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Old 12-05-2007, 07:32 PM   #1
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Sony PRS-505 Reader: Review for Techies

I bought a Sony PRS-505 Reader and love it. (I'm usually no Sony fan.) This is a different animal from the PRS-500.

I'm amazed how fluffy most "main-stream" reviews are. I'm even more astounded how many comments here say the Sony Reader can not do things that my PRS-505 does on a daily basis.

Here's the review that I wish I would have read before buying the thing:

It's usable, and not as proprietary as you might think.

1. Getting Started
* Pull it out of the box, and plug the included USB-A to USB-Mini-B cable into your reader and a PC. Let it charge a few hours. Then, unplug the charging cable and turn it on. If it stays blank. charge for another hour or so. Yes, you do have to unplug the charging cable to turn it on.
* When you insert a card, there will be (very slowly) spinning arrows in a circle in the middle of the screen. This means the reader has stopped responding until it has read the contents of the card. You can not get it to do anything until it finishes.

2. Connectors
Lanyard connector
USB-Mini-B (charging & data)
5.2V tip positive (charging)
Headphone jack (standard, 3.5mm)
SD Card (2GB max)
Sony Memory Stick Pro Duo (8GB max)
Every connector is standard, and it works as you would expect. There are no proprietary, patented, sorry Sony-@$$ connectors on this thing. (I once lost a $500 Vaio sub-notebook to a broken $300 ac adapter - the plug broke, which was a POS to begin with, then Sony had patented the POS and refused to sell an AC adapter for less than $300. They refused to honor the the warranty. The plug by itself was a $295 part from them. It took 10 years before I tried this second Sony product.)

3. Supported Formats (w/o conversion software)
* Audio: .MP3, (and .AAC w/o DRM?)
* Books: .PDF (but this looks really small), .TXT, .RTF, (and LRF?)
* Images: .JPEG, .GIF, .PNG, .BMP
* You can convert from other formats, such as MS Word .DOC, .LIT, .HTM/.HTML, .CBZ,. .CBR, & RSS using 3rd party software. Sony claims that their software converts from .DOC to .RTF, but that's only if you have MS Word installed. (that reminds me of the claim that diet & exercise, with my "amazing weight loss crystal hat" will make you loose weight.)
* The best way to go is to use your software to convert anything to .RTF (text only) or to .PDF (text & graphics.) With PDF printer utilites (like Adobe's Distiller, or many free clones) you should be able to get anything onto the Sony PRS-505 Reader.

4. User Interface
* The system shows menus, and has intuitive (in portrait mode) buttons labeled 1-9 and 0 to allow you to select options. You can also page up and down with the flip-a-page buttons. This gets less intuitive in landscape mode due to the placement of the buttons.
* Everything is a book (.PDF, .TXT, .RTF) an audio file (.MP3, .AAC) or an image (.JPG, .BMP, .GIF, .PNG) to the Sony PRS-505 Reader. It will not even show you unsupported files.
* All browsing is done without the aid of directories. I’m talking about directories and subdirectories you create on a memory card (SD or MSPD) You must select books by Author, Title, or Date Copied. If there are more than 30 items, they are broken down alphabetically (0-9, A-C, D-F, ..., W-Z, Other.) Images & Audio are only available by title. With hundreds of books on an 8GB card, you're going to be flipping down lots of pages.
* The included software might let you create "Collections" but I have no interested in putting that CD in my machine and being root-kitted BMG music style. I only use the SD card to transfer files.
* Some people whine about hitting buttons with the included case closed. I have not found that to be a problem, but I did stain the heck out of my included case the first day.
* You can follow links in .PDF files to jump from a table of contents. The Sony PRS-505 Reader even seems to detect where the TOC is.
* Volume is controlled by a rocker next to the headphone jack.

5. Battery Life
* Weeks if you only read on the screen.
* Hours if you listen to Audio (not all day)
* You can charge off any USB port (including the little cigarette lighter adapter to USB chargers, or the little wall wart USB chargers.)
* You can charge with a (fairly standard) +5V DC wall wort, that is not included. Only the USB-A to USB-Mini-B cable is included for charging.
* Charging via USB cable takes a few hours.
* When charging via USB, you can not use the Sony PRS-505 Reader.

6. Price
* $299 + tax @ Fry's Electronics with the Reader, a USB cable, a CD, and a case.
* Memory cards are extra. I've seen 2GB SD for $17.99 + tax and 8GB Sony Memory Stick Pro Duo for $129 + tax. (Those are the largest that it will take.)
* I paid $347 out the door for a PRS-505 and a 2GB generic SD card.

7. Warranty
* Fry's offered a 30 day money back guarantee. This will vary with your vendor.
* Sony CLAIMS a 2-year warranty. Has anyone ever seen Sony live by a warranty?
* The metal case and cover seem rugged enough that I'm not worried.

8. MP3 Player
* You can play MP3s while reading other material.
* You can fast forward or rewind in an MP3, by increments.
* The volume is OK, but not terribly loud. This is definitely better for audio books than for heavy metal.

9. Annoying "Features"
* Small Text: The Sony PRS-505 reader has a a 6" screen. The text in PDFs inteded to be 8.5"x11" is tiny. You can rotate it to landscape mode, and even eliminate a bit of margins, but it's still small. Despite the button with the magnifying glass, there is effectively no zoom feature. The small text will be responsible for a large number of returns if people don't want to hack their files by enlarging the text size.
* Slow: This thing can take several seconds to boot up. Page flips take several seconds. Even hitting a button can show no response for a second.
* The reader's security code protects it (a bit) from being used after it's stolen, but the code is visible on screen as you type it in, and it's a pain to type it in.
* There's no text entry.
* The audio file you last selected shows that it's still playing, even when you stop it. Given the way audio eats battery life, there should be an icon showing audio playing or no audio playing.
* Often, suspending the reader (by hitting the power switch) will not let you resume where you left off in a .PDF.
* (I think) It misreads .DJVU and .PDF then locks up. It does get the page count and such right, but the first page will not open.
* When charging via USB, you can not use the Sony PRS-505 Reader.
* Short battery life when playing audio.

10. My Wish List: Bug fixes & New Features
* Zoom in and let me move around arbitrarily deep on any document.
* Show me when a file is playing or not.
* Stop taking 5 minutes to index every SD card I put in. Let me use the thing, and navigate directories.
* Provide a programmer's API so we can develop our own format reader software to go on it.
* Let me enter text to search, using the 0-9 keys like a cell phone's text entry.
* Let me work while charging via USB

11. Things I need to research
* I was worried that larger .PDF files would not work. I've been well over 20 MB without a problem. I'll try 600MB + files.
* I need to try formatting my files for a very small page size (3.5" x 4.8",) and see if that improves things.
* Will it let me charge via DC power jack while reading? If so, can I build a battery pack that fits on the back?

Andy
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Old 12-05-2007, 07:54 PM   #2
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Some comments.
Yes, it plays unencrypted AAC (including iTunes Plus tracks).
I beleive several people were able to use their warranty.
No, there is no rootkit in Ebook Library software. It installs a USB driver but it is necessary only for PRS-500 (I think), so you can disable/uninstall it if you want. The program itself runs completely in userspace.
Yes, you can read while charging from DC. BTW, the "most compatible" charger for Reader is the PSP one.
If you want to develop readers for custom formats, check this.
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Old 12-05-2007, 08:05 PM   #3
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Several additions/corrections (in no particular order--sorry!)

Charging--you can use a regular Sony PSP charger as well. They are available cheap at anyplace that sells video game accessories. I think this will charge faster than the USB slot.

Memory--you can get 2GB SD cards for under $15, and 4GB Memory Stick Pros for under $40 these days (much better deal than the 8GB size).

Price: $280 w/free ship from Datavision (datavis.com). Tax in NY; dunno about elsewhere.

The 505 definitely supports LRF--it's the "native" format!!!!!

Page turns take less than "several seconds"--maybe one second, if that.

[EDIT: I see someone already addressed a couple of these points!]
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Old 12-05-2007, 08:06 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by recycledelectron View Post
BIG SNIP

3. Supported Formats (w/o conversion software)
* Audio: .MP3, (and .AAC w/o DRM?)
* Books: .PDF (but this looks really small), .TXT, .RTF, (and LRF?)
* Images: .JPEG, .GIF, .PNG, .BMP
* You can convert from other formats, such as MS Word .DOC, .LIT, .HTM/.HTML, .CBZ,. .CBR, & RSS using 3rd party software. Sony claims that their software converts from .DOC to .RTF, but that's only if you have MS Word installed. (that reminds me of the claim that diet & exercise, with my "amazing weight loss crystal hat" will make you loose weight.)
* The best way to go is to use your software to convert anything to .RTF (text only) or to .PDF (text & graphics.) With PDF printer utilites (like Adobe's Distiller, or many free clones) you should be able to get anything onto the Sony PRS-505 Reader.

BIG SNIP

* The included software might let you create "Collections" but I have no interested in putting that CD in my machine and being root-kitted BMG music style. I only use the SD card to transfer files.

BIG SNIP

9. Annoying "Features"

SNIP

* Slow: This thing can take several seconds to boot up. Page flips take several seconds. Even hitting a button can show no response for a second.
SNIP

11. Things I need to research

SNIP

* Will it let me charge via DC power jack while reading? If so, can I build a battery pack that fits on the back?

Andy
.lrf is the extension for Sony's BBeB format eBooks that are not encrypted; .lrx for the encrypted ones. There are third party tools that produce lrf files (notably Book Designer and libprs500). The Sony readers work more smoothly with lrf files than with txt or rtf or pdf (perhaps unsurprisingly).

As for your 'best way to go' recommendation, I'd suggest that either of the above utilities is likely to result in a better experience than you'll get from pdf or rtf -- assuming, that is, that you have the source to convert from.


Libprs500 can also create collections (which are pretty useful for things like keeping track of the books in a series), so you can use this feature without Sony's software.


The several seconds for page flips is a 'feature' of working with large pdf files. Lrf files are much speedier.

Yes, it will let you read while charging with the DC power jack.

Xenophon
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Old 12-06-2007, 02:28 AM   #5
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* Sony CLAIMS a 2-year warranty. Has anyone ever seen Sony live by a warranty?
Yes, I have. I had a unit that was defective and right about the time the warranty was about to expire I called Sony and they replaced the unit with a refurb within 1 or 2 days. I thought that was pretty outstanding. Unfortunately my unit was poorly designed and the same flaw showed up later on the "new" unit. I just found a way to live with it.
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Old 12-06-2007, 11:27 AM   #6
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Being a lowly PRS-500 user, I assumed that the PRS-505 would come with a power charger like the PRS-500. Does anyone know if the power charger from the PRS-500 will work with the PRS-505?
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Old 12-06-2007, 11:34 AM   #7
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Yes, it works fine.
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Old 12-06-2007, 12:24 PM   #8
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Nice summation, recycledelectron! Thanks for sharing it with us.

There are a couple-few points I'd like to comment on/ask more about:
Quote:
Originally Posted by recycledelectron View Post
* I need to try formatting my files for a very small page size (3.5" x 4.8",) and see if that improves things.
It will. You can check the forum Wiki page for specific sizing information for PDFs as well as info on other formats. That entry is nominally for the 500, but it's identical for the 505 as far as display dimensions go, so it should get you started.

It's already been touched upon, but you'll get much snappier performance from your Reader with an RTF, or even better an LRF, than with a PDF file -- the page turning in particular can be much quicker. Embedding fonts into an LRF can slow it down, but it's still pretty snappy.

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* Will it let me charge via DC power jack while reading? If so, can I build a battery pack that fits on the back?
Yup, it'll display just fine while it's charging with a wall charger. Someone already mentioned that a PSP charger works just fine for the Reader, I'd think that any external battery pack that works for the PSP would also work for the Reader, so that might save you some experimentation time.

On the other hand, with a 2~3 week battery life, you may find that an external battery back is just extra baggage ... unless you leave the audio running. I don't use my Reader to play audio, I have an MP3 player that more than meets my modest needs in that area, and I don't keep audio files on the Reader specifically so that I can't accidentally start the player.

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I'm even more astounded how many comments here say the Sony Reader can not do things that my PRS-505 does on a daily basis.
This is the main thing I wanted to ask about -- what things did you have in mind that you do with your Reader that the rest of us have commented can't be done? We're always looking to learn to do new things with our toys!
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Old 12-06-2007, 12:54 PM   #9
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Hmm its really a good set having all Quality of good cell phones set
My outline was somewhat lacking, grammatically speaking. I wanted to communicated numbers & specs, not the fluff that so many reviews are full of. (reference intended)



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This is the main thing I wanted to ask about -- what things did you have in mind that you do with your Reader that the rest of us have commented can't be done? We're always looking to learn to do new things with our toys!
There are many differences in the PRS-500 and the PRS-505. Anyone commenting on one or the other should state which one they are commenting on. For example, I've seen someone ask if they can use the SD and Sony MSPD slots at the same time. Someone else said there was only one physical slot (probably referring to the PRS-500)

I tried plugging in my PRS-505 to a PC with a USB cable (without installing the Sony S/W) and got 3 new drives; the internal (192MB?) drive, the SD card, and the Sony MSPD card. With the lock set (so the PC can not read or write any drives) the PC reported that there were no media in the drives. I'll try again later with the lock off.

I'm also going to get a Sony MSPD to try along side the SD card, as I doubt the reports that it can only access one at a time.

Finally, my el-cheapo generic 2GB SD card works 90% of the time, but sometimes I have to suspend and resume my PRS-505 to get it to recognize.



I've tried several USB-A to USB-Mini-B cables, some alow data transfer and charging, some don't allow either. You seem to need all the wires, unlike some cheapo (or roll-up) cables.



Quote:
Originally Posted by NatCh View Post
You can check the forum Wiki page for specific sizing information for PDFs as well as info on other formats. That entry is nominally for the 500, but it's identical for the 505 as far as display dimensions go, so it should get you started.
Thanks for pointing out the wiki. I'm new, and obviously clueless since I didn't know it was there.



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Originally Posted by Xenophon View Post
Libprs500 can also create collections (which are pretty useful for things like keeping track of the books in a series), so you can use this feature without Sony's software.
I can not do that on my PRS-505. I hit "5" for "Collections" and get a page of blank underlines. Am I missing something?



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Old 12-06-2007, 02:20 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by recycledelectron View Post
Quote:
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This is the main thing I wanted to ask about -- what things did you have in mind that you do with your Reader that the rest of us have commented can't be done? We're always looking to learn to do new things with our toys!
There are many differences in the PRS-500 and the PRS-505. Anyone commenting on one or the other should state which one they are commenting on.
I heartily agree -- there's a lot of confusion arising from that.

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I'm also going to get a Sony MSPD to try along side the SD card, as I doubt the reports that it can only access one at a time.
Those reports are mistaken (I've missed them or I'd've commented on them directly -- I can't read every single post anymore, the boards are just too active -- a good problem to have ). On the 505 you can use both at the same time. They specifically touched on that during the conference call. You can use a 2 GB SD card and an 8GB memory stick at the same time, giving you 10 GB total on memory cards. I wouldn't want to wade through all those entries, myself.

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Finally, my el-cheapo generic 2GB SD card works 90% of the time, but sometimes I have to suspend and resume my PRS-505 to get it to recognize.
Some of the lesser known card brands will do that sort of thing (sometimes much worse misbehavior), we ran into it on the 500, and (obviously) it's showed up again on the 505. The consensus suspicion seems to be that the problem cards aren't really fully complying with the standard, but nobody's really confirmed that, so far as I know.

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I've tried several USB-A to USB-Mini-B cables, some alow data transfer and charging, some don't allow either. You seem to need all the wires, unlike some cheapo (or roll-up) cables.
Yeah, that showed up on the 500 as well, I think you're correct about it needing the full set of wires.

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Quote:
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You can check the forum Wiki page for specific sizing information for PDFs as well as info on other formats. That entry is nominally for the 500, but it's identical for the 505 as far as display dimensions go, so it should get you started.
Thanks for pointing out the wiki. I'm new, and obviously clueless since I didn't know it was there.
Heh, don't let it bother you, most folks don't know it's there -- we've been working on integrating it better with the forum proper to address that, but so far it's been slow going: too many other things push to the front.

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Quote:
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Libprs500 can also create collections (which are pretty useful for things like keeping track of the books in a series), so you can use this feature without Sony's software.
I can not do that on my PRS-505. I hit "5" for "Collections" and get a page of blank underlines. Am I missing something?
You have to use the computer-side software to make Collections ... I think you said you haven't installed the Sony app yet, but you can also use libprs500 to make them (a forum search will turn it up for you). A lot of people prefer libprs500, but I'm unsure of its status with regard to working with the 505. It works quite well for the 500 by all accounts, but I'm not entirely sure it's been adjusted to support the 505 yet.

Collections have a couple of quirks though. They're not really a set of books, per se. The titles show up in a Collection, but the book itself is still in the main "Books" list -- the Collection is really just a set of pointers. You can move the order around inside the collection so if you want publication order in a series instead of alpha by title, it'll let you do that. But if you delete a book in a Collection, it just removes the pointer, not the file, you have to go back to the main "Books" listing to do that.

This is all through the Sony PC-side software, of course.
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Old 12-07-2007, 09:07 AM   #11
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You have to use the computer-side software to make Collections ... I think you said you haven't installed the Sony app yet, but you can also use libprs500 to make them (a forum search will turn it up for you). A lot of people prefer libprs500, but I'm unsure of its status with regard to working with the 505. It works quite well for the 500 by all accounts, but I'm not entirely sure it's been adjusted to support the 505 yet.

Collections have a couple of quirks though. They're not really a set of books, per se. The titles show up in a Collection, but the book itself is still in the main "Books" list -- the Collection is really just a set of pointers. You can move the order around inside the collection so if you want publication order in a series instead of alpha by title, it'll let you do that. But if you delete a book in a Collection, it just removes the pointer, not the file, you have to go back to the main "Books" listing to do that.

This is all through the Sony PC-side software, of course.
Just wanted to clarify LibPRS works fine with the 505 I use it on my Mac and have no problems what so ever with it and have in fact never even used the Sony software as i dont have a windows machine.

And all of those other things dont need the sony software at all just LibPRS.
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Old 12-07-2007, 11:25 AM   #12
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Excellent! Thanks for clearing that up for me, stustaff. I'll add it to my mental files (which means I may or may not recall it when I want it).
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Old 12-07-2007, 04:47 PM   #13
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Posts: 152
Karma: 854
Join Date: Dec 2007
Device: Lifebook T5010
Quote:
Originally Posted by NatCh View Post
I heartily agree -- there's a lot of confusion arising from that.

Those reports are mistaken (I've missed them or I'd've commented on them directly -- I can't read every single post anymore, the boards are just too active -- a good problem to have ). On the 505 you can use both at the same time. They specifically touched on that during the conference call. You can use a 2 GB SD card and an 8GB memory stick at the same time, giving you 10 GB total on memory cards. I wouldn't want to wade through all those entries, myself.
Indeed. I have the previously mentioned 2GB SD Card, plus the 2GB MSPD card that Frys has on sale this weekend (http://www.Frys-Electronics-Ads.com) in my PRS-505 and I can access either card, plus the internal memory - all at the same time.

The Sony PRS-505 does not let you copy or move files around between the 2 card and internal memory without a PC.

The Sony PRS-505 does let you use it as a card reader / writer on any PC with a USB port, even without the Sony software installed. I love skipping the card reader!

These are the kinds of things that I started this thread to address. I may clean up lots of it, and move it to the wiki.

Andy

Last edited by recycledelectron; 12-07-2007 at 05:19 PM.
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