When Amazon released its original Kindle Oasis e-reader in 2016, I was pretty impressed. It was really thin and lightweight and featured a top-of-the-line E Ink screen. It also came with a slick, removable leather cover that had a built-in battery. The only downside? It cost a whopping $290 or £270 in the UK or AU$449 in Australia.
Enter the "all-new" Kindle Oasis, 2017 edition. The first fully waterproof Kindle, it features a larger 7-inch E Ink display, a very slim design and an aluminum back. It also marks the return of Audible audiobook support to the Kindle platform. And technically it costs less, starting at $250 for the model with 8GB of storage. The Oasis goes up to $350 for a 32GB model with cellular connectivity, which has all-you-can-eat data plan included in the price for content downloads during the lifetime of the device. (Note that's only for e-books; you'll still need to download audiobooks on Wi-Fi.)
The big caveat is that the new Kindle Oasis doesn't come with a case, it's an optional accessory, starting at $45. So for those of us who like to use a case (I do) the price is essentially a wash. However, despite that, the good news is you're getting more e-reader for your money. By that I mean the larger screen is appealing, the aluminum casing seems to be more durable and if you use your e-reader in the bathtub, by the pool (or maybe in the pool) or at the beach, the waterproofing is a big plus.
Editors' note (March 14, 2018): Since this review was originally published, Amazon has released an updated version of the Kindle Paperwhite, which sells for $100 to $130 and includes many of the of Oasis's best features. Read Kindle Paperwhite vs. Kindle Oasis: Comparison and buying advice for Amazon's best e-readers for a complete head-to-head evaluation.
When you first see the new Oasis, the thing that jumps out at you is that larger 7-inch, 300 pixel-per-inch (ppi) display. Amazon says it's the largest Kindle display with that level of resolution. Compared to the 6-inch display of the original Oasis, which was also 300 ppi resolution, it provides slightly more than 30 percent extra screen real estate. That's a significant difference. Unlike the widescreen Fire tablets, the Kindles utilize a more squarish 4x3 aspect ratio, which is also nice.
The other big change is the battery. The original Oasis had a small battery built into the device and a larger one built into the included case, which attached to the e-reader magnetically. With the new Kindle Oasis, the larger battery is integrated into the device itself and as noted, Amazon has made the case an optional accessory. It also adheres magnetically but isn't a charging case.
The new Oasis tapers down to 3.4mm at its thinnest point and weighs in at 194 grams (6.8 ounces) -- 10 grams lighter than the Paperwhite, which has a 6-inch display. Amazon says the display's cover glass is the strongest to date, and the new dual-core 1GHz processor (with 512MB of RAM) is the zippiest too, giving you slightly faster page turns. You can either turn pages using the physical page turn buttons -- you can hold the device in your left or right hand -- or tap the screen.
The device being well balanced, I found it comfortable to hold, and the touchscreen is quite responsive. The text on the screen was sharp and had excellent contrast. My only small gripe is that the aluminum border has a slight edge to it. The edge does allow you to hold onto the e-reader more securely and perhaps doubles as an exfoliating tool (I jest), but the metal has a little less inviting feel to it than the plastic chassis of the original Oasis.
The original Kindle Oasis is also lighter. It weighs about a third less at 131 grams (4.6 ounces) without its cover on. And when you're reading in bed, holding up your e-reader in front of you, lighter is undeniably better.
I missed the smaller form factor of the original. My eyesight for reading is excellent so I tend to read with smaller font sizes and find a 6-inch screen ample for my needs. But for those who need to read using larger font sizes, the bigger 7-inch screen is obviously appealing because it allows you to squeeze more words on a page.
As for the integrated lighting scheme it now features 12 LEDs instead of the 10 found on the original Oasis. The extra LEDs make the screen appear brighter overall. However, looking closely at the screen with CNET's video guru and Kindle user David Katzmaier, we couldn't detect a noticeable difference in how uniformly the light splays across the screen (some people get distracted by any flaws or shadows in the lighting scheme). Both were excellent. The original Oasis seemed a little hotter (brighter) in the left lower corner while the new Oasis was a little hotter in the right lower corner. So, neither is completely perfect but there really isn't much, if anything, to complain about.
The other big addition is support for Audible playback on the device. There's no headphone jack, but there is Bluetooth connectivity that allows to connect the new Oasis to a Bluetooth headphone or speaker. If you have the license to the Audible version of a book you're reading on the Kindle, you can toggle between the Audible version and the e-book versions. However, you can't have the book's text appear while you're listening to the audible version.
For those who bought the original Oasis, despair not: Audible support is coming to the original Oasis via a software upgrade. It's also coming to the most recent entry-level Kindle. Both those models, and only those models, have Bluetooth, with the Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle Voyage missing out.
While the new Kindle Oasis on paper is less expensive than the original Oasis, $250 is still a lot to spend on an e-reader. Is it that much better than the Kindle Paperwhite? No, it isn't. Except for the Audible support, they have access to the same deep set of reading features and same Kindle e-books and other content from Amazon (if you're a Prime member, you can download plenty of free titles, some of which you may actually want to read). While it's a little mundane looking, the Paperwhite has a nice E Ink touchscreen display and often gets discounted to less than $100.
But the Kindle Oasis (2017) is a premium e-reader targeted at those who value their Kindle as much, if not more, than their phone and want to own the best e-reader available. The original Oasis was that e-reader. And if you already bought that one, I don't think you'll be that enticed by this one. The original is still a great e-reader, and if lightweight is what you're after, it's still the king.
Ultimately, however, the larger screen, more durable aluminum chassis and full waterproofing are important upgrades that put the new Kindle Oasis at the top of the e-reader class. Sure, it's a little crazy to spend this much for an e-reader, but then again, people have been known to overspend on smartphones, noise-cancelling wireless headphones and a lot of other products. Why not a fancy Kindle?