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Sony Reader PRS-650 Touch Edition review

Andrew Williams

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Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score

8/10

Pros

  • Good touchscreen
  • Great E-ink display
  • Dictionary integration

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Back is plastic
  • No Wi-Fi or 3G connectivity

Review Price £179.00

Key Features: 2GB internal memory; Pro Duo and SD card slots; E-ink screen ; "2-week" battery life; Touchscreen

Manufacturer: Sony

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.

Sony Reader PRS-650

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.

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piesforyou

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...

nbaf

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?

ffrankmccaffery

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.

Iiee

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.

ffrankmccaffery

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.

Peter

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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