The Sony Reader Touch Edition, or simply the Sony PRS-650, is an improvement upon their previous models and includes a few unique features. The new e-Reader includes a touch screen and a better display overall, but it still lacks something crucial.
Back in October, we reviewed the Sony PRS-350, which was a new touch screen and a 5-inch e-Ink display and had lots of on-board memory and expansion. This latest model, the PRS-650, measures 4.7 x 0.4 x 6.6-inches (wdh) and weighs just over 7 ounces, making it slightly heavier and thicker than the 350 model, but they're almost identical. The new version, however, has a 6-inch display which really makes a difference.
The unit comes in two colors, black and red, and both are made of sturdy, lightweight aluminum. The appearance of the PRS-650 is very slim, sleek and portable. On the top of the reader, you'll find a power button, stylus and two memory card slots (SD & Memory Stick Duo). The bottom houses the micro-USB port for charging and syncing, a headphone jack and volume control. There's no keyboard on this e-Reader because the touch screen can double as the keyboard by means of an on-screen one when needed.
Sony's new 6-inch e-Ink Pearl screen looks much improved over the previous model. The contrast has been improved and now displays up to 16 levels of gray as opposed to 8. The screen looks fantastic and looks as good as the Amazon Kindle and is also extremely readable in direct sunlight. The responsiveness of the touch screen is also worth mentioning as it is extremely responsive, something we raved about in our review of the PRS-350 a few months ago. Text looked extremely crisp and definitely comfortable to read for extended periods of time.
There are physical buttons under the screen and on-screen buttons to turn pages or you can do so by simply swiping the screen. You can also perform tasks like highlighting, bookmarking, and taking notes. A button also under the screen takes you to the home display and two more give you access to zooming and the device's settings area.
The same disappointments exist with the PRS-650 as they did with the previous models: no Wi-Fi or 3G cellular connectivity. With other e-Readers, like the Amazon Kindle, you have either Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi/3G connectivity, which lets you wirelessly purchase and upload eBooks to your e-Reader. With the Sony PRS-650, you have to either put eBooks onto a memory card and upload them that way or you have to sync it with your computer. This device supports PDF, ePub, RTF, TXT, BBeB and Word documents as text formats and JPEG, PNG and GIF images.
The PRS-650 also supports audio file playback, which is something the memory card slots come in handy. The device supports unprotected MP3 and AAC music files and are playable only through connecting headphones. The interface, however, isn't the best for music files as you have to exit out of reading mode to change.
The Sony Reader Store, which must be browsed from a computer since there's no wireless connectivity, has been improved and many publishers have been added. In all there are over 2 million titles available and one million of them are free downloads because of a partnership with Google Books. There are also many newspapers and magazines available on the Reader Store, but without wireless connectivity, getting the latest issue each day can be time-consuming and is most likely not worth it.