Sony is first off the boat with its new PRS-T2 e-reader for the 2012 Christmas season, beating Kobo and Amazon to the punch — but, unlike the Kobo Glo and the Kindle Paperwhite, it lacks a built-in front-light. Nevertheless, Sony's offering will be able to maintain its place in the e-reader marketplace, due to a few new features ... and fixes.
Like thebefore it, the PRS-T2 is cased in hard, lightweight plastic — gloss finish on the front and matte on the back, available in white, red or black. It carries through many of the design elements: the gently curved bottom edge, slanting bezel and five buttons, but the design has been cleaned up a bit, making the reader look more compact — even though at 173x110x9.1mm, it's 0.2mm larger than its predecessor.
It also comes in at four grams lighter, at 164g, making it the lightest 6-inch Sony Reader to date; but you'll not notice that much, especially if you use Sony's official case — which will, admittedly, add another 33 per cent to the price tag, but it is also really useful in a blackout, as it happens.
The five buttons have likewise been pared back; instead of the baguette-shaped strip, each of the buttons is now formed in the shape its icon: page back, page forward, home, return and menu. On the bottom edge is the power button, micro-USB port and reset button, and the MicroSD slot is hidden behind a panel on the back left edge.
Notably absent is the audio jack — because the PRS-T2 no longer supports audio files. We can't say that's something we miss.
Sony introduces its software changes gradually, with few differences between models; but, while the PRS-T2 runs on pretty much the same software as the PRS-T1, there have been a few notable additions.
First, the hardware — both the T1 and the T2 run on a 1GHz processor and support IEEE 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. The new Reader, though, has doubled the battery life from three weeks to six, and has an updated E Ink screen that uses the latest Pearl technology (V220), although still at 800x600p resolution. It doesn't really break any new ground, but it's a bit less grey than before.
As noted above, the PRS-T2 has dispensed with audio support, a change that we don't find surprising — we can't imagine anyone using their e-reader to listen to music, or even ebooks, when they have a smartphone in their pocket, and Sony has never supported text-to-speech (TTS) technology for vision-impaired readers.
The e-reader does come with a stylus, but once again, there is no handy place to store it; we found ourselves using fingers, which work just as well for basic tasks, such as item selection, page-turning and highlighting, although not for scribbling notes. However, the screen is a little more accurate when it comes to the latter than before, meaning the hand-scribbled notes we did make were slightly more legible.
An included dictionary allows you to look up words in-book, holding a finger over a word to open the Oxford definition. The dictionary can be changed using the Menu button if the Oxford isn't your cup of tea. The dictionary can also be used independently, and we were gratified to note that the input keyboard has improved massively, making it faster to enter web pages, write text notes and use other applications as well.