Amazon's Kindle has become synonymous with ereaders in a manner reminiscent of iPod domination of MP3 player land. But there are others out there, with much to give. There's Kobo, there's iRiver - but the best of the rest is Sony. Its latest Reader PRS-T1 is the first Wi-Fi enabled Sony model to come to the UK, and is a candidate to become our number one ereader for those who don't want to become an anonymous drop in the great E-ink ocean of Kindle owners.
This latest generation of E-ink readers, populated by the Kobo eReader Touch and 2011 Kindle, has honed the form of the 6in ereader to within an inch or two of perfection. They feel solid but are extremely light and thin. The Sony PRS-T1 fits in completely. If anything, it's more stylish than either, with a slick, sophisticated look that's pure Sony.
However, long-standing Sony Reader fans may be disappointed to see the use of plastic rather than metal in its construction. The 2008 PRS-505 was mostly metal, the 2011 PRS-650 part-metal, but the PRS-T1 is mostly plastic. There's a brushed aluminium panel above the nav buttons, to add a spot of sophistication, but the rest of the shell is non-metallic.
This is one reason why the ereader has managed to trim down to 165g, from the 215g of the PRS-650. It is almost exactly the same weight as the current non-touchscreen Kindle.
It's eminently comfortable to hold in one hand, and not only because of its light weight. The PRS-T1's back has a delightful soft-touch finish that feels smooth, almost silk-like, and is an upgrade over previous Reader models. Sony's PRS-650 had a deliberate soft-feel finish, but the T1 is that bit better. However, it's pretty similar to the backs of the latest Kindle and Kobo readers.
Where the PRS-T1 really does excel is in supplying a few features and connections that are beginning to be left out of some latest-gen ereaders. It offers a microSD card slot on its back to expand upon the 2GB of internal memory and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
You can play music with this reader, but it's worth considering that you won't get the advertised one month battery life if you do - a figure based on 30 minutes of reading per day.
This is the first wireless Sony Reader to come to the UK, but there's also a standard microUSB connection on its bottom edge should you wish to stick to a wired connection. It offers practicality as well as a look that's more reminiscent of TVs and tablets than traditionally conservative-looking ereaders.
There is a downside to its slick image, though. Black glossy plastic is a poor choice for the front bezel. Most ereaders don't use grey shades because their designers are interminably dull - it's so that they fit in better with the slightly greyish look of the E-ink screen.
The black here pulls focus a little too much, and when the shiny plastic catches the light it causes distracting reflections. A glossy finish shows off inevitable micro-scratches too, ensuring that the PRS-T1 won't age as well as a Kobo Touch or Kindle unless you take very good care of it. Sony also offers white and red finishes - and white should prove less of a scene-stealer - but we'd prefer a matt finish.