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Sony Reader PRS-650 Touch Edition - Performance and Touchscreen

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams



Our Score:


One of the main reasons for the existence of the Sony Reader PRS-650 Touch is the screen issues its predecessor, the PRS-600, suffered from. It used a resistive touchscreen, which requires an extra layer of plastic to be laid upon the E-ink screen. This increased reflections, reduced the vividness of the display and essentially robbed the underlying E-ink screen of its key benefits.

The PRS-650 uses a completely different kind of touchscreen, one that doesn't require an extra layer of plastic on top of all that lovely E-ink. Instead, it uses light sources firing over the surface of the screen to tell when there's something touching - or just over - it. This tech means it works as well with a finger as the stylus.

Sony Reader PRS-650

When matched with a high-quality Pearl E-ink screen, the result in the 6in PRS-650 is exceedingly clear, high-contrast text. Sharpness is slightly better on the smaller PRS-350, which uses the same screen resolution of 600x800 pixels but in a smaller space, but the reading experience here is still exemplary.

The glare issues inherent in the PRS-600 are gone, while contrast and sharpness have improved significantly since the days of the PRS-505. Like the Kindle 3, it offers 16 levels of contrast (effectively 16 shades of grey).

Like all E-ink devices, there's a slight lag between page turns, but it's a lot quicker than older-generation ereaders. It's between a third of and half a second, and whether it'll irritate or impress you will depend on whether you're an E-ink virgin or not. For an E-ink ereader it's fast, but is slower than LCD devices like the iPad.

Sony Reader PRS-650

It's part of the learning curve when using E-ink, but worth it for the significant benefits - primarily the paper-like display. We did notice some minor ghosting, where part of a previous screen's image is visible, but this is generally sorted with a screen refresh.

The reading basics are spot-on, but there are neat extras that take the PRS-650 beyond the simple book experience. Whip out the stylus from the right edge of the device, double tap on a word and its dictionary entry will pop up at the bottom of the screen. The full Oxford Dictionary of English is built into the reader, along with 11 others including translation dictionaries between English, German, Spanish, Italian and Netherlands. This functionality is brilliant, especially if your reading tastes extend beyond Dan Brown and J. K. Rowling - it's also the best use the PRS-650 has for the touchscreen.

Some customisation of how the text looks is available too. There are six text sizes on offer - the largest will probably only be of interest to those with sight issues and the resolution isn't high enough to render text properly at the smallest, but it certainly covers all the bases. Contrast and Brightness controls are available, but without a backlight to control you can effectively only make the text less black, or the background greyer. Most will be happiest with the default setting. We were.


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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