Sony PRS-500 Review

The Sony PRS-500 is a fresh of breath air for the digital reader. The reader has an amazing screen and its technology rivals text on paper. This device weighs les than 9 ounces and is thin and compact. It contains software that offers the user the ability to search and browse through thousands of e-Book titles from the Connect eBookstore.

The software supports transfer of material from a PC to your Sony Reader. The built in memory and multi format support allows you to carry many of your favorite titles and documents. The readers is compact and you can conveniently take it anywhere with you.

Positive
Sony PRS-500 is slim and weighs very little. Its screen requires no backlight as it is easy to read in brightly lit settings. The optional SD memory card or Memory Stick Pro can store thousands of e-Books. With a single button, you can adjust the font size. The battery life is reasonable. The reader displays PDF, Word, and image files and can play MP3 and AAC audio files.

Negative
Sony PRS-500 is a little slow and has a short noticeable delayed action on page turning. The controls are not as responsive as they should be and the interface could be easier to use.

Sony is still building up the online Connect bookstore. Connect book files cost as much as paper books and are incompatible with other devices. The Connect software is not available to work with a Mac and there is not support for Audible audio books.

Bottom Line
The Sony PRS-500 is an impressive reader for e-books and other documents but its price and incompatible book files is of a disadvantage to it.

Though the “electronic” book has been present in the market, the lack of affordable e-book readers has slowed down the progress of more books moving into the digital realm. Other important challenges exist for publishers to take e-books more seriously but the first important step for the hardware to be addressed. It is good news that Sony’s PRS-500 Portable Reader System comes at $300 and looks to eliminate the above-mentioned challenges.

Detailed Review
The Sony PRS-500 is 6.9 inches long, 4.9 inches wide and 0.5 inches deep. The size is similar to a regular DVD case and a short trade paperback novel that is bound in a leather protective cover. It is obviously heavier than a paperback since it has the slim screen display bordered by metallic blue. There are buttons on its front and the memory card expansion slot is on the side.

The screen is a 600×800 pixel with four-grayscale and fits at 4.9×3.6 inches. What will grab your attention about the device is that once you turn it on (takes a few second to come on after sliding the power switch) the display has no backlight and it has a high contract monochrome. This display is electrophoretic which Wikipedia describes as “an information display that forms visible images by rearranging charged pigment particles using an applied electric field.”

The screen has a high contrast and closely resembles actual ink on paper. Like other electronic paper products, Sony PRS-500 applies E Ink technology which makes the letters and words on the display to appear more like printed words on paper.

The size button allows you to choose between three font setting, small, medium and large. Unfortunately, using the small font will give you fewer lines per page than the actual page on the printed book. Take the example of George Orwell’s 1984 which will have 767 pages on the Reader which is far too many pages as compared to the printed version.

The Reader allows you to view and switch between landscape and portrait, though you’ll probably always end up holding it vertically reading in portrait mode like you would with a book.
The overall look of the text display on the screen is good and we didn’t suffer eye strain using Sony PRS-500 over long periods as you would from reading a regular book in a well lit environment.

What was a bother though was the way the device responds when turning the pages. The screen goes black, blinks and takes about a second to refresh. This has been referred to as a “ghosting” effect and it appears to be a common fault of E Ink technology. Though it’s not the worst thing to happen, one of the first remarks from other users was that they expected a smoother the page turn.

Navigating the Sony PRS-500 is a straightforward procedure but it requires improvement. A top level menu is available to select books, audio, pictures and adjust settings. The user can select books by a specific author, date, organize into collections and go to a page that he has put a bookmark.

On the right columns is a tabbed menu with numbers that match a row of numbered buttons below the display. If you click on the number eight, you are taken to the eighth tab on the screen which represents audio. As you read a book, these numbered buttons can let you jump in front and backwards over large numbers of pages. The Sony Reader evenly distributes pages by dividing the total pages by nine.