We looked at the Kindle 3 and the Sony 650 earlier and now it’s time to do a Kindle WiFi vs Sony 350 comparison.
Kindle WiFi and Sony 350 are the entry-level eReaders for Amazon and Sony and it’s interesting to see Sony price the Sony 350 at $179 which is $40 more than the $139 Kindle WiFi and just $10 cheaper than the Kindle 3.
Kindle WiFi vs Sony 350 – Areas Sony 350 wins
The Sony 350 gets a lot right and has some solid advantages -
- Sony 350′s touch screen is a definite advantage. You can’t really argue it’s a super important feature since page turns work fine with buttons but it’s undeniably a cool feature and it makes navigation outside of books easier. It also helps to be able to touch a word for the meaning and to be able to scribble down notes.
- Sony’s support of ePub, DRMed ePub, and DRMed PDF is pretty important if you’re outside the US or if you want to be able to buy books from other eBook stores (Note: Kindle Store books don’t work on anything other than Kindles and Kindle Apps).
- Support for DRMed ePub also means Sony 350 supports library books.
- Sony 350 weighs just 5.64 ounces (Kindle WiFi weighs 8.5 ounces) and it’s really compact at 5.75″ by 4.12″ by .344″ (Kindle WiFi is 7.5″ x 4.8″ x 0.335″). Please note that part of the difference is because Sony 350 has a 5″ eInk screen while Kindle WiFi has a 6″ screen.
- There are 10 translation dictionaries.
- It’s quite pretty and is available in silver and pink. Kindle WiFi is available only in graphite and isn’t quite as striking.
It’s interesting that Sony 350 is missing a few of the Sony 650′s good features - there’s no memory card slot and there don’t seem to be speakers.
Kindle WiFi vs Sony 350 – Areas they tie
Sony 350 and Kindle WiFi are in a tie in numerous areas -
- They both use eInk Pearl.
- They both have page turn buttons on both sides.
- They should have the same readability since the touch Sony 350 uses is infra-red based and no longer a physical layer over the eInk.
- They have changeable font sizes.
- They have in-built dictionaries.
Kindle WiFi and Sony 350 are also both focused on reading and neither is trying to be anything beyond an eReader.
Kindle WiFi vs Sony 350 – Areas Kindle WiFi wins
Kindle WiFi is Kindle 3 with the 3G missing but everything else intact. It has several important advantages over the Sony 350 -
- It has a 6″ screen which is a more readable size than the Sony 350′s 5″ screen.
- It has WiFi. This makes a world of a difference if you have WiFi at home or at the places you work or at your favorite coffee shop.
- A $40 price difference. $139 is certainly a more manageable price than $179.
- It’s likely that Kindle WiFi will have better PDF support.
- Kindle WiFi has 4 GB memory of which 3.4 GB is available while Sony 350 has 2 GB memory of which only 1.4 GB is available.
- Kindle WiFi has 4 weeks of battery life with wireless off and 3 weeks with WiFi on. Sony 350 has two weeks battery life.
- Kindle WiFi has Text to Speech and the Voice Guide. It’s accessible to blind and low vision readers.
- Kindle Store is a better store than Sony Reader Store.
- Kindle WhisperNet provides a lot of benefits like syncing across devices – If you have access to a WiFi network you get all these benefits.
The gap between Kindle WiFi and Sony 350 is quite a bit more than the gap between Kindle 3 and Sony 650.
How important is touch? Is it as important as WiFi?
While there is little doubt Touch is a useful feature and makes navigation easier there is also a lot of hyperbole around the necessity of the feature. Consider this bit of nonsense from the New York Times -
Many a Kindle screen has been sullied by errant fingers before their frustrated owners realized that readers turn the pages of an e-book using buttons on the side of the device.
What are you talking about?
The Kindle 2 had Previous Page and Next Page printed on the buttons and Kindle 3 has direction arrows. That’s enough for most people to figure out they don’t need to touch the screen. Besides, it’s touching the Sony 350′s touch screen that is going to leave smudges.
The article ends with this little ode to replacing buttons and keyboards -
The next generation of screens might not even need a touch. Instead, they will understand the gestures of people standing in front of them and pick up on eye movement and speech.
“The future’s going to be in fusing together several different natural human behaviors — how people point, gesture and coordinate with each other,”
Well, Amazon already has the patent for a gesture based Kindle.
You could actually argue that WiFi is more important than touch. Touch adds a little bit to usability but you’re mostly reading books and there’s not much difference between pressing page turn buttons and swiping the screen. Being able to scribble notes is useful as is freehand drawing. WiFi on the other hand adds a lot when WiFi is available – store browsing, 60 second downloads, Internet browsing (relatively decent browsing using WiFi), WhisperSync.
At best, WiFi beats Touch. At worst, Touch is a little better than WiFi. If you don’t have touch you have to use the cursor to move around (a few extra seconds) or use page turn buttons to turn pages (just as fast). If you don’t have WiFi you have to find a computer to download a book – much more effort and time than finding a WiFi network.
Kindle WiFi vs Sony 350 Closing Thoughts
It’s not surprising that the Kindle WiFi vs Sony 350 comparison ends up being rather similar to our Kindle 3 vs Sony 650 comparison. Sony 350 is missing some of the pluses of the 650 like expandable memory and WiFi is not as convenient as 3G+WiFi – However, the rest of the comparison is almost identical.
Sony 350 clearly wins in - touch capability, support for library books, support for ePub, choice of color, looks, compactness/portability, lower weight.
Kindle WiFi clearly wins in – larger screen size, WiFi, lower price, text to speech, more battery life, accessibility, more memory, better store, better infrastructure.
The much lower price of the Kindle WiFi might be the decider for a lot of readers. Also, Sony 350 is just $10 cheaper than Kindle 3 which adds on 3G support and free Internet to the Kindle WiFi’s already compelling package. Sony has failed to match Kindle 3 and Nook on price and wireless support and it might have lost the battle before its begun.