With a touchscreen, stylus and better connectivity than many other ereaders, the Sony PRS-T1 is able to offer a few extra features rivals simply can't supply. It can play MP3 files, lets you draw pictures and has a web browser.
They are all fairly rudimentary, far outclassed by smartphones and tablets - this is primarily still a one-function device. The built-in music player handles MP3 and AAC files, and has a fairly intuitive interface that incorporates album artwork. However, the output volume of the T1 is pretty low and there's no speaker on the device. We imagine most buyers of this ereader will have a more competent music player on them most of the time.
The note-taking app is virtually the same as it was in previous touchscreen PRS-series ereaders. It's a very basic scribbling tool that gives you a blank screen to draw away on, with an eraser function should you mess up. There are no greyscale painting options, wiping-out its usefulness as an art tool.
However, with a touchscreen and stylus in tow, it would have seemed silly for something like this not to be included. Ideally, we'd like to see OCR (optical character recognition) implemented here and in the mid-read note tool, to make note-taking less of a messy exercise.
Lastly, there's the web browser. It suffers from many of the same problems other ereader browsers are afflicted with - slow speed, no Flash support and that it turns the world wide web into an archaic looking monochrome world - but the multi-touch touchscreen makes it far more enjoyable to use than most. Page loading may be slow, but navigating around and zooming in and out is fairly nippy.
The E-ink display refreshes every time you alight on a new position, meaning you have to wait half a second or so for the image to become nice and sharp following a scroll around. However, it easily beats the experience of using a naff little D-pad to move around, à la keyboard Kindle.
These cherry-on-top extras are unimportant when stacked up against the basic reading experience of an ereader. Which makes all the more annoyed about this model's distracting glossy black frontage. Having seen a similar design executed using matt plastic in the Kobo Touch, we're confident the T1 would look just about as snazzy without the shiny finish.
Mmm... shiny (that's an ironic Mmm)
Some elements of the ereader don't pay quite enough attention to the end user, another being the lack of LRF support. Yes, it's a naff format that barely anyone uses anymore, but what about all those Sony Reader veterans who have been fans since 2006 and have built-up substantial .lrf libraries?
Technically, this is an impressive ereader with specs that best many of its rivals. It offers decent connectivity and expandable memory while being as thin and light as the most waif-ish ebook readers you can buy. We think that the inclusion of multi-touch is a sensible addition that's surprisingly useful. However, if you have no interest in PDF-viewing or web browsing, the almost 50 per cent premium commanded over the £89 Kindle may be a little too great, especially when the online book store isn't live in the UK yet.
The Sony Reader PRS-T1 marks a slight change of direction for Sony's ereader range. Metal construction is out, replaced by a much lighter and slightly more affordable model that's roughly as thin and weighty as a Kindle, while packing better connectivity, expandable memory and a touchscreen. It shrugs off the occasionally utilitarian look of ebook readers too, with a glossy black design. However, this can be distracting and there a few serious problems to iron out. The Sony Reader store isn't yet live in the UK, ruling-out buying books directly, and the lack of legacy support is disappointing.