Sony Reader PRS-505 review

£199
Price when reviewed

A library in the palm of your hand. That’s the promise of the eBook reader, and an enticing one at that. But despite its promise the concept has been slow to take off in the UK. That could be about to change, however: with Amazon lethargic in bringing the Kindle to these shores, Sony (and Waterstones, which is promoting the Sony Reader heavily in its stores) has grabbed the opportunity with both hands. And with the PRS-505 it’s clear the company intends on tackling the eBook market with far more élan.

This is immediately evident in its decision to ditch the Kindle’s keyboard, and with it the ability to annotate text, in order to deliver a far sleeker design. Indeed, it would take a soul devoid of any sort of joy not to completely fall in love with the PRS-505 at first sight. Clad in silver and wrapped in a magnetised tan leatherette cover which clings to the device when closed, Sony’s eBook reader exudes an elegance that bewitches before it’s even turned on.

A shade smaller than a DVD case, the PRS-505 weighs in at a reassuring 0.25kg; just heavy enough to give you the confidence to sling it in a bag, but not so cumbersome that it becomes uncomfortable to use for long periods.

In fact, its feel in the hand is one of the reader’s great strengths: anybody who spends their commute standing will be elated to hear that the PSR-505 can be used one-handed, with the page-turn controls below and to the right of the screen designed to fall naturally beneath your thumb whether the reader is in the right or left hand.

A good page turner

Which is handy, because you will be turning a lot of pages. The PRS-505 comes with 200MB of built-in flash memory, enough for 160 eBooks by Sony’s count and easily upgradable through the Memory Stick Pro Duo and SD card slots tucked neatly away on the top of the reader. Sony has also wisely chosen to open the PRS-505 up to formats beyond its proprietary BBeB Book, meaning that .txt, ePub, .rtf, .doc and non-DRM PDFs are all supported. The latter periodically suffers from random line breaks when zoomed in, which isn’t an issue when the file is left at its original magnification, but this is often so tiny that even Superman would be squinting to read the text.

However, eBook readers are unique in that they are not going to live or die by their looks or even technical specifications, so much as their ability to deliver an absorbing reading experience. And we’re happy to report that the Sony PRS-505 does not disappoint.

The credit for this goes to the 6in E Ink screen which delivers a page in eight shades of grey, mimicking the look of words on paper so that even a protracted period with War and Peace won’t send you away rubbing red eyes. The three levels of zoom all present text crisply and cleanly, with only a very slight blurring creeping in at the highest setting, and while much has been made of the flash transition, in which the screen blurs to black between page turns, we quickly stopped noticing it.

The E Ink screen also has the benefit of only consuming power when changing page, and this means the rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasts a long time – around 6,800 page turns. Alongside this, the screen doesn’t distort under pressure and is viewable even at a 180-degree viewing angle.

Problems?

Yet for all this splendour, E Ink suffers one major flaw. It is painfully slow. And while a two-second delay turning pages can be accommodated, that leniency does not extend to the menus which can be four pages deep before you get anywhere near the eBook you’re after. Tucked into the menus there are also options to display JPEG, GIF, PNG and BMP pictures and play MP3 and AAC audio, but anybody harbouring thoughts of ditching their iPod should step away from that bin.

Screen

Screen size 6.0in
Resolution 600 x 800
Colour screen no
Touchscreen no

Battery

Battery Life 6,800 page turns
Integrated memory 0.2GB
Memory-card type Memory Stick Duo, SDHC

Dimensions

Dimensions 122 x 8 x 175mm (WDH)
Weight 250g

File format support

Plain text yes
HTML no
RTF yes
PDF yes
EPUB yes
BBeB yes
AZW no
Microsoft Word yes

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