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Review: Sony Reader Touch Edition (PRS-600)

Touch Edition Adds Touchscreen Functionality to Sony's eReader Line

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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Review: Sony Reader Touch Edition (PRS-600)

The Sony PRS-600 Reader Touch Edition.

Photo by Jason Hidalgo

Sony got a little touchy when it decided to do its triple launch of eBook readers, adding the Reader Touch or "PRS-600" to a new lineup that includes its Pocket and Daily editions.

As its name implies, the Touch Edition features a 6-inch touchscreen interface that allows users to tap or touch the screen instead of using a traditional button interface.

For a closer look at Sony's PRS-600 Reader Touch Edition, read on below.

PROS

Touch interface: The Touch Edition's screen features nice sensitivity and is quite intuitive to use. Pages can be turned with a flick of the screen while double-tapping on a word brings up its definition via the PRS-600's dictionary. Tapping also works with active links, which is quite helpful for things like RSS feeds, for example. Bookmarking, skipping pages, zooming and searching is easy to do as well.

For control freaks, the Touch Edition comes with a range of customization features for things like menus, page flick direction and power management (standard settings have the device switching to low-power mode after 60 minutes and full shutdown after five days of inactivity). Deleting books can be done on the device without the need to connect it to a computer. The device also comes with a neat annotation feature that can be done by either manually writing on the screen or using the device's virtual keyboard. Besides making notes on book pages, you can bring up a blank page to write your grocery list, draw a rough map for directions or simply sketch whatever comes to mind.

Quick refresh: The Touch Edition features a speedy refresh rate for eBook pages, making page turns less jarring compared to slower readers. Switching pages is faster compared to Sony's own PRS-300 Pocket Edition, for example.

Great format support: Unlike Amazon's Kindle readers, The Touch Edition isn't heavily tied to a proprietary format. Formats supported by the device include EPUB and PDF. The PRS-600 also features text flow for properly formatted PDF pages.

The Sony PRS-600 Reader Touch Edition features a slim profile.

Photo by Jason Hidalgo

Folks who like downloading different materials from other sources will be happy to know that borrowing eBooks from libraries is supported by the device. You can also download RSS feeds from Internet sites for free using Sony's software or a third-party program such as Calibre.

Non-reader formats supported include JPG, BMP, GIF and PNG for images, and MP3 and AAC files for audio. Headphones are required for listening to audio since the device has no internal speakers.

Expandable memory: Memory card slots allow users to further beef up the Touch Edition's memory. Supported devices include SDcards (or MicroSD cards with an adapter) and Sony's Memory Sticks.

Battery life: The device can do 7,500 page turns on a full charge, which is roughly two weeks worth of regular reading. Charging is also fast, particularly when done via an AC adapter, which unfortunately, isn't included (more on this below).

CONS

Display issues: This is something I noticed even before I started reading as I took pictures of the device. Even without a flash, my pictures would show glare from whatever light source I had in my room. The glare isn't that bad and can be dealt with by simply tilting the PRS-600 when you read. Then again, the PRS-300 Pocket Edition didn't have this issue.

Another thing I noticed with the Touch Edition vs. its tinier sibling is screen contrast. Compared to the excellent white level and contrast you get from the Pocket Edition, the Touch Edition's screen appears a bit more gray. Not sure if that's the price Sony basically had to pay to have touchscreen functionality.

No wireless: Having wireless functionality is always nice to have, particularly for frequent travelers or folks who just want the option when they're out and about.

Non-replaceable battery: The inability to replace the battery means the device basically dies when your battery does. You can certainly send the device in to have the battery replaced but that can cost you a pretty penny. Also, the device doesn't work with standalone USB wall chargers such as Apple's iPod brick, for example, which is a bummer. Folks with a PSP, however, can use the same AC adapter to charge the device (it's also much faster than charging via your computer).

Interface quirks: Underlining and drawing comes with a bit of a delay, which might be somewhat disconcerting for some folks. Underlines also disappears if you switch to a different viewing mode or zoom. Highlights, however, show up just fine.

Price: At $299, the device is now $40 more than an Amazon Kindle and a Barnes & Noble Nook. Considering the popularity of those two devices, Sony seems to be banking on a full touchscreen (the Nook only has a partial touchscreen while the current Kindle doesn't have one at all) as the main selling point of the PRS-600.

UPDATE: Pricing has been lowered on these devices since this review originally ran. New pricing is: Sony Reader Touch, $169.99; Kindle 2, $189; Nook 3G, $199; Nook Wi-Fi, $149.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Sony PRS-600 Reader Touch Edition's main menu.

Photo by Jason Hidalgo

The Sony PRS-600 Reader Touch Edition is a good reader that sports a clean, slim design and a great touch interface.

Besides its touchscreen, the device's main strengths are non-proprietary support and an assortment of features. But it also has a few quirks that keep it from fully realizing its potential, primarily with its display.

Overall, I think the Touch Edition is a pretty solid reader. The biggest challenge for the device, though, will be how people view it in comparison with the current Kindle and the Nook.

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