Sony PRS-950 Review
The Sony PRS-950 Daily Edition is Sony's luxury ebook reader. It comes with WiFi for browsing the web with the new basic browser and free 3G wireless for connecting to Sony's ebook store and for getting news delivered wirelessly.
The PRS-950 is the second generation Daily Edition. The main difference between it and the earlier model, the PRS-900, is the new one has a glare-free touchscreen, comes with WiFi, is thinner, lighter, and has much better contrast thanks to the new Pearl display.
One thing that remains the same, however, is the fact that the Daily Edition is only sold in the United States because of the 3G wireless and regional restrictions on the Sony eBook Store, which only sells ebooks to the US and Canada.
Check out the PRS-950 PDF review to see how the Daily Edition handles various types of PDF files. There's a PDF video review as well as several large pictures.
The New Touchscreen
As mentioned above, the biggest new feature the Sony PRS-950 has is the touchscreen (here's a large up-close picture). Not only is it a new higher contrast screen with much darker blacks, there isn't any glare associated with the touchscreen because there is no longer an added layer over the top of the display. Instead, the touchscreen uses infrared to detect input.
With this, Sony has finally solved the touchscreen issues of years past while preserving all the touchscreen features that make Sony's ebook readers unique. The touchscreen works with fingers and the included stylus. Responsiveness is really good and can be activated with a feather's touch.
The Daily Edition has all the same touchscreen functions and features as the PRS-650 and PRS-350: you can add freehand notes and scribbles, type memos and notes with the on-screen keyboard, add highlights and bookmarks, double tap a word to bring up the dictionary, manually adjust the screen contrast, create, manage, and delete collections, run searches, activate hyperlinks, and so on.
What makes the Sony PRS-950 so unique is that it's the only epaper ebook reader to have a 7-inch display. Most use either a 6-inch or 5-inch screen, there are a few 8 and 9.7-inch epaper ereaders out there as well, but Sony is currently the only one that uses the 7-inch variety.
Because of the larger screen, most would consider the PRS-950 to be a "large" ebook reader. But it doesn't really feel like a large ebook reader, nothing like the Kindle DX. It's actually almost the same size as the Kindle 3, just about half an inch taller and one ounce heavier.
PRS-950 Video Review
Overall, the Sony PRS-950 looks a lot like the PRS-900, but there are some subtle differences. First, the PRS-950 comes in silver whereas the 900 was black. The 900 had a built in cover and the back of the unit was the back of the cover. The 950 is designed more like the 650. It does not include a cover and the back is metal like the front and is no longer removable for easy access to the battery.
The new Daily Edition has lost quite a bit of weight. It's about 25% lighter. It's also thinner and a little shorter.
One niggle about the PRS-950's new design is there is a seam that runs down the left side on the unit to the left of the screen. None of the other Sony Readers have that.
The Sony PRS-950 is the first Sony Reader to get a web browser. The web browser works over WiFi, not 3G, and is best suited for text-based websites and mobile sites, according to the manual. But it seems to do a pretty decent job of loading many regular sites that I tried.
As you'd expect with an ereader, the web browser is pretty basic. There's a home screen that links to several mobile sites—but doesn't appear to be modifiable.
There's a bookmarks menu and option to input website urls with the keyboard. The page-turn buttons below the screen act as forward and back buttons, and all the scrolling is done by swiping the touchscreen. There is no zoom or landscape mode, but there are 6 levels of text size.
I logged into GMail without a problem, and even typed and sent an email. It automatically directs you to the mobile site, but I found the regular HTML version works fine. Google Reader works too, although the mobile version works better, the regular version is a little hard to navigate and read because everything is crunched together.
Overall, the web browser is pretty fast as far an ebook readers are concerned. It's probably a little faster than the Kindle 3's browser but is more limited in that in only works over WiFi and does not allow for downloading ebooks. Also, it does not have an article mode like the Kindle's browser. On the plus side, the touchscreen makes activating hyperlinks easier, and hyperlinks that open in a new window aren't blocked like with the Kindle.
Online Store and Newspaper Subscriptions
Sony's ebook store is accessible from the Sony PRS-950 via the free 3G wireless service provided by AT&T. This allows you to browse, purchase, and download ebooks and periodicals directly to the Daily Edition anywhere within AT&T's US coverage area.
Sony has over 2 dozen newspaper subscriptions available from the Sony Reader Store, with some exclusive content. Each subscription comes with a 14 day free trial.
The newspapers are nicely laid out and are easy to navigate. Everything is broken down into sections. If an article has an image it is displayed along with the heading in the list of articles. The table of contents and next and previous article links are at the bottom of each page.
If you are the cheap type, you can set up Calibre to fetch news feeds from a large number of websites to get subscriptions for free. Calibre can creates ebooks from a website's RSS feed.
2 Page Landscape View
One of my favorite features with the Sony PRS-950 is you can choose to view two pages at a time in landscape mode. This works quite well and what's nice about it is that the sentences don't repeat at cut-off points as they do when viewing in regular landscape mode. The Daily Edition is well balance and is very comfortable to hold longwise.
The shorter width of the columns makes it easier to follow line to line than with regular landscape mode, and is less strenuous on the eyes because you aren't constantly moving your eyes back and forth across 6.5 inches of screen real estate.
Sony PRS-950 Cons
Overall, there's not much to complain about. The font sizes are the same across all three new Sony Readers and seem best-fitted on the PRS-950's larger screen, but there aren't any options to change font type or change line spacing or any other customizing options that many other ereaders offer.
You can change font type and font size for DRM free ebooks, but it does involve a little technical work to manually modify the book's CSS file with Calibre and add fonts to the Sony PRS-950's root folder. Learn how »
The addition of a web browser is nice, but the limitations are disappointing. It would be nice to be able to download ebooks in supported formats and use the browser over 3G. Sony's ebook store doesn't have as many titles as other ebook stores either, and prices are often higher.
At the end of the day, the Sony PRS-950 is an enticing ereader with its large screen, advanced touchscreen features, metal construction, wireless connectivity, and attractive design.
The main hurdle the Daily Edition presents is the price. It's one of the more expensive ebook readers on the current market, although it's hard to categorize because of the unique screen size. Comparing it to the smaller 3G Kindle and Nook that both sell for under $200 is a tough comparison.
Whether it's worth the extra cash all depends on personal preference. Other than the wireless and 2 page landscape mode, the smaller and more inexpensive PRS-650 has all the same features.
Sony PRS-950 Review: Specs
- Display: 7-inch E Ink Pearl touchscreen with 16 levels of gray scale, 600 × 1,024 pixels.
- Battery Life: Approx. 20,000 page turns; 10 days with wireless on, 22 with it off.
- Dimensions: 5 1/8 × 7 7/8 × 13/32 inches (128 × 200 × 9.6 mm).
- Weight: 9.6 ounces (273 grams).
- Memory: 2GB, plus SD card slot and Pro Duo card slot.
- Built-in WiFi and free 3G.
- Basic web browser (WiFi only).
- Formats: Adobe ePub and PDF, BBeB, TXT, RTF, JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP, MP3, AAC.
- Built-in audio player, 3.5mm headphone jack.
- 2 English dictionaries, 10 translation.
- Comes in Silver.
- On-screen note-taking and highlighting capabilities.
- Daily newspaper deliveries.
- Sells for $299.