The PRS-650 Touch is the current king of Sony's Reader range. Flying in the face of the super-aggressive pricing of its main rival the Amazon Kindle, this 6in E-ink ereader costs almost £200. It's not without a few Kindle-beating charms though, not least of which is being a gadget that isn't as painfully ubiquitous as the Apple iPhone.
The first Sony Reader was the PRS-505, released in 2008, which featured what's come to be a classic design. At the top of its chart of winning features was a luxurious full-aluminium body. This makes a slight return in the PRS-650, with an aluminium front panel curving around to the seam that connects it to the plastic panel that covers the rest of the back. It's designed to look like brushed metal, but is soon revealed as an impersonation as it doesn't have that cool-to-the-touch metallic feel. As well as feeling less premium, plastic tends to prove less durable in the long run too.
With 2GB of on-board storage - enough to hold thousands of books - there's little need for additional storage if the PRS-650 is used as a pure ebook reader. If you do require more storage, though, there are two card slots are included anyway; the Pro Duo and SD sockets sitting on the top of the device, alongside the power slider and stylus slot.
The two side edges of the PRS-650 have been kept completely clear, improving comfort in-hand. Its left edge is particularly comfy, made of metal and curved to a semi-circle shape that's perfectly smooth, with a subtle thumb-groove ridge as it curves round to the front of the ereader. In short, it's dead comfortable to hold given its minimal ergonomic enhancements.
Using a plastic back has allowed the Reader to shave off a few precious grams. At 215g, it's comfortable to use one-handed for long periods - and is lighter than the all-plastic Kindle, which is 241g in its Wi-Fi only form or 247g for the 3G Wi-Fi edition. The main page navigation buttons on the front are designed for one-handed use, your thumb hovering over them naturally when held by its bottom-left corner.
It's not so well-prepared to be held with your right hand though, lacking the side page controls found on the Kindle and the Sony Reader PRS-505. However, thanks to its touchscreen, this is no big deal. Swipes back and forth over it turn pages just as swiftly as a button press, and while your grip on the PRS-650 is a little less firm when a thumb's left hovering occasionally over the touchscreen, it'd take a feat of real cack-handedness to drop the thing in normal usage.
The other buttons lined-up on the front of the PRS-650 take you to the reader's home screen, change front size and pull up the options menu. They're made from plastic rather than metal but have a firm action with a discernible click. The features you'll need to use the least are arranged on the bottom - volume control, 3.5mm headphone jack and the microUSB slot.
Part of us longs for the shiny plastic bits of the reader - the strip that runs along three of its edges and those front buttons - to be made of metal, but after the lust for luxury died down we became more appreciative of its light weight. Other ereaders have been lighter, like the Cool-er and Foxit Slick, but they haven't matched the solidity of the Sony PRS-650. You may want an ebook reader to be as light as possible, but it also needs to be able to suck up some punishment to survive years of being carried around in a bag, replacing a succession of paperbacks.