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Amazon Kindle 3 vs Sony PRS-950 Review

Updated on June 23, 2011

Which ereader is the best?

I've been doing a lot of research into ereaders lately, annoying my friends and family by borrowing theirs for a few hours so I can see what the differences are and which is the right one for me.

Two of the top ereaders at the moment are the Amazon Kindle 3 and the Sony PRS-950. They are actually similar in a lot of ways, and they both use e-ink technology on pearl screens, which make them better for reading text than some other tablet-like devices, such as the iPad and iPad 2.

Let's take a look at some of the differences between the Kindle 3 and the Sony PRS-950:

The Sony PRS-950

Here are a few of the things that I thought the PRS-950 did better than the Kindle 3:

  • 7 inch screen instead of 6 inch screen. That might not seem like a huge difference, but remember that screen size is measured on the diagonal, so the Sony actually has 28% more screen real estate than the Kindle.
  • Touchscreen. This is a biggie. I have found myself on more than one occasion trying to touch something on the Kindle screen, only to remember it doesn't have that function.
  • Great for note-taking or doodling on ebooks.
  • Quality aluminum construction. It just felt like better build quality in my hands.
  • User development community. There are a lot of folks working to create tweaks to make the PRS-950 even better. The Kindle 3 is more locked down and any significant chances come from Amazon.

And now some PRS-950 cons:

  • It's expensive. The best price I found was $299. That significantly more than the Kindle 3 -- even the more expensive version with 3G. Sony has to charge a higher price because they don't get a big cut of the ebook sales like Amazon. Amazon can sell their Kindles at cost or even at a loss, because they know Kindle owners will buy lots of ebooks from Amazon.
  • Fonts aren't as crisp. When comparing the same pdf file on both ereaders, the Kindle looks fantastic while the PRS-950 fonts look a little fuzzy around the edges.
  • Less zoom options. This can be a problem with some pdf files, which need to be scaled down for the smaller screen. The Kindle 3 of course needs more zoom options because it has a smaller screen, so maybe this isn't as big of a deal as I imagine.
  • Notes cannot be exported natively. Not out of the box. The Sony e-reader community is working on it, and they have figured this out on other Sony e-readers.

The Amazon Kindle 3

The Kindle 3 is much cheaper than the PRS-950, but it still does some things better, including the following:

  • Crisp fonts. I don't know how they do it, but even on pdf files they look amazing.
  • Incredible battery life. I'm amazed that an electronics device can work for so long on one charge.
  • Fonts are changeable in some file formats. Unfortunately, pdf is not one of them.

Some things I didn't like about the Kindle 3 included:

  • No touchscreen. This isn't just about convenience, because the way that it chops up some pdf pages makes them unreadable when using a scroller, where if it was touchscreen the page would flow and wouldn't need the e-reader to cut it into sections.
  • Pictures are a problem in many formats, including pdfs. If you like reading graphic novels on an ereader, I can't recommend a Kindle 3.
  • The keyboard is large and clunky.
  • Amazon is opposed to the third-party development community. They want to control what can be done with their devices. You should be aware of this before buying one.

So is the Kindle 3 or Sony PRS-950 the better e-reader?

In the end, the Sony PRS-950 is the better e-reading device, but there is a significant cost difference. Look at the pros and cons of each device and if you think they're close for your needs on everything except price, the Kindle 3 might be the best pick for you. As of this writing, the difference in cost was over $100.

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