I was in the local Staples a couple of days ago and happened past a small end-cap display for one of Sony’s new readers. Sensing a blog-post opportunity, I made note of the model number — 505 — and gave it a cursory inspection.
- My impression of the screen is that the contrast is too low. I’m not sure if this is a newer e-reader or an older model, but the variance between the blackish type and off-grayish background was not what I want it to be. (This CNET review thinks the 505 has an “excellent high-contrast screen” that “rivals that of printed page”, but that’s the kind of relative, conditional and tech-friendly press you’re going to get from a geek site. While I’m sure the 505 is better than whatever came before it, the contrast is not even close to a printed page.)
- The menu scrolling is painfully slow, and lags to such a degree that I found myself overshooting my intended menu target for having put in too many inputs. There’s no reason it should be that slow. At a minimum the scroll speed should be configurable (and may be — I just didn’t find that setting).
- I couldn’t find any settings for contrast and brightness. If they’re there, good: except for the part about how I couldn’t find them, which is bad. If they’re not there, that’s bad, regardless of the limits of the underlying technology, about which I know very little.
- At one point a red-shirted Staples employee stopped by and asked if I needed any help. I asked if the 505 had variable font-size settings, to which the employee said, “…it should….”, then offered to go get one of the blue-shirted tech employees to help answer my question. I passed on the in-store customer service upgrade, and instead simply agreed with the red-shirt: it should. But I didn’t find it.
So: would I buy an e-reader now, having now seen one up close? No.
It wasn’t good enough. Yes, it’s cool tech; yes, they will get better; yes, I know it’s all happening and I can’t stop it. But I don’t want to stop it. I just want it better before I drop hundreds of dollars.
And while I’m waiting, could we all settle on some open standards that don’t favor one corporation’s hardware over another’s? I just noted that the new Apple music machine again ignores the FLAC file format, which means I’m not buying the new Apple music machine.
— Mark Barrett
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