Reader Pocket Edition (PRS-350SC)
- Really compact, lightweight design
- Very responsive touchscreen with included stylus
- Speedy page turns
- No wireless for downloading books OTA
- Library of books not as vast as Amazon's
- More expensive than competition
Look and feel
After you get over the petiteness of the device, the impressive feel is the second thing you'll notice. The aluminum clad reader feels incredibly solid, and its plastic edges seem to give it a bit of protection. Of course, if you're the type that uses and abuses products, the Kindle's plastic body will probably wear better over time – honestly, we'd worry if the Pocket Edition were to accidentally fall off a table onto a hard surface, we'd stay cool if it were the Kindle or the Nook. Ports-wise, Sony's kept the Reader fairly bare – there's a mini USB jack on the bottom edge, a power switch along the top and a stylus ejects from the right side. You have to step up to Sony's Touch or Daily Editions to get the SD card, MemoryStick and 3.5mm headphone jacks.
Touchscreen and E Ink performance
As we said in our original hands-on, the touchscreen is very responsive; very light swipes on the smooth screen is all it takes to turn the page and a light tap on books is plenty to make selections. The stylus we mentioned before is obviously meant for taking notes within a book, or in our case, doodling in the Handwriting application. Pen input is also very responsive, but the E Ink causes there to be a slight delay between pen strokes and the actual inking.
There's really no surprises when it comes to the performance of the 5-inch 800 x 600-resolution, 16-level gray scale E Ink Pearl display -- it's comparable to the what we've seen from other e-readers that sport E Ink's latest. The page turns are faster than the previous generation (and the Nook), but in our side-by-side comparison with the new Kindle, Amazon's solution was a hair faster to turn pages in most cases. In all honesty, the difference is really minimal, and not enough of a reason to pick one over the other. Still there's a short flicker when you turn pages, and as expected, the display is quite crisp and readable indoors and out.
Book buying and reading experience
While we're on the topic of Sony's Reader Store, we feel compelled to do some slight comparison in terms of selection. Amazon claims it has over 700,000 e-books, newspapers and magazines in its Kindle Store. While Sony does have access to millions of books with Google Book integration, it only has 200,000 paid titles. Still, we had no problem finding some bestsellers including Sarah Silverman's "The Bedwetter" and Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom: A Novel." However, you could say Sony makes up for that selection with its "openness" / wider range of e-book formats, including ePub, PDF, BBeB Book, Text and RTF.
In terms of actually reading on the device, we genuinely have no complaints. Turning pages by swiping is a very enjoyable experience, and the main menu is exceedingly intuitive. Covers are displayed in the Books area and jumping to a page within a book is easy – you can use the toggle to move quickly through pages or input the page number with a soft number pad. Double tapping on a word reveals its definition, and you've got a choice of ten different language dictionaries. While there's no physical keyboard to search a word, an on-screen keyboard pops up when you select search. Some may find the font on the smaller screen to be a bit frustrating, but you can also choose from six font sizes.
In terms of battery life, we can't say we read enough in the last week to test the 10,000 page turns per charge claim, but our device is hovering around the 75 percent mark and we've had it powered on for at least a week and have used it to read a good chunk of "S*it My Dad Days."