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Amazon Kindle Oasis (2017) review: No longer the very best (but still superb)

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
229
inc VAT (8GB Wi-Fi only)

Amazon’s premium e-reader is bigger and tougher than ever and has Audible audiobook playback, too

Pros 
Large, high-resolution E Ink screen
Waterproof
Looks gorgeous
Cons 
No microSD expansion
Pricey compared with regular Paperwhite
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Update: The Kindle Oasis has just seen its third revision, and there's a fresh new model for 2019

Actually, "new" might be pushing it a little. The DNA of the new Kindle Oasis is largely the same as the one you're about to read about here, with one key difference: it no longer users blue light, which should make it easier on the eyes before sleep. 

Pretty much everything else - including the price - remains the same. That means it's an all-round better buy than the 2017 model, but shouldn't prevent you from buying the older version if you see it going cheap. So far, Amazon has only lopped £30 off the 2017 model, though you can buy a refurbished model for £179.99.

To find out if that's worth it, keep reading.

Jon's original review continues below

Amazon might have led the charge over the years when it comes to e-readers, but one thing they've been in desperate need of over the years is waterproofing. While Kobo is now into its second generation of bath-proof devices, Amazon has only just introduced the feature – and then it’s only the latest, pricey flagship Kindle Oasis that benefits.

Still, we should be thankful for small mercies and the new Kindle’s IPX8 rating isn’t the only big improvement Amazon has made to its top-of-the-range model.

READ NEXT: Kindle Oasis (2016) review

Amazon Kindle Oasis (2017) review: What you need to know

The other big change for the Kindle Oasis is a massive 7in screen, the largest ever on a Kindle, and a full inch bigger than the original Oasis, which was launched last summer introduced in the summer of 2016.

That screen has a pixel density of 300ppi and displays text that looks as sharp as it does on the pages of a paperback. It has a front light with more LEDs than before for more even lighting and Bluetooth for streaming Audible audiobooks. Unlike last year’s Oasis, there’s no magnetic, snap-on battery cover, but Amazon says battery life is much improved, too.

Amazon Kindle Oasis (2017) review: Price and competition

The new Oasis starts at £229 for the model with 8GB of non-expandable storage, rising to £259 for the 32GB version and £319 for the 32GB model with a cellular connection. The latter allows you to download books wherever you can get a phone signal, not just at Wi-Fi hotspots.

It’s a luxury device for keen readers and, at this end of the market, there isn’t much in the way of competition, other than from Amazon’s own stable of cheaper e-readers.

If it’s waterproofing you want, there’s the Kobo Aura H20, which has a 6.8in high-resolution display, IPX8 waterproofing and costs £80 less, but the flip side is that it doesn’t have access to the Kindle ebook store.

The Amazon alternatives are the Kindle Voyage (£170), the Kindle Paperwhite (£110) and the regular Kindle (£60). If you want to know the difference between all these models, check out our in-depth comparison article here. The long and short of it, though, is that they all do the job and cost an awful lot less than the Kindle Oasis.

Amazon Kindle Oasis (2017) review: Key features and design

In profile, this updated Oasis doesn’t even look all that different from its predecessor. It’s wedge-shaped with a cutout at the rear that helps you grip the reader more comfortably one-handed. There are two physical page turn buttons on the front, plus a flush-fit, glass-covered capacitive touchscreen.

The only obvious physical differences between this and the original Oasis are its size – it’s now a bit of a stretch to hold edge-to-edge with one hand spanning the rear of the reader – and its finish, which is now a silky matte gunmetal grey. I'm not so keen on the size of the new Oasis; it's a little on the bulky side, although the payback is that you don't have to flip pages too often. The latter, on the other hand, I absolutely adore.

The metal cladding adds that frisson of extra luxury to a device that was already a lovely thing to hold in your hand and the hand grip means it's perfectly easy to hold onto one-handed.

And, despite the increase in size, 2017’s Kindle Oasis remains ridiculously light at 194g and tapers to a super-slim 3.4mm at its thinnest point. If you have the money, this is the e-reader to end all e-readers; in its category, it’s stupendously desirable.

The improvements don’t end there, though. On the hardware front, the Oasis now has an ambient light sensor, allowing it to adjust its front light automatically. It works perfectly well. Weirdly, last year’s Oasis lacked this feature despite the fact that the cheaper Voyage had it previously.

As before, there’s also an accelerometer that triggers a screen rotation whenever you spin the reader around in your hands. Plus, as mentioned previously, the internal battery is larger, delivering up to six weeks of stamina without the need to attach an external battery cover.

Not that you get the option anymore. The new Oasis no longer has any contacts on the rear to enable the feature, although the flip cases look similar and attach magnetically as before. For context, the previous Oasis was rated at a mere two weeks without the battery cover, although adding one extended that out to eight weeks.

On the software front, there’s plenty more to get stuck into. My favourite new feature is the option to left-justify text, which gives text a more book-like appearance, but there are also new font options. Text can be set to bold and readers can now select from an increased number of size options, up from eight before to 14 here. That’s a welcome change, but we’re still missing book-specific fonts.

Amazon Kindle Oasis (2017) review: Audible support

The big new addition for this model, however, is the ability to access and play your Audible Audiobooks. These now appear in the Oasis’ Library alongside your ebooks and these can be streamed via Bluetooth to wireless speakers and headphones.

Alas, there’s no built-in speaker, which is a shame, nor a 3.5mm headphone jack here, which is more of a downer because there’s plenty of space for the connection, despite the slender chassis.

There is more to this than meets the eye, too. If you happen to own both the ebook and audiobook of the same edition, the Kindle Oasis will let you flip between the two, picking up on your ebook where you last left off on the audiobook edition and vice versa – a huge bonus for avid readers who drive a lot for work. It even works if you flip from the Oasis to listening or reading on another device and back again. As long as you have an internet connection, that is.

Using the feature is child’s play. Simply tap the top portion of the screen while reading to launch the context menu, look for the headphone icon in the bottom right-hand corner and, assuming you’ve previously paired the Oasis with your speakers, headphones or car audio system, playback will begin at the top of the page you’re currently reading. When you're ready to flip back to reading with your eyes, simply tap the book icon and you'll be able to carry on exactly where you left off listening. Magic.

All impressive stuff but there are downsides to Audible compatibility, and this is mostly related to the size of audiobooks compared with regular ebooks. First, owners of the 4G version can't download audiobooks via the 4G connection – it's Wi-Fi only. Second, if you start downloading audiobooks willy-nilly you're going to eat into the space available for ebooks pretty quickly, especially if you've plumped for the basic £220, with a mere 8GB of internal storage and no microSD card expansion.

I downloaded the unabridged version of Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind, a 94-chapter, 28hr 4min-long monster of an audiobook and it ate up nearly half a gigabyte of storage space. The eagle-eyed among you will notice that this is at standard quality audio, too; there isn't the option to download in Enhanced quality, which eats up even more data at around 28MB per hour of audio.

And don't disregard the impact downloading this much data will have on battery life. Unless you're plugging in while downloading this will likely shorten the time between charges considerably.

Finally, Amazon isn’t yet making it easier, or cheaper to buy both types of publication in the Kindle store. You’ll still need to buy each separately, which is daft when you can now buy both types of content on the same device. Only once you've gone and made two separate purchases does the Oasis marry the two together in your Library view.

Amazon Kindle Oasis (2017) review: Verdict

There’s plenty to like about the new Kindle Oasis, with its abundance of new features. It’s waterproof, offers audiobook/ebook synchronisation and has a larger screen. And the best part? Amazon has also reduced the price.

At £229, the company’s high-end e-reader is now £40 less than the combined price of 6in Oasis and battery cover last year. At a time when many manufacturers are hiking the prices of high-tech consumer goods mercilessly and £700 seems to have become the new normal price for flagship phones, this is welcome news indeed.

Now, don't get me wrong; £229 is still a lot of money to pay for an e-reader when the Kindle Paperwhite does much the same job for less than half as much. But if you spend a lot of time reading and a significant proportion of your day on the road listening to audiobooks, it's definitely worth the investment.

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