Now it wasn’t long since the new Amazon Kindle (3) was announced and having been released at an aggressively low price-point earlier in the week, it is hardly surprising that the competition was hot on the trail. Now it’s Sony’s turn and the new range of e-readers seem a fair improvement over what has gone before.
Firstly, the two new Sony e-Reader models both feature a new, slimmer aluminium design and all new touch screens, meaning that not only are they more attractive to look at and lighter to hold, they may finally have provided a more acceptable and functional touch screen to work with after the development of optical touch screen technology designed specifically for reading. You seldom see an e-reader with a decent touch screen, and before Apple iPads start racing through your mind, I’m talking about dedicated e-readers here. So, it will be interesting to see whether or not Sony have finally made a real Kindle competitor for the European market.
Both of the new models, which include the pocket and touch editions and not the premium offering, offer 2GB of onboard memory, which allows up to 1,200 books at any one time. It’s simply more than you are ever likely to need or indeed, read. Other new features include the Oxford Dictionary of English as well as 10 translation dictionaries to and from English in French, German, Spanish, Italian and Dutch. A feature included in this new dictionary functionality is the ability to create ‘word logs’, giving readers the ability to track words they’ve looked up in various orders while quickly switching between translations.
As an e-reader is all about the display really, it is important to note that Sony claim their new display is readable in direct sunlight, an area where former products from Sony have failed to match the Kindle. Using an E-Ink Pearl electronic paper display with ultra-high contrast, both offerings in the new range offer 16 levels of greyscale great for text and images and similar to the new generation of Kindle. So let’s take a look at them and see what’s separating the two new models.
Sony Reader Pocket Edition (PRS-350)
As ever, the pocket edition features a five-inch, full touch screen and is extremely thin and light so as the name suggests is perfect for on-the-go reading and keeping in a bag or pocket. It is available in a plain silver colour or alternatively in pink, as ever.
Sony Reader Touch Edition (PRS-650)
The touch edition may not be a great deal bigger physically, sporting a six-inch display, the same size as the Kindle, with full touch capabilities. Another improvement over the pocket edition is the SD card slot, which allows for up to 32GB of additional space so you can keep either more thousands of books, or MP3 or AAC files for audio book or music playback. This, more expensive, entrant into the market is available in silver or black.
Both models also feature great functionality for reading PDF’s or other documents, including a zoom feature as well as adjustable contrast and brightness control. Plus, with other qualities such as multiple page creation make it easier for the user to read large documents on a smaller screen.
So that’s about it in terms of new features, and it seems a great improvement over the previous models and Omar Gurnah, Reader category manager, Sony UK had his say. “The success of our previous line of Reader products illustrates book lovers’ demand for open format and full touch screens on their digital reading devices. Today, we’re answering their call for more by providing two beautifully designed, full touch screen devices which work with a variety of eBook stores.”
There is still no connectivity, 3G or WiFi, with the models meaning you must download books from your computer before you leave home and for me this is still a huge down side to the Sony offering when you consider that the Kindle, which really sets the benchmark in the industry at the moment, has free global wireless. However, in its favour it supports more formats of e-books than the Kindle including the Google Books EPUB format and is more widely marketed than the Amazon device, so I predicted a great deal of interest in device from non-geeks, so to speak, who stumble across the device in shops.
The new Sony e-Readers will be available from 17th September (The same date as the second wave of Kindle pre-orders are due) from Sony Centres, Sony.co.uk, Waterstone’s, WH Smith and other high street retailers. Accessories will arrive in due course too.