Hands on with Sony's PRS-700 ebook reader
Real page turner...
CES Since we Europeans seem a far more literate bunch than our colonial cousins, it rather begs the question why on Earth the Shermans get the new Sony ebook reader while we don't.
The PRS-700 was released in the US back in October 2008 - a month after its predecessor, the PRS-505, finally made to the UK. So we haven't had our hands on the new model until now, courtesy of CES.
Sony's PRS-700 Reader: so much more than its predecessor
It wouldn't be such a big deal if the 700 was only a warmed up 505 but having just spent half an hour mucking about with one at Sony's CES stand, we can report that it is so much more.
OK, a lot of the basics are the same: the screen is still a 6in E Ink affair, the unlit battery life is the same as before, as is the file support portfolio, while physically the 700 is a shade heavier and wider than the 505, if a little shorter.
The big - and we mean BIG - differences are the touch screen and the integrated reading light.
The touchscreen UI is - not to beat about the undergrowth - superb. Reaction is nigh on instant, making flipping pages a simple matter or dragging your finger to the left or right. Page transition is also much faster than it is on the 505, making for a far more fluid reading experience and reducing the rather annoying black-out-of-grey to grey-out-of-back 'flash' of the 505's display. Thankfully, Sony has resisted the temptation to include any fancy page-turn animations.
To begin at the beginning...
The two intensity setting screen light emits a pleasant blue-ish glow from around a page's periphery - at least it looked blue to us under the unforgiving neon of the Las Vegas Convention Centre - which we suspect will make for pretty easy low-light reading.
When we asked what sort of impact using the light has on battery life, the reply was a little evasive to say the least, which suggests it may be dramatic.
Note-taking feature included
The new device also features a note-taking option complete with virtual keyboard and physical stylus - though it also works well enough with the Mk. 1 finger. This is something we can see coming in handy. It also has a useful zoom function.
Sony is currently selling the two models side by side in the US, the 505 at $299 (£197/€222), the 700 at $399 (£263/€296). Is it worth the extra hundred bucks? Is the Pope Catholic? Is Luxembourg small? Come on, Sony, stop playing silly buggers and release the thing globally. ®
Sony PRS-505 ebook reader
The drawback - based on the comments of a friend who looked at both in the US just before Xmas - is that the touchscreen/backlight layer has hit the contrast/readability badly.
but screen quality is said to suffer
I researched the 700 quite a bit before christmas as i wanted a reader.. a lot of forums and internet posts state that the screen on the 700 when compared to the 505 is a lot worse in terms of contrast/quality.. they infer that in adding the touchscreen sony have had to sacrifice readability.. that the screen is much more prone to glare and just doesnt look nearly as good..
hopefully if sony do get around to releasing this in europe - some of these issues can be addressed! btw i love the 505...
So it has a nice touch screen and a battery life equal to the previous model. the reading light is a good idea too. But what about the important features?
*Does it support the mobi book format?
Mobi format ebooks have the largest catalogue of all the DRM formats currently in use, they outnumber the Bebook format 20 to 1, but despite this the previous reader doesn't support them.
*Has PDF support been improved?
the previous reader, and most other ebooks, have difficulty scaling and displaying PDF files that where not properly formatted for the device, which very very few will be unless you make them yourself.
*Are image files scaled well to the screen resolution without reformatting them for the device?
the 505 actually does a fairly good job of this, and I would hope the feature has been refined further.
Yes Sony, release it in the UK please!
I agree, PRS700 for the UK ASAP please Sony!
Does the touchscreen mean we can now annotate e-books? If so, that's very cool indeed!