Product Type: Sony Tablet PCs / eBook Readers
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Metal Book of the Future
Sony Reader Digital Book PRS-300
Member Name: JJJJ
Sony Reader Digital Book PRS-300
Date: 19/01/10, updated on 19/01/10 (412 review reads)
Advantages: Screen is beautifully clear, great battery life
Disadvantages: Metal body gets cold, doesn't come with mains adaptor
Reading books from anything other than... well, a book, is something which many people frown upon - I myself found the concept a bit silly, and thought 'why would anyone want to read from a screen rather than paper?' - but I decided to give the Pocket Reader a go to see what all the fuss was about.
Just like an iPod can store hundreds and hundreds of songs, a Reader can store lots and lots of books - and in the case of this Sony model it's over 300. When you register your product on the Sony website you'll be given a selection of free classics, which goes some way to getting you started, and due to the very nature of these novels, will also make you look like a bit of an intellectual!
The reader currently costs £149 from Waterstones, and is available in a brushed silver finish and a shocking pink colour. The device measures 15.5 x 10.5 x 1 cm, with the screen being 5" from the diagonal (strange how everything is measured in centimeters these days apart from screens!). The reader is comfortable to hold, and all the buttons are in easily accessible positions. If I have one criticism with the design, it's the fact that the reader's metal body can get really cold if you're reading outdoors, resulting in frozen hands after a relatively short time. Of course, this can be remedied by purchasing one of the numerous Sony cases and covers which are available for this model. Speaking of cases, the reader comes with a soft black pouch which is nicely padded and would go someway in protecting the device if dropped. However, as this particular case is a 'slip-in' design, you have to remove it when you want a read.
Normally, reading from a screen can result in eye strain, and anyone who has read novels on an iPhone can probably testify to that. However, this isn't a problem you'll be facing with Sony's Pocket Reader. The product uses a screen technology called 'eInk', which is the closest you'll ever get to actual print on paper. The screen itself is black and white (colour eInk isn't available yet), and the clarity of text really is fantastic - you can even read in direct sunlight without any nasty reflections. Unfortunately, the PRS-300 isn't backlit, meaning you will have to purchase the Sony cover with a light if you want to read in dark conditions - or use a torch of course! Most readers aren't backlit, and this is done for a couple of reasons - firstly because it would significantly reduce the battery life, and secondly because it would increase eye strain.
Apart from the frozen hands issue which I previously mentioned, the reader is comfortable to hold and isn't too heavy. It's great for reading in bed, and you won't feel that it could drop on your face and kill you at any moment like some large hardback books might! The construction feels well made and solid, and the whole thing has an air of quality about it.
Turning on the device is done by slider switch which sits on the very top of the PRS-300, and flicking it to the right will instantly bring you to the current position you were in the book you were reading. The buttons on the front of the device include the 'Home', 'Back', 'Bookmark', and 'Enlarge' keys, plus a four way directional controller for navigating through the menu system. The functions of each of these buttons are as follows;
- 'Home' takes you back to the main menu screen.
- 'Back' moves you back one page, whether it be in the book or in the menu system.
- 'Bookmark' allows you to mark a certain page as you could in a 'physical book'.
- 'Enlarge' cycles through three size settings for the onscreen text.
I generally use the smallest text setting, although I have fairly good eyesight, and some might struggle with this size. The next size up is very easy to read, although obviously you'll be fitting less text on each page if you choose this option. The final size is huge, and although no-one should have any sight issues with this, you can only get a few lines of text on each page, meaning that you'll end up having to press the page turn button every few seconds.
The main menu is really easy to navigate, and the options are kept to a minimum. These include 'Continue Reading', 'Books by Title', 'Books by Author', 'Books by Date', 'Collections', 'Bookmarks', and 'Settings', all of which are self explanatory. The settings section is rather limited - but let's not forget this is a device designed for one thing and one thing only - reading. If you want a whole range of additional features, then you'll probably want to look at Sony's next model up - the PRS-600, which has a larger screen and a plethora of functions.
One thing that is highly impressive about this particular Reader is its extraordinarily long battery life. Apparently this is due to the fact that when pages are static, no power is consumed. Speaking of power, the PRS-300 doesn't ship with a mains adapter, which means having to charge the unit up through your computer's USB port. To be honest, this isn't really an issue for me - but I know many people have expressed dissatisfaction with Sony for making them pay extra if they want one. From the USB it takes around three-and-a-half hours to fully replenish the battery, and you'll know when the charge is complete as the red charge light on top of the device will turn off.
So, you may well be wondering 'how do I put books on the damn thing?', well, fear not, it's actually quite a straightforward process. eBooks are available from a number of places these days, with two of the most popular being the Waterstones and WH Smith websites. There are also sites offering free eBooks - but these are usually self-published titles which are of low quality.
To transfer books to the Pocket Reader you must first install the 'eBook Library' program which comes free with the device. When you purchase books online, they will be downloaded to this eBook Library software, and therefore it's an extremely important tool. When you attach the PRS-300 to the computer via USB, the eBook Library will automatically open up, allowing you to transfer all (or a selected few) of your books onto the device. Both the software and the reader is compatible with PC's and Mac's.
eBooks come in many file formats, and whilst some other makes of reader can only accept a select few, luckily, Sony's Pocket Reader can handle most varieties. These include ePub files, Adobe PDF documents, Microsoft Word files and anything saved in the .TXT format.
Overall then, The Sony Reader Pocket Edition PRS-300 is a great little device which does exactly what it is supposed to do. I'm impressed by the fact that it doesn't try to take too much on board, and focuses primarily on the sole purpose of reading books. The screen is beautifully clear, and provides the closest reading experience to ink on paper that you can possibly get. On the donwside, the PRS-300 only has internal memory, meaning you can't add an SD card in order to expand its capacity. That said, it can hold over 300 paperbacks, and that's more than most people's physical book libraries - highly recommended.
Summary: Reading device for the new decade
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