Kindle Oasis (2017) review

Amazon’s All-New Kindle Oasis e-reader knows how to make a splash, literally

Even bathtub bookworms should own Amazon's best-in-class Kindle Oasis.
Even bathtub bookworms should own Amazon's best-in-class Kindle Oasis.
Even bathtub bookworms should own Amazon's best-in-class Kindle Oasis.

Highs

  • Waterproof
  • Slim and beautiful design
  • Improved, 6-week battery life
  • More personalization options

Lows

  • Expensive
  • Heavier than its predecessor

Amazon’s original Kindle Oasis is a tough act to follow. We called it the “best, sexiest ebook reader that money can buy” in 2016, thanks to its gorgeous screen, slim design, and two-month battery life. Fortunately for avid readers, Amazon’s all-new Kindle Oasis both builds upon those stellar features, and goes to the next level with one feature that loyal Kindle users have been waiting for all along: It’s finally waterproof. While it’s cheaper than the first-generation Oasis, it still carries a hefty $250 price tag, and that’s only the starting price. In our all-new Kindle Oasis review, we tested Amazon’s claims to see if a water-friendly reader is really worth splashing out the cash for.

Slightly different look, same revolutionary design

Compared to the last model, the all-new Kindle Oasis would be tough to pick out of a lineup. It uses the same unique design that steps from super thin on one side to thick on the other, where your hand is supposed to rest. It’s only a fraction of a millimeter thinner than last year’s, but we did notice when we held it.

Following the trends of “bezel-less” smartphones, Amazon has enlarged the Kindle’s screen and shrunken the bezels around it, making room for a larger 7-inch display that fits more than 30 percent more words per page. A thicker bezel on the right side offers more to grip and two page-turning buttons, but lefties aren’t left out: An accelerometer will flip the screen if you hold it with the other hand. The larger screen does boost the weight of this year’s Oasis up to 194 grams, from last year’s 131 grams.

Now that it’s waterproof, there’s nowhere you can’t take it.

An all-aluminum body replaces last year’s polymer frame, which was plated with metal structural electroplating, but doesn’t really change the feel. Like that predecessor, it feels super smooth and sturdy enough that it won’t bend or flex. The aluminum back is a dark silver, while the front is a more standard black.

The first 4GB Kindle Oasis was already capable of storing thousands of books from Amazon’s library. Now, users can store double the amount with 8GB and 32GB models, priced at $250 and $280, respectively. A 32GB version with lifetime cellular connectivity for downloading from Wi-Fi will cost you $350.

Sleek and protective covers

We tried two covers with our all-new Kindle Oasis: the natural leather cover and the water-safe woven fabric cover. Both have a slim design that comes with a built-in stand for when you want to read hands-free. They’ll also automatically wake your Kindle or put it to sleep by opening or closing the cover.

amazin kindle oasis review (2017) reading
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

The covers attach magnetically, sliding in right next to the battery, which evens out the stepped back of the Kindle. We did enjoy using the Oasis without it, but if you find the uneven back uncomfortable, you’ll definitely appreciate a cover. Since it puts the device to sleep, we also used it to save battery when it wasn’t in use. It helps that the soft microfiber on the inside keeps the screen clean.

The water-safe woven fabric and leather cases add 119 grams or 124 grams, respectively, to the original weight of the Oasis. That may not sound like much, but we did feel a significant difference in weight when clipped to the device. It wasn’t enough to make us want to leave it off, though. You can still easily hold the Oasis with one hand while using the page-turning buttons. It rests comfortably in your hand and allows you to have a firm grasp on the device without feeling unbalanced.

Same crisp display, more personalization options

We loved the smooth overall feel of using the new Kindle Oasis, which is as intuitive and responsive as the last version.

The all-new Kindle Oasis is the first to support audio books from Amazon-owned Audible.

The new 7-inch screen still packs the same 300 pixels per inch and Paperwhite display technology with E Ink Carta. But this time around, there are more ways to personalize your reading experience, from font sizes to five different levels of boldness, and even right or left-aligning text while reading.

With new accessibility options, you can invert the display for white text on a black background to deal with light sensitivity, and built-in ambient light sensors adjust the display depending on your surroundings. It was convenient to be able read in broad daylight, then again before going to bed without having to adjust the screen back and forth. A larger screen also lets you increase the size of the text on the home screen and library, and makes book icons easier to see.

It’s finally waterproof

In our last review, we mentioned the Kindle Oasis included almost every killer feature, but had one major flaw: It wasn’t waterproof. That changes with the second-generation Oasis, which is finally ready for the beach and bathtub.

With an IPX8 rating, it’s protected against immersion in up to 6.5 feet of fresh water for up to an hour. Don’t worry if you get splashed at the beach or drop it while in the pool, it can withstand that too. While we didn’t take a full-on bath or swim with our Oasis, we did use it after washing our hands and even purposely splashed water on it. The device still worked perfectly and the pages turned as quickly as it did when it was dry.

amazin kindle oasis review (2017) settings
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

We especially loved the water-safe woven fabric cover. The water bounced right off and it stayed completely dry, without leaving a trace of H20 – because who wants to read a wet book? And the built-in stand allows you to comfortably rest the device on any surface, whether poolside or in the tub.

Large content selection, now Audible-approved

Amazon’s ebook readers support many formats, but it’s simplest to give in and shop through Amazon. Its selection includes tons of books, magazines, and newspapers to browse through. And the more books you read, the better your Kindle will get to know you and make suggestions based on your interests.

It was convenient to be able read in broad daylight, then again before going to bed without having to adjust the screen back and forth.

For avid readers out there, you can sign up for Amazon’s ebook subscription service – Kindle Unlimited which offers over one million books, including audiobooks, for $10 a month after a 30-day free trial. For Prime members, Prime Reading gives you unlimited access to thousands of books and other reading material for no additional cost.

The all-new Kindle Oasis is the first to support audio books from Amazon-owned Audible, which might explain the increase in storage capacity. After downloading an audiobook, you’ll have to connect to a Bluetooth device like headphones or speakers – there is no headphone jack. If you own both the ebook and audiobook of a specific title, you can easily switch between the two formats by tapping on the headphone icon. If you want to return to reading, simply tap the top of the screen for the menu and select the book icon.

While there aren’t too many customization options, you can adjust how fast or slow you’d like the narration, leave bookmarks, and take notes.

Battery

Amazon claims the all-new Kindle Oasis has a battery life of up to six weeks on a single charge, assuming you’re only reading half an hour a day and not making extensive use of Bluetooth or the backlight. We started using our Kindle when it was only at half a charge, and it barely dipped over the course of a few days with the suggested half-hour use, but started to die quickly when we dove into a more intense reading session. Fortunately, it only took about an hour to bring back to a full charge, and this type of battery life is still impressive considering how thin the device is. Unless you plan on multiple marathon reading sessions, the Oasis should comfortably last many weeks away from the wall.

Warranty information

Amazon offers a 1-year limited warranty and service with the purchase of an Oasis. You can also get 1-year, 2-year, or 3-year Extended Warranty programs from Amazon ranging from $25 to $40.

Our Take

The All-New Oasis packs all the most useful features of its predecessor, plus an even larger screen and minimized bezels — and now that it’s waterproof, there’s nowhere you can’t take it.

Is there a better alternative?

If you want a cheaper ebook reader that’s still waterproof and has a crisp display, the Kobo Aura H20 sells for $147. It has a slightly smaller 6.8-inch screen, and lower pixel density of 265 pixels-per-inch, but uses ComfortLight technology that’s similar to Amazon Paperwhite. And for even more choices, browse our list of the best ebook readers you can buy.

With the Kobo, you’ll be paying more for its specs than the design and reader experience. It doesn’t have the sleekest look with much wider bezels, and you’ll also have to hold it with both hands for a comfortable grip. But it does beat out Amazon’s all-knew Kindle Oasis when it comes to battery life – with the Kobo Aura H20 lasting up two months before needing to be recharged.

How long will it last?

The all-new Kindle Oasis should last years, particularly now that it has an aluminum body, stronger glass, and can survive spills. And what more features can you really anticipate Amazon adding, now that it’s waterproof? The much slower pace of ebook reader evolution means that it’s not likely to be a relic in two years, unlike a new phone.

Should you buy it?

Yes. For bookworms, the Kindle Oasis remains the definite ebook reader to own. With all the features you’d ever want an e-reader, you’re ultimately shelling out a large sum of money for a device that will last you for years to come.

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