The Sony Reader Daily Edition PRS-900, Sony's first wireless eBook reader is finally in house. I didn't expect it to dethrone my Sony Reader Touch Edition PRS-600, which also sports an e-ink display with touch screen technology, but I must admit the Reader Daily Edition is tempting. That 1.1 inches of extra screen real estate isn't just great for fast readers but it allows Sony to further expand the home screen and have plenty of room for the store screen.
The Sony Touch Edition ebook reader and the Sony Daily Edition reader.
As with the PRS-600, the 900 has an excellent user interface that's very intuitive and on the 900, highly graphical. No staring at text-based lists of titles with little if any visual separation between content types (Kindle, I'm looking at you). Instead you've got a section for latest deliveries (generally speaking periodicals) with a cover shot, another section with a shortcut to continue reading your last book or periodical, a section listing books by cover and icons for all periodicals on the reader, collections (you create collections as way to organize content) and notes. Nice.
The store works in conjunction with the built-in AT&T 3G wireless radio (there are no monthly charges). There is no web browser, just access to the bookstore. The store is attractive and intuitive and you can turn on or off one-click buying. We like being able to turn off one-click buying and go with the shopping cart instead because it's too easy for a novice, friend or child to accidentally buy, buy, buy. You'll also need to enter your Sony online bookstore password when you enter the bookstore (again, prevents thieves, children and curious cats from buying content). The bookstore could load a bit more quickly and we suspect infrastructure improvements could make this happen because AT&T 3G runs strong here and the Sony Reader Daily Edition gets a stronger signal than the LG eXpo and HP Glisten. Books and periodicals download very quickly, attesting to good 3G service here in the Dallas area. As with the Kindle, you can subscribe to periodicals or just buy the current issue. Subscriptions automatically download when a new issue is available.
If you wish to side-load content using the Sony Reader desktop application on Windows and Mac, you can do that no problem. Or you can downlaod everything via wireless and avoid the desktop software. That is, if you only read content gotten from Sony's online bookstore. If you want to load your own texts, music, PDFs files and the like you can use a card reader since the Daily Edition has a Memory Stick Duo slot and an SD card slot. But if you want to load eBooks from the library, you'll need to use the desktop software. The store software on the Reader currently offers no access to public libraries or Google Books-- you'll need to get those via a computer.
We expected much the same ho-hum layout for newspapers as we'd seen on the Kindle 2. Interestingly, the Sony version of the Wall Street Journal is laid out more like a real print publication with images and touch-able links to stories-- we definitely like! We'll be testing more publications for our full review, and will thoroughly enjoy the 14 day free trial (same as on the Kindle).
The display is a 600 x 1024 Vizplex e-ink screen that measures 7.1" and has 16 levels of gray. Gray levels help with images such as book covers and photos that you load on the device, but makes less of a difference for text. Since the PRS-900 does pubs, and pubs use images, it makes sense to go with the 16 shades of gray. Does it look better than my PRS-600 Touch Edition display when reading text? I'd say they're quite similar, and that means slightly lower clarity due to the touch screen layer's reduction of contrast. I find it very readable even if it's not as high contrast as the gold standard Sony Reader PRS-505 and Sony Reader Pocket Edition PRS-300 eBook readers.
PDFs work in a similar fashion to the PRS-600: you can change the text size (generally screwing up the PDF's layout) or zoom using on-screen contols with no disruption of the layout. In portrait mode, text is mighty small without zooming since most PDFs are set up at 8.5 x 11". But in landscape mode, PDFs are very readable with no zooming required. That said, you'll do plenty of scrolling since each 8.5 x 11 page takes about 3 landscape screens.
The big hurt is the PRS-900's $399 price tag. In a bad economy, price is everything and the Daily Edition is right up there with the Kindle DX (an even larger, 9.7" ereader). In order to sell these things cheaper, manufacturers have left accessories out, but the Daily Edition comes with everything you'll need (thus increasing initial cost). You get a charger, a leather flip cover and a separately packaged semi-rigid Case Logic zipper case. I wouldn't be surprised if Sony offers the Daily Edition without the Case Logic case for less money in the future. But still, it's nice to have all the goodies in the box. It's worth mentioning that this is the first Sony Reader to have a removable battery: yes!
The Sony Reader Daily Edition has a built-in dictionary that you can access when in a book or directly via the Dictionary icon under the Applications tab. It has an MP3 player, 3.5mm stereo jack, a stylus (handy for writing notes on books and when using the drawing/scribbling app) and it supports both portrait and landscape modes. It has 6 font sizes and offers single page and two-page layouts.
We'll have a video review of the Sony Reader Daily Edition tomorrow and a full written review in a few more days. Please feel free to post questions
-------------------- Lisa Gade Editor in Chief, MobileTechReview
First Look: Sony Reader Daily Edition PRS-900 eBook Reader