The verdict on Sony's PRS-650 Touch Edition e-reader
The Sony Reader Touch Edition PRS-650 is a slick e-book reader that's anchored by an impressive and easy-to-use touch interface, but the glaring omission of wireless connectivity will be a deal killer for many--especially at this price.
In 2009, Sony put out the Reader Touch Edition (model PRS-600), an E Ink reader with a 6-inch touch screen that looked sleek but had a few design flaws. For 2010, Sony has delivered an upgraded Reader Touch Edition, the PRS-650. While it looks a lot like its predecessor, the new Reader Touch Edition slightly trimmed down and has two major upgrades: the new higher-contrast E Ink Pearl display found in the latest Amazon Kindle and Kindle DX and a touch-screen interface that finally works well and is glare-free. The product is available in red or black for $230.
Alas, the Reader Touch Edition, which weighs in at 7.58 ounces and measures a compact 6.61 inches tall by 4.68 inches wide by 0.38 inch thick, doesn't have any sort of wireless capabilities--but we'll get to that in a minute. For now, let's start with the good stuff, namely that Sony's engineers managed to remove a layer of screen protection that previously hurt the contrast (the letters weren't as dark as on the Kindle or Nook) and caused glare issues due to increased reflectivity. Those matters are now resolved, and it's great to see the concept of a touch-screen E Ink e-reader finally hit its stride. (Sony is using for the touch mechanics, so you barely have to touch the screen to get a response).
The 6-inch screen is, so far as we know, identical to the Pearl E Ink display found on the latest version of the Kindle--600x800 resolution, 16-level grayscale, and improved contrast (compared to older E Ink screens, like that of the Barnes & Noble Nook). Six adjustable font sizes let you customize the view to your liking, so there's never a need to squint.
While the touch screen may not be quite as responsive as that of the iPhone (due to the slightly laggy nature of E Ink), it's more responsive than it was, and, as we've said before, this type of interface is ideal for e-readers because it allows the designers to cut down on buttons and whittle the device down to just slightly bigger than the screen itself.