Review: Sony Reader PRS-T2

The PRS-T2 is a lightweight E-Ink-Pearl-based ebook reader. As with all E-Ink readers, it has a monochrome display, and long battery life - Sony estimates one-and-a-half to two months, or up to 30,000 continuous page turns when reading.

Nameebook reader: Sony Reader PRS-T2
At a glance:1300-book capacity; MicroSD slot for extra storage,E-Ink Pearl display makes for clear, readable text at any size,Facebook and Evernote integration
Summary:A user-friendly ebook reader that doesn’t quite match the best in class when it comes to features
RRP:$229 (cover with light $75)

The PRS-T2 is a lightweight E-Ink-Pearl-based ebook reader. As with all E-Ink readers, it has a monochrome display, and long battery life – Sony estimates one-and-a-half to two months, or up to 30,000 continuous page turns when reading.

The 2GB onboard storage fits up to 1,300 books, according to Sony – I didn’t download that many just to test its limits – and if you need more, a microSD card up to 32GB can be added, providing a possible further 30,000 books-worth of space. It weighs just 164 grams, only a little more than most 4-inch smartphones, and comes with a six-inch, 680 x 800-pixel screen that supports up to 16 levels of grey.

You can read with text at one of eight different sizes, from excruciatingly tiny through to large print-plus, in any one of seven font faces. You can also adjust the darkness of the background for contrast. While text on the lighter settings is readable, if you set the background darker the colour can become blocky. I also found, for readability, that it was worth setting the display to refresh each page – the ghosting from previous pages can get distracting if you use the default no-refresh settings.

Turning the page is done either with a swipe of the screen (left to right or right to left are both supported) or by using the hardware buttons located just below the screen.

Reading was an entirely comfortable experience, and the screen is slightly textured, making the swipes feel almost like paper. The text contrast is good, even on bright days, though if you are the sort, like me, who reads in darkened rooms at night, you’ll need either a lamp or the optional Cover with Light ($75).

To obtain books, I hoped I'd be able to download them directly, as I do with my Kindle reader on iPad, especially as the Reader Store is given a front-and-centre spot at the base of the home screen. When I went to access tit, I was told to set up Wi-Fi. The reader helpfully tells you how, via a five-step process. It spotted my wireless network just fine, but if you have a hidden SSID, you can also manually enter details. WPS push-button connection is also available for those with routers that support it.

Unfortunately, upon finishing the Wi-Fi connection process, it turned out that the Reader Store is not available in New Zealand. Instead, you can buy from the Whitcoulls eBook site and get access to new releases – I found Terry Pratchett’s new book Dodger for $26.95. You can also download epub, PDF or txt files from other locations, such as Project Gutenberg. I found it easy to locate epub-format books in stores I couldn’t buy from, but harder to locate those I could buy, aside from the aforementioned Whitcoulls. However, Sony’s Overdrive service gives you access to books in New Zealand libraries, as long as you have a library card – you need to enter the number to request and reserve ebooks. I found all of the books at my local library were already taken out, but the Overdrive service also has public domain ebooks that I could access. Overdrive also allows you to download directly, unlike the Whitcoulls purchases, which must be synced using a PC.

The Sony Reader has a few applications and add-ons that some may find useful, such as note taking, handwriting, the ability to excerpt up to 140 characters to Facebook, and Evernote login. I found the handwriting app to be a little less sensitive than I’d want – it missed chunks of letters unless I went slow. Typing onscreen is similarly sluggish – I didn’t have the patience to write more than a couple of words, let alone anything longer, in all honesty. The web browser is mostly useful for bookmarking ebook repositories you find and want to hoover up texts from.

I’d have liked for the Wi-Fi to turn itself off unless the browser or overdrive was fired up, but perhaps I’m greedy in my expectations. Still, this costs only $10 less than the Kindle Touch, which has double to storage of the Reader and allows for audiobooks as well. It’s a good choice if you’re not interested in extra storage or audiobooks, and it’s a fine ebook reader especially for those who want dedicated hardware buttons and a nice swipe action.

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Zara Baxter

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