Kindle 3 vs Sony 650

The Kindle 3 gets a strong new competitor today – the Sony 650. This Kindle 3 vs Sony 650 comparison will look at where each wins and where they tie.

Please keep in mind that my experience is limited to the Kindle 3. For Sony 650 have only Sony’s website and the various articles about the Sony 650 as reference – haven’t actually used it or even seen it.

Kindle 3 vs Sony 650 – Areas Sony 650 wins

Well, Sony 650 wins in a few important areas –

  1. Sony 650 has a touch screen. You have a choice of using the stylus or an on-screen keyboard and it also supports freehand drawing.
  2. Sony supports DRM protected ePub and PDF and unprotected ePub. Kindle doesn’t.  
  3. Sony supports library books due to its support for DRMed ePub.
  4. Sony 650 is a bit more compact than Kindle 3 (6.625″ by 4.75″ by 0.406″ compared to 7.5″ x 4.8″ x 0.335″) and a bit lighter as well (7.58 oz vs 8.7 oz).
  5. Sony 650 has expandable memory via a SD card slot and a Memory Stick Duo slot.  
  6. Sony supports AAC format music which Kindle doesn’t (they both support mp3).  
  7. There are 10 built-in translation dictionaries.
  8. It’s better looking with an aluminium body and a choice of black or red casing.

It’s interesting that Sony 650 doesn’t really add any big killer features other than the eInk Pearl screen. However, it does improve in some ways and ties the Kindle 3 in some important areas.

Kindle 3 vs Sony 650 – Areas they tie

There are quite a few areas in which Kindle 3, Sony 650 tie –

  1. They both use eInk and they both use the new eInk Pearl.  
  2. They both have a 6″ screen.
  3. If Sony’s claims that it has managed to avoid readability problems is correct they both should have about the same screen readability. 
  4. They’re both pretty compact and portable though Sony has the advantage in both compactness and weight (Kindle 3 is a little thinner). 
  5. Both have changeable font sizes – 6 sizes with Sony 650, 8 with Kindle 3.  
  6. Both have quick page turns. Well, Sony 600 did have quick page turns so that should continue with Sony 650 and Kindle 3 does have very quick page turns.
  7. Both have built-in dictionaries. 
  8. Both have page turn buttons on both sides.

The eInk Pearl screen and the screen readability now being unaffected by touch are both huge additions. They make Sony 650 a very dangerous competitor when combined with the touch capability and the support for ePub and Library Books.

Kindle 3 vs Sony 650 – Areas Kindle 3 Wins

Kindle 3 has a lot of advantages of its own –

  1. Much lower prices. Kindle WiFi is just $139 and Kindle 3 is $189 while Sony 350 is $179 and Sony 650 is $229. 
  2. Kindle 3 has 3G and WiFi. It’s amazing that Sony are still refusing to add wireless connectivity – It’s like they don’t realize that users having to connect to a PC to download books will be one of the Sony 650’s biggest weaknesses.  
  3. Kindle 3 has free Internet and a very serviceable browser.
  4. Much better store. Kindle Store has a lot more range than the Sony Reader Store and much better prices (except for Agency Model books).
  5. Probably better PDF support. Sony doesn’t mention much about PDFs and if the PDF support in Sony 650 is the same as that in the Sony 600 then Kindle 3 wins here. 
  6. Kindle has the option of choosing between three font types and lots of font options like line spacing.
  7. Kindle 3 has larger memory at 4GB though Sony’s expandable memory balances that out.
  8. Kindle 3 has a physical keyboard if you prefer physical keyboards though the missing number keys limit its usefulness.
  9. Kindle 3 has better battery life with wireless off or when using WiFi but not when using 3G.
  10. Text to Speech and Voice Guide features make Kindle 3 Accessible. Text to Speech is a valuable feature in general.
  11. Better Infrastructure and Kindle Apps – While Sony has said it will have apps for some platforms the Kindle 3 is already supported by Kindle Apps on various platforms and it has WhisperNet. Sony 650 has neither 3G nor WiFi and just can’t compete with Kindle 3, Kindle WhisperNet, and WhisperSync.

It’s beginning to look a bit lop-sided since Sony hasn’t added any killer features other than the eInk Pearl screen. The lack of wireless support in Sony 650 makes it unable to compete with a lot of Kindle 3 advantages like 60 second downloads, WhisperSync, and Free Internet.

Kindle 3 vs Sony 650 – Contrasting Strategies

ZDNet has an article on Sony’s eReader strategy and the strategy sounds a bit weak –

The biggest trade-off here—at least for connected U.S. consumers—is the touch vs. connectivity choice.

“Wi-Fi would have raised the cost when 99 percent of the time spent with an e-reader is focused on just reading,” says Haber. “We invested in the best possible screen experience. That’s where we put our dollars/yen.”

Firstly, there’s no reason to have to choose between touch and wireless – They’re very separate features and can both be added in. One has to do with the screen and the other has to do with connecting to the store.  

Secondly, Sony has some crazy justification that it didn’t want to spend money on WiFi when 99% of a customer’s time is spent reading. That doesn’t make much sense – WiFi chips don’t cost very much or Kindle WiFi wouldn’t be for $139. Getting books easily is nearly as important as reading – Perhaps 90% or more of a customer’s time is spent reading but the WiFi connectivity ensures users can get a book anytime and make impulsive purchases and get and read the book they want to read – as opposed to the books they remembered to load. Plus it’s the only time the customer is spending more money.

Basically, Sony are making it tough for users to give it more money – that’s amazingly bad strategy.

It’s typical Sony – make a great device for reading and then leave the ‘getting books to read’ part to users. They simply don’t get that making things easy for users is a big deal and that 60 second downloads and WhisperNet are one of the main reasons Kindle is thrashing Sony Reader.  

Closing Thoughts on Kindle 3 vs Sony 650

Sony 650 has touch and ePub support and library books – three huge advantages. Instead of capitalizing on those it’s coming in with a $229 price, with no wireless, and with an absolute lack of understanding of the fact that users want things to be easy and simple. It’s disappointing.

With Kindle 3 you get a tremendous amount of benefit due to Kindle 3’s 3G and WiFi support – WhisperSync that syncs your notes and highlights and your place in a book, Free store browsing and 60 second downloads, Free Internet, 3G access in 100+ countries worldwide.  

Add on other Kindle 3 advantages like a better ebook store, the text to speech feature, accessibility, and Kindle Apps and the Kindle 3 becomes a better eReader overall. It may or may not be the better device but it’s a much better service and a much better overall reading experience.

If one or more out of touch, library book support, and ePub support are crucial to you then the Sony 650 is the correct choice.

In every other case the Kindle 3 is a much better choice. The Kindle 3 wins Kindle 3 vs Sony 650 with the Sony 650’s lack of wireless support perhaps the biggest differentiator.


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