Every couple of years Amazon introduces a new Kindle e-ink e-reader that's smaller, lighter and faster. But with the arrival of the Kindle Oasis, Amazon's thinnest and lightest e-reader ever, the e-book pioneer needs to add a new adjective to the list: pricier.
The Oasis, the first Kindle to include a protective cover -- a swanky leather one that integrates a backup battery no less -- costs a whopping $290 in the US, £270 in the UK or AU$449 in Australia. Meanwhile, the Wi-Fi+3G version, which bundles in free 3G data for the life of the product, takes you up to $359 or £330.
Geez, who does Amazon think it is? Apple? That's an awful lot to pay for a monochrome e-reader. In fact, for a bit less than the price as the Wi-Fi Oasis, you can snag an iPad Mini 2. Or five entry-level Amazon Fire tablets. And they do a lot more than just display black and white text.
That said, the Oasis is the first Kindle in a while that looks and feels like a brand new Kindle. It's been completely redesigned: the device is more square in shape than previous Kindles, weighs a mere 131 grams (4.6 ounces) and measures 3.4 mm (0.13 inches) at its slimmest point.
That makes it 20 percent lighter and 30 percent thinner on average than the Kindle Voyage ($200, £170, AU$299), which remains in the line along with the Paperwhite ($120, £110, AU$179) and entry-level Kindle ($80, £60, AU$109). (Those prices, at least for the Paperwhite and entry-level Kindles, are frequently discounted by Amazon. And with all Kindles, you'll need to pay a bit more -- at time of purchase or anytime thereafter -- if you want to remove Amazon's mostly subtle advertisements from the lock screen and the main menu.)
Thanks to the new shape, a lot of people initially think the screen is smaller than the screen found on other Kindles. But it's an optical illusion; the screen in fact is the same 6-inch size but simply has a smaller bezel around it.
To get lighter, Amazon's engineers equipped the new e-reader with a "featherweight" polymer frame plated with metal structural electroplating that adds rigidity. Also, the internal battery and electronics have been scrunched into an ergonomic hump on the backside of the device that allows you to hold the e-reader comfortably in your hand. The hump shifts the weight of the device so it's better balanced and feels more like you're holding a book with a spine.
It does feel really light. And while 20 percent doesn't sound like a huge weight reduction, when you're reading in bed at night and holding your e-reader in front of your face, that 20 percent does make a difference. You can read longer without taking a break.
The other significant change is to the lighting scheme. The built-in front light has 60 percent more LEDs (10 LEDs vs. 6 on the Voyage and 4 on the Paperwhite) and they're embedded in the side of the display, not the bottom. The result is the light does appear a little brighter -- and whiter -- and splays across the screen a touch more uniformly. It really isn't much of an upgrade, but it is an upgrade nonetheless.
Amazon says the Oasis' new 6-inch Paperwhite display is the first in a Kindle to use a 200-micron backplane that is "as thin as a single sheet of aluminum foil." It's been combined with a custom cover glass engineered from "chemically reinforced" glass for added toughness.