The Sony PRS-T1 uses an 800MHz Freescale processor, very similar - if not identical - to that found in the Kobo Touch and 2011 Kindle. There is something odd and unexpected under the Sony's hood, though.
It runs Android version 2.x - the smartphone operating system. You'd never know to look at the user interface, but the little green guy is working his magic under the surface here.
We're glad to report, though, that there are no widgets, no bizarre customisation options and no Angry Birds on show here. Like all the best ereaders, the PRS-T1's interface is blessedly simple. Two-thirds of the home screen is given up to your most recently-read book and those just added to the ereader, with four small buttons down at the bottom to take you to your full library, the Reader Store, plus your stashes of periodicals and book collections. For the most part, this screen is all you need.
There is a second interface screen too, which takes you to the settings menu and secondary features like the standalone dictionary, audio player, picture gallery and doodle-fest handwriting app. The Sony PRS-T1 doesn't include anything we've not seen before in readers like the 2010 Kindle and Kobo Touch, but it doesn't miss out on a great deal either. Except Sudoku - there are no games built-in.
Its Android core suggests there's potential for more apps to be added later on, but the limited support Sony has given to its Reader range of devices over the years encourages us not to expect too much. As does the current state of its existing functionality. Navigation is a touch slow and the Reader Store book store link takes you to a page telling you that it's "coming soon" in the UK, which has been its status for several months now.
This is extremely limiting, especially to those who don't have an existing library of non-DRM ebooks. Once this is fixed, though, the PRS-T1 will offer several ways to buy and download novels and newspapers directly. On top of the official Reader Store, the second page of the main menu offers links to Google Books and your treasure trove of public library book rentals. These are EPUB files with DRM, and as such won't work with Amazon's Kindle ebook readers. This is a significant bonus for the Sony, although bear in mind that these limited-time rentals and the book selection isn't a patch on what you'd get from a full paid ebook store.
You can also transfer ebooks manually over a wired connection. However, it's a fiddlier process than in previous Sony models. The 2GB of internal memory doesn't show up as a mass storage drive, just a 10MB setup partition that's write-protected, stopping transfer of files. Run the setup program on this partition and the PRS-T1 downloads the transfer software from the internet. Not only do you need to install something to transfer files for the first time, you need to be connected to the internet too. Alternatively, you can jam some files onto a microSD card.
The Sony PRS-T1 supports only a very limited range of ebook types, though. This is primarily an EPUB reader, and Sony's own proprietary .lrf Reader format is not supported. We've never been fans of Sony's tendency towards proprietary formats and connections, but leaving out this file type is a blunder when previous Sony Reader owners are obvious prospective T1 owners.
Performance with PDF files is good, though. In our tests, layout and formatting were retained very well and the multi-touch screen makes viewing them far more enjoyable than just about any ereader we've tested.