Maybe the third time's the charm for Sony. After two tries at touch-screen e-readers, the company has officially unveiled its latest generation of Readers, and this go-round Sony's engineers have finally gotten it right--at least the touch-screen part.
As the rumors suggested, Sony is basically upgrading all three of its Readers with new technology, leading with the new higher-contrast E-Ink Pearl display, which is used in the latest Amazon Kindle and Kindle DX. In the upgrade, the smaller 5-inch Pocket Edition goes from PRS-300 to PRS-350 and the Touch Edition goes from PRS-600 to PRS-650. Those models will retail for $179.99 and $229.99 respectively and are available now.
Meanwhile, the larger Daily Edition PRS-950, which features an 7-inch screen along with built-in Wi-Fi and 3G wireless from AT&T, will list for "about" $299.99 and hit stores in November.
Yes, you heard right, only the top-end model has built-in wireless, which seems a bit odd when both the Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook cost less than the Sony Touch Edition and have built-in Wi-Fi and 3G. And both the Kindle and Nook now come in Wi-Fi-only versions for less than $150.
On a more positive note, we had a chance to play around with the new Reader models, and the touch-screen interface--and the screen itself--has been improved to the point where we can say it's finally hit its stride. Sony has 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 appear to be resolved, though we'll wait till we get our hands on a review sample before making a final verdict.
While the touch screen may not be quite as responsive as the iPhone's, 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. You can also mark up text with the included stylus and turn pages with a swipe of a finger.
The 5-inch Reader Pocket Edition PRS-350 is small and lightweight, weighs 5.64 ounces, and is only .33 inch thick. Sony has also increased the built-in memory to 2GB.
Here are the PRS-350's key specs: … Read more