Sony Reader PRS-505 (second gen) hands-on: we're in love

Look, the new Sony Reader PRS-505 isn't perfect -- it's only the first device among the second generation (ok, technically third generation) of e-ink based eBook readers. But it really does remind us of the early MP3 players back in the late 90s: maybe the content isn't as readily accessible as we might like, but the hardware is starting to come into its own (we have a feeling 3rd generation will be prime time), and damned if we don't want to start using this thing for all our bookwormish purposes post-haste. Improvements and niceties in the PRS-505 over the last-gen Reader PRS-500 include:

  • Numerous display improvements, including:

  • Did we mention how much the un-Sony-like mass-storage mode warmed our jaded (and occasionally Mac-using) hearts? Just place your (compatible) files anywhere on the MSC drive, the reader will find and index them.

  • Internal memory has increased from 64MB to 192MB. (The SD slot isn't SDHC, though.)

  • It's far thinner and flatter -- now 0.3-inches at its thinnest, compared to the 0.5-inch thick 500.

  • The physical design seems far simpler and consolidated, with a lot fewer buttons / slots etc. on the edges (actually, none), with everything important on the top and bottom of the unit.

  • Moving the page forward / back buttons to the right side, away from the spine of the cover. (Those buttons are also a little better laid out, and more clearly identified.)

  • The 1-10 buttons have been moved from the bottom up to the side, next to their corresponding numbered menu options. (Essentially, where these buttons belong.)

  • Startup is near instantaneous from "off" (standby); you can also easily skip pages with the 1-10 buttons.

  • Leather binding has subtle magnetic clasps that provide a little stickiness when closed.

Yeah, the $300 price still is a lot, especially considering the content selection isn't anywhere near as expansive or cheap as your local Borders (or Amazon, for that matter), but we're far happier with things on the hardware side this time around. Be sure to check out all the photos; now you'll have to excuse us as we take the afternoon off to catch up on some offline reading.