This morning I was in lower Manhattan and made it a point to stop into the Borders down there.
Sony has upgraded their locked-down Sony Reader kiosks to now display both available models: the PRS-505 and the PRS-700.
People can now have an immediate side-by-side comparison.
Let's get the big issue out of the way: The eInk is darker on the 700 than the 505. The contrast is less and it's all rather unfortunately murky. Mind you, this is with both units standing straight up with light shining down on them -- not with light directly on them.
Still, for sharpness and contrast, the 505 wins.
I understand why too:
1) The 700 screen is recessed to accommodate the sidelights
2) The 700 screen is beneath a touchscreen
Both of these will tend to make the screen feel slightly "underwater" and also affect sharpness.
On the other hand, it really is keen to flip through eBook pages with a side-swipe of the finger, to select an eBook by touching it, to scroll through the new Library Shelf by running a finger along the right side of the screen. These are things -- along with Search and Notes -- that can't be dismissed. (And, yes, iPhone owners, I know these things are available on that. But I'm discussing the Sony Reader here.)
I had zero trouble with the touchscreen, by the way. It was totally and speedily responsive. Just like an iPhone!
The 700 overall feels peppier than the 505. There is not so great a difference in page turn refresh -- perhaps a fraction of a second. What tends to make page-turning on the 700 less stark is what I raised at the beginning: the reduced screen contrast.
Call up the menu to in/de-crease font size and it's immediately responsive. It's nonchalant in displaying its strength for tasks like that. It's overall a pleasure to use, without any sensation of it being underpowered.
The 700's screen seems a step back to the original 500. But there's the increased speed and touchscreen and other features to compensate. People bought the original 500 despite its reduced contrast. I think the same will happen with the 700 too.
And judging from the interest I saw people elicit for the Sony Reader later on at J&R, I think Sony is going to have a damned good number of sales this holiday season.