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Would you pay $290 for an eReader? Amazon bets that bookworms neck-deep in Amazon’s eBook market will buy the Kindle Oasis. But unless you’re rich, there are a lot of reasons why you might want to rethink that purchase. You could find yourself in a bone-dry Oasis.
The Oasis comes with a minimal number of peripherals. Inside the box, you get documentation, a battery-pack folio cover, a microUSB cable, and the Amazon Kindle Oasis itself. At its current price point, someone might imagine that Amazon would bundle gold plating or perhaps a trial subscription to Amazon Prime – but there’s always next year’s Kindle (but please, don’t get a Kindle Fire – there are significant differences between a tablet and an eReader.)
- 8th generation Kindle
- Carta E-Ink screen with 300 PPI
- MX6 Freescale System-on-a-chip (what’s a SoC?)
- Supports AZW, AZW3, DOC, HTML, MOBI, PDF, PRC, TXT
- Reads BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG images
- Battery pack and protective cover combo
- Capacitive, hardened glass screen
- microUSB connector
- Lack of microSD card support
Judging from the exterior, the Oasis brings nothing new to the already saturated eReader market. It includes the now ubiquitous combination of a Carta-series E-Ink screen and a Freescale i.MX6 system-on-a-chip. The two parts give all modern eReaders approximately the same battery life and performance. Just because nearly all eReaders offer the same internal components doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy one though. Both components make for an amazing device – but you can get a similarly amazing eReader for far less money.
Amazon’s proposition to consumers: Are you willing to pay $290 for the smallest and most stylish eReader on today’s market? If your answer is “yes”, then the Amazon Kindle Oasis might satisfy. If not, then other eReaders might meet your needs; those living on a budget should consider a Kindle Paperwhite, a Nook Glowlight, a Kobo, or any number of other eReaders.
The Oasis’s Cover and Battery Life
Unlike many other eReaders on today’s market, the newest Kindle includes a backup battery, but this one’s built into the cover. Testing the battery life would take months, but using the device daily for two weeks hasn’t put much of a dent in its battery gauge. Amazon estimates that the Oasis can go “months” without needing a recharge — which appears to be the case, even with substantial amounts of reading. I must note two potential weaknesses. First, without the battery-cover, the Oasis’s battery life seems to be weeks, not months. Second, there have been multiple reports that some Kindles do not correctly draw energy from the external battery.
Does the Oasis Have Solar Charging?
Despite rumors, the Kindle Oasis does not offer solar charging. Today’s eReader hardware just can’t do it. If your needs include solar-charging, 2017 might bring the product you need. The reasons for this revolve around the age (by Internet standards) of today’s eReader technology: the processor and screen are almost four-years-old. Consequently, today’s eReaders are functionally identical to those produced in 2012 and 2013. Judging from recent innovation in the eReader industry, eReaders in 2017 may bring tremendous leaps in performance and battery life. Your best bet is to wait.
For those who can’t, my advice would be to buy an older refurbished model – because you lose little and save a lot. For example, a refurbished Nook Glowlight sells for $71.95 on Amazon.
And a regular Kindle sells for $56, refurbished (but with a 1-year warranty).
Ambidextrous Design and Tiny Form Factor
The Oasis’s form factor is its biggest virtue. While possessing a six-inch screen, its dimensions are decidedly compatible with one-handed reading. Because of its smartphone-like screen rotation capabilities, the Oasis manages to dispense with an extra set of buttons. In short, the Oasis is the smallest, lightest eReader available in its class.
On the other hand (pun intended), the emphasis and light weight might prove a double-edged blade. While elegantly designed, the Oasis does not look rugged. A single drop might turn your $290 investment into a mirage.
Setting Up the Kindle Oasis
Like other eReaders, configuring the Oasis doesn’t take much time or effort. Users only need to select their language, connect to a wireless network, and finally, register their Kindle with Amazon. The setup process takes about 5 minutes to complete. In addition to a short configuration process, users can choose to customize their device. Each of the buttons, for example, can remap to a new function. Overall, the Kindle Oasis offers an easy setup process combined with excellent customization options. However, most eReaders offer a similarly smooth experience.
Making Use of the Kindle Oasis
Like other iterations of the Kindle, the Oasis includes a standard eReader interface, with three zones that the user can interface with: menu, back, and forward. Unlike several other mainstream eReaders, the touch zones offer optimized locations and size. Users will not often touch the wrong section of the screen.
The home screen layout, which I recommend changing, offers three books from your library, a navigation bar at the top of the page, and some recommended (i.e. more advertisements) books from the Amazon Store at the bottom. About two-thirds of the home screen page consists of a direct or indirect means for encouraging eBook sales. The $360 version of the Oasis cuts down the solicitations to around half the screen real estate. In the screenshot below, the highlighted portions of the display contain elements useful to the reader. The remaining portions represent methods of squeezing money out of consumers.
As mentioned earlier, the Oasis includes an accelerometer which can detect when the device twists 180 degrees. Screen rotation automatically reorients its user-interface for both left and right-handed reading modes. It feels natural to switch the device between hands, particularly when turning pages with its physical buttons. My favorite design feature: the physical buttons switch when the device rotates. To illustrate, the top button always functions as the page forward button, regardless of how it’s held. The design affords a higher degree of comfort than its competitors. Unfortunately, the Oasis doesn’t offer landscape mode, which would have made reading wider PDFs much easier.
The backlight on the Oasis looks fantastic. Its lighting range scales between almost invisible to eye-burning bright. If you demand an on-demand backlight but want a low-intensity brightness setting, the Oasis offers one of the most eye-friendly experiences on the market. My only complaint is that the light contains too much of a blue hue, which can cause insomnia in those sensitive to it (how to eliminate blue from smartphones.)
Sideloading (sideloading on Android) or copying eBooks from your computer onto the Kindle Oasis isn’t very difficult. Users can use one of two options: Copying files via a microUSB connection or by emailing the document to their Send to Kindle Email Address. Registering an Oasis with Amazon creates a Kindle email account. Users can find complete instructions on this system at Amazon, but compared to sideloading content, it’s an uncomfortable and unwieldy tool. Considering that Calibre (guide to Calibre) converts from ePUB (which is incompatible with the Kindle series) into a readable format, most users probably won’t ever touch this feature on the Kindle – unless you don’t own a computer but for some reason own a smartphone or tablet.
The biggest problem with sideloading books: Amazon doesn’t make it easy to locate your copied content. Of the 12 PDFs that I transferred to the Oasis over USB, only seven showed up. Compared to my Nook Simple Touch (how to root the Nook Simple Touch,) the Oasis can read very few of my e-books.
Unfortunately, like on all six-inch devices, many scanned documents (such as those found in PDFs) don’t always look great on the Oasis. Some eReaders can digitally “reflow” scanned pages from books using a method called Optical Character Recognition (explanation of OCR). OCR methods vary between manufacturers. Some intelligently convert smudged or faded letters into digital characters, such as Optical Word Recognition. OWR looks at a smudged letter within the context of its surrounding letters and makes a guess as to what word it might be a part of. Google Books, for Android, can search through books using OCR. The Oasis doesn’t seem to offer any kind of OCR. If you own a lot of older PDFs that are scans of pages, you might want to look elsewhere for an eReader.
The Final Analysis: Should You Buy an Amazon Kindle Oasis?
Maybe, if you’re Scrooge McDuck rich. Otherwise, no way. It’s without question an amazing eReader – but at its current price point, the Kindle Oasis needs to offer more than a small form factor, elegant design, and ambidextrous handling capabilities. For almost $300 an eReader needs to beat down its competitors. The Oasis offers only a marginally better experience.
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It’s marginally better than other eReaders on the market, but at a ridiculously expensive price point.