Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Amazon Kindle Oasis

Amazon Kindle Oasis

The best ebook reader yet

Two hundred and seventy pounds? For an ebook reader? We had to doublecheck to make sure we hadn’t misread the info or been transported back to the 1980s. These days, Amazon itself sells a full-blown all-purpose colour tablet computer for 50 quid. Is it seriously expecting people to pay more than five times as much for a gadget that just shows text in black and white?

Apparently so – and it’s not as daft as it sounds. First of all, it’s not really much more expensive than the £160 Kindle Voyage when you consider that it comes with a case – an almost essential accessory that costs extra with other e-readers.

The leather-fronted folio, available in brown, black or maroon, attaches with magnets, so you can easily leave it behind and nearly halve the weight, which is less than a tablet anyway. One USB cable charges both the Oasis and its case. Clip the case on and you get four times the battery life – over 24 hours. Amazon reckons this should last you ‘months’, although this might be optimistic if you’re an avid reader.

The 6in screen is similar to the Voyage and the cheaper Kindle Paperwhite, with a reasonably sharp 300dpi greyscale display that reflects light (like paper) rather than emitting it (like a tablet). That makes reading comfortable on the eyes, and if it gets dark you can turn on the built-in light, which uses plenty of LEDs to provide soft, even illumination. Because the screen sits flush with the front panel, rather than under a raised bezel, it feels even more like a page in a book, rather than on a device.

As with the Voyage and the Paperwhite, you can turn a page by swiping the screen, if you prefer that gesture. If not, Forward and Back buttons sit handily by your thumb, so you needn’t move your hands at all. This is much better than the Paperwhite’s buttonless design, and puts it on a par with the Voyage’s fancy touch-sensitive system.

We mentioned when we tested the latest version of the Paperwhite that Amazon was working on the look of the Kindle software. Text does now look neater, but the typesetting still doesn’t match the quality of traditional books.

To be fair, a printed book gets typeset once by experts; your Kindle has to typeset each book itself, while you read, using the font and size of your choice. But the range of options remains very limited. Text looks better on rival readers such as Kobo’s Glo.

That aside, the Oasis feels gratifyingly free of compromises, and if you read a lot, that might justify the relatively high price. Calculating whether or not it’s actually value for money is tricky. Some Kindle editions are cheaper than paperbacks, so you’d eventually make your £270 back reading them on the Oasis rather than ordering traditional books, but it would take quite a while.

On the other hand, a surprisingly large number of titles are actually cheaper to buy physically, at Amazon’s discounts, than electronically. So you’re paying Amazon extra for the hardware, then paying Amazon extra again. Something is amiss here: doing away with paper and printing and shifting books around the country must mean someone is saving money, but it doesn’t seem to be the customer.

It’s pricey, but with storage for more than 2,000 books and a great screen to read them on, the Oasis leaves little to be desired.

6in E Ink touchscreen • 4GB memory • 802.11n Wi-Fi (3G optional) • Supports AZW, AZW3, MOBI, PRC, PDF formats • 143x122x8.5mm (HxWxD) • One-year warranty