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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Sony Reader PRS-T2 review:

Not quite a Kindle killer

The Sony PRS-T2 comes in three colors. Sony

As noted, the latest Reader now includes new Facebook and Evernote features, which are accessible by tapping on the "Applications" button on the home page. Sony says, "Consumers now have the ability to post a short passage from books purchased from Reader Store to Facebook directly from the device along with the book cover, author, and title." You also get access to content you saved using Evernote's Web Clipper feature, and pages saved with Evernote Clearly are optimized for the Reader's e-ink display. And finally, favorite passages can also be annotated on the T2 and saved in Evernote for later viewing elsewhere. (Sony includes a stylus for marking up pages, but the device does not have a slot for storing that stylus).

In case you were wondering, this is a Wi-Fi-only e-reader (there's no 3G option), and it comes with 2GB of internal memory but has a microSD expansion slot for additional memory that accepts up to 32GB cards. While there's no built-in light, Sony does offer a cover with an integrated light as an accessory for $50.

The device comes with 2GB of internal memory but has an expansion to add more memory. Sarah Tew/CNET

'Open' e-reader
Sony has always touted its Readers as being more "open" than Amazon's Kindles, which simply means you're not locked into a single bookstore "ecosystem." On the file compatibility front, the Reader supports PDF, Microsoft Word, and other text file formats, as well as EPUB/ACS4 and connection with Adobe Digital Editions. That means it's compatible with any e-book store that uses the Adobe DRM format, including e-bookstores in Europe and Asia. It can also show JPEG, PNG, GIF, and BMP image files.

One thing missing from this model that was on the PRS-T1 is audio support. Gone is the headphone jack and you can no longer listen to MP3 and AAC audio files. I don't think it's a big deal (I never used it), but some people might want that feature (the PRS-T1 is still available at the time of this writing). For what it's worth, audio support is also lacking in the current Kindle and Nook e-readers.

The Reader is also designed with easy library-lending access in mind, with a dedicated icon offering access to free library book downloads -- if you have a valid local library card, of course. It also offers easy access to the large library of free Google books, though the interface is slow, and that content mostly duplicates the free pre-1923 classic texts you can already get in Sony's store and as EPUB files elsewhere. Another small bonus: there's a Web browser. But like the experimental browser on the Kindle, it's sluggish and should only be used in a pinch.

Sony has improved the e-reader interface and added features. Sarah Tew/CNET

In all, the Reader Wi-Fi has a decent feature set that matches up fairly well with the Kindle and Nook, and includes EPUB support for those looking for that feature. At the same time, the Reader doesn't have the same e-book-lending features as the Nook and Kindle -- the ones that allow you to lend a friend a book for two weeks if they're on the same platform (and if the publisher supports lending for that specific title). It's also worth mentioning that while Sony now has an Android app for reading e-books you buy in the Sony Reader Store, it still hasn't gotten its Reader app approved by Apple (why not is unclear), so you can't read your Sony-bought e-books on iOS devices.

Of course, some people won't care about the aforementioned features, but others might.

In the last couple of years, Sony has only offered incremental improvements to its e-reader line, which is really down to this single model (that said, it's good that it has simplified its line). While Sony's never released sales numbers for its e-readers or e-books, the prevailing opinion is that it has only a small share of the U.S. e-reader market -- but the Reader does have international appeal. However, as Amazon, Apple, and upstarts like Kobo expand their e-book offerings into fast-growing markets abroad, Sony's facing plenty of competition outside of North America. Also, Barnes & Noble has recently taken the Nook brand overseas.

I like the Reader PRS-T2. It's lightweight, the text looks good on the screen, page turns are fast, and the new interface has been improved. As I said, there's nothing significantly wrong with it other than it doesn't do anything to distinguish itself from the competition. And in a crowded field of commodity products (yes, e-readers have essentially become just that), you risk looking a little mundane if you're not beating anybody on price, design, features, or performance. Ultimately, that's what the Sony PRS-T2 is: a solid but undistinguished e-reader.

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