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Kindle Paperwhite vs Kindle Oasis: Which one should you buy?

Kindles make reading easy, so why is picking the right one hard?

Four Kindles, including the entry-level model, the Paperwhite, and the Oasis, lined up against an exposed brick wall. Credit: Reviewed.com / Jackson Ruckar

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A good e-reader only needs to do a few things well: store and display your e-books, be portable and light, have a long battery life, and feel comfortable to hold for a long time. Amazon's Kindle line consistently delivers on those basics and even offers upgraded features such as backlit displays, audiobook playback, and hardware buttons for page-turning.

Although you can get the standard Kindle for pretty cheap, its lack of a backlight severely limits where you can use your Kindle, so it's worth splurging on the Kindle Paperwhite or the Kindle Oasis. Both have backlit e-ink displays with plenty of pixels for reading books with crisp, clear text, even with the lights off. But the subtle differences between the two will help determine which Kindle will suit your reading needs best.

Buy the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
Buy the Amazon Kindle Oasis

A quick note about the latest Kindle Paperwhite

An over-shoulder shot of someone reading on the Kindle Paperwhite.
Credit: Reviewed / Michael Roorda

While the Paperwhite's display isn't as robust as that of the Oasis, and it lacks physical page-turn buttons, its narrower profile and batter battery life give it a significant edge over the costly Oasis.

Although this piece will be focusing on the last-generation Kindle Paperwhite, which we currently rank as the best Kindle, Amazon just announced a slightly refreshed model that we're currently testing. Its display is slightly larger, it has a USB-C port now, and Amazon says its battery life should be longer than previous models, too.

We'll know more once we've spent some time testing the new model, but given our previous experiences with Amazon's Kindles, it's fairly safe to assume the latest generation will be at least as good as previous models. If you're eager to get a Paperwhite and want the latest model, there's little chance you'll regret the purchase, but we'll be able to confirm more soon.

Design

Despite sharing a good chunk of features, the Paperwhite and Oasis look pretty different from each other. The Paperwhite looks like your typical all-touchscreen reader, with a slight lip below its display, a single power/display button on the bottom, and a matte back that's easy to grip. Its bezels are large enough to grab without accidentally touching the screen, and while it's not the thinnest Kindle you can buy, it's not chunky, either. At 6.4 ounces, your hands won’t wear out after holding it for hours.

If Paperwhite's flat back doesn't do it for you, the Oasis has a wedge design with a chunkier grip on one side for easier holding. Although it's meant to be more ergonomic, it's not universally loved, as its metal back can be slippery, and you may find you prefer the narrower Paperwhite.

The Oasis’ grip has one extra benefit that you can't get elsewhere, though: its page turn buttons which make it easier to flip back and forth as you read. The buttons work well, and the added convenience is much appreciated, but that often isn't enough to offset the slippery back of the Oasis.

Our pick: Kindle Paperwhite

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Battery life

Since your smartphone usually requires a charge every night (at the least), you're probably used to measuring battery life in hours. One of the perks of e-readers is that they typically last at least a week on a charge, so you don't have to fret about your battery giving out on you before you reach the end of your latest page-turner.

Even for avid readers, the Paperwhite usually lasts at least a week or two on a single charge, and you can usually get more. Meanwhile, the Oasis can last up to a week, but it drains significantly faster than the Paperwhite, making it less ideal for commuting or traveling.

The Paperwhite will also last significantly longer in standby mode. In our tests, the Oasis started to show a significant drop in battery life while staying in standby mode while the Paperwhite managed to keep a fairly consistent charge. Much of this can be chalked up to the Oasis’s extra features like automatic screen adjustment, but it’s also just a significantly slimmer device with less room to house a large battery.

Our pick: Kindle Paperwhite

Display

The Kindle Oasis, rested on a table, showing text from a book.
Credit: Reviewed / Seamus Bellamy

Despite its hefty price, the Kindle Oasis succeeds as a luxury device. Its ergonomic grip, though not for everybody, makes it easy to hang onto, and the optional warm display gives you more control over the lighting of your display.

If your biggest concern is having the e-reader with the best display, the Kindle Oasis is the clear winner. Its 7-inch display has 25 LEDs to keep it bright, while the Paperwhite's 6-inch display only has five LEDs.

The Oasis is also able to automatically adjust the warmth of its display based on your environment, and in practice that makes a huge difference in the overall reading experience. The Paperwhite's backlight isn't bad, but the Oasis's warm tones and better lighting do add a little oomph to the experience.

Our pick: Kindle Oasis

Price

At $130, the 8GB Kindle Paperwhite isn't cheap, but it's the cheapest Kindle you can get without sacrificing any key features such as a backlit display. For an additional $30 you can hike the storage up to 32GB, though you'd have to have a massive library of e-books to fill up even the 8GB model (we’re talking thousands of books, here), so only swing for the larger storage if you plan on using your Kindle for audiobooks, too.

You'll have to shell out a good chunk more for the Oasis. It starts at $250 for the 8GB model and goes up to $280 for a model with 32GB of storage. If you're sold on the Oasis's better display and arguably better grip, that higher cost might be worth it. In most cases, though, the Paperwhite hits the best middle-ground on price and features.

Our pick: Kindle Paperwhite

Portability

The Kindle Paperwhite peeking out of an orange fanny pack, with the cover of
Credit: Reviewed / Jordan McMahon

While both Kindles can fit easily into a backpack, the Kindle Paperwhite is better-suited for smaller bags such as clutches and fanny packs.

Although the Oasis's larger display is easier and more pleasant to read on than the Paperwhite's, it also makes the Oasis harder to carry around. The screen itself is only 1-inch bigger than that of the Paperwhite, but the overall body of the Oasis is significantly wider. This makes it harder to fit into smaller bags, such as fanny packs or clutches, and in general means you'll have a little less room in your bag.

If you're mostly planning on reading at home, that won't be a huge deal and you'll probably appreciate the larger screen. But if you plan to use your Kindle while you travel, or while you're taking the bus to work, the Paperwhite's more compact body will definitely come in handy.

Our pick: Kindle Paperwhite

And the winner is...

Although you can't go wrong with either model, there's less room for disappointment with the Paperwhite. Despite lacking some of the fancier features the Oasis offers, nearly everything the Paperwhite does, it gets right. Battery life is consistently long, the display is clear and bright, and it fits in even smaller bags such as light fanny packs and the front pockets of backpacks, making it the better travel companion.

Meanwhile, the Oasis boasts a better display and more ergonomic form factor, but its poor battery life and slippery back are risky trade-offs given the drastic increase in price between models.

That said, if you want to splurge for the Oasis, nobody's stopping you—nor should they. Despite its high price tag, the Oasis delivers the best possible reading experience you can get on a Kindle, and the page-turning buttons are tough to go without once you've given them a shot. If you have the money to splurge on the Oasis, you're likely to love it, but the Paperwhite won't disappoint either, and it'll save you a good amount of money compared to the Oasis.

Buy the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
Buy the Amazon Kindle Oasis

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