Sony arrived on the Aussie e-reader market last year with a bang, introducing two touchscreen models that proved increasingly difficult to purchase in the ensuing months (a situation not helped by the effect of a tsunami on Sony's E Ink supplier in Japan).
Now the new generation has arrived in the form of the PRS-T1 six-inch touchscreen reader — and it's already making a better impression, simply by virtue of better stock quantities. Whether or not it stacks up against both its direct predecessor and the current competition in other arenas, however, is a different matter.
Unlike the previous generation of Sony Readers that made it to Australia, the PRS-T1 is cased in a hard plastic chassis rather than aluminium. Although it makes the e-reader lighter — it weighs just 168g compared to the PRS-650's 215g, making it the lightest six-inch reader on the market — we were a bit dubious about how this would affect the sturdiness and feel.
Defying our doubts, though, it turned out pretty swanky. The case is metallic gloss on the front and metallic matte on the back, which looks good, although both surfaces are of the ilk that catches fingerprints. An aluminium panel on the front gives the design visual interest without being distracting, and the row of buttons for back, forward, home, return and menu are clear without being unduly obvious.
Although the reader is lighter, it doesn't feel flimsy — Sony has managed to find the fine line between portability (lightness) and solid build, and it has a good weight balance.
An SD card slit tucks away behind a panel on the back-right edge, and everything else — power button, micro-USB charging and connection port, reset button and power button — are arrayed discreetly along the bottom edge.
One confusing design choice is the stylus. Although one is included in the box, there is nowhere on the device itself to store it, unlike the PRS-650, which had a slot in the top right corner. Unless you spend extra on a case, be prepared for the stylus to go adventuring and not even send you postcards.
The first thing we should probably mention is that Sony has massively slashed the price of its six-inch reader; the PRS-650 launched on the Aussie market for AU$299 — US$229 stateside, which is around an AU$70 price difference. The PRS-T1 goes for US$149 in the States, and AU$179 here; so, not only has Sony managed to drop the price by around 40 per cent, but it has also brought down the Australia Tax by around 60 per cent. We probably have Amazon (which is likely selling its Kindles at a loss, just for context) to thank for that, but whatever the impetus, it's a welcome change.