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Old 07-27-2010, 08:25 AM   #1
momentblur
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Buying a first 6" basic ereader my research and questions.

First off hello,

I've been looking into getting an ereader for the last couple of weeks now and after the first couple of days when general reviews elsewhere were useful this quickly became almost the only place where I could could get useful up to date in depth info on most readers.

So Thankyou

So I'm new to this but have spent the last couple of weeks looking into it quite hard, and as always the more you know the more you know to question and I've got to the stage where I think I can ask partially informed questions and would really appreciate some feedback.

A few details:
I'm in the UK
I'm very limited in budget looking to spend £100 to £130 at most but completely happy to deal in the second hand market.
My main interest in a device will be simply to read fiction/non fiction. I have no ebooks at this minute and therefore am not as affected by format (not tied down by having 500 books already in one format say) Mainly this will be to read fiction although I would appreciate the ability to read some technical documents (more on this later)
I will be travelling for six months with this device it must have flash expansion.
I believe 6" is the screen size for me
Disregarding my wants or needs wifi devices are all outside my price range.
Due to my needs (travelling) Keyboards seem to add more weight and size than practical use (for me)
I have an ipod which I will carry any mp3 player is extraneous to needs (unfortunately also seems to come as standard :-( )
weight is a factor, although differences at this form factor are minimal
The only devices I've been able to see in person are a prs 600 and 300
I'm very happy to use calibre to convert files

A few prices for second hand market:
Sony prs 505: £110 to £130 - £150
Iriver Story: £100 upwards
Bebook one: £95 - 110
Cybook Gen3: £110
Cool-er £90 - 105

All delivered all that I have witnessed in the last week

What I (think I) Know/Where I stand

Sony prs 505

I saw a prs 600 next to a 300 and immediately understood how much sony shot themselves in the foot with this release. The main conversation here appears to be about the glare (which within a 5min viewing I did notice) but I was most struck by the complete difference in contrast between the models. I found the 600's quality of display utterly disappointing. Therefore I am uniterested in this model or any other reader with touch screen tech implemented on top of the eink screen (this does not include any wacom screens or stylus screens)
I did however like the build quality and appearance of both the 300 and 600 and therefore I looked into them on the net and discovered the 505.
It seems strange to me that what appears to be one of the most universally praised and well reviewed devices is so outdated. I almost feel an instinctive dislike to the idea of buying one simply because of it's age, also personally I believe their price is inflated out of proportion to other devices available.
I am extremely drawn by the huge loyal user community this device has, the custom firmware and the fact that although no longer officially supported you feel almost all kinks will already have been ironed out by users and if not there is 3rd party development continuing. from what I saw of the other two sony models I believe the appearance and build quality to be high. At one point I thought I would buy a 505 as soon as I saw one go cheeply but a I have held off due to a couple of worries.

The page turn speed.
The hardware setup is outdated (as far as I know) and from most reviews and videos I've seen newer devices with processors in the 400 mhz region do manage faster page turns, would you agree?
has the custom firmware or updates improved page turn speed at all?
video comparisons do make the menu and page navigation look sluggish next to newer devices ( I understand that I would probably get used to the longer blackout but if I do not need to as there are other products on the market which offer better why should I? ) As the page turn is probably going to be the point of interaction that you encounter most in using an ereader this seems important to me.

The balance of build quality against weight.
The sony weighs around 250g next to lighter ereaders at 180, partially for carrying (backpacking) but mainly just for comfort when holding if reading for hours.
I see this as a balanced equation. I lean towards the lighter devices but understand they will be less hardy and less pleasing as a physical item.
Has anyone any feeling on whether you do ever notice any excess weight in the sony? (ie wrist discomfort etc when holding for ageeeeeeees)

The three levels of zoom.
Although I believe I could read happily at the two smaller levels of zoom neither seemed perfectly sized and mainly the limitation just seems annoying against the 5,6, or 7 levels offered on other devices. Has anyone managed to address this?

I understand that the menu system and file support originally were annoying but believe these factors to have been removed by prs+ or other custom firmware and the widespread use of calibre

Any other thoughts / things I've missed?


Bebook one

I had originally been drawn to the bebook by the claims of diverse file compatability, but since reading up on calibre now feel that anything that handles epub's pdf's and a couple of other main formats will easily handle my needs in partnership with a little time converting.
I was put off by the spec (here I refer to the original spec at usb1.1, 4 shades of gray, and slower processor) and the impression I gained of it's general speed as a device.
I disregarded this device completely as it's price appeared completely comparable to better reviewed (prs 505) and spec'd devices (cool-er).

I then discovered the fact that Hanlin make the tech and other people rebrand and re sell these devices (if anyone could clarify exactly who sells Hanlins I would appreciate it)

Mainly that bebook replaced (with no fanfare) the bebook one with the bebook one 2010 edition which is in fact a Hanlin V3+ which means that it displays in 16 grays has the new higher standard 400 mhz processor
USB 2 rather than 1.1 and a couple of other differences

I Would therefore advise anyone in the UK buying a bebook to be very careful as resellers like Play.com and others all have the old spec of the device listed and may still be selling through old stock while bebook will be selling (in terms of hardware) a completely different device.

This makes buying in the second hand market extremely problematic and in reference to this I would highly appreciate it if anyone could let me know where exactly it says 2010 edition on the boxes of the new bebooks? is it a big splash across the front or in the small print?

I am highly tempted by the spec of the newer device but find it unlikely that I will be able to source one within my budget, although I believe the lack of knowledge on the difference in hardware may mean that the fleabay price for either model will be interchangeable.

Cool-er

I suppose an unfair intro to this section would be that my main question would be:

I know things aren't great but exactly how bad are they?

I am highly tempted by a cool-er disregarding the horrible slogan and branding from everything I've read the page turns are snappy as almost any out there and the minimal weight really appeals to me, admittedly the company has just gone bust and therefore long term support will be non existent.

I also believe these to be rebranded tech that is sold under multiple names, is this true? Which are the other brands?

Is there portable firmware from other manufacturers that is better than that provided by interead? or has any custom firmware been produced?

have their firmware updates removed any of the major niggles or made the menus more easily usable?

Iriver Story,

I believe this is probably a very well put together device but recently passed one up at around £100 delivered due to the fact that iriver appear to provide no support whatsoever outside of asia (minor annoyance) and mainly due to the fact that I don't see the need for a keyboard myself and therefore comes in at 284g while having a plastic (against sony's aluminium) body. Someone said that they thought the weight was the perfect balance between to light and solid, but I can only see it as a negative long term.
I also generally developed a feeling that although people were happy with the hardware noone had much faith in iriver or the provided firmware (re non-existent txt and doc support that it claims)
I'm still not sure if I shouldn't have bought it at the same time

Kindle

I was for some reason massively put off these devices early on partially due simply to amazon's approach to the market and their intense concentration (in terms of features) on the american market. But hey, what gives, their an american company...
Due to the fact that with calibre you can convert and side load almost anything on to a kindle (I belive?) I propably haven't done them justice in research.
But again, I am not interested in annotating currently, therefore any keyboard I carry is simply extra weight and size.

Cybook Gen 3

This is a device that I have only just started looking into recently and don't know that much about, any user knowledge on quality of firmware would be highly appreciated (mainly in terms of ease of use)

Mainly is there a multiple release history with this device? did it originally exist in the same way as the bebook with a different spec and an update has been released under the same name?

Gods I'm sick writing this and I applaud any that have got this far.


A couple of points on Calibre and PDF's

I have referenced a program called Calibre multiple times in this which is a file conversion (and editing?) program designed and maintained by Kovid Goyal.
I have to say I've never used this.
I apologise if anything I've said about it is wrong therefore.
Can you convert almost anything into almost snything succesfully with this? (if you get my meanig)
Also are PDF's convertible into Epub's and will they then be easier to read, in terms of layout and format on ereaders? (I apologise I get the feeling this question alone has a complex and subjective answer)

The whole issue with the readability of PDF's on different devices is one that confuses me quite highly as a newbie entering this medium/field..? Mainly I will want to read novels/bio/non fiction in a text only fashion meaning that I shouldn't run into PDF's much? (or is this untrue) but I would also appreciate the ability to read guides on adobe photoshop and lightroom as well as possibly guides on learning coding, either html or flash, Would all of these be PDF's or this is type of document also available as Epub's etc...
Also something like a lonely planet travel guide, do you expect to find anything that has a complex layout and possibly images included to only be available in PDF?

I feel like I've developed a general understanding of what it means if something reflows pdfs or not but if someone knows of a good defintion/explanation a link would be highly appreciated.



To anyone that's read all this thanks already for your time.
Any user feedback on any of these devices would be highly appreciated, if you think I've missed anything specific or just a general point that I may have overlooked...
I apologise if any of it is factually incorrect and any glaring errors I will correct in OP so that if anyone reads this hopefully they won't be getting misinformation.
I have gone into as much depth as I have in a single post in the hope all my research might help anyone else just starting to look off on the right foot.
I'm sure I've forgotten some stuff and will be back.

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Old 07-27-2010, 09:31 AM   #2
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By your focus on Calibre, I gather you are mostly interested in DRM-free content. This simplifies matters as you can skip the matter of ebookstore choice which, by all right, should be the first item on the decision tree.

Since you seem open to the possibility of used devices, you might want to add the Pocketbook 301 to you list for consideration. The hardware is a close kin to the Cybook but the software is distinct and truly first-rate.

On the matter of weight, don't get too hung up on it as all 6in readers, even the heaviest (Nook, I think) are fine for regular use and some of the lightest (especially in the 6in arena) tend to be less than fully robust.

If portability is critical, I'd suggest reconsidering the 5in models; I have both 6inchers and a 5in PB360 and I've found the 5incher to be a more enjoyable reading platform; the button layout and the overall size are a joy to use (once customized to my taste).

On the Kindle-side, they are quite competent readers and what they do they do well. The build quality is excellent and the keyboard doesn't get in the way. I'm no fan of keyboards on readers but I wouldn't base my buy/no-buy decision on its presence or absence.

On the Hanlin's, I own a BeBook and the only thing I have to say is they're not bad but neither are they great. The firmware seems to value flexibility over stability. Even with the many alternate firmwares available crashes are a fact of life with them.

On pricing, I would wonder just how firm you are on your target price. With the recent pricing baseline reset in NorthAmerica it would seem you are just under the range where a new Kindle or imported Pocketbook or Cybook Opus might be in reach. I've seen posts around here of UK residents who have reached out across the atlantic for reader deals to good results.

Good luck!

Last edited by fjtorres; 07-27-2010 at 09:33 AM.
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Old 07-27-2010, 02:05 PM   #3
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@ fjtorres

Cheers for the feedback,
Your last point is the one that has struck me with most impact as it made me pause and go back to checking the international pricing of various devices and has caused a possible switch from looking at the lightest end of the market to the heaviest. Partially in connection with another reply I'm looking back into wifi devices, specifically the nook. The wifi edition advertised on B&N for $149 (although it won't allow me to order one shipped to England) seems like a bargain. Actually moving a new model to same region of pricing I'm looking at for a second hand unit (seems unfair :-( )

It's sad to hear of the bebooks lack of stability as they were one of the first devices that drew a spark of interest.

Food is here, I'm off.
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Old 07-27-2010, 05:52 PM   #4
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The wifi edition advertised on B&N for $149 (although it won't allow me to order one shipped to England) seems like a bargain. Actually moving a new model to same region of pricing I'm looking at for a second hand unit (seems unfair :-( )
Economies of scale make a difference.

With Amazon reportedly moving 3.5 million Kindles in 2010 and B&N moving a million+ Nooks (for the US alone) their pricing structure is going to be very different from a small regional vendor that issues a press release when they reach 10,000 units sold (like Cool-er did).

More importantly, comparing this year's *new* models to last year's used models means comparing last years supply chain to this year's. Not only are the new products going to cost less to build, in some cases they will perform better as they will feature newer screen tech (C.F., Kindle DX, possibly the Kindle 3, with the new-generation "Pearl" eink displays), better controllers, faster processors, newer software, etc.

The ebook reader market may be headed for a phase like PCs went through in the 80s and 90s when there was effectively no room for used systems because new systems were improving in performance *and* dropping in price so fast that it made no sense to buy used. In NorthAmerica, at least, we've already seen several products announced in january that have been effectively obsoleted before they even got to market.

More disruptions lie ahead.
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Old 07-28-2010, 09:08 AM   #5
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I did manage to read through your entire post ;-)

Sony 505
I can't fathom why would a company stop manufacturing their best selling device. Excellent hardware, full-metal-jacket body, great display, extremely stable (if not very feature rich) firmware. There is a good reason why those devices fetch such high prices on second-hand market.
There is also very active hacking community with important improvements.
Cons are: non-user-replaceable battery, the firmware lacks some important features, like support for non-latin1 characters, folders, ...

Cooler.
I personally would not buy one of those. Especially if I was planning to take it on a 6 month trip without possibility to return the device.
Its hardware is manufactured by Netronix.
Other companies that use almost identical hardware (also made by Netronix) are Bookeen with their Cybook device, PocketBook and others. See our Wiki (link at the top) for more details.

I personally would recommend PocketBook 360.
Pros: It is very well designed hardwarewise, it has great lid protecting the screen, it has extremely feature rich firmware. It supports unprecedented level of customization, third party applications, reads most of the popular e-book formats (so no conversion is necessary). The only notable e-book format it does not support is .lit.
Cons: Some not very technically skilled people might be uncomfortable with the number of options and features it offers. Price. When it came out, it was priced a little bit more than some of its direct competitors, but now, when there is $150 Nook available ...

BeBook and other rebranded devices made by Jinke.
Not bad, IMHO. Again, see our wiki.
http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/Hanl..._OEM_customers
I was able to play with Hanlin V5. I found User Interface in firmware a little bit awkward, but apart from that it is a nice little device. Big plus is, it supports OpenInkpot open-source firmware. I almost purchased one because of that - it was before I "discovered" PocketBook

PDF.
Pdf files are NOT a good choice for an e-ink reader with 6" screen.
You can make pdf file that is formatted specifically for 6" screen (90x115mm (considering status bar)), but most of pdf files out there are formatted for A4, or letter or to be printed and cropped to the book format.
Pdf is a layout preservation program perfect for printing the document, or viewing it on at least 17" monitor. A 17" monitor has more than TEN TIMES bigger viewing area than 6" device!

Calibre does remarkable job converting plain-text pdf files. The best job I have ever seen in such converter. Yet, it is not good enough for my reading. You see, it *has* to guess where the end of the paragraph is, because most of pdf files do not contain such information. Pdf file contains only info needed to place specific character or piece of graphics on a specific position on the page. It has no info about paragraphs, formatting, chapters, ...

If I need to read a document that is only available as pdf I usually run it through an OCR program. I use Readiris, because I have a legal copy but FineReader works very well too.

Calibre.
Calibre converts almost any format to almost any format. It also makes its private copy of your books (it does not touch your original you have stored in your system of folders) and places it to its own Library directory. Beside converting you can assign various metadata to your e-books and have Calibre sort, sift, search, arrange, manage handle and present your collection. You can even browse covers in a beautiful 3D "cover flip" animation. It can also fetch metadata for your e-book from the net automatically. Calibre can also fetch your favorite news or blog from the net and format it for you seamlessly using so-called recipes. Unfortunately it can not cook a dinner for you. Yet.

Ha! Revenge!
Now YOU have to read MY long post
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Old 07-28-2010, 09:45 AM   #6
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Cooler.
I personally would not buy one of those. Especially if I was planning to take it on a 6 month trip without possibility to return the device.
Its hardware is manufactured by Netronix.
Other companies that use almost identical hardware (also made by Netronix) are Bookeen with their Cybook device, PocketBook and others. See our Wiki (link at the top) for more details.
Out of curiosity is your reason for not going with the Cooler because of the underlying hardware (made by Netronix) or is it with the actual company selling the Cooler?
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Old 07-28-2010, 09:58 AM   #7
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I can't fathom why would a company stop manufacturing their best selling device.
We're talking Sony, to start with.
Rational decision making isn't all too common there, nowadays.

The 505 case, though, is tricky.
First, a lot of the components in it are old; the button-heavy interface is expensive, and the assembly line that built them was probably reconfigured for other uses long ago.
Asian electronics products are produced in batches; the assembly line is set-up, the batch is produced, and the line is reconfigured for another product. If more is needed, they reconfigure back. In may cases, though, they can't.
Panasonic ran into a situation a couple years back where for three months they had no product to sell in a given Plasma TV size because the completely misread the market. By the time they realized the market wanted more the assembly line was producing a different model and they were gearing up to produce the following year's updated model.

In the case of the 505 producing a worthy successor is tricky because Sony's design philosophy these days is to throw the kitchen sink into their hardware; the idea of prodicing a lean and mean reading machine doesn't quite fit their self-image as market leaders. So they keep on looking for ways to lead, with side-lights, touch-screens, elongated screens (not a bad idea onto itself but they got the ratio wrong), and other *expensive* features that just didn't go where the market was headed.

They are supposed to have a new generation of readers due Real.soon.now. It is possible that after the fiascoes of the last two years they may have taken a look at what the 505 did right and the 700, 900, etc did wrong and come up with a worthy succesor.
It is *possible*.
But we're talking Sony, so don't hold your breath.
The reason remnant new and used 505s are so expensive is that hardly anybody expects to see that particuar combination of readable screen in a solid case at a fair price again. Especially now that "fair price" means essentially US$150 +/- $50.
As we've seen in the various threads here on Mobileread, the reader market seems to be moving in directions that don't play to Sony's strengths and there is a fair amount of doubt as to how long they can stay in the game.
It may very well be that the Sony 505 will be the highwater mark of Sony readers for a long time.
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Old 07-28-2010, 10:26 AM   #8
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Out of curiosity is your reason for not going with the Cooler because of the underlying hardware (made by Netronix) or is it with the actual company selling the Cooler?
Well, I own PocketBook 360 with Netronix based hardware and I think it is one of the best readers out there.
That leaves the Cooler company itself, their firmware, their PR. I have read review from somebody that managed to brick their device by removing some files from the user-accessible partition.

See our wiki
http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/E-book_Reader_Matrix
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Old 07-28-2010, 01:56 PM   #9
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Skipping the PDF issues, which others have addressed, you're looking for a durable but lightweight reader, with good warranty support, if you plan on traveling with it for 6 months.

I would suggest, in this order:
1. PocketBook 360 - hits all your points
2. Sony Pocket (PRS-300) in a durable zip up case (it doesn't have flash expansion, but it can still easily hold 300+ ebooks, enough for 6 months)
3. Bookeen Cybook Opus - its firmware is a bit more buggy and it doesn't feel as durable as the Sony.

I know you mentioned you prefer 6" devices, but I think all three of these offer a better combination of features and warranty for your needs, in your price range. A few more page clicks to read can be offset by carrying a lighter, more durable device.
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Old 07-28-2010, 02:23 PM   #10
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I have only owned a Kindle so I cannot talk to the other readers you mentioned.

One strong plus with the Kindle is Amazon's Customer Service. I have read many a story of people travelling on vacation or business and having a problem with their Kindle. Customer Service sent a replacement to their hotel in a 24-48 hour period. Additionally, the ability to buy books in most parts of the world using the 3G network is pretty nice.

If the rumored K3 is released, it might very well have the new pearl screen that is seen on the DXG. There are folks who have compared the Sony 505 screen to the DXG and have found the DXG to be the Sony's equal with many saying that it is better then the 505.

Just a few thoughts, granted biased, but tossing out a few new things to think about.
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Old 07-28-2010, 07:56 PM   #11
fjtorres
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The K3 is no longer a rumor, it is now a disturbing reality.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...036454208.html

US$139 for the WiFi only version; smaller, lighter, with the newer, better screen.
Dunno how it'll price out for the UK so there's no telling how it'll reset the pricing for competitors but there's no question it's going to make waves.

Edit:
Okay, Engadget has UK-specific info:
http://www.engadget.com/2010/07/28/n...on-and-189-3g/

£109 for the WiFi only Kindle.
Plus they're opening up a UK-specific ebook store.

Last edited by fjtorres; 07-28-2010 at 08:11 PM.
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Old 07-29-2010, 12:35 PM   #12
momentblur
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Thanks for all the replies guys,
The Amazon anouncement kinda blows any competition out of the water right now. Flying ou on the 2nd of sep so hopefully I can pick up the usage of the system quickly.
Man am I glad I haven't bought a device in the last couple of weeks.

I've spent the last couple of hours (between working) digging through press releases and the main release thread here and other links, and am still slightly confused on a couple of points.

Mainly will the 3G be limited to the amazon store and wiki, I don't believe this to be the case from what I've read but haven't found anywhere that seems to clearly state that it will usable to browse the web as well.
Also due to Amazon's history of fees for downloads due you believe you may have to pay for this usage? (nb I understand there's no contract etc but on a mb by mb basis)
I also appear to be getting some confused messages about wether the 3G usage may be limited to the country that you register your kindle with the amazon store?

A week ago this concept seemed crazy to me but now I'm having to look hard at wether to buy a wifi or 3G device...

I'll get back to searching but any help would be appreciated.
(Slightly depressing how heavily the official kindle3 thread got hijacked by the format argument as some of these questions appeared there but at this time remain unanswered)
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Old 07-29-2010, 01:40 PM   #13
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The browser has been enabled in the UK for several months now.
http://kindleworld.blogspot.com/2010...r-expands.html

The usage is free; the bandwidth fees are usually for moving personal content of bringing ebooks from non-amazon stores. Yes, you can buy DRM-free books from non-Amazon sources. Plus, of course, you can side-load via USB.

You may also want to look at Calibre's Web server and book emailing features; they make accessing your own ebook collection via the browser easy.
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Old 07-31-2010, 09:27 AM   #14
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Well luckily for me I procrastranated and researched long enough that I hadn't bought a second hadn't reader before amazon's anouncement.

They really have blown the competition out of the water in terms of the UK market. There are going to have to be some big price cuts if anyone else actually wants to sell anything at all here now.

I would kind of like to hang around and see what happens to everyones prices in the run up to christmas but I need a device now and in view of my luck/the perfect timing/the insane undercutting of everyone else I've respectfully blown my budget and preordered the 3G+ version.

Official date is 08-27 and I fly out on 02-09 so I signed up for the free trial of Amazon prime so that I could snag free next day delivery (not sure if it will affect as it's a preorder but every little helps) in hopes that I get a few days to accustomise myself and side load it with content.

Cheers for all your feedback.
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