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Kindle Paperwhite vs. Kindle Oasis: Comparison and buying advice for Amazon’s best e-readers

Yes, the $250 Oasis is a more desirable device -- but the $130 Paperwhite has plenty to offer at almost half the price.

The Paperwhite (2018) on the left, the larger second-generation Oasis on the right.
Sarah Tew/CNET

When Amazon released its Kindle Paperwhite 2018 e-reader, it added a few features already found in its high-end Kindle Oasis, including a waterproof design and Bluetooth audio for streaming audiobooks. While the Oasis has a larger 7-inch screen, the two e-readers have similar features but very different prices. The Oasis sells for $250 in the US, while the Paperwhite costs $130 and is sometimes discounted to $100. (Update, March 8: In fact, it's $100 at Amazon right now.)

With that price delta, there doesn't seem be much of a case for buying the Oasis, but here's a quick comparison of the two e-readers to help you make a more informed buying decision.

It's worth noting that the entry-level Kindle ($80, £60 or AU$109) doesn't have an illuminated screen, which is why we generally steer our readers toward the Paperwhite. If you want a non-Amazon alternative, Walmart is ramping up its Kobo readers, and the Barnes & Noble Nook still lives, though with only a reported 2.1 percent market share

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Paperwhite vs. Oasis

Kindle Paperwhite $130, £120, AU$199 See it at Amazon
Kindle Oasis $250, £230, AU$389 See it at Amazon
Now playing: Watch this: Kindle Paperwhite gets waterproof redesign, adds Bluetooth...

Kindle Oasis: Best reasons to buy

  • Larger screen: One of the biggest differences between the two devices is screen size. The Oasis' 7-inch screen provides slightly more than 30 percent extra screen real estate, which is a substantial amount. Both e-readers have 300 pixel-per-inch displays that offer similar sharpness and contrast.
  • Sleeker design: The Oasis tapers down to 3.4 mm at its thinnest point and weighs in at 194 grams (6.8 ounces). The Paperwhite is 8.18 mm thick but weighs 12 grams less than the Oasis. 
  • Sturdier build: The Oasis's chassis is aluminum while the Paperwhite's is plastic. The Oasis clearly feels like a more premium device.
  • Superior integrated light scheme: The Oasis has a 12-LED array while the Paperwhite has a five-LED array. The Oasis' lighting scheme is clearly brighter and with slightly better uniformity. 
  • Physical page turn buttons: With the Oasis, 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 Paperwhite doesn't have physical page turn buttons, a throwback to earlier Kindle devices that some hardcore fans really miss. 

The back of the e-readers.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Kindle Paperwhite: Best reasons to buy

  • Lower price: The Paperwhite costs almost half the price of the Oasis and sometimes hits $100 during flash sales. 
  • Lighter weight: Despite being a little thicker, the Paperwhite weighs a touch less than the Oasis. 
  • Same waterproof rating as the Oasis: Both e-readers are fully waterproof (IPX8), with the Paperwhite adding a flush-front design that's similar to the now discontinued Kindle Voyage
  • Same Bluetooth audiobook features as the Oasis: The Oasis already added wireless Bluetooth for listening to Audible audiobooks over Bluetooth headphones or speakers, and now the Paperwhite has the same. You can easily switch between e-book and audiobook, as they sync to the point in the book where you left off, but don't expect to use either Kindle as a music or podcast player. They're strictly for audiobooks.
  • Identical storage options as the Oasis: The base models of each e-reader now have 8GB of storage. That's enough for "thousands of e-books," according to Amazon, but the extra space is more to account for audiobooks, which have beefier file sizes. If you're a hardcore Audible listener, check out the the step-up models that feature 32GB of storage. 

Both e-readers are waterproof.

David Carnoy/CNET

Value king vs. the luxury choice

For most people the Paperwhite is clearly the Kindle to get -- and clearly a better value. That's why we awarded it a CNET Editors' Choice when it was released in late 2018. Just wait until it goes on sale for $100 before you take the plunge. (Use the savings to get a good case -- we bought this $12 Omoton model, and it seems every bit as good as Amazon's "official" $30 case.)

If you're an e-reading aficionado, however, and want the best Kindle out there -- or just want a larger screen -- the Oasis is the top e-reader and certainly luxurious. Simply put, I like it better than the Paperwhite -- just not $120 better. 

If the past is any indication, it's doubtful we'll see significant discounts on the Oasis until a third-generation Oasis turns up. That could happen in 2019 -- and maybe it'll be a little thinner and lighter. I do not expect to see a new Paperwhite this year. 

Read more: The best e-book readers of 2019

Originally published March 7, 2019.

Now playing: Watch this: Kindle Paperwhite gets waterproof redesign, adds Bluetooth...