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Sony PRS-650 Reader Touch review

It's got improved touch controls but can it take on the might of the Kindle?

Sony PRS-650
Can Sony's new eBook reader compete with Amazon's Kindle?

Sony prs-650 reader touch

Switch the Sony PRS-650 Reader Touch on and it takes around 10 seconds to boot up your library of books.

The menu screen is nice and pleasant to look at. Sony has made significant improvements with its e-ink technology. It uses E Ink Pearl which is sharper, has a faster refresh rate and now comes with 16 levels of greyscale.

This does make a noticeable difference to the sharpness of the text on the screen.

The menu is broken down into your library of books (you get a number of books like Doctor No and Pride And Prejudice loaded on to the device). Your periodicals (newspaper articles), collections (books you have purchased) and any notes you have made.

This is where the Sony Reader Touch gets interesting. You have the ability to make notes on the books you read. You can underline, circle and scribble on the books you are reading. It is virtual graffiti and it is a great feature which is primed for students.

You can also double tap on words to load up the included dictionary to find out their definition.

And even better, you can find out the definition of foreign words as well, so there's no stopping you when reading even the most pretentious la literature.

Sony prs-650 reader touch

The new and improved screen resolution means that the Reader Touch is a joy to use. Words sparkle on the page and even the page transition doesn't seem as jarring as normal e-ink readers. To get back to the menu screen you have to use the real home button.

Everything else though is done through the touchscreen. Sony has managed to create a touchscreen on the Sony Touch which does away with the shiny extra layer it had to put on its prior Touch ebook reader – this makes a world of difference.

Essentially Sony is using tiny sensors at the top and bottom of the screen which detect when a finger is present on the screen.

This means that swiping the screen can be done with the deftest of touches and there's no harder finger prodding when having to navigate menus.

E-Ink touchscreen displays are never going to compete with the capacitive screens of phones or tablets, but the screen on the Sony Reader Touch is a revelation for those who have tried touch on an e-ink device before.

Sony prs-650 reader touch

Other slight features include bookmarking and searching. Searching brings up a QWERTY keyboard, which isn't as responsive as we'd have liked, but there was no muddling of letters when typing out the names of books.

The Sony Reader Touch also makes for a decent PDF viewer. This is because any PDFs you feed into the device are automatically resized for ease of view.

It's not that great at viewing images, though. While the front covers of books are great in thumbnail form when they are blown up they are less than impressive. And swiping through the images makes the e-ink have something of a fit. It looks like the image is drowning in treacle before actually coming up to the surface.

As there is a 3.5mm jack, you can also load up the device with MP3s to listen to while reading your missives.

When it comes to internal memory, the Sony Reader Touch has 2GB which is around 1,200 ebooks. This is expandable with the two memory slots.

Sony prs-650 reader touch

After playing with the Sony Reader for a number of weeks, we can vouch that the battery life is impressive. Having listened to MP3s and loaded up myriad ebooks we didn't have to charge it for at least a week.

Sony is promoting it as around two week's juice, but this must be with little action.

Sony is making the Reader Touch as open as possible, so the file formats it will take are plentiful. The main ones include: EPUB eBooks (Adept) BBeB eBook, PDF, Word, TXT and RTF.

This does a good job of masking the fact that Sony doesn't have the might of the Amazon Kindle Store to go with its ebook reader.

As it is sporting EPUB, you can download ebooks from most online stores out there, though. The one which you won't be able to is, for obvious reasons, the Kindle Store.

Sony reader prs-650 touch

With the release of the Reader Touch, Sony is promoting that you can now rent books through 50 council library websites.

We found this was easy enough to do, but there are some interesting things with the renting. Even though it is a digital file, each library only has so many licences, so like a real library the book you want may well be 'out on loan'. You do get notified when the ebook is available, though.

It's a nice idea, but one which is currently limited. If more libraries sign up then it may well take off.

What is much better is the search function of the Sony Reader website which offers up all the free domain books Google has to offer.

This saves you a lot of time wading through the priced books which Google also offers.