To heck with the Kindle: Sony Reader PRS-700 reviewed

Up 'till now, the Amazon Kindle has garnered everyone's attention because, like the iPhone, there wasn't much like it when it was released.That's changing.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Up 'till now, the Amazon Kindle has garnered everyone's attention because, like the iPhone, there wasn't much like it when it was released.

That's changing.

MobileTechReview just posted a review of the Sony Reader PRS-700, their flagship eBook-reading device yearning for eyeballs (literally). The PRS-700 is a spiritual successor to the two-year-old PRS-500 and slightly-improved year-old PRS-505, and sits just ahead of the 505 in class, with a new touch screen, more expedient UI and side lighting for reading in dim or dark places.

Call it the popular kid in the Sony school (just don't tell it about the Kindle!).

According to MobileTechReview's editor-in-chief Lisa Gade, the PRS-700 "does all those things admirably":

It's much less cumbersome to switch to a different book and you can change pages with a natural motion finger-swipe. Sony increased zoom from 3 levels to 5 and sped up the screen refresh with each page turn (the page blanks white for a second between page turns). Like the older models, the Reader is about the size of a trade novel but much thinner (0.38 inches without the included leather flip cover), and it can hold thousands of books thanks to expansion card slots.

But there's a downside to the unit, too:

What's the catch? The touch screen layer reduces contrast. Digital readers like the Sony Reader and Amazon Kindle use e-ink technology, a very low-power, paper-like display that's non-glare and high contrast (much like a book's pages). Touch isn't part of the e-ink technology, nor is backlighting, so we rarely see a reader offering these. Sony, cutting-edge company that they are, found a way to add these two desirable features. Sony added a touch layer on top of the e-ink display and embedded LED side-lights into the frame that surrounds the display. Clever. But this comes at the expense of contrast and glare, and the Sony Reader PRS-700 looks more like a grayscale notebook screen than an eBook reader. The glare isn't nearly as bad as the average PDA or gloss notebook display-- it's on par with matte finish notebook displays. This pains our bookish hearts: we want the best looking (most book-like) display for hours of tireless reading.

The full review, which takes the machine through its paces, is posted on their site. The PRS-700 is priced at $399.

CNET's First Take on the PRS-700

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