Hands-on with the Sony Reader Touch Edition PRS-600

Summary:According to my Sony eBook Library account I registered my Reader 505 back in 2007. I purchased a Kindle and then moved onto a Kindle 2 over the last year, but sold my Kindle 2 last week after seeing the Sony announcements and support for local library books. After the horrible backlit touchscreen implementation seen on the PRS-700 I was wary of buying the Touch Edition or Daily Edition with the touchscreen, but I then read a review from a friend who is an avid ebook reader over on Mobile Tech Review and that was the last thing I needed to push me over the top.

According to my Sony eBook Library account I registered my Reader 505 back in 2007. I purchased a Kindle and then moved onto a Kindle 2 over the last year, but sold my Kindle 2 last week after seeing the Sony announcements and support for local library books. After the horrible backlit touchscreen implementation seen on the PRS-700 I was wary of buying the Touch Edition or Daily Edition with the touchscreen, but I then read a review from a friend who is an avid ebook reader over on Mobile Tech Review and that was the last thing I needed to push me over the top. Check out my image gallery that shows my new Red PRS-600 and PRS-505, along with my video and first thoughts below.


Image Gallery:Check out several product photos of the Sony Touch Edition and 505 with a library book on board.
Image Gallery: Reader Touch Edition
Image Gallery: Hardware buttons

Box contents and initial setup

The Sony Reader Touch Edition comes in a fairly compact box and inside you will find the Reader, sleeve slip case, USB cable, and Quick Start Guide. The black sleeve is similar to the case that came with my first Sony PSP. You charge up your Sony Reader with the USB cable so that is why no A/C charger is provided.

I plugged my new PRS-600 into my MacBook Pro and a pop-up informed me there was a new version of the software available (1.0.01.08040). I hit OK and updated my device. I understand this update fixed an issue with memory cards. It sure is nice to have the ability to manage my Sony library and perform updates on my MBP.

Initial impressions

Even though the second generation Amazon Kindle is a much improved piece of hardware over the first generation, IMHO these Sony Reader devices still are even better, rock solid devices. I was very pleased to see that the $299.99 priced PRS-600 has about the same dimensions as the 505. The back of the PRS-600 is covered in soft touch material so you get a better grip on the Reader. Sony uses metal around the front and on the spine and it just feels fantastic in your hand. The same ports, slots, and connectors are included on the 600 as what we have seen on the 505.

The UI is completely different though with navigation focused on the touch screen while still have a few selected buttons along the bottom of the display for quick navigation purposes.

Around the hardware

The front is dominated by the 6 inch touchscreen with five buttons below the bottom silver band under the display. From left to right you will find the back arrow, forward arrow, home button, size button, and options button.

The lanyard opening, reset button, power port, miniUSB port, 3.5mm headset jack and volume toggle are located on the bottom. A rather long metal and plastic stylus lives in a silo on the right side. There are two memory cards slots (Memory Stick Duo and Secure Digital) located along the top with the power slider. The back is covered in soft touch material so you can grip and hold onto your Reader.

Using the touchscreen

Looking at the home screen you will find Continue Reading, Books, All Notes, and Collections in way of large buttons in the upper part of the front. Below these you will find buttons for Text Memo, Handwriting, and More.

If you select Text Memo then you can enter text by tapping away on the soft keyboard. Handwriting memos let you use the stylus to enter a note. There are no pen sizes to switch in the utility. Pressing More takes you to Audio, Pictures, and Settings. Pictures actually look pretty good on the device, but I haven't tried audio yet.

There are eight available settings on the main display with a link to Advanced settings where you will find eight more options. One advanced setting is the ability to customize the home menu.

I am finding the display to be quite responsive to my finger presses and like using touch on an ereader.

More first thoughts

One of my big worries was the clarity of the text and so I was quite pleased to find it is almost the same as the PRS-505, which is the best eInk display I have ever seen. There is a slight difference, but nothing like the lame PRS-700.

I have also read of people finding too much glare from the touch layer. There is some minor glare in bright lights, but it hasn't been an issue for me and I am still very impressed with the clarity and fonts. Speaking of fonts, you have five available font sizes to use for clear reading.

The integrated dictionary is very slick and one reason I wanted to pick up the 600. It works similar to the one I had on my Amazon Kindle.

I plan to spend a lot more time with my new Reader, but if you have questions then feel free to post them and I will try to write up some follow-up thoughts in a few weeks.

UPDATE: My MobileTechRoundup podcast co-host, Kevin Tofel, wrote up a nice story on my Sony Reader experiences in the New York Times.

Topics: Hardware

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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