Despite being one of the first big players to the table, Sony has found only marginal success with its eReader line. Hedging bets with a number of different models the company was quickly surpassed by the likes of Amazon and Barnes and Noble when it came to a unified e-reading experience.
With this latest release the company has consolidated its various versions into one solid package, the Sony Reader Wi-Fi Touch. Boasting a firm build, flexible reading options, responsive touch screen and wi-fi connectivity, it’s the device the company should have launched from the get go.
The new reader takes the strengths of previous models – the Touch, Pocket and Daily editions – and merges them into one slick design. With a face 172x110mm and pencil-thin 8.9mm thick, the device weighs just 168g, which Sony claims is the lightest 6-inch screen reader yet developed. Picking it up that’s not hard to believe, the featherweight slate can be held single-handedly for hours without complaint from the wrist.
Despite its slightness the Reader does no feel cheap or fragile, on the contrary its glossy plastic front and tactile matt back convey the same solid comfort as the previous Readers in Sony’s line. In addition to the ever-welcome touch functions the device also sports five physical buttons along the bottom; two to skip pages back or forwards, a home button, back button, and options button. Anyone coming over from an Android device will feel right at home.
The display uses E Ink Pearl technology, as most of today’s eReaders do, featuring 16 levels of grey with a fine resolution of 800x600pixels. The resulting imitation of the printed page is serviceable in almost any lighting conditions (aside from total darkness as it’s not back-lit) and a welcome suite of fonts and sizes ensure most reading preferences are easily met.
The new Reader also utilizes Clear Touch infrared technology for touch functions. While it’s not the first of Sony’s readers to support touch technology the feature still puts it ahead of most other options currently available in the market today. Not just a holdover from the previous model, the Reader Wi-Fi Touch’s capabilities helpfully extend to pinch-to-zoom functions that will be second nature for tablet and smartphone users.
Other handy uses of the touch screen include handwriting notes on pages or independent memos as well as highlighting words to be cross-referenced with one of the two built-in English dictionaries, or translated using ten foreign language dictionaries.
One of the key factors in choosing Sony’s offering over the ubiquitous (at least in other regions_ Kindle option is support for a wider range of formats and stores. The device will cheerfully deal with ePUB, PDF and TXT documents and includes a headphone jack for audiobooks and MP3 playback.
The company also crows loudly about support for multiple eBook store platforms, which is very fortunate since Sony’s own Reader’s Store is not available in most region outside the United States and Canada. Unfortunately the reader Store is still heavily embedded in the device, to the degree that you even have to create a Store account (and lie about your nationality) just to allow the device to synch with a PC. Once that’s done you can easily access the predominant eBook store around these parts. Aside from adding color (which would no doubt destroy the price point) there’s not much more Sony could do to improve things on the hardware side. If only the company had got its act together sooner with its online platform the Sony Reader Wi-Fi Touch would have my unreserved recommendation.