I roomed with a philosophy major in my first year of college who loved to make my head spin with Plato. He'd come back from class bustling with excitement over the latest breakthrough he'd had and try to explain its significance to me, only to have it go in one ear and out the other since my priorities at the time were decidedly more down-to-earth.
Luckily, I've not been content to stay that way. It occurred to me after graduation that my education was deficient in many 'classics' - novels, poetry, history, philosophy, and so on - and that it would be to my advantage to learn them, so I sat down and made a list of things to read. Plato happened to be near the top for his influence on western philosophy. When his turn came, a friend recommended I start with the dialogues associated with Socrates' trial since they provide a solid foundation for understanding the Republic and other later Platonic dialogues.
A quick search of readily available translations yielded three candidates: Grube (Hackett), Rowe (Penguin Classics), and Jowett (too many to count). I evaluated each of them on my standard book criteria:
1) I like to think of my books as lasting investments, so I'm very keen on acid-free paper and hardcover editions.
2) I expect notes of some sort.
3) Any translations must strike a good balance between faithfulness to the text and readability, erring more to the former. No anachronisms!
The Jowett translation was by far the most abundant, likely because it's out of copyright and thus free to use. There wasn't much difference between the various editions - they were mostly paperbacks printed on cheap acidic paper without any notes. A leather-bound Easton Press edition featured superior binding and fanciful illustrations but still no notes. A Barnes and Noble Classics collection of Plato's writings had a VERY few notes, but not enough to make a difference.
The translation itself is actually very readable, which is impressive considering that it's over 100 years old, but its universal poor binding (excepting the ultra-expensive Easton Press version) and lack of notes were simply unacceptable so I decided to pass. I learned later after browsing through some forums that certain people feel Jowett is inaccurate on certain key points.
I have a love-hate relationship with Penguin Classics. I've bought quite a few paperbacks of theirs which went yellow practically overnight, which makes me angry, but at the same time I truly appreciate how they go out of their way to make things accessible to everyday readers. When I cracked open the Rowe translation, I jumped to the back of the book and was very impressed with its comprehensive endnotes. The text, too, was impressive, but in the wrong way - I literally recoiled in horror at how bone-jarringly colloquial it was. I half expected Socrates to bust out some hood lingo and give a shout out to his homies.
I'm all for making complicated material more accessible to a general audience, but I would have been so distracted at Rowe's attempts to modernize the language that I simply decided not to bother. At best, it might make a good companion to either Jowett or Grube for its notes.
I had high hopes for the Grube translation after Jowett and Rowe were such let-downs, and thankfully I wasn't disappointed. I saw from browsing through my local used book store that certain paperback copies of this are printed with acid-free paper and others aren't. I can't explain the discrepancy, so if you decide to buy the paperback version, I urge you to check with your seller of choice to make sure you're getting an acid-free copy.
Personally, I ended up picking up a used hardcover copy from a certain auction site. It doesn't say it's acid-free paper in the copyright area, but it was printed some eight years ago it's still white as snow so I'm guessing it's a good quality stock. It doesn't come with a dust jacket; it's a tough as nails "school and library" binding which has a sewn, rather than glued, binding.
Grube takes the middle ground when compared to Jowett and Rowe - the language is modern and readable without Rowe's absurd anachronisms and he provides footnotes which, while not as comprehensive as Rowe's endnotes, are entirely adequate and more convenient for their being right on the page in question. As a bonus, you get Meno, a dialogue which, while not directly relating to the trial of Socrates, is excellent for understanding the Socratic Method and thus getting a feel for why people want him dead.
I later learned from browsing through forums that Grube's translations are considered standard fare in academia. It isn't difficult for me to see why; he makes Plato accessible, modern, and dare I say it, maybe even fun. I certainly don't agree with some of Plato's conclusions, but the material in these dialogues is absolutely fascinating. I've already started using the Socratic Method to tackle questions of my own, like "what is art?"
For as little as this costs and as much as you can get out of it, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy and expand your mind. Highly recommended.