Choosing a Sony PRS-700

by on December 30, 2008

I recently got the new Sony eReader PRS-700. It is the latest of three e-reader models that Sony has produced. It will replace my PRS-500. The other current model is the PRS-505. This was not an easy decision, my options included:

  1. Keep the 500
  2. Purchase a Kindle
  3. Purchase a 505
  4. Purchase a 700

With this post I want to review the 700, and explain the rationale that led me to that decision. I hope this might help others that are considering the purchase. My first draft went into detail on e-books and e-ink and lots of other stuff, and quickly became a huge post. I will collect thee other thoughts, and post about them later (and edit this post with a link).

What they all have in Common

All four devices have the same size screen, and employ e-ink technology that provides a very sharp display and great contrast in normal lighting. In addition the e-ink technology helps all the devices achieve great battery life. I beleive the 500 and Kindle have the same e-ink display, with the later 505 and 700 utlizing newer, faster displays. Both the Kindle and Sony systems have an easy way to purchase current books as well classics.

Keep the 500

I have had a PRS-500 for a year now, and have enjoyed reading a number of novels on it. I have also experimented creating documents for it with mixed success. TheĀ  drawbacks I saw with the 500 was the lack of any built-in light, inability to search, and inability to add notes. You could “dog-ear” a page for reference, but you could not highlight a portion of text or add notes. I had previously used various applications on my PDA to read books, and found the ability to do this invaluable.

Another change with the 500 was the introduction of EPUB format. I can update my 500 to support EPUB for books that do not have DRM, but there is no upgrade to allow the reading of DRM EPUB files on my 500. If you are not sure what DRM is, it is “Digital Rights Managment” and is something many publishers require to make their catalog available. Essentially it is a method to insure that you cannot buy one copy and make unlimited copies. Talking about the efficacy of these systems could take up quite a few posts, let’s suffice it to say I would be limited to books supplied through Sony for purchase.

Purchase a Kindle

My next option was to purchase a Kindle. The Kindle is Amazon’s reader, and has the support of Amazon behind it for titles. It incorporates wireless technology that allows you to purchase books right on the device and have them downloaded to your reader. Pretty nice feature. Where it falls short is the proprietary nature of the device. The only source for DRM books is Amazon. In addition I am a little unclear with adding your own books. They charge a nominal charge to download books like free Project Gutenberg texts wirelessly. I believe you can do it with a USB connection for free, but am somewhat unclear on that.

The Kindle also has a keyboard, and an interesting solution to mark sections of text. With the 500 I could only mark a page, with the Kindle you can mark lines. Not perfect (you can’t start or end a highlight mid-line) but better than my 500.

So, for me, keyboard for search and notes was a win, highlighting was a 90% win, wireless was an intriguing add-on, but I did not like the closed aspect of the system. It did not have a buil-in light. I also could not use any of the books I had already purchased for the 500 on the Kindle, though I have not purchased that many for the the 500 yet. Finally, at the risk of sounding shallow, the largest hurdle was how ugly the Kindle is. I know this reason is scoffed at by many folks, but you gotta look at the thing whenever you use it. I have only briefly looked at a friend’s Kindle, and hope to suck him into doing a better comparison in the future, but the Kindle was a near-miss for me.

Purchase a 505

The 505 was a nice incremental update to the 500. It is slimmer, uses a newer e-ink display with even better contrast and faster refresh, has better storage management for e-books (ability to put into collections) and access to DRM EPUB books which frees you from depending on one vendor. However, still no built-in light or keyboard. However, there is a $70 add-on light that overlays the device, and I could get a $100 for trading in my 500.

Purchase a 700

The 700 really caught my eye. Finally, an e-ink display with a touch screen (easy highlight, pop-up keyboard) and a built-in light. Reports also commented on the speed at which it changed pages. What could be wrong with this? Basically a 505 with even faster screen, a touch screen, and a light. Well, I started my online research and read a lot of reviews commenting on its muddy display. The one that almost sealed it for me was a review of a review on engadget. Luckily I clicked through to the actual review that said it was a negative (but listed a ton of positives) and I took a trip to a SonyStyle store to look at them side by side. Bottom line, the addition of the space for the LED sidelights and the touchscreen does degrade look of the screen a little, but the tradeoffs were worth it in my opinion.

Still, if it is just lighting you want, there is a $70 add on to the 505, and it is better looking screen than the 700. I wanted the ability to highlight and add notes so that swayed me, and I have no regrets. The 700 is $100 more expensive than the 505, but worth it for me. If you are debating, try to take the opportunity to compare them.

Amazon links:
Sony PRS-505/LC Blue Digital Book Reader
Sony PRS-700BC Reader Digital Book
Kindle: Amazon’s Wireless Reading Device

And for the 505 light accessory:
Cover with Custom Light Shield +2 Aaa Batteries

Previous post:

Next post: