Price (RRP): $449 ($399 for 8GB version)
For those of us who live our lives in front of all manner of display screens, the Kindle Oasis eBook reader seems almost like magic. It offers a seven-inch display that uses almost no power. Note, this is the 2019 version. We reviewed an earlier model back in 2016.
Kindle Oasis Features
I first saw some of that kind of magic back in 2003 at a Panasonic display in Japan. It was showing its own eBook reader (model BKE-AW-N7), a dual panel foldable design. The display was blue-green and the contrast extremely low. But it could run for an incredible three to six months on two AA batteries. How? Because the display only required power to change what it was showing, not to maintain it on screen. That struck me as revolutionary.
Sixteen years later, the technology has gotten enormously better, but the concept remains the same. The Paperwhite display in the Kindle Oasis requires no power to maintain an image on its display. It uses power when you change pages. It needs power for the backlight, when that is in use. And, of course, it uses power for its electronic innards.
It does not use AA batteries. Oh no, there’s no way they’d fit into a device that is only 8.3mm thick at its thickest, and 3.4mm thick for much of its area. Instead it has a built-in Lithium Ion battery, charged via a Micro-B USB socket. As for life, this is what Amazon says:
A single charge lasts up to six (6) weeks, based on a half hour of reading per day with wireless and Bluetooth off and the light setting at 13. Battery life will vary based on light settings, wireless usage.
Too right it will vary. When it arrived, I unpacked the Kindle Oasis, charged it up, installed a couple of books and then got distracted by other things for weeks. Several weeks. It just sat there on the coffee table, face up. It would catch my eye from time to time.
Always on display
You see, when the Kindle Oasis is off, its display is still on. It shows one of a small selection of patterns, such as the type face from a printing press. The backlight is off, but the display is on.
After a few weeks I thought I’d better check the battery level. It was still in the mid-70s in percentage terms. If you’re doing your reading outdoors or under strong room lights, so the backlight isn’t needed, you’ll get many more hours than the 21 hours implied by the above claim.
The display is monochrome – 16-level grey scale on a neutral white background. As seems to be the fad these days, you can change the colour of the light to something warmer if you wish, but only if the backlight is in use.
The display has a roughly 7-inch diagonal (6.95 inches by my measurement – 106.1mm wide and 141.2mm tall), with a 3:4 aspect ratio. It’s always in portrait mode, but a sensor tells it which way around it is, so it’ll flip the screen by 180 degrees to match its orientation. (The other Kindle models have 6-inch displays).
The two page-turn buttons are to the right on the thicker part, with the power button on the top edge and the Micro-B socket on the bottom edge. At the left, top and bottom, the bezel is around 9mm wide. The edge holding the buttons is 26mm wide. There’s enough to hold onto all the way around.
The Kindle Oasis body and diet
Amazon specifies the screen resolution at 300 pixels per inch (compared to 167ppi for the basic Kindle), which perhaps not coincidentally was the resolution of the first generation of monochrome laser printers. The number of pixels in each direction isn’t specified, but I calculate it at around 1,253 across by 1,667 vertically. There are apparently 25 LED lights.
The body of the Kindle Oasis is made from aluminium. The unit is fairly waterproof, with IPX8 rating. It’s good for immersion for up to an hour in two metres of fresh water. No problems taking it poolside.
It is available in 8GB or 32GB versions. I reviewed the 32GB model. Think room for thousands of books. I purchased a 1,000+ page Neal Stephenson book for the Kindle and its main file was 1,166KB. The 32GB model has around 27GB available for books. That is enough space for around 27,000 thousand-page novels!
Wi-Fi (or 4G) is generally how books are supplied to the Kindle Oasis. But you can also plug it into a computer, where it appears as a storage device. That allows you to drag in books, should you wish. There’s also a 4G model (32GB, $559).
The preferred file format consists of several generations of format designed specifically for Kindle. With this format you can do things like change fonts. But the Kindle Oasis also natively supports TXT and PDF files, as well as unencrypted MOBI and PRC files. It does not support the EPUB format, but there are online tools that can convert these.
Getting reading material
When you set up your Kindle, you are assigned a special Kindle email address which you can use to send files to your Kindle. I did this with a few, and it only takes a few seconds for the files to make their way onto the Kindle. If you put “convert” in the subject line of the email, Amazon converts the file to Kindle format, which allows a little more flexibility such as the aforementioned font changes.
But it also tended to strip some of the richness of formatting out of the PDFs I tried. It’s probably worth loading your PDFs in both formats and seeing which one you prefer.
Using the email “convert” function, you can also send HTML DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG and PMP files to the Kindle Oasis. What’s PMP? Google suggests it is the AutoCAD plotter file format. I don’t have any of those so I couldn’t check it out.
But of course, the main material you’ll put into a Kindle Oasis are books purchased from Amazon. The prices are all over the place, of course. There’s a stack of stuff that’s free, which some isn’t that far off hard-copy pricing. If you want to have cheap access to classics, well, War and Peace is free, as is The Man from Snowy River, The Great Gatsby, A Tale of Two Cities and so on. I just put three classics on the Kindle Oasis in about thirty seconds. Free. I probably won’t read them, but they’re there should I run out of anything else to read.
The Kindle Oasis also supports Audible books: they’re narrated books. There’s no speaker in the Kindle Oasis. You pair it with Bluetooth headphones or a speaker to listen.
So, you tap on the Kindle Edition of a book at amazon.com.au and a few seconds later it appears on your Kindle Oasis. Tap on the book and you can start reading. The Kindle Oasis is set up for one-handed reading. Tap the left edge and you go back a page. Tap the three quarters width of the page on the right, and you go forwards. You can use the buttons for those as well.
Tap the very top of the screen and you can get an action bar from which you can return to home, search, change the display setting or jump to a spot in the text. Swipe up from the bottom, and in a Kindle-format text you can jump temporarily around the text and then return to where you started. Tap in the bottom left hand corner and you can cycle through a status line showing your progress through the text as a percentage, how long it will take to read what’s left and a few others.
There are settings which (by default) show the most highlighted sections of the text. You can of course highlight sections yourself.
Me? I just wanted to read, so I switched that stuff off.
I read sitting in bed. On a plane. I read out in the full sun and in a dark room. The experience was excellent.
Clarity of text
Since we so rarely see true monochrome displays these days, we tend to be unfamiliar with one advantage that they have over colour displays. For the same nominal resolution, their grid pattern tends to be less discernible. Colour displays are made of three different colour dots per pixel. Patterns in these can become evident, particularly on edges which slope across the grid pattern. Monochrome displays far less so.
Which brings me to the grid pattern of the Kindle Oasis: damned if I could see one. Seriously, I figured I’d be able to drill down with the macro lens on my camera and see it. I couldn’t.
Now, to be very clear, this technique has never failed me before. I’ve often taken photos of the grid pattern of 8K TVs. Heck, look here’s a photo I’ve just taken of the Kindle app showing text on my phone. It has a resolution of 398 pixels per inch, and you can clearly see the coloured sub-pixels at the edges of the characters.
Does the Kindle Oasis even have a grid of pixels?
Now, let’s look at the sharpest photo I managed with the Kindle Oasis. I reduced the text size to the minimum to make character jaggies and visual defects more obvious. Here’s how the whole screen looked:
What do we see when we look close up?
The only hint of any kind of pixel structure is on the long diagonal of the letter “y”. A bare hint. As for the rest?
What it most reminds me of is when I’ve closely examined laser print on decent paper.
Now, what about brightness and contrast? This is where the “Paperwhite” display technology, ahem, shines. It looks fine and clear indoors, both in a dark room and under room lights. I found leaving the backlight on automatic gave good results. Contrast isn’t quite as stark as with my AMOLED-screened phone, but still plenty clear enough.
But step outside and the Kindle Oasis display is transformed. Under full sun it’s brilliant. Even under an overcast sky it’s extremely good. Take any regular tablet or notebook computer outside, and with careful placement you can barely produce a usable image on your display. With the Kindle Oasis, it just gets better outside.
Of course, the backlight switches off outside. The display is entirely reflective. The contrast is higher, the reading experience easier.
The Kindle Oasis is an excellent way to read books. A colourful picture-book, not so much. Accept that limitation and the joy of having a slim, portable device with tens of thousands of books ready to read is simply wonderful. Add the long life and superbly natural look of the printed word, and the Kindle Oasis is a winner.
And you don’t even have to buy the tens of thousands of books from Amazon. Project Gutenberg has 60,000 free books online – mostly classics – and many are in Kindle-compatible formats.
Check out the various Kindle Oasis models here.