Well, I got back from the NYC SonyStyle store a couple of hours ago--with my brand-new Reader 300 Pocket Edition, in silver. Let me start with a few general impressions from my shopping trip.
The store had one 600 (black) and 3 300's (black, red, silver) on display. (There was no 700 or 505 on display or for sale, but there were a few 505's in the sidewalk window display!) I checked out the 600 first--about the same size as the 505, slightly thicker, more streamlined look--fewer buttons on front! I did a side-by-side with my 505, and the text was noticeably lighter, more of a dark gray than black like the 505. The background was lighter than that of the 500 though, so the overall contrast appears to be between the 500 and the 505. I played with it a bit, and it seemed to work fine and was pretty legible. The page-turn swipe was nice, but I wasn't crazy about the small icons for the various functions. Not wanting a touchscreen/notations/dictionary, I then turned to the 300 models.
My first impression was that the 300 seemed 'cute'--a slightly-shrunken version of the 505. It's a tad thicker, but still quite thin. The case feels solid and sturdy, with a metallic case on all models. A single plastic strip runs along the top/right/bottom edges around the switches and ports. It is unobtrusive and seems to be more of a smooth edge protector. The black model had a very dark purplish strip, the red model (similar to the 505 red) had a pinkish strip, and the silver model had a slightly lighter silver strip. These Readers all look nice and sleek, and not cheap/plastic.
The 300 fits nicely in one hand. (My hands are on the large side, and my fingers/thumb can overlap both sides of the display screen at the same time.) The screen is noticeably smaller than the 6" screen of the other Readers, but the button area below is the same height as on the 505. The display is a nice black on light gray background, the same as on the 505. Text is very clear with excellent contrast. It's basically a smaller version of the 505 display. [Note on the size: If you align the lower left corner of a 300 and a 500 Reader, the top and right side of the 300 match exactly with the top and right edges of the 500's display. The 505's display is a little taller than the top of the 300, and the right edge of the 505 display is a bit narrower than the 300 case if you match them up the same way.]
The 300 is a "simplified" Reader, which I like. Power switch on the top left edge (like the 505), lanyard latch and usb port on the bottom edge at the left, and the round yellow (PSP-COMPATIBLE) power port on the bottom towards the right. No volume switch (no mp3 capability-what book plays mp3's anyway?) and no memory card slots (but 443 MB of user memory available).
The controls are also pretty simple. A large round 4-way circular direction switch at bottom center, for turning pages and navigating menus, with the center select button like on the 505. There are 4 buttons aligned with the top of the center switch, 2 to the left and 2 to the right. From left to right, they are: home, back, bookmark, and font size. The 10 menu buttons (1-9 and 0) are located along the right side of the screen (like the 505), but they are arranged as 5 rocker switches rather than 10 separate buttons. They feel fine and are easy to use.
What's in the box? The Reader, a USB cable, a small booklet, and a black padded pouch with the "Reader" logo embossed at the bottom of the front side. My one major disappointment--there is no cover like the 505 had, even though the 300 has the same holes along the spine that will accept a 505-style cover. I hope someone (Sony, 3rd-party) offers this type of cover soon!!!! The pouch is a spongy neoprene-type material and the Reader slides in and out easily enough. I still prefer being able to fold back a cover to read, though.
There's no CD included. I believe connecting the Reader to a pc will activate a download prompt for the Library software. I already have the Sony sw installed (v2), and it recognized the Reader right away. I was able to transfer books just like with my other Readers. Adobe DE also recognized my Reader after a request to authorize it, and I was able to transfer my 2 current checked-out e-books with no problem, just like with my 505.
[BTW, the 300 comes pre-loaded with about 10 book excerpts--interestingly, only about 1/3 of them are in English. I deleted them all anyway. The menu/display language options are English, French, German and Dutch. Interesting that there's no Spanish option here....]
I did upgrade the Library software to v3 (from the Library Help: check for updates menu) with no hassle. It has essentially the same interface with a few interface tweaks and smaller icons. (The book/list icons are at the top right now instead of top left, the s/m/l/xl/xxl font sizing is now a single button at lower right that pops upa bar menu with these options). I didn't mess around too much with the new Library software--just kept loading my reading list onto my Reader. I loaded about 110 novels (some are larger pdfs) and still have 370 MB free out of 443 MB. No, I will not be needing a memory card!
How does it feel? Nice. Like a handier, more compact version of the 505. Smaller screen, but still a decent amount of text on each page. I compared the same book, and the 300 displayed 17 out of 25 lines that were on my 505' screen (line breaks were different), both at small font setting. So, each page has about 2/3 of the reflowable text of the 6" Reader screens. This checks out mathematically too--the display area ratio is 5^2/6^2, or 25/36, about 2/3! Text appears to be the same size on the 505 and 300, so legibility is identical. There are 3 available font sizes (s/m/l), like on the 505. [I did some more comparisons with the same book on both readers. The number of text lines shown on the 300 and 505 are 21 and 25, respectively, and the number of characters in a full line of text is about 50 and about 60, respectively. Both of these ratios also are about 5:6. So, there is about 5/6 of the info in any direction and about 2/3 of the total info per page on the 300 display as compared to the 505.]
So, how does it work? Nicely imo. Very easy to hold in one hand, fingers in back, thumb on page turn control. It feels solid yet light in the hand. The general impression is of something between the regular Reader and a PDA/iPhone screen in terms of size, closer to the other Reader models. Clarity is 100% Reader e-ink. Page turns are a quick flash, like on the 505, after a tiny delay when pressing the button. This delay seems to be a fraction of a second longer than the 505 delay (using the same book, and with a similar number of books loaded on each). Press the button when you reach the last line of text and the page turn timing will be perfect! The on/of switch response is just as fast.
[Update: I've been staring at the 300 and 505 screens up-close, to address someone's opff-base comments later in this thread that the e-ink displays suffer from pixellation and antialiasing--they do NOT! Anyway, it does appear that the contrast on the 300 is a tiny bit better than the 505, because the background is just a tad bit lighter. However, this could be because the 300 is new, and the 505 is over 1.5 years old.]
How handy is it? The "Pocket Edition" is very pocketable. It slips nicely into a pants pocket, even with the pouch covering it. It seems to want to be put in a pocket. There's a nice balance between screen size and portability, which is just what I was looking for. And between the slightly smaller screen size, similar edge width of the case, slightly thicker case and less flex (all relative to the 505), it feels like the screen would be well-protected and less prone to breakage, even in a pocket.
Here's my +/- summary. (If the + describes you, you'll like the 300; if you identify with the -, then you may want to consider another model.)
- I want a compact pocketable device
- I want something simple to read lots of books on
- I like the high-contrast e-ink display
- I want a relatively inexpensive e-ink device that lets me borrow e-books from local libraries
- I want people who lug around their bulky plastic Kindles to be envious
- I want a touchscreen/dictionary/notes
- I don't mind slightly lower contrast of a touchscreen
- I want wireless (for instant gratification?)
- I want to carry GB's of my entire library with me everywhere
- I want to listen to mp3's on my book device
- I want to read full-size pdf docs, like technical books