Smartly designed and with an improved screen
The PRS-650 Touch Edition has a fairly similar look about it to its predecessors, but you can see the signs of a little surgery. Much of what we liked so much on the PRS-505 a couple of years back is still there: an exemplary finish and a smart design, it stands out from those all-plastic e-books.
The PRS-650 beside the Pocket: 6 inches vs 5 inches.
The PRS-650 has nothing of the toy about it and the brushed metal casing really does make it a nice object. The back of the device is made of a rubbery material giving nice handling - it won't slip onto the floor too easily. The size to weight ratio has been well handled: this Reader is slimmer than the previous models and it's so light and easy to slip into your bag that you'll have no qualms carrying it around with you.
There's very little change when it comes to the navigation buttons. Indeed, there aren't as many of them which makes them easier to use.
The protective case isn't supplied
The main real difference lies in the new E-Ink Pearl screen, which displays a very unusual colour for an electronic book (not as grey), even when the device is turned off. Once you do have it on, the touch screen - which you can use with a stylus or your finger - shows itself to be a little more responsive than before. When you refresh pages, as you need to do with the E-Ink technology, the delay is shorter. You therefore don't get that impression you used to have of having a white (or perhaps black rather) screen between each page.
It's also easier to highlight passages on-screen, either from a book or a PDF document. The screen has improved and efficient contrast and the anti-glare coating ensures excellent legibility, even in full sunlight. Finger marks are also barely visible, which further aids reading (contrast with glossy touch tablet panels!).
Turning the Reader on takes some time. The in-house interface, designed by Sony exclusively for its Readers, has been slightly revised and corrected as you'll see on the home screen. It's easy to pick up on where you left off as you can access your page straight from the top of the home page (you create your bookmarks by tapping twice on the top of the screen).
Browsing the menus is pretty logical and intuitive on the whole. Anyone picking up a Reader for the first time should quickly get the hang of it.
Among the pluses, note the efficient handling of note taking (you can retrieve your notes in RTF format on your computer), the option to highlight passages and take notes freehand with your finger or stylus as well as excellent dictionary access (just double tap a word to find its meaning or translation).
Adjust font size
While it handles really nicely, the reading experience has been improved again and it can last a few weeks without needing to be recharged, for us the new Reader range does have an enormous gap in the spec. As a mobile device that's likely to be on-hand at all times, it still doesn't have 3G or wi-fi. Disappointing!
The Booken Orizon or the very recent FnacBook both have wireless connectivity, which frees them up from the computer. These readers clearly have an advantage over the Sonys.
With the Sony Reader family you have no choice but to link up to your computer when you want to download a book. You download your books with the in-house software (other software such as Calibre is available on the Internet) or Adobe Digital Editions and then you transfer them to your Reader. Once you've done this you can assign your books to Collections, so as to classify them according to choice.
The Reader supports a good range of formats, including ePub, Adobe PDF, TXT and RTF. Many e-libraries of old classics are now available in the public domain in ePub format, without DRM and therefore unlocked.