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Sony Reader PRS-650 Touch Edition - Interface and Advanced Features

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams



Our Score:


Until E-ink technology loses its laggy refresh rates, or a replacement tech starts being used, browsing through an ebook library is never going to be fun with a dedicated ereader. It's too slow, and much too cumbersome - true of all these devices including the PRS-650 and Amazon Kindle.

However, Sony has done its best with the technology's limitations and come up with a clean-looking and intuitive interface. From the home screen - always quickly accessible thanks to the front Home button - a third of the screen is taken up by the "continue reading" option. As this is by far the option you'll tap the most, this is a good design choice. Sony Reader PRS-650

Underneath this are links to your books library, collections, notes, periodicals and tabs for applications and settings. Skipping into the books library - another very important piece of the UI puzzle - you can order your books in a handful of ways, and choose to see book covers or just the basic info. The slow screen response of E-ink stops the prettier graphical style from being practical though. You can't fit anywhere near as many book entries on-screen at once, and frustration soon sets in.

Sony Reader PRS-650

Switch to the more economical list option and the PRS-650 fares much better. It's still slow, but with a search function in tow you'll be able to find books within a few taps. With ebook readers like this, the less time you have to spend within the interface, the better. If you're willing to trade short-term frustration for longer-term ease of use, you can sort your books into collections too, accessible from the home screen.

In the spirit of convergence that devices like smartphones have forcibly encouraged on other kinds of tech, the Sony PRS-650 offers a few secondary functions. The ability to scrawl notes on your books is great, but the additional free-form doodling app is there for a bit of fun. The E-ink's refresh delay means lines you draw have to very noticeably catch up with the stylus, and it's all black and white. It's no replacement for the snazzy iPhone and iPad art apps available, but it's enjoyable for a quick scrawl.

Sony Reader PRS-650

Another support act feature of the PRS-650 is its music-playing abilities. Justifying the dual memory card slots, the reader can play AAC and MP3 files. The size and slow navigation of the device make it a poor replacement for a dedicated MP3 player though - even budget phones are more capable in this area. Playing music will also quickly eat into the claimed 2-week battery life - actual battery performance in real-world conditions is completely dependent on use (number of page turns), especially as there are no 3G or Wi-Fi connectivity options here to suck up juice.

The Sony Reader PRS-650 is on-par with the very best dedicated ereaders in terms of the reading experience it offers, but it's also one of the most expensive. The Kindle is the best part of a hundred pounds cheaper, and we don't think the smaller, more affordable PRS-350 is any worse an ereader.


The PRS-650 is a king among ereaders, but it also comes with a royal price tag. If you can stomach the extra expenditure though, its screen is top-notch, not dulled at all by the addition of touchscreen tech. Light, comfortable-to-hold and at least as tough as the competition, it's worth keeping as a constant literary companion.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Value 7


April 21, 2011, 3:24 pm

One thing I like about the Sony PRS-650 is the support for PDFs. It offers several different ways to view them - for example if you have a two column PDF you can ask it to flow down the columns, rather than left to right across the page.

Also one thing to note is that it's now extremely easy to view e-books brought from the amazon ebook store on the sony reader or any other device. Although I couldn't possibly condone such behaviour...


April 21, 2011, 5:02 pm

This review provides useful information on the style and user experience but there is almost nothing on e.g. supported formats. How do pdf documents read (a common issue with ereaders) on prs 650?


April 21, 2011, 9:28 pm

The price I can forgive given Sony's usual high standard of construction but the absence of WiFi I simply can't. I email a lot of web articles to myself for later reading and not being able to read them on a device ideally suited to the task is a shame.
Now if only Waterstone's could have a working sample of iRiver's alternative for once so could compare the screen qualities of both.


April 22, 2011, 1:30 am

Having seen the iriver working (once in doncaster) i think that the sony beats it hands down. I would say the iriver is on a little better when compared to with my gen 2 kindle with faster screen changes and a little more contrast but loses out to my sisters gen 3 which is on a par with the sony but a little less reflective. To be honest though having owned the prs 600 and a kindle the kindle store and 3g are far more important if your using this device to read than the touch screen features sony bring. Not to mention i find the edge buttons on the kindle far more ergonomic and i wish they hadn't shrunk them on the 3rd gen version. There is so little well priced content for any other device in the uk that it makes very little sense to buy a sony reader when you can get a kindle 3g and the excellent lighted cover for £3.

Having said all that if any of the other book sellers get there act together then that could change and the sony is a much more flexible device in some ways. The note taking features and touch screen are genuinely useful and the format support and refresh speed is excellent now (a marked improvement from my prs600 which is painfully slow sometimes) and seeing as i still use the prs600 to read and annotate journals for my uni work i think that if you want it for that it would be superb.


April 22, 2011, 12:56 pm

@liee: I appreciate the feedback. The one here in York has been on the blink for a while now. You forgot to mention Instapaper support along with sites such as Kinstant that format pages specifically for it. That said I'm still quite smitten with the iRiver and particularly it's ambidextrous design and magnetic cover. Now if either one of them had handwriting recognition.


April 22, 2011, 2:33 pm

There seems to be a PRS-950 available in the US that has the wifi and free 3G. Called the Daily Edition. I'm going to hold out for that I think.

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