
The improvements don’t end there, though. On the hardware front, the Oasis now has an ambient light sensor, allowing it to adjust its front light automatically. Weirdly, last year’s Oasis lacked this feature despite the fact that the cheaper Voyage had it previously. And, as before, there’s also an accelerometer that triggers a screen rotation whenever you spin the reader around in your hands.
Plus, as mentioned previously, the internal battery is larger, delivering up to six weeks of stamina without the need to attach an external battery cover, not that you get the option anymore; there are no longer any contacts on the rear to enable the feature. For context, the previous Oasis was rated at a mere two weeks without the battery cover, although adding one extended that out to eight weeks.
On the software front, there’s plenty more to get stuck into. My favourite feature is the option to left-justify text, which gives text a more book-like appearance. There are also new font options. Text can be set to bold and readers can now select from an increased number of size options, up from eight to 14. That’s a welcome change, but we’re still missing book-specific fonts.
Amazon Kindle Oasis (2017) review: Audible support
The big new addition for this model, however, is the ability to access and play your Audible Audiobooks. These now appear on the device’s home screen alongside your ebooks and can be streamed via Bluetooth to wireless speakers and headphones. Alas, there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack here, which is a shame because there’s plenty of space for the connection, despite the slender chassis.
There is more to this than meets the eye, though. If you happen to own both the ebook and audiobook of the same edition, the Kindle Oasis will let you flip between the two, picking up on your ebook where you last left off on the audiobook edition and vice versa – a huge bonus for avid readers who drive a lot for work.
Alas, Amazon isn’t yet making it easier, or cheaper to buy both types of publication in the Kindle store. You’ll still need to buy each separately, at which point the Oasis detects the duplication and merges audiobook and ebook on the home screen and in your library.
But at least using the feature is child’s play. Simply tap the top portion of the screen while reading to launch the menu, look for the headphone icon in the bottom right-hand corner and, assuming you’ve previously paired the Oasis with your speakers, headphones or car audio system, playback will begin at the top of the page you’re currently reading. Magic.
Amazon Kindle Oasis (2017) review: Early verdict
There’s plenty to like about the new Kindle Oasis, with its abundance of new features. It’s waterproof, offers audiobook/ebook synchronisation and has a larger screen. And yet Amazon has also reduced the price.
At £229, the company’s high-end e-reader is now £40 less than the combined price of 6in Oasis and battery cover last year. At a time when many manufacturers are hiking their prices mercilessly and £700 seems to have become the new normal price for flagship phones, this is welcome news indeed.
Now, don’t get me wrong; £229 is still a lot of money to pay for an e-reader when the Kindle Paperwhite does much the same job for less than half as much. But if you spend a lot of time reading and a significant proportion of your day on the road listening to audiobooks, it might just be worth the investment.
For my money, it will be an easy recommendation, assuming I don’t discover any huge problems when I get my hands on a review unit for more extensive testing. Keep your eyes peeled for the full review, which I’ll be posting in the coming weeks.