A couple of weeks ago, a posted a rather positive review of the Sony Pocket Edition. I still believe everything I wrote in that review. However, being a gadget guy, despite how much I liked the Pocket Edition (PRS 300), I couldn't resist the tempation to try out the new Sony Daily Edition (PRS-900). And I lucked out when ordering, as the Sony Style website had a brief window on December 24th where the Daily Edition was actually in stock. I ordered it that evening, and it arrived on the 29th. On Dec 25, the shipping date was already back to Jan 15, 2010. So yep, I was lucky. Enough of the preliminaries, on to the review.
With the 7 inch e-ink screen, I expected the Daily Edition (to save typing, henceforth the DE) to be bigger, and feel heavier. Without the front cover attached, it didn't feel much heavier to me than the Pocket Edition (the PE, going forward in this review). With the front cover on, the DE is definitely heavier, but also definitely not a problem. The DE is a bit different than the other Sony readers, as on the DE, the back also serves as the back cover..it is textured to have the same leather like feel as the front cover. So, the process of putting the DE in the cover just means that you attach the front cover by pushing 3 pegs into their holes. Kinda weird, but effective. The DE also comes with a more protective hardshell Case logic case. I don't see me using that extra case daily, just when I plan to travel and need the extra protection. I will say, however, that when the DE is in the bigger case, it has a nice sturdy feel. The DE, like all e-ink readers is pretty thin. If my hand is tired, actually using the thicker Case Logic case makes the DE easier on my hands (the extra weight is negligible). I could see me actually reading with the DE in the Case Logic case every once in awhile. The other bonus, besides the extra case, is that the DE comes with a wall charger, in addition to the USB charger. This means you don't have to go buy the expensive Sony Reader charger, or the less expensive PSP charger. Oh, and it also has a removable battery. Yeah!
Next the screen. This was my biggest worry about the DE..wondering if the glare was going to be a problem like it is on the Sony Touch Edition (the TE). I never owned a TE, so I can't compare too well, other than I know I wasn't too happy with the glare when I checked out the TE in Best Buy and Borders. Overall, the glare on the DE doesn't bother me, and I don't think its as bad as the glare on the TE. There is definitely a glare in certain lighting situations (usually meaning I can sorta see my face reflected on the screen). The bigger issue for me, the one that almost made me return it, is that I have a hard time using it in lower lighting situations (where the Pocket Edition was still readable just fine). The screen and text just seems a bit darker. What I found was that I really needed a book light in almost ALL reading situations..at least in my home (your mileage may vary). We don't keep a bunch of bright lights on all day, and while the lighting is fine for a normal paperback book and the Pocket Edition, I still needed a book light to either cancel out the glare, or brighten the screen enough for reading. While it is kinda a pain to always need a light in my house, using the light makes the screen of the Daily Edition to be just as readable as the Pocket Edition (which was a bit surprising). In the end, while bummed about needing a light 90% of the time I read at home, I decided the other benefits of the DE were worth it. And if you care, I found 2 lights that work pretty well, both by Mighty Bright. The XtraFlex 2 is nice and bright, but a bit heavier since it takes 3 AAA batteries. The Travel Flex is nice and light, with the tradeoff being the 1 AAA battery doesn't seem to make the light as bright (unless its just using a weaker LED light). Most of the time, I find myself using the Travel Flex, as the lighter weight is more important, and the light it gives off is just enough.
Another selling point for me was that the Daily Edition, and the Sony Ebook store, support DRM'd Adobe epub (the closest thing we have to a common format, at least for now). This gives you the option of buying books from several online stores. The DE seems to handle the epub format just fine, and I like that it has 6 font sizes (though anything above Medium is usually too large for me, and I end up mostly using Small or Medium). I know a lot of folks want to know how PDF files look on the DE, but I haven't taken the time to try any, sorry. One other thing I like A LOT, is the 2 page view. When the reader is in landscape mode, you have the option of switching to a 2 page at a time view. Yeah, the screen isn't very tall, but the 2 page view really makes it feel more like you are reading a book, at least to me. I didn't really expect this feature to do much for me, but it turned out to be 1 of the big selling factors for me, since I primarily just read fiction on the device. The DE has a touch screen which you can use to turn the pages, in addition to the buttons at the button. I usually use both methods. Sometimes I have to swipe 2-3 times for the page to turn, but I think this is my issue, and not the reader. While I don't expect to use the dictionary very often, it is nice to have. And you have the choice of using 2 different built-in dictionaries. I imagine, though don't know for sure, that you could probably add your own dictionary somehow.
The other big feature (in addition to those described above) that the Daily Edition has is the built-in 3G service for browsing the Sony Store directly on the device. For the most part, I think this works great. At times it can be a bit slow, even though I have a good 3G connection here. I really LOVE how the store browsing experience works on the Daily Edition, despite the occasional slowness. For some reason, I enjoy browsing the Sony Store on my Reader more than I enjoy browsing ANY other online ebookstore via a browser. I can't really put my finger on why, other than there is something nice about browsing on the same device you read. I know that reason sounds silly, but there is just something about the experience on the Daily Edition that just works. The layout is nice and trim, but there are lots of ways of viewing content in the store. You can browse subjects, sections, newspapers, and bundles. In addition, when you are viewing a book, you can click the author's name for more titles, or select from the following: "browse similar", "more by this author", "recently viewed". There are also breadcrumbs at the top of the page, so you can browse for more specific subjects if you would like. You can search, and also add books to your wishlist. Book downloads seem to be pretty quick. And if you aren't using the store, the 3G signal goes into standby mode to save your battery, though you can also just turn the 3G off completely if you would like. I haven't yet tried to order a newspaper, but will do that soon, just to see how it looks on the device. I have run into 2 crashes while using the store however, and both times were during the buying process. The screen just went blank as the device turned itself off and rebooted. I need to post this in the MobileRead forums to see if anyone else has experienced this. Otherwise, I found the bookstore experience on the device to greatly exceed my expectations.
Overall, I have found the Sony Daily Edition to be a pretty fantastic device. I didn't really expect to like it enough to keep it over the Sony Pocket Edition, but boy was I wrong. I liked the extra screen real estate, and the 2 page view is just awesome. Add on the ability to browse the store and download books without needing a computer, and you have a device, at least for me, that is a near perfect e-reader. At $399 it isn't cheap, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a version at $349..but without the wall charger and extra protective case. I know I didn't cover all the technical details, as this review is meant to be more of a "hands-on experience" kinda review. If you would like a more technical review, you can find a very good one at The EBook Reader here.
As I use more features of the Daily Edition, like newspapers and pdf files, I will post about them here on the blog. They won't be added to this review, though. I'll just make further, smaller posts to highlight more features of the Daily Edition as I find them.
If you any questions I didn't cover, feel free to post them in the comments and I'll do my best to give you an answer.
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