Sony Reader Touch Edition (PRS-650) eBook reader

A stylish Sony eBook reader with an Apple iPad-style touchscreen

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Sony Reader Touch Edition (PRS-650)
  • Sony Reader Touch Edition (PRS-650)
  • Sony Reader Touch Edition (PRS-650)
  • Sony Reader Touch Edition (PRS-650)
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5
  • User Rating

    1.00 / 5 (of 1 Review)


  • Great build quality, two memory card slots, good picture viewer, touchscreen actually works!


  • No Wi-Fi, slightly overpriced, skimps on bundled extras

Bottom Line

The Sony Reader Touch Edition (PRS-650) is a handsomely crafted eBook reader that impresses on almost every level. However, with no Wi-Fi or bundled accessories, it's perhaps a teensy bit overpriced (Australian RRP: $299).

Would you buy this?

As its name suggests, the Sony Reader Touch Edition (PRS-650) eBook reader comes with a touchscreen in the form of a six-inch, 16-level greyscale e-ink display (a cheaper 5in version is also available). The Sony Reader’s touchscreen can be manipulated with your fingertip or the included stylus, which slips snugly into the side of the device.

Looking for the best eBook reader? Before you buy an Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad or Sony reader check out our eBook reader comparison guide to find out the best features you should compare.

Sony Reader
The Sony Reader Touch Edition offers a variety of font sizes

In addition to reading eBooks, viewing black-and-white photos and listening to music, the Sony Reader Touch Edition (PRS-650) doubles as a digital notepad for drawing and writing notes. File format support is good, including BBeB, PDFs, Microsoft Word and the ubiquitous ePub standard. With an RRP of $299, the Sony Reader Touch Edition is a bit pricey compared to other eBook readers on the market — especially considering it lacks Wi-Fi or 3G connectivity. Nonetheless, it remains a worthy and stylish option for discerning (digital) book worms.

In terms of design, the Sony Reader Touch Edition (PRS-650) is almost identical to its predecessor, the Reader Touch Edition PRS-600. Everything from screen size to the button layout remains more or less unchanged. Fortunately, the PRS-600 was one of the most stylish eBooks on the market, so we're not particularly fussed by the lack of a makeover. With dimensions of 118x168x9.6mm, the Sony Reader Touch Edition (PRS-650) is quite compact for a 6in eBook reader. The version we tested came with a black metal finish; a red model is also available for trendier readers.

Sony Reader
The Sony Reader comes with two memory card slots

The Sony Reader Touch Edition (PRS-650) comes with 2GB of inbuilt storage; enough to store around 1200 eBooks. Two memory card slots (SD card and Memory Stick) are also provided, which boosts the potential storage space to an impressive 34GB. This might seem like overkill for a video-free device — but if you plan to use the Reader for music and picture viewing, those two gigabytes are sure to fill up fast. (The Reader supports MP3 and AAC audio files, and JPEG, GIF, PNG and BMP image files.)

The eBook reader has five buttons along the bottom of the screen. These consist of page-turn (forwards and back), home menu, zoom (for different-sized fonts) and a context-sensitive 'options' button. Naturally, the majority of functions are accessed via the Reader's touchscreen, which includes an on-screen QWERTY keyboard. We found text input to be reasonably fast and responsive, although people with thick fingers will be relegated to the stylus.

Sony Reader
The Sony Reader Touch Edition doubles as a decent photo viewer

We were very impressed with the PRS-650's touchscreen. Like the Apple iPhone, pages and images can be scrolled through by flicking your finger across the screen. Sadly, you don't get that cool 'sliding' effect like on Apple products, but it still gets the job done pretty well. That said, we found ourselves using the page-scroll buttons at the bottom of the screen more often than not; it meant we didn't have to keep obscuring the screen with our hand.

The display replicates the written word superbly, and also does a pretty great job with photos. (You can set up a slideshow with customised options, such as the number of seconds each image remains onscreen.)

The handwriting tool is a pretty fun diversion, but we can't imagine people returning to it all that often. The e-ink screen simply isn't sophisticated enough to be worth the bother: all of our sketches ended up looking like clumsy, childlike scrawls and we’re usually pretty good at drawing. (No, really.)

Sony Reader
This is the best we could muster. Sorry.

The Sony Reader Touch Edition (PRS-650) is pretty miserly when it comes to bundled extras. You only get one public domain book (Pride & Prejudice); compared to 1500 on the Kogan eBook Reader. We realise that these books can be downloaded for free, but would it have killed Sony to go to a bit of effort on our behalf? Annoyingly, Sony has also failed to provide a slipcase, which means you'll need to take care when tossing the Reader inside your bag. (You can purchase a protective cover from Sony for $45, but seriously; what's that about?) On the plus side, the Oxford Dictionary is included on the device, free of charge.

As mentioned previously, the Sony Reader Touch Edition (PRS-650) does not come with Wi-Fi or 3G capabilities (features offered by the two new Kindle 3 models). This means you're forced to connect the device to a computer whenever you want to download books or other media (a USB cable and inbuilt eBook Library software are both included).

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Read more on these topics: ebook, home entertainment, sony



In summary:

I give the 650 an A+ for "reading experience" for novels or other text-heavy ebooks.

I give the 650 an A+ for saving lots of money in accessing free books.

I give the 650 an A for long battery life.

I give the 650 (and probably other similarly sized eBook readers too) a
D- for reading books containing a lot of maps, photos, diagrams, tables, footnotes, etc. It is just too awkward to navigate from one section of the book to another

I bought an eBook reader because:

(1) It seemed I'd be able to save a lot of money (getting free classic books from Project Gutenberg, free books from public library, or at a $10 discount over new hardbacks). This has proven to be true. I've already read several free books from Gutenberg ( and the supply is endless. I haven't bought any eBooks yet (other than the lord of ring series and steinbeck collection to use my $50 gift card).

(2) I have poor eyesight and the adjustable font size appealed to me. WOW!!! It is very easy to read on the Sony. In addition to the large font size, simply being a flat reading surface eliminates the shadows you get with real book. Also, the Sony stays open when laying on a table so it is very easy to read hands-free (while eating, poor manners, I know, sorry).

Regarding Sony vs Kindle or Nook (or IPad thingy).

I deliberately picked the Sony because it did NOT have internet access. I DO NOT want to be distracted while reading. I have enough ways of accessing the internet - I DO NOT NEED OR WANT another one.

I also picked the 650 because of its touchscreen interface. I love it. At my local Best Buy I tested the Nook and I thought the Nook interface was very confusing. Maybe I'm dense but I was completely confused by its two-screen approach (big eInk screen for reading and little color screen for some navigation.) I played with the Kindle (it was not a live unit) and it felt very cheap and I didn't care for the internet access.

Overall I like the Sony interface - my one big complaint is the absence of a direct 'back-up' button when you are accessing footnotes or some other part of the book. You can use the 'history' feature. But I would think that if you access a footnote by taping on the footnote number, you should be able to return the original paragraph by tapping on the footnote number again. That needs to be fixed.

I also like the size of the 650. It is light weight, easy to hold and easy to turn pages by swiping finger or pushing the buttons. It is small enough to easily fit in the inside pocket of a jacket. It also fits (I better be careful though) in the back pocket of my jeans. I did not seriously consider the IPad because of its large size, high cost, and shorter battery life. Though it is a beautiful thingy).

I've been using the Calibre program to manage my eBooks rather than the default Sony application. I bought the device - I didn't want to get married to Sony (or to Apple).



Nobody touches on multilingual dictionaries supplied with Sony 650.
Even with a limited knowledge of languages one can read Italian/Spanish/French or German e-books - do not know the word - tap it twice and translation appears at the bottom. This feature alone (6 dics) is worth the price - no other e-book does it (or does ?).

The only bad side experienced - when loaded with 16 GB audio mp3 books on SD card is that Sony could display/access only 4 titles out of 89 loaded. But - as it is primarily an e-book reader, with those free dics I let them go unchallenged.

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Patricia DeBoer



not much
• • •

I've been very disappointed in the reader technology -- the battery began to malfunction within a few months. Since I use the reader mainly for LONG plane rides across the Pacific, having the supposedly fully charged battery konk out after a couple of hours and maybe 800 page turns [as opposed to the 7000 that the salesman advertised]is very frustrating. I also think Sony has done a poor job in providing user friendly help pages. the Library has a help function -- the reader itself does not and I for one have never been able to get the alleged music downloading capacity to work. But then given that battery life is so unpredictable, perhaps that is one less source for frustration. I'm saving up to buy an IPAD!

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