Sony Reader Daily Edition PRS-900BC eBook reader
Slow navigation hampers the Sony Reader Daily Edition
- Great multimedia features, wireless access to e-books and daily newspapers
- Store interface is clunky, newspaper support depends on network coverage quality
Sony's first wireless eBook reader, the Sony Reader Daily Edition PRS-900BC, is pricey but it offers first-rate newspaper support.
“A great read is a few seconds away,” proclaims the Sony Reader Daily Edition screen as it tries to connect to the Sony store--or to do anything else involving the unit’s wireless Internet access. Unfortunately, in my tests, I had to wait a lot longer than a few seconds.
Looking for the best eBook reader? Before you buy an Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad or Sony Reader check out our eBook reader comparison guide to find out the best features you should compare.
That’s too bad, because the Sony Reader Daily Edition (US$400) has content that I would love to download if doing so were less of a hassle. The Daily Edition is Sony’s first e-reader to provide wireless access to content (via AT&T’s 3G wireless network), and Sony has sought to capitalise on that feature by offering not just a bookstore but wireless delivery of newspapers, either by subscription or as single copies. Several big names in daily print U.S. journalism--including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal--are for sale in Sony's Reader Store, which you can access from the device.
But 3G wireless service was spotty at best in my home in downtown San Francisco. Whatever I tried to do, I received frequent messages advising me to check whether I’d turned on the wireless switch (you get both a hardware switch on the bottom edge of the device and a software setting for toggling the switch on). I managed to subscribe to the digital New York Times through the Sony store, but at first I couldn't download it: A message reported that the download had been interrupted and needed to be restarted from my account page. (In other locations, though the unit had fewer foibles, it was painfully slow to connect.)
By the way, you can transfer commercial and free content to the Reader after using the included USB cable to attach the device to your PC. In fact, this is the only way to patronise bookstores other than Sony’s (you can buy from any e-tailer that supports ePub with Adobe Content Server 4 encryption). Like other Sony Readers, the Daily Edition also supports AAC, BMP, GIF, JPEG, MP3, PDF, PNG, RTF, and TXT file formats, plus Sony’s old BBeB eBook format, in case you have older eBooks on hand.
Wireless services and a slightly larger (7-inch-diagonal) E-Ink screen that supports 16 shades of gray are the chief distinctions between the Daily Edition and the Touch Edition released last fall: The latter has a 6-inch-diagonal, eight-shade-grayscale display. But the extra real estate mainly extends the height of the Daily Edition, so it seems rather tall and narrow for an eBook reader. It’s also a tad fatter (0.6 inch thick) and heavier (12.75 ounces, including the included black cover) than the Touch Edition (0.4 inch thick and 10.1 ounces). Sony offers a cool cover with a built-in reading light for the Daily Edition, as a $60 option.
Like the Touch Edition, the Daily Edition has a touchscreen that you can manipulate with your fingers or with a stylus that slides into the device’s upper left corner. You can turn pages forward (but not backward) with a finger swipe, and you get to choose whether to use left-to-right or right-to-lift action for this purpose. This feature generally worked well, but the device was unresponsive to my swipes intermittently, and ultimately I found it less annoying to depend on the hardware page-turn buttons below the display.
You fire up the Reader by sliding a button on the upper left edge. Doing so brings up a Home screen with large icons, starting with a thumbnail cover of your most recent reading material on top and your other available books in the middle. At the bottom are icons for accessing your periodicals, other collections, and notes; and below them are tabs leading to the online bookstore, applications, and settings. Navigating among options seemed a bit slow, but not as slow as on other devices.
Sony supplies several built-in applications--an image viewer, a handwriting utility for capturing notes or doodles, a memo pad, a dictionary, and a music player. I particularly liked the handwriting utility, which did a nice job of interpreting my scrawls and sketching. The Reader remains primarily a reading device, but the included apps complement that primary purpose (the dictionary, for instance, can come in quite handy).
The device comes with a standard headphone jack, and music sounded good through my earbud headphones--this Reader, unlike some others, has enough oomph to deliver loud audio when turned all the way up. (Sony has indicated that it will introduce additional mobile apps going forward.)
I was less impressed by the shopping experience that the device permits. The store took a while to display, and when it came up, it was neither intuitively organised nor particularly attractive. At the top were several text links, some of them rather cryptic: Subjects (which lists general book categories), Sections (which includes things like bargain-priced books), Periodicals (newspapers, for example), and Bundles (several books sold together). Next to these was an unappealing reproduction of a New York Post front page.
Below came icons for various best-sellers and then for new arrivals. And below those, a small banner ad appeared. Sony clearly has some distance to go before it catches up with Amazon’s excellently organised Kindle storefront.
The newspaper features, though, are compelling. The longer display dimensions mean that you can view more newspaper headlines on a single page. And if you subscribe to a newspaper and leave the device’s wireless adapter turned on overnight, you’ll have the new day’s edition waiting for you when you wake up (Sony says that the online Wall Street Journal even offers an automatic afternoon update for its Daily Edition customers). You can also opt to keep several days’ worth of content loaded on your Daily Edition, so you can catch up on the news at your leisure (the device has approximately 2GB of internal memory and can accommodate an SD or Memory Stick expansion card if that’s not enough).
But if you do keep your wireless service active overnight, be sure to keep the charging adapter connected so you can replenish the power that the wireless radio gobbles up. Most crucially, you should check the strength of the AT&T 3G signal in your neighborhood, because the whole scheme depends on robust 3G service. It’s one thing to head over to an area with good reception when you feel like buying a book, but quite another thing to miss out on your daily newspaper because of poor AT&T reception. (And I do blame AT&T, since I had no trouble downloading content to my older, Sprint-provisioned Amazon Kindle 2.)
Oddly, even though the Daily Edition uses a GSM service, it doesn't currently support international roaming (which is the best reason to go with GSM technology). For now, at least, you can purchase and download content wirelessly only when you’re in the United States and within range of a decent AT&T signal. Since the newspaper support is the best reason to shell out $400 for this device, I’d be wary of making the investment unless I was confident of the quality of the available network support.
Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!
Gadgets & Things
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Star Wars Death Star Bluetooth levitating rotating speaker review
- 2 Finally! LG OLED TV 2016 range review
- 3 Fetch TV Mighty review: Better than Foxtel
- 4 Fetch TV Mini review: Make your TV a smart TV
- 5 Panasonic Viera DX900U UHD 4K smart TV review
Latest News Articles
- Mozilla's new corporate logo evokes URL lingo
- Robot reporter gets first article published in China
- Autonomous robots are about to deliver your lunch in D.C. and Silicon Valley
- The Hub Robot will talk to your LG smart appliances
- Report: Microsoft's Home Hub will chase Amazon's Echo as a software service
GGG Evaluation Team
First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.
The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.
The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.
My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.
- The top 10 best and worst tech gadgets and products of 2016
- Best phone of the year 2016
- TV of the year award 2016
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies
- FTBrand Marketing Manager - Premium Entertainment BrandNSW
- FTInformation Security ManagerNSW
- FTFront End DeveloperQLD
- FTTechnical Consultant MS Dynamics AXNSW
- CCCapacity and Performance Analyst - Mainframe - Z SystemsVIC
- TPSenior Project ManagerVIC
- CCSenior Project Manager - Vendor Transition - ApplicationsNSW
- FTSenior .Net DeveloperVIC
- TPProject Manager - SAPQLD
- FTFull stack Developer - Senior (Java or C# and AngularJS) x 3QLD
- CCSenior Full-stack .Net DeveloperNSW
- CCProject Manager - TelcoVIC
- CCDigital Business Analyst - Apps DevelopmentNSW
- TPMobile Application DeveloperWA
- CCSenior Full-stack .Net DeveloperNSW
- FTPHP DeveloperQLD
- CCNetwork Design EngineerACT
- TPSenior Test Analyst - TAFEQLD
- TPSenior Project Manager - Digital Application CX TransformationNSW
- TPProgram ManagerNSW
- FTTechnical Account ManagerNSW
- CCBig Data Developer - Government - 12 Month Contract - SydneyNSW
- CCNetwork Systems Engineer l Application Support l Linux l Port MacquarieNSW
- FTSolutions Architect - Data Centre/ NetworkNSW
- CCSecurity AnalystACT