The second-generation Kindle Oasis still holds down the top of Amazon’s Kindle product line, but it’s a very different product than the original model. The mandatory case is gone, the price has dropped $40 to $250, and the hardware itself has bulked up.
The second-generation Oasis is still shaped like the original model—it’s got a thicker side (8.3mm) that’s easier to grip and features the two page-turn buttons, and a thinner side (3.4mm) that helps the devices weigh less. But about that weight: Free of its case, the old Oasis weighed only 4.6 ounces, making it the lightest Kindle by quite a bit. This new one weighs 6.8 ounces, slightly heavier than the Kindle Voyage and slightly lighter than the Kindle Paperwhite.
The fact is, the second-generation Oasis is scaled up in all dimensions. It’s thicker, heavier, wider, and taller—but at least the increased width and height means that the screen is large. It’s a seven-inch diagonal, up from the six-inch screen size Amazon uses on all its other current Kindles. I’m not sure I’ve ever picked up the second-generation Oasis and marveled at the screen size, but if you’re someone who needs to use large type to read, you’ll get a real benefit. (My friend and fellow Kindle aficionado Scott McNulty says he thinks the larger screen is fantastic—so perhaps I’m an outlier here.)
To be fair, the first-generation Oasis only managed to be small and light because of the battery case, which came with the Kindle and extended the rather skimpy battery life of the core device. And I’ve never been a fan of Amazon’s cases for Kindles, so I’d have to say that the new Oasis is an improvement in that department. If you’re a fan of Amazon’s Origami case design, you’ll also be happy, because this Oasis will work with them again.
The second-generation Oasis is the highest quality hardware I’ve ever seen from Amazon, courtesy of its aluminum back and sides. I’d gotten so used to the Kindle being a plastic gadget, it was surprising to open the box and see the metallic sheen. It definitely makes the device feel more “premium”, which is appropriate, given that you could buy two Paperwhites for the cost of one Oasis.
The second-generation Oasis is also waterproof, the first time Amazon has offered that feature in a Kindle. I’m not someone who takes baths and I don’t own a hot tub or a swimming pool, but if you’re someone who (like Jeff Bezos) has been keeping their Kindle in a zip-top bag in order to read it in the water, it’s time to rejoice.
Another feature this Kindle offers that I don’t use: Bluetooth connectivity. You can attach a Bluetooth audio device and use screen-reading software or play back Audible audiobooks. Again, this is a feature I’m never going to use, but if you’re someone who frequently switches back and forth between Kindle books and their Audible equivalents, it might be convenient to have them both available in one place.
For me, though, Kindles are all about price and ergonomics. The second-generation Oasis is a nice piece of hardware, but I really appreciated the light weight of the first-generation model and I had hoped Amazon would push a little bit more in that direction. The larger screen is good, but it’s not like I’m reading a hardcover book—it’s just a slightly larger paperback size, which is fine but not revelatory. Waterproofing will be an important distinction for some people, to be sure.
As with the first-generation model, this new Oasis model is for people who love reading ebooks and don’t mind spending more money for a nicer experience. I’d prefer if the second-generation model were lighter and smaller, but regardless, the Oasis remains the best Kindle you can buy, and is appreciably nicer than the Paperwhite on almost every front.
Still, for most people, the $120 Paperwhite is the right choice. The Kindle Oasis is a splurge for people who simply want the best ebook reading experience around and don’t really mind that it costs twice as much as a perfectly serviceable alternative.
A little more than a year after AlphaGo sensationally won against
the top Go player, the artificial-intelligence program AlphaZero
has obliterated the highest-rated chess engine.
Stockfish, which for most top players is their go-to preparation
tool, and which won the 2016 TCEC Championship and the 2017
Chess.com Computer Chess Championship, didn’t stand a chance.
AlphaZero won the closed-door, 100-game match with 28 wins, 72
draws, and zero losses.
Oh, and it took AlphaZero only four hours to “learn” chess. Sorry
humans, you had a good run.
That’s right — the programmers of AlphaZero, housed within the
DeepMind division of Google, had it use a type of “machine
learning,” specifically reinforcement learning. Put more plainly,
AlphaZero was not “taught” the game in the traditional sense. That
means no opening book, no endgame tables, and apparently no
complicated algorithms dissecting minute differences between
center pawns and side pawns.