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Sony Reader Daily Edition (PRS-950)

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What's hot: Excellent Pearl E-Ink display with touch, larger screen yet portable.

What's not: Costs more than the competition.


Reviewed November 23, 2010 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

As with its siblings the Sony Reader Pocket Edition PRS-350 and Sony Reader Touch Edition PRS-650, we'll say that Sony finally got it right. The PRS-950 is the high end wireless model in Sony's fall 2010 ereader lineup, and it features the same Pearl E-Ink display technology for enhanced E-Ink contrast and infrared-based touch that doesn't affect display quality. That's a winning combo: the display looks as good as the Kindle 3's, and the touch screen is responsive and makes for a much better user experience than keyboard and joystick navigation. If you own the last gen Daily Edition PRS-900, you'll definitely be tempted once you see the display on the new 950. The only drawback? The Sony costs more than the competing Kindle 3 and Nook WiFi + 3G. That said, you get a 7" vs. 6" display and a touch screen. Sony also throws in 10 dictionaries, including several translation dictionaries, and a very good web browser (for those who don't mind the web in shades of gray).

Sony Reader Daily Edition

What's the difference between the 3 Sony Reader models? The PRS-350 has a 5" display, the Touch Edition has a 6" display and adds memory card slots and a music player and the Daily Edition adds both WiFi and AT&T 3G, the web browser and a 7" display to the PRS-650 formula. The Daily Edition's elongated portrait design means the reader isn't overly bulky and it's surprisingly light at 9.6 ounces. They all have Pearl E-Ink displays with Sony's new touch screen technology, and have identical display quality and touch response. They also share the same user interface which is based on the PRS-900's touch UI. Since the 3 readers are so similar, our review shares some copy with the 650 and 350.

What's changed from the Sony Reader PRS-900

While the last gen PRS-900 came with a charger and case bundles, the PRS-950 comes only with a USB cable and stylus that lives in a silo at the upper right corner. The new line of readers aren't compatible with the old PSP-style charger, so you'll need to use Sony's micro USB charger (sold separately) or a compatible cell phone charger (our Samsung Galaxy S charger works fine).

Sony Reader Daily Edition

Button view: wireless switch, micro USB port, 3.5mm headphone jack and volume control.

As mentioned, the new 950's display is much, much better than the 900's. Why? The 900 had a resistive touch screen layer on top of the E-Ink display that reduced clarity and introduced glare. Where the 900 looked gray and murky in low light and glared in bright light, the Sony PRS-950 works well.

The 950 sheds a few ounces from the 900, largely because Sony abandoned the user-replaceable battery. The dimensions have changed slightly overall, and that means your old PRS-900 cover won't quite fit the PRS-950. The front buttons are a bit plasticky compared to the PRS-900, but quality and materials are otherwise good. The PRS-950 is currently available in silver.

Deals and Shopping:

eBook Formats and Software

The PRS-950 has 2 gigs of internal storage with approximately 1.6 gigs available to store books and other documents (enough to hold hundreds of books). It has both SD and Memory Stick Pro Duo expansion slots and you'll both charge and sync books to the reader using the included micro USB to USB cable. As with prior Sony Readers, the Sony Reader supports ePUB including standard Adobe Adept DRM, PDFs (including Adobe DRM PDFs), Sony's own BBeB format, text and RTF. You can also load MS Word files, but you must use the Sony desktop software to do so since it converts Word files before loading them on the reader. The Sony doesn't work with Kindle books (only Kindle products are compatible with Kindle books), and it's not compatible with Barnes & Noble ePUB books because B&N uses a different type of Adobe DRM. It does work with ePUBs sold by and Though DRM plagues most commercial books, Sony Readers use a fairly open and standard version of Adobe DRM and that's why you need not buy books exclusively from Sony (we wish we could say the same for Kindle).

Sony Reader Daily Edition

Up top: stylus silo, SD and Memory Stick Pro Duo slots and the power switch.

The PRS-950 also works with Google's million public domain books and with public library ebooks. Sony's ebookstore has a solid selection of books and you'll find most current bestsellers there, but they don't have as many books as Amazon. Still, I've rarely had trouble finding the book I was looking for (I read mostly literature and fiction). Prices are similar for most online bookstores these days since Apple and the publishers introduced the agency pricing model for ebooks.

Since the reader has both WiFi and 3G, you can use the shopping portal on the device to access Sony's ebookstore. It's simple and easy to use, and is perfect for those who prefer to avoid Sony's desktop software and USB cables. You can of course side-load your own books over USB (the reader mounts as a mass storage device like a flash drive), or use the Sony desktop software (installer is on the reader) to transfer books.

Using the Reader

Thanks to the very good user interface and touch screen, the Sony Reader Daily Edition is very easy to use. There's no secondary display used to control the primary display as with the Nook and Alex ereaders, nor do you have to wear the skin off your thumb pumping a Kindle joystick. You can use your finger to operate the touch screen, and it's quite responsive to touch. If you want to write notes or make highlights, we suggest you use the included stylus since writing with a finger isn't easy. You can make notes in books and these notes transfer to the Sony desktop software for Windows and Mac. There's also a notepad where you can write shopping lists, ideas for the next great novel or draw a map.

Sony Reader PRS-950

Should you wish to look up a word in the dictionary, tap on the word to highlight it. You'll get a definition from the dictionary of your choice and there's an option to look up the word in the Wikipedia (over WiFi, not 3G). Sony Readers have a Collections feature for organizing books as you see fit (you can do this using the desktop software or on the device).

The larger, higher resolution display allows for more words per page, and the tall skinny design keeps lines a manageable length. You can use the reader in landscape orientation, and we like the landscape facing pages option, though it does reduce the number of words per page. There are margin cut, 2 column and 3 column split options and contrast adjustment for document views and several font sizes to choose from. Hardware controls are minimal (page turn buttons, font/zoom and options) since most tasks are handled on-screen, including text entry on a virtual QWERTY keyboard.

Though even a 7" display isn't ideal for 8.5 x 11 formatted PDFs, the Sony PRS-950 has the best PDF viewing features we've seen on an E-Ink reader. You can zoom using slider bars on-screen (this preserves the PDF layout), fit to width, fit to height and change the font size (disrupts the layout but works well for PDFs that are primarily text).

The reader has a music player that works with MP3 and AAC files as well as Audible books. It also has a surprisingly good web browser that handles desktop sites with aplomb. Of course, E-Ink screen refreshes aren't the fastest and the web isn't best viewed in shades of gray, but it gets the job done in terms of rendering, compatibility and page load speeds. We found navigating web pages using touch rather than indirect control wonderful, as you'd expect. Sorry, the browser doesn't support Flash or file downloads. The web browser works only over WiFi; 3G HSDPA via AT&T is free but works only for browsing and purchasing books, magazines and newspapers from Sony's ebookstore. If you subscribe to periodicals, these will automatically be delivered over 3G as well.

Why go with E-Ink rather than an LCD? E-Ink is easier on the eyes since there's no backlight refresh brightly blinking at your eyeballs. E-Ink reflects ambient light as does a printed book's page. This means you can't read in the dark, but you can read in sunlight where LCDs fade, making E-Ink readers perfect for vacations on the beach and al fresco lunches with a good ebook. E-Ink displays consume no power when displaying a page; they only use power when a page is turned and the screen is refreshed. That's why E-Ink reader battery life is measured in weeks rather than hours for an LCD-based reader.



Sony Reader PRS-950


Sony Reader PRS-950

Video Review

Here's our video review of the Sony Reader Daily Edition:


Comparisons and Conclusion

The Sony Reader Daily Edition PRS-950 is my personal favorite among E-Ink ebook readers. It's light and portable yet the larger display shows more words per page (nice if you're a fast reader) and is somewhat better for PDFs. The E-Ink Pearl display is noticeably better than the older Vizplex E-Ink technology with higher contrast that requires less ambient lighting-- there's no need to turn on several lights in a room. The touch UI is much more natural and intuitive than Amazon and Barnes & Noble's E-Ink offerings, and it's hard to go back once you've used the Sony Reader.

We prefer the "luxury" of shopping for books on multiple sites and using the public library to download ebooks, something that the Kindle doesn't offer. That said, Amazon's customer support and book selection are better. Barnes & Noble's ebook and reader support aren't exactly tops for online support, though in-store personnel are very friendly. Amazon and Barnes & Noble don't offer tweeners: something between the 6" and 9.7" sizes in E-Ink, and we find the 7", 600 x 1024 display more versatile. Our only misgiving was the $299 price tag, a full $100 or more over the Kindle 3 and Nook 3G + WiFi. Now that Sony has lowered the price, we can say that the mostly metal casing, larger display and touch screen are worth the extra $50.


Price: $299 $249 for the holiday 2010 season

Web Site:


Display: 7" Vizplex Pearl e-Ink. Resolution: 600 x 1024, supports portrait and landscape modes. 16 shades of gray.

Wireless: WiFi and 3G HSDPA on AT&T (no charge for wireless use). Web browser works only on WiFi.

Size and weight: 7.87 x 5.04 x 0.38 inches. 9.6 ounces.

Supported ebook formats: ePUB (standard Adobe DRM), PDF (and standard Adobe DRM protected PDF), text, RTF and Word (Word docs require conversion using Sony desktop Reader software). Works with library books in ePUB and PDF format that use Adobe DRM (Adobe Digital Editions used by most libraries). Works with Google books (over a million free public domain ebooks). Works with non-DRM .lrf files but not DRM-protected .lrx files.

Music Player: Has a music player that supports MP3 and AAC files (not copy-protected) and has a 3.5mm stereo jack.

Storage: 2 gigs internal flash storage with approx. 1.6 gigs available.

Memory Expansion slots: 1 SDHC SD card slot and 1 Memory Stick Pro Duo slot.

Battery: Lithium Ion, not user replaceable.

In the box: Reader, stylus and USB cable.



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