Sony's PRS-700 is a good reader, but the glare and clarity issues stemming from the touchscreen have drawn widespread criticism, likely leading it to be phased out after less than a year. This is Sony's third generation e-book reader (introduced in November 2008) selling for $99 more than the Kindle 2. It is mainly distinguished by its touchscreen and lack of traditional keyboard. We must admit, it looks better than the Kindle--sleeker and more minimalist somehow, but that's not enough to sway us.With the August 2009 introduction of the PRS-600 and PRS-300, this model is being phased out, but you may be able to get a good deal for a new one from some retailers if you're so inclined.
The 6-inch diagonal screen uses the same cool e-ink technology and has the same same 600x-800 pixel display size as the Kindle 2. However, if you put the two side by side, as in the picture below, the difference shines through--the Kindle is simply easier to read and more printlike--the special coating on the touchscreen sacrifices some contrast and makes it slightly foggier. We think that's just wrong in an eBook reader designed for readability foremost. In fact, comments across the blogosphere reveal that many users prefer the older Sony PRS-505 model (available for $270 and still a very viable choice), which lacked the touchscreen but had the higher contrast screen. With the August introduction of the feature-lite but still crisp and readable PRS-300, replacing the PRS-505, this may be a favored alternative.
There is a stylus included, and it's a a necessity if you have larger fingers. It features a virtual keyboard that can be used for quick note writing or searches. Some users note the touchscreen is not as sensitive as Apple's iPhone--you may need to swipe the screen a few times to get it to turn the page for instance, but this is a minor criticism. At least it lasts a long time--lets you turn up to 7,500 continuous pages (or up to two weeks of reading) on a single charge of internal rechargeable battery.
Touchscreen aside, there is much we like about the PRS-700 design. The cover is magnetic and seals to the unit--something the Kindle 2 does not come with as standard. It also has a useful built-in LED reading light and ports for memory cards. The memory is only 256MB, but that is sufficient for about 300 books, still far below the 2GB of the Kindle 2. It is expandable, however. There is no speaker, so audio needs a set of earplugs.
Unlike many readers which stay "on" (with zero power usage) indefinitely, the PRS-700 screen goes blank after an hour of non-use.
Sony is making a big push with the PRS-700 in North America, and it has been released in the UK and France as well. Nonetheless, we think it unlikely to surpass the Kindle 2, especially not with the drawbacks and high pricing of the latest PRS-700. The introduction of the PRS-600 offers a viable alternative to the PRS-700.
Connecting: Unlike the Kindle, the only way to access content is through an internet hookup to a PC--there is no wireless capability. It is also not useful for Mac users--there is also a notable lack of eBook Library software for Mac users and 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. Their bestsellers tend to run $9.99, just as on the Kindle 2.
Bringing over personal files and ebooks is easy--a simple drag and drop maneuver.
Accessories: Amazingly, the PRS-700 does not ship with an AC or car power adapter--but you can get both for a cheap $30. With this third party charger, you can recharge in 2 hours, compared to 4 hours via the USB port. We understand the Sony PSP portable gaming player charger will work as well.
A 4GB memory stick costs only $19.97, and we highly recommend it. The LED lighting is not uniform, so if you'll be doing lots of reading at night, you'll want to purchase an attachable light (around $13). The unit may come with a cover, but there is also a neoprene carrying case available in a variety of colors ($30, see right)
Price: The PRS-700 has a list price of $399. As the PRS-700 is in the process of being phased out, you may be able to get a bargain if you don't want the latest technology.