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Sony Reader Pocket Edition review

Barry de la Rosa
17 Nov 2009
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
160
inc VAT

With little improvement over the original model and lots of missing features, the Pocket Edition isn't Sony's best Reader.

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Specifications

Sony's new Pocket Edition eBook reader has a 5in screen, which is smaller than the 6in display on the original (see below).

This makes it more compact, although it's a little thicker. It feels as well built as the original but doesn't come with the protective leather wallet. The front of the case uses the same brushed aluminium as the original, but the rear and edges are now made of plastic. As a result, the Pocket Edition is 40g lighter than its predecessor.

The Pocket Edition allows you to change the orientation of the screen to landscape, which helps compensate for the smaller 5in screen. It has fewer controls than the original Reader, and in landscape mode these fall more conveniently under your left thumb. You can only reorientate the screen in one direction, though, so you can't place the controls under your right thumb.

We liked the fact that the original Reader had page-turning buttons on both sides. The Pocket Edition's central controls simply aren't as convenient to use, and without a wallet, the device feels awkward in the hand. The lack of a wallet and the ability to orient the screen in landscape mode also make the Pocket Edition look and feel less like a real book, which may put off some users. At least the four-way navigation control works the same way in both landscape and portrait modes.

Although the pages turn reasonably quickly, we found that the controls still had too much lag to convince a book reader to give up their dead-tree copies. The controls are buffered too, so if you press a button twice in frustration, the command will be carried out twice.

Unlike the original Reader, the Pocket Edition has no memory card slot, and although Sony quotes an internal memory of 512MB, the formatted size for storage is actually around 443MB. This is still big enough to hold around 300 books, but you won't fit a whole library of reading possibilities in there.

The eBook library software is stored on a separate, read-only partition on the Pocket Edition. The eBook store built into the library software is actually just a collection of links to Waterstones, WH Smith and Borders. We much prefer Mobipocket's integrated library and store software. Unlike the original Reader, Mobipocket's PRC file format isn't supported, and the device isn't recognised.

With the price of the old Sony Reader now falling to that of the Pocket Edition, we simply cannot see any reason to buy the Pocket Edition at the moment. The original model is more stylish and feels more like a paper book, plus is it has memory card slots and can play MP3s. In comparison, the Pocket Edition is poor value.