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Review: Sony Reader Pocket Edition (PRS-350)

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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Sony's latest Reader Pocket Edition e-reader, the PRS-350 (shown in silver)

Sony Reader Pocket Edition (PRS-350) in Silver.

Image from Sony

While Kindle and NOOK seem to get the lion's share of media attention, Sony was a pioneer in the field and has been selling e-readers in the US since 2006. The company has had multiple iterations in which to perfect the e-reading experience and the latest version of the company's entry level Pocket Reader Edition (or PRS-350) sets a new standard for a compact e-reader. While other manufacturers outsell Sony, the company seems to have settled into the niche of offering a premium product and its e-readers reflect this philosophy with attractive designs and a corresponding price tag.

 

Previous Model

The previous generation Reader Pocket Edition (PRS-300) was a good compromise between portability, cost and compatibility. While it lacked the wireless capabilities of the Kindle and was limited to 512MB of onboard memory for e-book storage, its initial $199 price tag, upscale brushed aluminum case available in a variety of colors, compact size and embrace of the open EPUB file standard made it an attractive alternative. This was the e-reader that I chose to buy and it is still heavily used. Check out our review of the PRS-300 here if you're looking to pick one up used.

 

 

What's New

Comparing the slim new Sony Pocket Edition Reader (pink) to the previous model (silver)

Sony Reader Pocket Edition PRS-350 (pink) beside the previous generation (silver) PRS-300. The new e-reader is significantly smaller and thinner.

Photo by Brad Moon

The newest Reader Pocket Edition is more than a simple refresh -it brings compelling improvements. The two most immediately obvious changes are inextricably tied together. Vertical number buttons and the large page navigation pad are gone. Instead, Sony has opted for a touchscreen interface. While five slim buttons remain along the bottom of the screen, touch is the primary navigation method. As a result, Sony was able to shrink the e-reader. Last year's model was compact enough to easily slip into a pocket, but the new version is positively svelte. While maintaining its 5-inch display size, the overall device size has shrunk to 5.71 inches by 4.11 inches and 0.33 inches thick, with a weight of 5.27 oz. The touch screen uses infrared technology and works with a stylus (included) that stows in a slot, or finger gestures. The touch screen also supports taking notes and highlighting text.

Other improvements are more evolutionary. The display itself has been upgraded to a higher contrast and faster refresh E Ink Pearl version, with six font sizes to choose from (the previous version had three) and 16-level gray scale capability (up from 8-level). In addition, two dictionaries are included, a new feature for this model. Image files are now supported and used for displaying a picture when the device is sleeping. Finally, onboard memory has been goosed to 2GB, sufficient to hold 1,200 books. The one thing that's been dropped is the range of colors: the case is still brushed aluminum, but the color options are now limited to silver and pink. MSRP has dropped to $179.99.

 

Advantages

  • This is the smallest mainstream e-reader out there and perfect for travellers and commuters while offering a display size that's larger than smart phone's
  • display is crisp, page turns are fast, readability is great even in full sunlight
  • touchscreen capability makes for a much more intuitive interface
  • wide range of e-book format support, including EPUB (which means Reader Pocket Edition can access e-books through public libraries)

 

Disadvantages

  • 5-inch screen is slightly smaller than standard e-reader size of 6-inches
  • no ability to upgrade or supplement storage with a memory card
  • no wireless capability, so book purchases and collection management require a computer (Mac or PC)
  • incompatible with Amazon Kindle e-books
  • battery is not user replaceable
  • relatively expensive
  • no MP3 support, so if you like listening to tunes while reading, you'll still need to pack an iPod

 

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