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Old 09-17-2009, 11:31 PM   #1
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My thoughts, PRS-300, PRS-600, PRS-505, PRS-700, Kindle 2

So, I've now had time with the PRS-300 and PRS-600 allowing me to have experience the last four sony devices and amazon's Kindle 2. My thoughts are as follows.

Glare: The Kindle 2 and the PRS-600 have an indistinguishable amount of reflectivity. They both require avoidance of spot lighting. There is no concern about how much glare you experience on either device, as long as you're willing to make minor efforts to compensate for it (tilt it slightly, use a book-light, whatever works).

Clarity: Remember the 505? Remember how it really looked like paper? No other reader I've used has been quite that good. It's because of the contrast. The 300 and the 505 are almost exactly the same, but, the 300 supports more levels of gray, and a slightly lower contrast because of it. The 300 looks exactly the same as the 505 until you put one next to the other and you can see slight differences in the clarity. The 505 wins but by almost immeasurably little. Remember the 700? The 700 compared to the 505 was a huge joke, and Sony went out of their way to demonstrate this at their own displays! Not only did it reflect light in a more diffused (and thus, more distracting) way than the 505, it was lower contrast and there was a blurring layer of diffusion plastic for the sake of the sidelights. It looks terrible, and I am impressed by anyone who has found themselves able to use the thing. The 600? Nothing like that. Imagine the 700 without the diffusion plastic. It's like a 505, screenwise, but with a thicker layer of glass/plastic on top. You can tell it's not quite as clear especially at certain angles, but generally speaking, this is nothing like the 700. You will forget about it within hours of using the device. If you're worried about this aspect of the 600, don't, it's a non-issue.

Speed: The 300 is as slow as the 505. Period. It's like they took the 505 and squished it up so it's a little thicker and a lot smaller otherwise. I would say this about the 300: If you like the 505 you'll like the 300 EXCEPT if you're in love with the 505's button layout. The 300 has fewer buttons and thus fewer options but, I think it's small enough that it's not a big issue. Other than that you'll swear, especially with a same-colored one, that you're holding the midget-pickle version of the same device. The 600 is very fast, faster than my Kindle 2, and even the drawing is relatively responsive, especially if you slow your drawing down just a bit. It's weird, it's like if you draw really fast it seems slow, unresponsive, but if you just slow down slightly, maybe 10% slower, the responsiveness goes up 100% easily. Weird. But it's good to know about, because once you get the right speed down, it's very comfortable to draw notes, smileyes, derogatory images, whatever floats your boat.

Fonts: I only paid attention to this on the 600. It seems that in landscape mode the fonts are all larger, and the smallest font in landscape mode is as big or larger than medium in portrait mode. I dislike this greatly. It is the only complaint I have against the 600. It seems like a mistake to me, because, it makes it pointless to use landscape mode. All the fonts are bigger. Stupid.

Et cetera: Zooming and panning around? Works great, just use the stylus. Menu and UI functionality doesn't take into account modern touch interface patterns very well. For example, to scroll a list you still have to drag a scroll bar instead of just dragging the list itself. This isn't a big deal but I'm an iPhone owner and it caught me up numerous times.

Final thoughts/Concerns: While I'd pretty much recommend the 600 outright to anyone considering it, it's not flawless. It has very little improvement over prior devices. The touch screen is only useful if you need to make annotations (I do, it's important for my work) otherwise it's not very well thought out (Only swiping for turn gestures? I dislike it, it's a lot more effort than pressing a button, especially since you have to press relatively hard. I'd like it if I could just press half the screen once to turn). The screen doesn't suffer greatly from the touch screen but it does suffer. If you can be sure you won't miss the touch screen, just get a 300. The 300's screen is more enjoyable than the 505, despite slightly lower contrast, because it's higher ppi/resolution.

It's still a 6" screen. If you're hoping for a better PDF reading experience than the 505, you're wasting your time. If you own a Kindle 2, and want better PDF, then 600 will be far superior. But so will the Plastic Logic reader, an iRex DR1000, and a few other larger devices. It's not a given that the 600 is worth buying for PDF concerns only. Considering that for full page PDF to be reasonably enjoyable you need to use landscape mode anyway, Personally my recommendation would be to at least wait for the Daily Edition. That extra inch might not seem important for proper ebooks, because it's not, but for a PDF it will give you greatly increased font sizes in landscape mode.

I didn't purchase the 600, and at this point, my thoughts are... I would rather have the 600 than my Kindle 2 for sure. If I didn't need PDF and annotation support improvements, I would prefer a 505 to the 600. If I wasn't reading PDF's, I would prefer the 300 to all of them. The 300 isn't that much smaller but it truly is just enough to make it pocketable which is a pretty nice thing. It slips into the side pocket on my slim laptop back like a pro. But, because of the size and my experiences there.. because of the stupid behaviors of things like, losing zoom between pages on PDF viewing, and other such things, I'm not going to buy the 600. I will not buy the daily edition either, or even consider it, if I don't see reports of firmware updates fixing stupid PDF UI related issues. It seems like hardly any of these companies can get this basic concept right. Why can't they just look at what a regular PDF reader on a PC offers and do that?... oh well.

I'm currently officially looking forward to the Plastic Logic reader, because, even if it can't maintain PDF zoom, at least it will be a big enough screen that it won't matter. It will allow annotations, already confirmed, and I don't really have other concerns. I will care if it loses the supposed ePub support but otherwise... it's looking better every time I try a new device.
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Old 09-18-2009, 05:05 AM   #2
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I wonder if the guy that organized the focus groups for Sony's newest Readers has gotten fired yet.
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Old 09-18-2009, 09:09 AM   #3
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Thanks for your thoughtful comments on the PRS-600. It confirms my impression that I need to wait just a little bit longer for beeing able to read PDF documents.
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Old 09-18-2009, 04:43 PM   #4
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New iRex Reader DR800

How about the new iRex eReader (model DR800)? Looks also pretty cool.

Article: http://www.teleread.org/2009/08/06/n...-a-bookseller/

iRex site: http://www.irextechnologies.com/
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Old 09-19-2009, 07:32 AM   #5
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Thanks for your thoughtful comments on the PRS-600. It confirms my impression that I need to wait just a little bit longer for beeing able to read PDF documents.
Yeah it's a big disappointment to me for a few reasons. One big one is that I'm a big gadget geek, I buy all kinds of gadgets, Sony would have my money over and over for these things if they would just get one half decent UI expert to review the stupidity they're slinging... argh! It's very close to good enough, but annoying enough to make me mad.

Another reason I'm disappointed is that I am a software engineer myself, so these sorts of bizarrely obvious mistakes in design just call out to me.

The earlier post about focus groups... I thought about that for a while and my speculation is that they focus-test, if they focus-test at all, with people who do not own eBook readers, and probably haven't really given much consideration to them. There is a valid reason to target people like this specifically because of the state of the eBook reader market at the moment. It's that crucial time where there's an apparent opportunity for large scale market expansion, so you have to focus your efforts on pleasing newcomers more than anything. There aren't many people to bother retaining at this point so frustrating those who have been waiting years for niche usage improvements... that's not going to be a priority.

Honestly if you're only reading novels, there's basically nothing to complain about with these devices, they all have their quirks, but they all do a more-than-decent job with regular eBook formats and even PDF's formatted for the smaller screen sizes.
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Old 09-19-2009, 07:39 AM   #6
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How about the new iRex eReader (model DR800)? Looks also pretty cool.

Article: http://www.teleread.org/2009/08/06/n...-a-bookseller/

iRex site: http://www.irextechnologies.com/
My thoughts are that 8.1" makes little sense for a screen size. At this point, after probably giving it waaaay too much thought, my standing opinion is that it should be 6" or less, or 10" or more. The in-between is really strange to me because it is still small enough that paper-sized PDF documents are small and hard to read if you don't have 20/20 vision, or you can't get whatever margin cropping voodoo to work right. I have a 10" screen sitting next to me here and I can barely tell the difference in size by way of visual estimation between a document on that screen and a real paper document. It's a good experience despite not being full 8.5"x11".

As for the smaller screens, I just wouldn't even consider them for page-sized document viewing and therefore my priorities would become portability and heft for long comfy recreational reading. As long as page turns are decently fast and fonts are well controlled, even a 4" screen can be comfortable to read.

So I think what you're going to get with this iRex is an inconveniently large device with an unremarkable increase in screen usability due to the extra 2 inches.
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Old 09-19-2009, 07:43 AM   #7
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Thanks for the comparison.

I could not live without my 700. I only use it for basic ebook reading when I am sitting outside and then an occasional read with the light before I retire at night. It is much quicker than my old 505 and handles pdfs much better. While certainly not perfect, I am about to buy a backup thinking it may be the only lighted option.
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Old 09-19-2009, 08:20 AM   #8
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Thanks for the thoughtful review and comparisons!
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Old 09-19-2009, 08:58 AM   #9
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Thanks for the comparison.

I could not live without my 700. I only use it for basic ebook reading when I am sitting outside and then an occasional read with the light before I retire at night. It is much quicker than my old 505 and handles pdfs much better. While certainly not perfect, I am about to buy a backup thinking it may be the only lighted option.
Well once you have acclimated yourself to a device like that, the problems others complain about sort of melt away. The human eye and the associated parts of the brain are amazing organs that will go to great lengths to reprocess and improve your visual inputs. So far that most people don't even realize that you can't see things in the dead center of your vision on a per-eye basis, there's simply no vision there, did you know? So it's no surprise that you can get used to the differences in the display, especially if you never had given extended thought to the differences anyway. It's easier to look past something if it doesn't concern you.

But me? I'm in this mode where I'm desperately looking for something that doesn't exist. I would just buy a the DR1000s or whatnot, but it's too much money, I can't justify $700+ for such a dedicated device. I can't even bring myself to consider the Kindle DX (though at this point, it fails some of my core needs so it's not a big deal.) So when I'm looking at any potential device, I've got such a focus on detail that the slight differences between screen appearance are just–pardon the pun–glaring to me.

I guess there is one positive side-effect to being dissatisfied by all these reading devices. It is helping me wait for technology improvements, and new rumored offerings such as the fabled apple tablet with my wallet intact
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Old 09-19-2009, 09:18 AM   #10
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My thoughts are that 8.1" makes little sense for a screen size. At this point, after probably giving it waaaay too much thought, my standing opinion is that it should be 6" or less, or 10" or more. The in-between is really strange to me because it is still small enough that paper-sized PDF documents are small and hard to read if you don't have 20/20 vision, or you can't get whatever margin cropping voodoo to work right. I have a 10" screen sitting next to me here and I can barely tell the difference in size by way of visual estimation between a document on that screen and a real paper document. It's a good experience despite not being full 8.5"x11".

As for the smaller screens, I just wouldn't even consider them for page-sized document viewing and therefore my priorities would become portability and heft for long comfy recreational reading. As long as page turns are decently fast and fonts are well controlled, even a 4" screen can be comfortable to read.

So I think what you're going to get with this iRex is an inconveniently large device with an unremarkable increase in screen usability due to the extra 2 inches.
I agree. If it is regular book reading (books for which fixed pagination doesn't matter), 6 inch or smaller will do fine. Big screens (e.g., iRex DR1000S) sometimes distract my attention if I read books with flowing pagination (too big).

For large documents with fixed pages (e.g., journal articles, large size books), we need larger screen. So far, iRex DR1000S is the best for the type, but price is unreasonable. Amazon's Kindle DX comes next, but fails because of its poor support for pdf documents.

I need more of large screen ebook readers for my family, colleague, and students, but I will have to wait until the PlasticLogic device comes out.
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Old 09-20-2009, 07:46 PM   #11
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I really wanted to wait for the Daily Edition, not only because I couldn't imagine reading text on anything smaller, but also because I want to read PDF files too. The only portable device I have ever tried for ebooks before was a PDA (Ipaq) I had which had display large enough to only show few lines of text. That made it basically unusable for me.

But I was in BestBuy few days ago and they had PRS-300 in stock, so I convinced them to unpack one. First, I was really surprised how large it was -- there is no way I could put that into any of my pockets. But the screen looked really good. I also noticed they had in stock the folder with light for the PRS-300 that was shown on SonyStyle, so I had them open one of them and install the reader into it. The combination looked really great and it was very comfortable to hold. I noticed that having the light on produced glare on the reader, but since the light was flexible I was able to position it in a way that would avoid the problem. But that made me think about the glare on the touchscreen readers people talk about -- if I was bothered by the glare of PRS-300 I suspect I would be less than happy with the touchscreen. Unfortunately the store didn't have any of the touchscreens for me to compare.

So I bought the 300 model and the case-with-light with a plan to buy the Daily Edition or another large-screen reader after the reviews are in. I'll end up with two readers, but I think each will have its use.

After using the PRS-300 for few days (ePub books only, no PDF) I am really happy I bought it. The size is perfect just to take with me anywhere. It will not fit in my pocket, but is still small and light enough to put into a bag without much thought.

There are only three type sizes and the small is most of the time unusable to me even with glasses. But the medium size works beautifully.

An important test for me was to be able to use the 300 when reading in bed because I can't fall asleep without a book. :-) The reader worked beautifully -- I actually like it much more than printed book for bedside reading. It is lighter and easier to handle than hard-cover and pressing a button to turn the page is to me faster and less intrusive than turning a paperback page.

I think I am able to even read faster because my eyes can stay focused on a relatively small reading area and don't need to move the way they move with printed book (from left page top to bottom, right page, etc.). With the reader, it is the text that moves when you "turn the page" not your eyes.

I don't need the wireless functionality since there is no book I have to purchase or download immediately -- I have no problem doing that with a computer. But I can see myself using the device to read news, so if Sony releases constantly updated news-feeds, I would probably make use of the wireless.

The big plus is that I can finally minimize purchases of print books. I love having my large library of books, but I hate how much space they take. Ebooks solve this problem nicely.

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Old 09-20-2009, 07:53 PM   #12
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....
So I bought the 300 model and the case-with-light with a plan to buy the Daily Edition or another large-screen reader after the reviews are in. I'll end up with two readers, but I think each will have its use.
....

Congratulations! I'm sure you are going to love it! I'm loving my 505 -- purchased a few weeks ago. I'm considering getting the 300 (or another 505) as a backup as I intend to begin building my library digitally as far as possible from here on out.
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Old 09-20-2009, 08:26 PM   #13
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So, I've now had time with the PRS-300 and PRS-600 allowing me to have experience the last four sony devices and amazon's Kindle 2. My thoughts are as follows.

Great review of those models.
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Old 09-20-2009, 08:28 PM   #14
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Clarity: Remember the 505? Remember how it really looked like paper? No other reader I've used has been quite that good. It's because of the contrast. The 300 and the 505 are almost exactly the same, but, the 300 supports more levels of gray, and a slightly lower contrast because of it. The 300 looks exactly the same as the 505 until you put one next to the other and you can see slight differences in the clarity. The 505 wins but by almost immeasurably little.
No, no, no. The 300 has a slightly whiter background and slightly better contrast than the 505--not a big difference, but definitely in favor of the 300. And the number of greyscales has nothing to do with text contrast. The edges of individual characters are sharper on the 300 than on the 505. And this is fact, not a matter of opinion.
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Old 09-20-2009, 08:43 PM   #15
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No, no, no. The 300 has a slightly whiter background and slightly better contrast than the 505--not a big difference, but definitely in favor of the 300. And the number of greyscales has nothing to do with text contrast. The edges of individual characters are sharper on the 300 than on the 505. And this is fact, not a matter of opinion.
I agree the white is whiter, but the contrast is less on the 300 than the 505 based on my looking at them side-by-side at the Sony Store yesterday. (also true in comparison to an Astak 5" Pocket Pro). The Sony 300 Screen and the PP Screen are the same contrast-wise.

You are right the number of grayscales had no bearing on overall contrast.

The character edges may be sharper due to the smaller pixels of the 300 display since both are the same pixel dimensions.

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