The Sony Reader Touch PRS-650 is one of two ereaders that Sony sells. It is the larger and more fully featured of the two, and so the more expensive by £40.
The aluminium chassis lends a real air of sophistication in a segment where outer shells tend to be plastic. The front button panel comprises a quintet of thin rectangular buttons which allow for page turning, zooming, return to the device home screen and access to menus.
The screen is touch sensitive too, and you can move through pages by sweeping the screen much as you would do on a smartphone. You get a stylus living in a slot on the chassis and this can be used to make annotations, highlight passages of text, or write freehand notes.
The Sony Reader Touch PRS-650 supports a good range of etext formats including non DRM EPUB, PDF, Microsoft Word, TXT, RTF and BBeB as well as DRM EPUB and BBeB. It will display images in the JPEG, GIF, PNG and BMP formats.
And it can play music files too, supporting MP3 and non DRM AAC files. There is no loudspeaker so you’ll have to use a headset to listen to music or podcasts. Which is as it should be.
The Oxford English Dictionary is built in and touching any word brings up a short definition which can be expanded into the full entry. Entries can extend across more than one page and make fascinating reading in their own right. There are also translating dictionaries between English and five other languages (French, German, Spanish, Dutch and Italian).
The screen measures 6 inches across diagonal corners, which is less reading area than you get with a standard paperback book. But the 600 x 800 pixel E-Ink display is as good as any we’ve seen to date, and it offers 16 greyscales which are useful when viewing images in particular. Page turning was reasonably swift in the ebooks we tested, and there is a range of six font sizes to choose between.
Overall the Sony Reader Touch PRS-650 measures 118.8 x 168 x 9.6mm which is rather smaller than the average paperback book. It’ll fit in many pockets without a case, but a protective case will probably make that impossible for many of us. It weighs an acceptable 215g.
There is 2GB of built-in storage which Sony says should hold around 1200 ebooks, though obviously that depends on the size of ebooks and whether you are using any of the storage for music files or podcasts. A better place to store the latter would be external memory and there are slots for both Memory Stick Duo and MicroSD card on the top edge of the chassis.
Battery life is rated as good for two weeks of reading between charges, but you won’t get that long if you listen to music or podcasts through the device.