Sony Reader PRS-505 and Amazon Kindle 2

This is a guest post from my friend sharing his experience using Sony Reader PRS-505 for 2 years.

I recently gave him an Amazon Kindle to test and he agreed to share his thoughts about both of them on Blog Kindle. Even though both devices have been on the market for quite a while lots of people don’t have good idea what are the differences between them from a regular user point of view.

Below are his impressions from both:

Hi folks, this is not going to be an official Kindle vs Sony Reader review so don’t expect professional advice from me – just my impressions.

I purchased Sony Reader PRS-505 couple years ago when it just became available. So there wasn’t much choice during that time. Even Kindle wasn’t available back then. I haven’t upgraded it since then – I guess it was enough for my needs so far.

Right from the beginning I wan’t to post a disclaimer that since I used Sony Reader a lot I know lots of its negative and positive sides and I just had Kindle 2 for several days which was not enough to get complete impression of it. So consider my post as Sony Reader PRS-505 review with side comments about Kindle.

Amazon Kindle 2 and Sony PRS-505 Reader Side by Side

Amazon Kindle 2 and Sony PRS-505 Reader Side by Side

Sony Reader PRS-505 positive sides

2 years already passed and device is still functioning. Our Sony Reader was used for 2 years in quite harsh travel conditions and I still can read on it. I read on Blog Kindle that Kindle devices have a tendency to die during air travel. My Sony Reader survived lots of air trips.

It can read PDF files (I know lots of other readers can do it too but back then it was a unique feature). Since I read lots of old books in russian language PDF was the best way for me to transfer books on Sony Reader (I know that there are some hacks may be available to add language support there but encoding book to PDF is easier for me). Until recently I had to use CutePDF printer installed into Microsoft Word to print documents into PDF and it required some skill to make it print to the right page size for Sony Reader. But now there are several sites on internet which provide PDF files with russian books both in Sony Reader and Kindle formats.

I can read blogs on it too and for free. Even though it doesn’t have 3G connection like Kindle there is a possibility to read blogs and some websites on Sony Reader and do it free. Well not 100% free because you’ll be paying with headache :). But using Calibre software you can transfer 100’s of blogs to your Sony Reader within reasonable time. You just need to connect it to computer once a day and press Start button. For 20 blogs that I follow it takes 30 minutes. So if you have 3-5 blogs you like to read it will take less than 10 minutes. Negative side of it is when Sony Reader has too much complex information in its storage it will start to freeze during boot. And unfreezing it could take days (I’m not exaggerating here). You need to completely discharge it sometimes to get rid of the freeze. But good moment is that I was able to unfreeze it every time it froze.

Before going to negative sides I want to notice that I never upgraded firmware on my Sony Reader PRS-505. So I guess some glitches may have been patched by Sony. But I think 90% of users have no idea what is firmware and how to upgrade it and another 9% know it but have no desire to do it.

Sony Reader PRS-505 negative sides

Dead time while charging: one of the big disappointments with Sony Reader (not sure if it applies to Kindle) is dead time during charging. When it is completely discharged and you want to start reading a book you need to wait for an hour until it actually boots. Before that all you can enjoy is a red light on top of it notifying you that at least something is happening. But it really prevents you from reading when you want – because there is never guarantee that device is charged enough to read.

Faster battery drain: While using Kindle 2 that Andrei borrowed me I also noticed that when Kindle 2 is off it doesn’t drain battery while Sony Reader tends to do it and within a week I usually have to recharge it. Maybe it is just my unit but it is definitely a problem.

You need to check on it when it is charging: and if you don’t do it you will loose the charge. So here is a story. When you plug in Sony Reader to computer USB port it starts charging and when charge is strong enough to turn on the display it does so. The problem is when display is on in Sony Reader it drains the battery and if you turn off the computer to which it is connected it will start discharging unless you turn it off manually. So every time you charge it you really have to watch it. I would say it is one of the most disappointing problems with it.

PDF files problems: Yes it is also a negative side. After 500 page it starts to turn pages very very very slowly… I don’t know what the problem is there but it is better to split large PDF into two files rather than wait for 2-3 seconds for a page to turn.

Freezing on complex stuff: When I tried to upload 30 blogs from Calibre it started to have boot problems from time to time. Couple times I thought that we lost it.

Similar Features:

Weight is about the same. Kindle feels slightly different as it is thinner but wider and longer.

Not much difference in display quality. Both eInk screens look the same to me in size, contrast and readability.

Kindle positive impressions

One of the main reasons why I borrowed Kindle 2 from Andrei was its dictionary support. My wife studies English and she needs a dictionary while reading English books. With Sony Reader I haven’t found any solution to on screen dictionary. I know that Sony has a touch screen version now but I weren’t able to confirm that it has a dictionary. Kindle 2 has a great feature where you can move the cursor to the word on the screen you want to translate and you’ll see a translation within a second. This makes Kindle 2 a clear winner for our next purchase unless some reader could do it cheaper or better.

Amazon Kindle 2 Translation Feature

Amazon Kindle 2 Translation Feature

I also learned that you can send files that you want to read right from your computer to Kindle devices. This is a great feature even though I was a bit disappointed that I need to pay 15 cents for each transfer.

Kindle negative impressions

Wireless charges. I get this negative impression from almost every modern device like iPhone, iPad, Kindle. They all charge me for 3G traffic. It is more or less ok for me to pay $30 for unlimited traffic on iPhone. But I don’t want to pay additional $30 for iPad and then more dollars to read blogs on Kindle. I want a single unlimited data plan that I purchase from wireless provider like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc. that could be used for any 3G device I own. Unless they will figure out how to do it 3G option will be a nice but rarely used feature for me on such devices.

Here is all that I can say about both devices so far. Once I get more time with Kindle I’ll try to write some more.

Mini-comparison to Sony PRS-505

Kindle DX, Kindle 2, Sony PRS-505

Kindle DX, Kindle 2, Sony PRS-505

It so happened that I purchased Sony PRS-505 for my Dad. I chose Sony eReader because my Dad living outside WhisperNet coverage and having very little knowledge of English language (and therefore no interest in any books that are sold on effectively negated all benefits of Amazon Kindle.

On the other hand Sony eBook reader is extensively used by Russian community so on top of Unicode fonts there’s also complete localization of UI available in Russian (and in many other languages). A lot of credit for this should be given to Igor Skochinsky who also made Unicode Font Hack possible by figuring out a way to create custom updates for Amazon Kindle.

Therefore I’ve had a chance to briefly compare the Sony reader with both Kindle 2 and Kindle DX side-by-side. I would like to share my impressions on the subject. It is in no way a complete review – just an opinion. But perhaps someone will find it useful.

Exterior: Although I found Sony PRS-505 more visually pleasing than Kindle, I found pagination buttons of Kindle more comfortable. This is kind of a big deal since flipping pages constitutes 95% of eBook reader usage. It is nice that Sony eReader comes with protective cover included. I also purchased cover with light prism. It looked really cool all the way up to the moment when I turned it on. Then I found that it somewhat reduces text contrast. On the bright side, it leaks much less light than Mighty Bright XtraFlex that I use with Kindle. I also found 10 numerical buttons on PRS-505 handy and highly functional.

Display: Both Kindle 2 and PRS-505 sport 6″ eInk displays of the same resolution of 600×800. They differ in the number of supported colors: 16 for Kindle vs. 8 for Sony and in contrast which I subjectively found to be higher in the Sony reader.

Storage: Kindle 2 sports 1.4Gb of internal flash memory storage usable for books, while Sony device has significantly less (192Mb) but compensates for it by having 2 expansion slots that can potentially add 10Gb of additional storage. Plus you have the ability to swap memory cards that you carry in your pocket making the storage potentially unlimited. Not that it really matters because as I’ve shown in Kindle 2 vs. Kindle DX comparison, you’ll need to spend around $8,500 to completely fill up 1.4Gb of Kindle storage with books. So unless you use your reader for viewing manga as collection of JPEG files or go on solo many times around the world boat trips without a computer you really should not care either way.

Software: Sony seems to resume from sleep mode faster than Kindle. It also offers more in terms of organizing your book collection. Latter is a major pain point and probably the most requested feature by Kindle users. I would very much like Kindle to do a better job at organizing the books I purchased. There really is no reason for this feature to not be there given that Kindles have fully functional keyboard that would make naming collections and tags really easy. On the other hand Kindle sports some features that are not found in its Sony competitor like text-to-speech and web-browser.

PDF Support: While Kindle 2 only supports PDF via conversion, Kindle DX has a native support like the Sony does. While I didn’t have a chance to explore in detail PDF capabilities of Sony PRS-505 like I did with Kindle DX, I did try one PDF file. I have to admit that Sony does a better job at supporting PDF than Kindle because PRS-505 supports internal hyperlinks and table of contents as well as reflowing text to accommodate different font sizes. 9.7″ screen size of Kindle DX that can also work in landscape mode┬áprovides a saving straw because it makes reflowing unnecessary for many PDF files.

PC Software and book buying experience: I didn’t install the Sony software as my Dad would have no use for it (he only plans to read Russian classics that are freely available on the Internet) and I didn’t need to install Amazon software because there isn’t any. Although it may seem unfair (since I haven’t tried the Sony way) I’ll say that comparing book buying experience for Kindle and Sony would be like beating a dead horse. It’s the main selling point of Amazon Kindle and it’s what made it so successful.

Conclusion: Overall I liked the Sony device even tough it’s soon going to be outdated by newer models some of which will have touchscreen (another highly anticipated Kindle feature). Sony seems to have better software and both Amazon and Sony have strong and weak points in ergonomics. If I could have the same book buying experience and selection on Sony as I have with Amazon Kindle, I’d probably go with Sony eReader. However since things are the way they are, I’m staying with Kindle and my dad will use Russian-localized version of PRS-505 to read classics freely available from sites like

P.S.: I’ve alredy finished this comparison review when I discovered a new aspect of these devices I wasn’t aware of. Kindle turned out to be much better for non-English speakers who want to learn the language than Sony PRS-505 due to built-in dictionary and text-to-speech capability. My sister started reading English books with intent of enriching her active vocabulary. Built-in dictionary lookup saved her tons of time each time the ran into an unfamilar word. Text-to-speech gave her a very good idea of how each word sounds as she read along with the device. So Kindle although lacking free Internet connectivity outside the US can still be perfect for some foreign users.

When I get my hands on newer Sony eReader models I’ll see how they stack up against the Kindle and post some reviews as well.