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Kindle Oasis (2019) review: Top Kindle e-reader approaches pricey perfection

The updates are relatively small, the price is still large, but the Kindle Oasis improves a little with a more advanced lighting scheme.

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy

Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.

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4 min read

The Kindle Oasis, Amazon's top-of-the-line E Ink e-reader, has been updated for 2019. I wish I could tell you that it's been upgraded in a major way, but for better or worse the "="" kindle="" oasis"=""> is very similar to the previous Kindle Oasis except for one key difference: It has a new color-adjustable integrated light that allows you to customize the color tone from cool to warm, depending on whether you're reading during the day or at night. You can also schedule the screen warmth to update automatically with sunrise and sunset -- not unlike Night Shift mode on Apple devices.

Amazon Kindle Oasis 2019
9.0

Kindle Oasis (2019)

The Good

The Kindle Oasis has been upgraded with a new color-adjustable integrated light and is a touch lighter and zippier. It's fully waterproof (it can be submerged) and can play your Audible audiobooks to Bluetooth headphones or speakers.

The Bad

It's expensive, and no case is included. It still uses Micro-USB charging instead of USB-C.

The Bottom Line

The Paperwhite remains the better overall value, but the updated Kindle Oasis secures its position as the best e-reader if price is no object.

Available in Graphite or Champagne Gold colors, the new Kindle Oasis costs the same as the previous version: $250 (£230, AU$399) for the 8GB version and $280 for 32GB. Six months of Kindle Unlimited Service, Amazon's version of Netflix for e-books and audiobooks, is included for free. It costs $10 (£8, AU$14) a month after the six months is up.

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The new color-adjustable lighting scheme.

David Carnoy/CNET

Aside from the new lighting feature, there are some small design changes. The 2019 model is still made out of aluminum but the previous model had a set of magnets in the rear housing that has been removed in this model, reducing its weight by 6 grams (188 versus 194 grams), which is about a fifth of an ounce. Those magnets allowed Amazon's previous generation magnetized cover to stick to the back. Now it doesn't.  

Read more: The best gifts for readers in 2019: iPad, Kindle vs. Fire and more

Instead of only partially covering the back of the Kindle (a design flaw), the cases for the new Oasis cover the whole back and sides of the device and are backward-compatible with the previous-generation Oasis. Amazon-branded Oasis (2019) cases range in price from $40 for the "water-safe" fabric covers to $65 for the leather option. Third-party cases cost less -- sometimes much less.

Amazon Kindle Oasis 2019

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To be clear, although Amazon calls it a "color-adjustable" light, the fully waterproof (IPX8-certified) Oasis has a sharp 300 pixel per inch 7-inch monochrome display. That's larger than the 6-inch display found on the step-down Paperwhite, which is also fully waterproof and remains the best value when it comes to Kindle e-readers. There's no doubt the Oasis has better curb appeal, however -- it's certainly a sleek-looking e-reader. 

The color temperature adjustable light isn't an e-reader first. Last year's Kobo Carta HD e-reader included one. That model has a 6-inch screen and lists for $130. The idea behind it is that by shifting to a more amber-colored screen at night, you won't be exposed to as much blue light. In theory, that will help you sleep better. I personally don't have a problem with the whole blue-light phenomenon -- at least when it comes to sleep. I conk out reading my iPhone or iPad's screen. But some people are apparently sensitive to it and, for them, the Oasis' new lighting scheme is a plus. 

Amazon Kindle Oasis 2019
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Amazon Kindle Oasis 2019

Yes, the new Oasis is waterproof.

Sarah Tew/CNET

An Amazon rep confirmed that the processor in the new Oasis is unchanged from the previous version, but the company is pledging that the new model offers somewhat faster performance. "The new Kindle Oasis introduces the next and improved generation of E Ink, which is faster in common customer scenarios such as getting back into your favorite book from Home or Library, looking up a word and launching Settings, among others."

It does seem ever so slightly zippier, but it's not a huge difference. E Ink is an inherently sluggish technology and even today's entry-level iPad is markedly faster. However, the great thing about E Ink displays are that they don't get washed out in direct sunlight and they're very energy efficient. You can get weeks of battery life from the new Oasis so long as you don't leave the Wi-Fi on.       

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The new cover options.

Amazon

As I said about the previous Oasis, this is a great e-reader -- and the small improvements make the 2019 version slightly better. There's still Bluetooth for connecting a pair of wireless headphones (or a Bluetooth speaker) to listen to Audible audiobooks (that's the only reason you'd want the 32GB model). And Amazon keeps tweaking the interface and adding new e-reading features, most of which make the overall experience slightly better. Amazon's e-reading ecosystem remains the best, with the widest selection of content and the best deals. (If you're a Prime subscriber, you can download a number of Prime-enabled titles for free -- some are decent reads, some aren't.) 

Unless you pay $20 to remove them, you'll still be greeted with Amazon's special offers on the lock screen and the main menu page. I don't find them to be too much of a nuisance -- they never intrude into the books themselves -- and a few catch my interest. But if you want a totally ad-free experience, you'll have to pay a bit more.

I would have liked to have seen USB-C charging added (it still charges via Micro-USB) and the price come down a bit. But the Oasis remains the Porsche of e-readers -- a premium model that's a little more luxurious and has a touch more zip to it. If you're heavy into e-reading, it's arguably the best e-reader out there. But the Paperwhite, which can be had for $90 or less during Amazon's sporadic sales, is clearly the better value. It's basically got the same engine and while it's missing the new lighting scheme, it's still a nice ride. That's why we gave the Paperwhite -- not the Oasis -- an Editors' Choice award despite the slightly higher rating on the Oasis.

Amazon Kindle Oasis 2019
9.0

Kindle Oasis (2019)

Score Breakdown

Design 9Ecosystem 10Features 9Performance 9
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