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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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Kindle 3 vs Sony PRS-650 Review

The eInk has hardly dried on Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle 3 Review (link) as Sony (NYSE:SNE) has announced long expected and overdue update of PRS eReaders.

  • Sony PRS-650 is an upgrade of older Sony PRS-600 Touch Edition, featuring same 6″ 600×800 eInk Pearl screen as Kindle 3 but with touch layer. It is available in Black and Red colors. Expected price is $229.00
  • Sony PRS–350 SC Pocket Edition is an upgrade of Sony PRS-300 Pocket Edition. It features 5″ 600×800 eInk Pearl screen with touch. Because of transition to touchscreen controls, PRS-350 reduced size and number of buttons and became noticeably smaller. PRS-350 comes in Pink and Silver colors. It’s going to be prices at $179.00
  • Sony PRS-950 SC Daily Edition is an upgraded version of PRS-900. Currently there is little information about it even on official Sony website. It is knows that it will feature 7″ latest generation Pearl eInk with touch, 3G and WiFi wireless. Judging by the photos it will be roughly 7.7 x 5.0 x 0.42 inches large which makes it slightly shorter and thinner than its predecessor. I assume it’s also going to be somewhat lighter. Its estimated release date is November 2010 with price point of $299.00. It’s unclear what body color selection will be. For now only silver color seems to be available.

I’ve added new Sony readers to the interactive size comparison tool so you can get an idea how large are these devices relatively to one another.

Kindle 3 vs Sony PRS-650/350/950 Specifications

Spec / Device Kindle 3 Sony PRS-650 Sony PRS-350 Sony PRS-950*
Price WiFi – $139 / 3G + WiFi – $189 $229 $189 $299
Size 7.50″ x 4.80″ x 0.335″ 6.62″ x 4.75″ x 0.406″ 5.75″ x 4.13″ x 0.343″ 7.70″ x 5.00″ x 0.420″
Weight WiFi 7.8oz / 3G + WiFi – 8.2oz** 7.58 oz 5.47 oz ???
Screen 6″ 600×800 6″ 600×800 w/ touch 5″ 600×800 w/ touch 7″ 600×1024 w/ touch
Battery life no wireless – 1 month

WiFi – 3 weeks

3G – 10 days

2 weeks 2 weeks ???
Wireless WiFi only or 3G + WiFi None None 3G + WiFi
Storage 3.3GB user accessible 1.4GB user accessible

expandable up to 32GB

1.4Gb user accessible ???
Formats AZW

PDF, TXT

MOBI, PRC (no-DRM)

JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF

MP3, AAX, AA

HTML, DOC (via conversion)

ePub

PDF (DRM), TXT, RTF

JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF

MP3, AAC

DOC(X) (via conversion)

ePub

PDF (DRM), TXT, RTF

JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF

ePub

PDF (DRM), TXT, RTF

JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF

MP3, AAC

DOC(X) (via conversion)

Notes:

* Little information is available about Sony PRS-950 at this point so this data is based on estimates and may be incorrect or incomplete

** Although official specifications state 8.7 oz weight for Kindle, it actually weights 8.2 oz. Although I don’t have any of the new Sony eReaders to weigh, PRS-600 that I have weighs exactly as per specification – 10.1 oz.

Sony PRS-350/650/950

Sony PRS-350/650/950

Entire lineup of Sony PRS devices will feature touchscreen. In previous models Sony used resistive touchscreen that was overlayed on top of eInk. This resulted in significantly lower screen contrast than any other eReader (see Kindle 3 screen contrast comparison). This time around Sony is using infrared touchscreen technology. In a nutshell it consists of pairs of infrared LEDs and photosensors located around the edge of the screen. LEDs continuously shoot invisible beams into sensors (like in James Bond movies). Microcontroller analyzes which LED-sensor pairs are blocked and computes touch coordinates based on that. Needless to say that such system consumes a lot of power compared to other touchscreen technologies or good old buttons. This will translate into shorter battery life. The upside is having convenience of a touchscreen and excellent contrast that newest generation of eInk displays provide.

Sony devices became smaller and thinner than their predecessors:

  • PRS-650 is noticeably shorter than Kindle 3 because since it lacks keyboard but it’s just a notch thicker. It’s also lighter either of Kindle models. 6″ eInk Pearl screen provides the same reading area, resolution and contrast as Kindle 3.
  • PRS-350 is smaller and lighter still. This however comes at a cost of smaller 5″ screen. The screen has the same pixel resolution though is the same. So if you eyes are keen enough you will get the same amount of detail on it.
  • PRS-950 is going to be only slightly larger and thicker than Kindle 3 while featuring larger 7″ screen. In absence of other data I will guess that it will have the same 600 x1024 pixel resolution as PRS-900. At the moment it’s unclear how much will it weigh.

Because of size reduction, all Sony devices transitioned from mini-USB to micro-USB connectors (same as Kindle) and got rid of separate non-standard charging connectors altogether. Perhaps with some luck you would be able to charge via USB cable and read at the same time (unlike PRS-600).

Reader software that wasn’t updated for more than a year (as opposed to Kindle software that received updates and features on a regular basis) got an overhaul with some features added:

  • Number of available font sizes increased from 5 to 6
  • One more English look-up dictionary was added along with 10 translation dictionaries. It’s unclear at the moment which languages are supported for translation or how will it work.

I will use my Sony PRS-600 review from last November as a baseline to gauge improvements in different areas.

Kindle 3 Weight

Kindle 3 Weight

My largest complaint about PRS-600 back then was extremely poor screen contrast. Since PRS-650 will use exactly same display as Amazon Kindle 3 with nothing on top of it, Sony and Kindle 3 are tied in this department. The end result will only depend on the font handling in the software. It can make a huge difference as shown by Nook vs. Kindle 2 comparison example.

After that comes complicated and unintuitive software both on the device and PC. Getting 3 autoplay pop-ups (4 if you use both expansion cards) is ridiculous. Especially since one of the drives contains installation files for PC that you only need once. Wouldn’t it have been better to mount a single drive on PC and map memory cards and installer files there as folders? PRS-650 features page mentions “Intuitive Reader Library software makes it easy to download eBooks, manage your collection, and transfer titles to your Reader Touch Edition™. Reader Library software works with both PC and Mac.” Unfortunately for Sony so did PRS-600 feature page. Unless their software has improved much more dramatically than it’s description this round will definitely go to Kindle 3. It would be next to impossible to improve already easy and seamless download process on Amazon Kindle. It wouldn’t have been hard for Sony to match it but it doesn’t look like it happened. The only product in Sony eReader line that can offer the same ease getting books is PRS-900/950.

There were also smaller things like, changing the font size taking forever on Sony and the fact that after gathering dust on my shelf for one week I would find PRS-600 with completely drained battery and therefore unusable for 3 hours while it recharges.

My largest complaint against Kindle 3 is small paging buttons and uncomfortable position of the 5-way controller. As I now hold Sony PRS-600 and Kindle 3 in my hands I actually find turning pages on Sony more comfortable than Kindle 3 despite (or maybe because) of Sony’s larger size.

PDF support was one of the areas where PRS-600 clearly outdid Amazon Kindle. Since there is little room for improvement for Sony for the sake of this review we’ll assume that PRS-650 will have same PDF viewing features as PRS-600. Although Kindle has greatly improved in this department, table of contents and document links still don’t work. Perhaps it will get addressed in some future software update but for now this round goes to Sony.

As far a music goes, each device has it’s strengths and weaknesses:

  • Amazon Kindle has built-in speakers, while Sony does not
  • Sony has a fully functional MP3 player software while Kindle can only sequentially cycle though audio tracks
  • Kindle can read your content out loud with text-to-speech while Sony can not
  • Kindle fully supports DRM-audio books from Audible.com while Sony is limited to DRM-free audio content

So it really depends on what you intend to do with the device. If you are an audio book fan – definitely go with Kindle since it can play DRMed audio books and turn almost any text book into audiobook. If you want your eBook reader to also be your MP3 player – go with Sony. If you already have MP3 player that supports audiobooks and prefer to use that then apart from text-to-speech support on Kindle, it doesn’t really matter.

Because of built-in speakers and “Voice guide” menus Kindle is now a fully accessible device for blind readers.

While it’s easy to scribble notes on PRS-600, when it came to typing on on-screen keyboard, it was a much worse experience than typing on Kindle keyboard. So unless this aspect improved greatly, Kindle will win the note-taking round. With recent software update Kindle also allows you to share your highlights and annotations via Twitter and Facebook.

Since none of the Sony readers have web-browsers (with only a slight chance of PRS-950 getting one) and Kindle 3 got an excellent WebKit-based browser that can load even complex AJAX websites such as desktop version of Gmail and said browser works over free 3G connection compliments of Amazon, this round clearly goes to Amazon Kindle.

While Kindle case is made of plastic, Sony devices feature aluminum bodies and come in different colors.

This being said 99% of readers spend 99% of their time reading books rather than browsing the web, annotating or listening to music. So reading experience is what eReaders should be judged on. With identical screens and comparable (though slightly better in Sony) ergonomics reading thought he book should be very comfortable on either device.

However getting books to read is a separate story. While both devices can store thousands of books, there are millions of books out there and I never know which one I’m will want to read next or if I’ll finish reading another Dark Tower book series and would want to read the next one or will quit reading it in the middle and would want to read something else. This is why I consider  global 3G wireless connectivity as a “must have” feature of good eReader. WiFi may be also acceptable for people who don’t travel much or have smartphones that can serve as mobile hotspots.

Of Sony readers only PRS-950 will have wireless connectivity. And while it maybe comparable in some features to Kindle 3, it will cost $110 more which is significant given the fact that eReader prices are flirting wit $99 threshold right now.

In the matter of book selection, it’s hard to tell a clear leader. Amazon, Sony and B&N book selections largely overlap but there are some exceptions so before buying an eReader, check out Amazon Kindle Store, B&N and Sony Book store to make sure that the books you care about are available on the device that you are buying.

With Sony PRS-650 you can the option of library eBooks in DRM-ed PDF. While it may sound nice, my local library doesn’t have a great selection of eBooks available to be checked out. I don’t know if it’s just my library or general state of things.

Kindle 3 Review

Kindle 3 White And Graphite

Kindle 3 White And Graphite

Update: Since Kindle 3 is released and I got some hands on experience with it, you should check out this Kindle 3 Review and this follow up post for more up to date information.

Since the original Kindle 3 release announcement I had some to carefully examine all of the news and press releases and compile this comprehensive Kindle 3 Review.

Although Kindle 3 rumors  have been circulating for some time, Fall 2010 was the widely anticipated release date. Rumors intensified when Kindle 2 became sold out on Amazon.com one day prior to the official announcement that came on July 28th, 2010.

In a nutshell Kindle 3 (although Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) never used this name) comes with following features:

Kindle 3 Screen

3rd generation Kindle comes with the same next generation eInk Pearl screen that is found in recently released Kindle DX Graphite but in 6″ form factor. The screen features the same 600×800 resolution with 16 shades of gray. Partially due to new screen technology and partially due to a software update, new Kindle will feature 20% faster page turns than the 2nd generation Kindle.

Kindle 3 Fonts

On top of some software improvements that made the default font look crisper, Amazon has introduced 2 additional font options: condensed Caecilia and Sans Serif. But what is more important, finally Kindle will natively support a broader range of characters:

  • Cyrillic used in Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Tajik and dozens of other languages
  • Japanese
  • Traditional and simplified Chinese
  • Korean
  • Greek

This means that I can finally stop updating Kindle Unicode Font Hack that with time and numerous Kindle software and hardware update has become a conundrum of patches, jailbreaks and uninstallers. It also means that I would be able to republish Kindle Russian Dictionary using native Cyrillic characters rather than transliteration. Since it will not be the only book published with non-Latin characters, the updated font will inevitable make their way to all other Kindle versions.

Kindle 3 Size and Weight

Kindle 3 comes 21% smaller and 17% lighter than Kindle 2. You can select multiple eReaders (by holding the Ctrl key and clicking) from the list below to see how they compare by size.

As you can see, Kindle 3 is smaller than Kindle 2 but slightly larger than nook or Sony PRS-600. Both of these readers however lack keyboard that allows them to be more compact. PRS-300 is smaller still but it has a smaller 5″ reading area too so it wouldn’t really be a fair comparison.

This reduction in size didn’t come free though. Paging buttons are much smaller than they used to be and numerical keyboard row is merged with the top letter row the same way as it is on Kindle DX.

Kindle 3 Storage and Connectivity

Starting from 2nd generation Kindle Amazon has eliminated external memory card storage in their eReaders. Kindle 3 is no exception. Internal flash memory size has doubled compared to Kindle 2. Now entire line-up of Kindle readers features 4GB of internal flash memory for storing books. Not that it really matters: even without global 3G connectivity 2 gigabytes of text will take a very-very long while for anyone to read even with 20% faster page turns. 3G connectivity pretty much eliminates the need for large internal storage altogether barring the scenario of solo around the world sailboat trip.

So far WiFi has been a feature exclusive to Barnes&Noble nook until now. New Kindle will automatically take advantage of 3G WiFi hotspots if they are found nearby. This would provide faster download speeds, ability to download books in places without AT&T coverage and save Amazon money. Amazon used to pay $0.15 per megabyte downloaded to Sprint (and probably still pays similar amount to AT&T). I’m almost positive that it would be possible to configure Kindle to connect to any other wireless network – open or encrypted (provided you know the credentials).

There is a Wi-Fi only version. It is $50 cheaper and 0.2oz lighter. Personally I would prefer to pay $50 upfront for the convenience of being able to download books almost anywhere hassle free and automatically getting my periodicals without having to manually power-manage the WiFi or worrying about finding a hotspot. It should be possible to use Kindle WiFi together with Android phone (like Sprint EVO 4G) or any other device that acts as a mobile hotspot. Any way you look at it – WiFi is a welcome and long awaited addition to Kindle feature set.

Kindle 3 Battery Life

It looks like Amazon has pushed the battery life even further. Previous versions of Kindle used to work 7 days with 3G on and “several weeks” with 3G off. In my personal experience “several weeks” was 1 month. Now Amazon officially states 1 month of battery life with wireless off. So perhaps it would be even longer in reality.

Kindle 3 Browser

It was nice to be able to browser Wikipedia via 3G connection for free, but apart from that and running the Amazon Kindle Book store Kindle 2 experimental browser was hardly useful. The newest Kindle comes with new Webkit-based browser that hopefully would be more responsive and usable on websites with complex layouts. I own and actively use B&N nook and I can honestly say that nook browser is excellent. That being said I hardly ever use either Kindle or nook browser. 4″ smartphone screen offers much better browsing experience than 6″ eInk. eBook reader were built for linear reading and in this eInk excels. Web-browsing is a very random non-linear process. In all likelihood 4″ screen despite it’s small size is going to contain less text than you are going to read before navigating to next page via some link.

Another novel feature – is ‘browser article mode’. Kindle browser will use some experimental heuristics to eliminate everything but the main page text, distilling the web-page into something similar to newspaper article.

Kindle 3 File Formats

With new release the list of supported formats didn’t change. AZW, TXT, PDF, PRC, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP are natively supported. DOC, DOCX, RTF and HTML are supported via online conversion tool. This list may not be final since new formats (hopefully someday EPUB too) can be added via software update as was the case with PDF support on Kindle 2.

Kindle 3 PDF Support

The latest Kindle offers the same level of PDF support as Kindle DX Graphite. You can pan and zoom PDF files, annotate them and do dictionary lookups.

Other Kindle 3 Features

On top of all this Kindle 3 gets voice-accessible menus and microphone. Voice accessible menus (Kindle will read aloud all menu items) along with text-to-speech should take make Kindle a fully accessible device that can be used in a classroom.

As for the microphone. It is there but it is not mentioned in official specification. Therefore it’s reserved for a future use. Most likely it will enable adding voice notes or recording classroom sessions. Some reviewers have speculated on voice-activated page turns and hands-free reading but I personally find such scenarios unlikely.

Social features like Facebook and Twitter integration and sharing favorite passages have carried over from previous Kindle versions. Personally I find “favorite passages” to be the most useful feature. It really adds to the book reading experience and is not intrusive. I have to confess that I selfishly use this feature while not highlighting any passages myself.

Final verdict

Should you buy Kindle 3? If you love reading – Hell, yeah! It’s shaping up to be the best eReader as far a features to price ratio is concerned. Amazon has been developing eBook Readers for years now and each product they release is better that the ones before (which were good to begin with). Personally I already pre-ordered mine so you are sure to see a hands on review soon after I receive it.