Sony Reader Wi-Fi review

1 Jan 2012

A light and portable ebook reader with an excellent display, sensitive touchscreen and masterful PDF-handling capabilities, but it’s still a little expensive

Price when reviewed 
130
Buy it now for 
5

Sony has been a leading light in the UK ebook reader industry for a long time now. Since the launch of the Kindle in 2010, it’s been the only alternative worth considering – and this new model maintains that record.

The first thing you notice when you pick up the Reader Wi-Fi is how light it is: it weighs only 162g. With no keyboard, it’s small enough to slip into an inside jacket pocket, and although it’s a touch plasticky, it’s well made, and the slightly rubberised rear provides a nice grippy surface to hold on to.

Sony Reader Wi-Fi front

The screen is 6in across with a resolution of 600 x 800, and you get 1.4GB of usable memory – expandable via a microSD slot. There’s also an infrared touchscreen. This lets you sweep your finger right to left to turn a page, make handwritten annotations with the bundled stylus, and highlight text effortlessly. That’s nothing new for Sony, though. Where this device differs from predecessors is the device's 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter.

Once logged into your network using the onscreen keyboard, it offers direct access to the Sony ebook store, and through that a free subsection of Google Books, plus free ebook loans from your local library via the OverDrive eLibrary system.

Or it will do when the service goes live. Unfortunately, Sony has delayed the launch of its Reader store in the UK, so anyone buying the new reader may have to wait to make the most of those integrated services.

The onboard WebKit web browser, however, is fully functional, and with the Reader Wi-Fi’s sensitive touchscreen this works surprisingly well. It will never rival a tablet for ease of use, but for accessing free ebook sites such as the Gutenberg Project, and even checking the odd email, it’s perfectly functional. Even inertial scrolling and pinch-to-zoom operations function, although you may find the constant screen refresh sends you cross-eyed after a while.

Elsewhere, the Sony exhibits similar strengths and weaknesses to previous Sony models. It’s a superlative PDF-reading device. The multitouch screen means even complex pages can be manipulated quickly and simply. And there are all manner of other ways of reading such documents. In Navigate Page mode, for example, the reader can be set to zoom to the first column on a page, then follow the flow of text.

Handwritten annotations can be made and text highlighted. A long press of the finger on a word displays not only a dictionary definition, but also quick links to Google and Wikipedia searches.

Sony Reader Wi-Fi screen

The device also holds its own in terms of screen refresh speed and readability. EPUB pages flip by in a single second, and as the Reader uses an E Ink Pearl panel, contrast is very good. The Kindle’s screen demonstrates a touch more contrast and crispness, but there’s very little in it.

This is clearly a capable device: it’s quick, readable and can handle PDF files in a more intuitive way than any other reader – plus it’s incredibly light. We’re disappointed the store isn't yet ready, but even without it the Sony Reader Wi-Fi is the best alternative to the all-conquering Kindles; we only wish it was a little cheaper.

Details

Price ex VAT £108
Price inc VAT £130
Overall rating 5
Performance 6
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 4

Screen

Screen size 6.0in
Resolution 600 x 800
Colour screen no
Touchscreen yes
eBook screen-refresh time 1.0 seconds

Battery

Integrated memory 1.4GB
Memory-card type microSD

Dimensions

Dimensions 110 x 9 x 173mm (WDH)
Weight 162g

File format support

Plain text yes
PDF yes
EPUB yes
AZW no

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£175