Sony Reader Wi-Fi (PRS-T1) Review

Nearly every year we get to hear of a new e-book reader being introduced in the market. With majority of the world population resorting to reading e-books, manufacturers have been working round the clock to outdo each other in terms of the features incorporated into their gadgets. Despite the stiff competition in the industry, the Sony Reader Wi-Fi still remains one of the most talked about e-readers in the market. Since the introduction of the Sony Librie, the first dedicated E-Ink e-reader, Sony has grown to become one of the best reputed companies in this industry. We will take you through the features of the latest addition to the Sony e-reader franchise, the Sony Reader Wi-Fi, to help you decide whether or not it is the device for you.

sony reader prs t1

As previously stated, Sony was the first manufacturer to introduce an E-Ink dedicated e-book reader into the market. However, the company has had to put up with immense competition from other gadgets such as the Nook and Kindle readers. This is the reason Sony decided to incorporate Wi-Fi connectivity into their already thriving line of e-book readers. With this addition, users can now save additional e-books and even multi-media files through the Wi-Fi storage. The Android powered gadget also brings in a completely new feel compared to its predecessors. By the time you re done reading this, you will agree that the Sony Reader Wi-Fi is a force to reckon with.

An Overview of the Sony Reader Wi-Fi

The Sony Reader brand is one of the countable brands that have registered enviable success in the e-book reader industry. This can be credited to the robust features and such as admirable screen quality and impressive speeds that always ship with Sony devices. The Sony Reader PRS-T1 will surely go a long way in maintaining that hard-earned status. In introduces courageous changes that improve the conventional Sony Reader brand. For instance, the manufacturer decided to do away with the aluminum casing that characterized previous models and replace it with a plastic casing. The user interface during booting is also one of the areas that have fallen victim to radical design changes.

The Sony Reader Wi-Fi is available in a good number of countries, making it one of the easiest readers to purchase. It is sold in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and a handful of European countries. The sleek gadget is available in three different colors depending on user preferences. These are black, white and red.  The gadget’s library is supported by the Sony e-book store in Canada and the United States.  This was expected to extend to the UK market in late 2011 and other parts of Europe in 2012. The Wi-Fi connectivity will come in handy especially to users who cherish little else more than storage space and convenience.

Sony Reader Wi-Fi Specifications

Much has been said and written about the many advantages that come with the Sony Reader Wi-Fi. However, this does not mean that purchasing the gadget is a sure way to meet your specific needs as a reader. Before you even open your purse, you need to go through the specifications of the device. This is the only way to make sure that the e-book reader in question is exactly what you have been searching for. In addition, you will also be able to verify whether or not you are getting value for every dollar you will be asked to pay. Below are the specs of the Sony PRS-T1, commonly known as the Sony Reader Wi-Fi:

  • A 6 inch E-Ink Pearl display
  • 600 x 800 pixels plus 16 different grayscale levels
  • An infrared touchscreen that also offers multi-touch features
  • A language interface that lets you choose one of six languages namely English, German, French, Italian, Dutch and Spanish
  • 2 GB of internal memory
  • A slot for a  Micro SD card with a maximum capacity of 32 GB
  • A mini Universal Serial Bus (USB) 2.0 port
  • 3.5mm jack for the headphones
  • A battery of between 3 and 4 weeks after a full charge
  • Supports many file formats such as TXT, PDF, Adobe DRM, EPUB, MP3, JPEG, AAC, PNG, BMP and GIF formats.
  • 5.9 ounces in weight
  • Dimensions of 6 7/8 x 4 3/8 x 3/8 inches
  • Available in three different colors – white, black and red

For all these features, you will not be required to pay a dollar more than $ 149 if you shop at Amazon. You can save even more by taking advantage of the occasional promotions and coupons offered by this leading e-commerce website.

Hardware and Design

Casing

The first thing you are probably interested to dig deep into is what you can see and feel; the hardware and design work underlying this state of the art reader. The most conspicuous change is definitely the shift from the aluminum casing to a plastic casing. This is one thing that might not go down well with a number of prospective buyers. These are the users who posit that plastic casings can never match up to their metallic counterparts.  This is not only due to their looks but also the fact that metallic casings are way more resistant to mechanical damage. It is worth noting though that the plastic casing reduces the overall weight of the gadget in addition to improving its resistance to scratching.

New Shape and Buttons

The Sony PRS-T1 is manufactured with a brand new symmetrical design that gets rid of the rounded left edge of past models. A little tweaking of the buttons was done just to give users a new feel. The buttons are more or less the same save for the fact that the zoom button has been replaced with a black button. Many buyers will find out that this button offer a slightly improved zoom experience than the previous one. An on-screen slider bar has also been preferred in place of the physical volume buttons. This is in line with current design trends where the fewer the buttons the better.

Back and Front

Like many modern day gadgets, the back of the Sony Reader Wi-Fi features a smooth texture coating of rubber. This guarantees users a rather pleasant feel every time they are using the gadget, even when the hands are sweating slightly. However, the only undoing here is that this coating is more likely to show scratches and smudges. To the front is matte plastic below the screen just above the buttons. Glossy plastic surrounding the edges completes what should be a more than impressive design. Unfortunately, this same glossiness can be distraction as it reflects light when you are using the lighted cover. This problem is bigger in the black models but less pronounced in the red and especially white models.

Screen

sony reader wifi screen

The kind of screen used is always a critical consideration when purchasing such devices. However, the Sony Reader Wi-Fi erases any doubts you might have about the screen quality. This gadget ships with a 6 inch E-Ink pearl display. This is the same screen technology Sony had used for its sibling model. However, with the introduction of new fonts, the contrast appears to be quite better. With this screen you will enjoy crisp quality text and graphics even under natural lighting, both indoors and outdoors. The non-reflective nature of the screen means there will be minimal or no adverse effects on your eyes over time.

Input Devices

Modern day users have always preferred to have as many methods of input and output as possible.  This is why the Sony PRS-T1 comes with a stylus to add to its list of input methods. However, unlike the previous Sony Reader models, the Wi-Fi doesn’t have a slot to house it within the frame. To make it even more frustrating, the cover also doesn’t have any place to store the stylus. This shouldn’t be a big deal since the touchscreen works perfectly well even without the stylus. In any case, other touchscreen e-book readers such as the Kindle, Kobo and Nook do not provide any stylus. The stylus `is just to help you access some of the functions with ease.

Other Hardware Components

Towards the bottom edge of the Sony Reader Wi-Fi is a reset button, headphone jack, mini UBS port and a power button with LED lighting. Hidden behind the flap on the left side is a micro SD card slot through which you can expand your memory. The Wi-Fi comes with a generous internal memory of 2 gigabytes. The memory card slot accepts micro SD cards that do not exceed 32 GB in capacity. With all this memory, you should be able to comfortably store all your documents and files.

The Sony Reader Wi-Fi Reader Software

It is very easy to get swayed by the attractive hardware components that most gadgets come with these days. However, all this is vanity if not backed up on the inside by state of the art software. The biggest difference between the Sony Reader Wi-Fi software and that on previous Sony Reader models is the fact that it is built for Android. If you are used to the conventional interface, you will have a new set of features to get used to. What will come as a relief to many veteran users is that all the features in the older models have been retained. However, it will only take you a few days to get used to the new software.

You will need some time to get used to the new menu systems if you have been used to the previous Sony Reader software.  The advanced touchscreen functions are nothing to get scared about. In fact, these new additions make it easier for you to get the most out of the additional features. Generally, buyers will agree that the gadget is now more intuitive. However, the only downside is that you can’t help but feel the polishing could have been done a little better. Sometimes, the device operates laggier, something that can be improved by future firmware updates. Hopefully, this will be one of the rare times Sony will issue such kinds of updates.

E-Reading Features

Supported File Formats

Since you are purchasing this gadget to help you read e-books, your biggest concern should be its e-reading features. It is pointless to have an amazing multimedia gadget that will struggle when it comes to opening and refreshing e-book pages. The Sony Reader Wi-Fi supports quite a variety of file formats, including:

  • TXT
  • PDF
  • Adobe DRM
  • EPUB

The sad news here is that this Sony gadget no longer supports the older file formats such as doc, docx and BBeB formats. However, the supported file formats should be sufficient to for a significant portion of readers. In any case, you can always use your PC to convert unsupported files into on of the supported formats with something like Calibre.

Font Styles and Sizes

It is very unfair for a manufacturer to impose just one font style or even size to all users. This is because different users will have different preferences as regards the style and size of the font they desire to use. With this realization, Sony has provided seven font styles and an additional eight font sizes in their latest e-book reader. For every single book you open, this e-reader remembers the font settings you last used to read that particular book. These setting include font size, type, cropping, zoom, landscape or portrait mode and several others. In the “Applications Preferences”, you can set the font size to default for EPUB files as well.

However, the introduction of these new fonts isn’t a coin with just one side. There are quite a number of glitches scattered here and there that only keen users are bound to notice. To begin with, there will be some disparities in terms of the font sizes from one e-book to another. This means that you can never comprehensively decide on the particular font size you will be working with. In addition to that, italics will occasionally be changed to regular texts as you change the fonts. Why this is so still remains a mystery to many users. You might also find a few e-books whose font won’t be able to change on the Sony Reader Wi-Fi. All these shortcomings notwithstanding, the font styles and sizes look amazing especially on a screen of such quality.

Notes and Highlights

One of the reasons some readers still shun the idea of e-books is that they think they will not be able to make personal notes or highlight any sections within the books. However, technology has worked around this problem by enabling users to make notes and highlights even on e-books. As expected, the Sony Reader Wi-Fi has leveraged these advanced tools to provide its users with a reading experience worth telling about. You will choose from three different ways of adding notes to your PDF files and other e-books. These are:

    • You can add your notes to a phrase or word by highlighting it and selecting the ‘notes’ option. You will then add the notes using the keyboard or by drawing. Either way, the notes will be attached to the specific phrase or word.
    • You can also add notes or on-screen markup directly to the top of the page.
    • Finally, you can make use of the text and drawing memo apps on the homescreen’s second page.

With the Sony Reader Wi-Fi, you can export your notes or highlights by using Sony Desktop Software. All you have to do is add the e-book in question from your Reader to the library. After you open the document, simply select the export option at the bottom right corner. The notes and highlights will be exported to an RTF file. Any notes written by hand will be saved as images in the RTF file. The entire purpose of all these additions is to try and close the gap between conventional reading and e-reading. You can’t help but notice that this gap is one that is fast closing.

Page Navigation

It is very easy to concentrate on the technological details of a device and forget the little things that matter. However advanced any e-book reader may be, things can get really frustrating if navigating through the pages is a hectic exercise. The Sony Reader Wi-Fi comes with dedicated buttons that help you turn over the pages. To make things even easier, you can also turn these pages by swiping your touchscreen and not tapping it as with past Sony Reader models. If you are really keen on tapping the screen, you should tap the page numbers at the bottom of the display, which serves to bring up the page navigation menu.

The page navigation menu lets you select a specific page number, access the table of contents, use the page slider or even enter history mode. This mode keeps a tab of the pages you have been reading in chronological order. This can be very crucial especially if you can’t remember which page contained an important thing you just read. For those who do not necessarily read in a linear manner, this feature will be a great asset. With all these options at your disposal, there is very little left to be desired. Clearly, page navigation on the Sony Reader Wi-Fi is as good as it can get.

Dictionaries

A lot has been said about the effect modern age hand-held communication devices will have on the communication skills of future generations. However, this is clearly oblivious of some of the priceless additions that come with these gadgets. The dictionary for instance will go a long way in making sure users get all their spellings and word usages right. Holding down a word on the Sony Reader Wi-Fi pops up a small window that gives its definition. In case you tap that definition, the entire dictionary will launch. If you need a different dictionary, just tap the name of the dictionary to select from the 12 versions available for each supported language.

Landscape Mode

There are many deviations from the previous Sony Readers that ought to be celebrated. Among these, the introduction of a landscape mode is perhaps the most underrated. The overlapping gray text is something that has been put to rest. Every single page now consists of entirely new text. Furthermore, holding this gadget in landscape is still very comfortable. Your thumb will automatically rest on the “page forward” button, making navigation easier. This provides a perfect way to read e-books that are so wide that you have to scroll across to read an entire line.

Collections

The Sony Reader Wi-Fi has changes several things from the previous Sony Reader models. However, collections are some of the features that just had to survive the paradigm shift. The Reader software on your device is all you need to come up with your e-book collection. Simply put, collections are single-level folders that help users organize their content. Things would have been easier if the folders were supported directly instead of having to create them every time. This could have been made possible by Calibre, only that a version that runs on the Sony PRS-T1 is yet to be released.

Other Features

The e-reading features that come with the Sony Reader Wi-Fi are too many to be discussed in one sitting. However, those described above should be the main ones as far as reading e-books is concerned. This reader still allows you to enjoy many additional features such as running searches within books, on Google or on Wikipedia. You can also add bookmarks by simply tapping the page’s upper right corner. Other features that also support e-reading include fast scanning through an e-book by holding down page buttons and adjusting screen contrast. It is impossible to exit this section without the mention of “Customize View” that mainly works with PDF’s. It has manual and auto settings that can be used to crop out margins from some e-books.

Web Browser

sony reader web browser

You will many times need to download a number of files from the web. This is why the kind of browser that ships with an e-book reader still remains a critical consideration. For an E-Ink e-book reader, calling the browser that comes with the Sony Reader Wi-Fi impressive is sheer understatement. The best use you will have for this browser is downloading e-books to add your current library. With sources such as Kobo, Google e-books and Feedbooks overflowing with information, the market has more than any reader can consume.

However, the usage of this browser isn’t just limited to downloading reading material. You can use it to send your e-mails, read newsfeeds, refer to Wikipedia and so much more. This browser works both in portrait and landscape mode, supports up to three different windows and allows users to create bookmarks. Just in case you are a fan of cloud storage, you can always log into your Dropbox account and download the files stored.

The Audio Player

The fact that an e-book reader is manufactured for reading purposes doesn’t imply that a little entertainment is out of order. The Sony PRS-T1 can play both AAC and MP3 audio files. Any time you have read to your fill, you can kick back and enjoy quality music from your reader. The gadget does not have internal speakers, which means you will have to make the most of the headphone jack. If you are the type that has not time to organize your music, the audio player will do it for you.

The audio player in the Sony Reader Wi-Fi automatically sorts out all your songs by the artist or album. This can be quite frustrating when the songs’ metadata is not perfectly set up. Just like many other Android-powered devices, all songs might e stuck into one big album. Since there aren’t any physical volume buttons, you will have to use the volume dial on the screen. Just like many of its competitors, the device maximum volume is not enough for majority of young ears. A shuffle and repeat setting completes a rather average player that is yet to hear of that thing called a playlist.

The Sony Reader Wi-Fi Pros

All you need is a single session with the Sony Reader Wi-Fi to discover that it is a great improvement from the previous models released by Sony. As such, it comes with quite with a number of advantages that will endear it to a significant section of e-book reader users. Here are some of the pros you will enjoy when using this gadget:

  • Thanks to the touchscreen capabilities, you will enjoy zoom on your documents by simply pinching your screen. This works perfectly for images, PDF files as well as the web browser.
  • The Sony Reader Wi-Fi also offers a number of new font choices that look great on the screen. These dark fonts appear even better due to the better contrast of the gadget.
  • The display also allows you to add freehand notes and on-screen markup.
  • Users will be able to download infinite materials using the web browser. You can also download more e-books from non-Sony sources such as Kobo and Feedbooks as well as Dropbox and Calibre.

With these and many other advantages, the Sony Reader Wi-Fi is sure to cause a ripple in the e-reader market.

The Sony Reader Wi-Fi Cons

Like any other good gadget, the Sony Reader Wi-Fi also has its own share of shortcomings. Irrespective of how much time and skill is invested to design a gadget, expecting a flawless e-reader is being a little too ambitious. Here are some of the cons you might have to put up with just in case you buy this reader:

  • To begin with, the Sony Reader Wi-Fi does not offer a partial page refresh setting. This means that you will have to do a full page refresh every time.
  • The gadget is wrapped in a glossy plastic frame that is somehow reflective. It is nowhere near the class of the older crop of Sony e-book readers.
  • Generally, the Sony Reader Wi-Fi offers fast operation. However, it gets quite slow from time to time, especially when you are working with PDF files.
  • When using the web browser or the Sony Store, the screen might start flashing excessively.

In simple terms, if you are an extensive reader of PDF files for instance, you will not be very comfortable working with this device. However, many of these disadvantages are not very consequential.

The Verdict

The PRS-T1 is one of the many pleasant surprises Sony has always had for its loyal pool of clients. The fact that they managed to considerably cut down the price from past models is one that takes time to absorb. A bunch of new features have also been thrown here and there, making it all the more attractive. The good news for veteran users is that none of the e-reading features that have made the Sony Reader a popular brand have been scrapped off.  If you desire reliable Wi-Fi connectivity, this is one gadget that will surely not disappoint. In all honesty, it has a few quirks that might turn some users away. However, this does not undermine the fact that it is still one of the top e-readers in stores.

Conclusion

You must have gotten over the shock the radical changes in the Sony Reader Wi-Fi guarantees. In fact, it is clear that majority of these changes are steps in the forward direction. With the addition of Wi-Fi, new fonts, advanced reading options, a web browser and direct downloads to the library, there is very little left to be desired. The incorporation of the Android system also gives this gadget a lot of room for improvement. A few years back, Sony Readers have been known to come with rather repulsive price tags. However, the $ 149 price tag of the Wi-Fi is more than fair, especially after you consider the unique features it offers.

More Information

Sony Reader Wi-Fi

Price: $118

Buy on Amazon.com