I finally received my new Sony Reader, the PRS-950, and have been using it for the past few days. All I can say is WOW!
The first thing I did was enter a subscription to the New York Times. If I didn’t enjoy reading the Times on it, then the plan was to return it. The second thing I did was load on Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played with Fire, which I was in the middle of reading on my Sony PRS-505.
I began “testing” the 950 by continuing to read Larsson’s book. Turns out, the new 950 weighs less than my 505, so it is easier to hold. The reading experience is better as well. Even though it has a touch screen, a short finger swipe changes pages, the text is sharper than on the 505, whose screen was considered the gold standard for e-ink readers. In the predecessor 900 model, the touch screen, which was a different type than what is on the 950, did not receive accolades.
Then came the Sunday morning New York Times. Alas, if what you like to read are the advertisements, you are out of luck — the electronic version currently is ad free. But if your focus is on the stories, then the electronic version has them all. I found it easy to use and navigate and the same text as was in the print version appeared in the electronic version (I compared several of the articles). As bonuses, the electronic version is half the price of the print version and I can receive the electronic version when I want it, not having to wait for the delivery person to get out of bed — well almost. As I discovered today, the current day’s edition isn’t available until 5 a.m., which was a bit annoying this morning as I tried to retrieve it beginning at 4 a.m. But 5 a.m. is better than 8 a.m. or not at all, which is what my home delivery has become the past couple of months.
The biggest objections to the Sony 950 are its price ($299 without a cover), it is only available in silver (I would have liked black), and it uses a micro rather than a mini USB cable to charge. (If it had used the mini, I could have used the same charging device for both my 950 and my cell phone.) Except for price, the others are very minor obstacles. I must admit that I would also have liked to have received a printed user’s manual rather than the PDF version, especially as it is a long manual, but I can at least view the manual on either my desktop or via a printout.
The price has to be put in perspective. The immediate comparison that most people make is to the Kindle 3, which with all its bells and whistles runs $189. However there are some differences between the 2 units that increase the cost of the Sony, the two most notable differences being the touchscreen (Kindle uses a physical keyboard, buttons, and a joystick to navigate; the Sony uses a virtual keyboard, a couple of basic buttons if you want, and your finger or a stylus that comes with the device) and the screen size (the Kindle is a 6-inch e-ink and the Sony is a 7-inch e-ink; both use the new e-ink Pearl so are comparable in terms of clarity).
The Sony also provides basic web surfing capability and e-mail capability, which is nice for those of us who either rarely use a cell phone or who use cell phones without data capability (I happen to fall into both categories). It will be nice to be able to travel with just my Sony 950 and still receive e-mails.
For me, the biggest advantage the Sony has over the Kindle is that it accepts ePub format, which Kindle does not; I can buy ebooks at lots of different places, which is something I like.
I’m enjoying this 950 so much, I’m thinking about buying a second one for my wife. She is inheriting my Sony 505, which still works perfectly after 3 years of use, but the 950 has charmed me with its ease-of-use and greater functionality. The advantage to getting her a 950 of her own is that she will no longer have to wait for me to finish the New York Times before she can read it. That is one advantage that the print version has over the electronic version.
If you are looking for a great holiday gift and have been thinking about an ereading device, be sure to check out the new Sony 950 (the 650 is a 6-inch touchscreen version but without wireless; the touchscreen and the screen clarity are identical to that of the 950).