We were mightily impressed with the Sony PRS-505 eBook reader when we reviewed it back in October last year, and to be honest there hasn't really been anything to outdo it since. Rival devices have been either too expensive or too poorly built to mount a serious challenge. Now Sony is back with a new model and as the name suggests, this one attempts to improve on the PRS-505 by adding touch support to the screen.
The PRS-600 looks quite different to Sony's previous eBook readers. Whereas earlier models had more buttons than a pearly king and queen, this one is a much more Spartan affair with just five long, thin buttons lined up beneath the display. Of course, this has been made possible due to the touch nature of the screen, with the user interface relying largely on touch input for navigation, which is no bad thing in our book (if you'll excuse the pun). The buttons may have largely disappeared, but thankfully the excellent build quality remains.
Like the PRS-505, the PRS-600 is hewn from metal rather than the plastic used by most of its rivals and as such feels much sturdier. The design is also the best so far, as less buttons equals a sleeker and more minimalist look that really shows off the sexy aluminium finish at its best. However, the metal chassis does add weight making it heavier than competing devices like the Bookeen CyBook. Whereas the similarly sized Cybook Gen3 weighs 174g, the Touch Edition is heavier at 286g and certainly feels more weighty when you hold it in your hands.
One of the criticisms of the PRS-505 was Sony's decision to go down the route of creating its own proprietary BBeB format for books bought over the web, but the PRS-600 has much wider format support. Along with BBeB, it also handles EPub and Adobe Digital Editions for eBook purchases, alongside other non-DRM formats like PDF, MS Word, RTF and TXT files.
Getting books and other files on to the reader is pretty straightforward. This is partly because the installation software is stored on the eBook reader, so as soon as you connect it to your PC the installer automatically launches. This loads the eBook Library software which acts as a file manager for the device letting you sync documents, notes and audio files back and forth. The software also acts as a gateway to the online book store where you buy commercial titles. It's all pretty straightforward to use and files are quick to sync via USB. The PRS-600 has 512MB of ROM onboard, and 380MB is left free giving you space to store around 350 books. However, there are also slots for Memory Stick and SD cards, so it's easy to add additional storage if you feel the need.