The Sony Reader Touch Edition (PRS-600) is the company's second touchscreen eReader, but it suffers from some of the glare problems of its predecessor. Though named the PRS-600, the unit is actually the direct successor to the PRS-700 which was introduced in November 2008 and is now being phased out. It's a stylish design, with a six-inch display, and is available in red, black, and silver. The back of the PRS-600 is covered in soft material which feels good in your hands, while there is metal around the front and on the spine.
The PRS-600 suffers from the same readability handicap as the PRS-700 because of the added touchscreen layer. The Kindle is simply easier to read and more print like--the special coating on the touchscreen sacrifices some contrast and makes it slightly foggier and more glare producing. This effect on the PRS 600 is not as bad as it was with the older 700, whose touch layer was floating well above the e-ink screen to allow for integrated LED lighting. This model lacks the integrated lighting, and the blurriness has improved somewhat as a result. Nonetheless, there is still quite a reflection, which you simply don't get in a pure e-ink reader without a touchscreen (see glare picture below from Channel 5's "Gadget Show"). Their reviewer claimed reading on it was "most unpleasurable ... the problem is it's so reflective." Call us purists, but we think that an eBook reader should have the best legibility possible, and we consider this a major mark against the PRS 600, but individuals will vary in their tolerance.
The main control is of course via touch, through either a stylus or your finger, though there are a few buttons discreetly placed on the bottom of the screen (back, forward, home, size, and options). It takes quite a bit of pressure to press onscreen buttons, which may take some getting used to. You can also use a virtual keyboard.
There is one area where it shines over the Kindle 2--you can easily make notes and annotations freehand with the stylus. Notes can be exported--handy for the university crowd and it has a built-in Oxford American dictionary--you look up words simply by tapping on them.
The reader does support PDFs natively (which Kindle 2's can only do after conversion), but there are serious issues in using them. When you open a PDF, it's displayed in full view, but for some reason leaves a 1-inch margin around the edges. So each time you view a PDF, you need to zoom in around 30%, so the page takes up the entire screen and gets rid of the empty margins. Why this isn't the default view is anyone's guess. Annoyingly, when you hit next page, it goes back to super margin view, so have you to resize, etc. Very annoying. There are other minor issues, like page numbers don't work well with PDFs, but the constant resizing is the killer for us.
The user memory is on the low side-380MB compared with the ~1.4GB usable with the Kindle 2, but this can be supplemented cheaply with memory sticks up to a whopping 16 GB.
The Touch Edition has very good font support, and all are scalable to five different sizes. A font-fusion engine from BitStream is supposed to support any font, specifically including Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.
Connecting: Connection is via a USB cable to a PC or Mac--unlike the Kindle 2, the unit has no wireless internet capability--quite a disappointment, and customers will have to pony up for the $400 Sony Reader Daily Edition to get this facility. The unit ships with Sony’s eBook Library software 3.0 to coordinate ebook transfers from computer to reader. There are slots for an SD card and a Memory Stick Pro Duo. You will be able to use the software with both PC and Mac computers and will enable you to read PDF, Word, BBeB, and other text files on the device. Bringing over personal files and ebooks is easy--a simple drag and drop maneuver.
You can get your ebooks from many sources of course, but Sony's eBook Store in August dropped the price of its New York Times Bestsellers from $11.99 to $9.99, the same as Amazon's Kindle. There is no support for Audible.com audiobooks, which is disappointing (but not surprising as it is owned by rival Amazon).
However, as a plus over the Kindle 2, Sony does make it much easier to get access to many open source or free ebooks. You can even go to other sites that have DRM free eBooks. That said, if you want a copyrighted book, Sony's eBook Library, trails Amazon dramatically in terms of book titles available for download , with some 100,000 when we checked. Sony has an incentive where you do get 100 free eBook Classics--older books which normally cost $1.99 each.
Accessories: The PRS 600 ships with a USB cable (used for charging as well as data transfer), sleeve, and quick start flyer. Software installers are cleverly pre-installed on the eReader, so there's no need to an installation CD.
The unit has drawn criticism compared to previous Sony Readers for not including a case as standard--only the flimsy neoprene sleeve which has no way of even closing fully. If you're shelling out this kind of money you really should purchase a more protective cover.
Optional accessories you can purchase include an AC Adapter ($20) and Cover with Light
($45). Note that this Sony Reader can use many accessories as previous models, such as the same PSP-style 5.2v charger used by the PRS 505 and PRS700.
Price: The Sony Reader Touch Edition retails for $299, $40 more than the Kindle 2 (and with less capability to boot, aside from the touchscreen). It is available in the US only at present.