A library in your pocket
Ebook readers are starting to come of age – the first models had laughably poor screens and terrible battery life, but the new models are much more impressive.
The current generation of readers includes the Sony PRS-505, which was sold exclusively through Waterstone’s, the Cool-er and the Amazon Kindle, which we will be reviewing soon. Sony’s latest additions to its range are the Reader Touch Edition, which we are looking at here, and a cheaper Pocket Edition (look out for a review soon).
As the name suggests, this model has a touch-sensitive 6in screen. There are five physical buttons at the bottom of the unit, for moving left and right, going to the home screen, zooming in and out and changing options.
It’s also possible to control the device by touching icons on the screen to select things, or swiping a finger up or down to change page. A stylus is included, which tucks into a slot on the side, if you don’t want to use a finger.
The page control was not very impressive. It often took us several goes to swipe for a page turn, but using it to select icons worked much better. You can also use the stylus to make notes on the pages of books, which is handy for annotating pieces of text.
Like other modern readers it uses e-ink technology for the screen, which doesn’t use a backlight. While this means you need plenty of light to use the device – as much as to read a paper book – it doesn’t cause eye-strain as a normal computer display does.
Battery life is long too. It should last for 7500 page turns, but this is reduced every time the touch features are used. It’s light and easy to carry in a pocket.
The device can also play audio, which is handy for audio-books or music, but there is no speaker. You need to plug headphones or speakers into the device’s headphone socket to hear anything.
It charges through a USB connection to the computer and the supplied Sony Reader software, which loads straight from the device the first time you use it, is used to copy books to the device.
The software can convert text files, Word documents and PDFs to the format used by the reader, and this worked well, although the formatting is not as pleasant as it is with a ‘proper’ ebook.
The iTunes-alike software worked well, although it was a little old-looking for our liking. You cannot buy books directly through the software – it directs users to a selection of web stores.
Screen quality was impressive. While the black-on-grey text takes a little getting used to. It’s not as good, contrast-wise, as black text on white paper, but it worked well once we got used to it.
The zoom controls, in particular, are excellent. The reader automatically reflows the text on the page each time the zoom level is changed, so the reader isn’t left with odd-looking lines. It can be used in portrait or landscape mode, although the option to choose between these was hidden away in a menu.
The price of the new Touch Edition is higher than last year’s original model, and in our opinion the Touch features don’t add quite enough to make it worthwhile.
This is an impressive product, but it’s a bit expensive to be good value.
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A good ebook reader, but expensive for what it does Good points Light and easy to carry; great battery life; easy to read the screen Bad points Quite expensive; touch-controls do not always work
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