Apples To Apples: Reviewing The Sony PRS-350

Posted September 3, 2011 by Meoskop in Opinion / 0 Comments

I don’t care if it’s sex or it’s cookies – there are some things in life that are very hard to refuse if you’ve said yes in the past. Touching your e-reader is absolutely in that category.

My Sony PRS-350 was a true impulse buy. We were planning 6 weeks of travel with a location change every few days. Ordinarily I would have taken the iPad for myself and the Sony 505 for my companions. Events transpired (cue doom and gloom music here) in such a way that I found myself traveling with a lifting restriction. One pound. No more. The iPad itself weighs more than that, never mind adding my passport, the iPad case, my wallet… you get the idea. I decided to borrow a second 505 from my sibling. Because our lives are an O’Henry story, my sibling sold it to make rent. Enter the Sony PRS-350. It fit two criteria; it was lightweight and it was in stock. OK, three. I already knew how to use it. My intention was to sell it after the trip and take whatever loss there was as a rental fee. I still have it. It’s (I would say my precious but I absolutely loathe Tolkien) in my handbag as we speak. During our trip I found that my previously beloved 505 felt cumbersome and outdated after using the iPad. Having to press buttons and choose from text selections and all of that was soooooo much work after the ease of the iPad experience. Between the included stylus (that it took me a week to notice, I’m slow like that) and the ability to search my books by cover, the Sony PRS-350 was kicking my 505 to the curb. While not quite as crisp as a Kindle screen, the PRS-350 offered much better resolution than my 505. (Previous touch editions were too fuzzy for my comfort.) Rather than having to buy a pricey cover for the 350, it fit easily into the larger of a Tokidoki for Sephora Passe Pouch set. A selection of which, and I know this will shock you, I already had.

Loading the PRS-350 is the same as a PRS-505. Sony made some welcome improvements to the Reader Store in support of the device but the basic mechanics are unchanged. This is a USB street. My 505 charger didn’t work with the PRS-350, but Sony did sell a dedicated charger for wall use. The unit may be significantly smaller than the 505 but the screen is large enough that I never felt like I was reading on an iPhone. It seemed like a mass market paperback, easily held in one hand. While my initial impressions of the touch mechanism were that it was balky and less refined than the Apple experience, part of that was simply needing an adjustment period. By the end of the trip I was at ease with the touch mechanism and reading smoothly. (In many situations I did find it more comfortable to use the navigation buttons for page turns.)  Having mechanical controls as well is wonderful when you’re in a situation that makes using the touch screen unwise (Powdered sugar happens, ok? It happens!) While initially concerned that the raised edge / curved edge design would make it uncomfortable to use (I’m a lefty) the fit was natural and well balanced.

Design is where Sony excels. Even with the removal of the 505’s full metal case (the 350 is made of several materials) the unit feels solid and expensive. The slightly rubberized back reduces slip while the brushed front reduces fingerprints. These are units people thought about. Although the PRS-350 lacks the memory card slots of the larger units, there is more than enough memory for casual use. I loaded around 200 books to mine without filling it up. Aside from a lack of WiFi or 3G support, Sony’s main downfall is it’s hang time. If you want to delete the notes you made about a book (or anything else) the spinning arrows go on for far too long. Suddenly your beloved partner is some ancient relative screaming “I’m thinking, ok? Keep your pants on!” instead of rushing to meet your needs with the joie de vivre of youth. You may hover between fear that the system has crashed and the knowledge that if you don’t wait it out you could trigger a crash where none was occurring. PRS-350 moves at it’s own pace. Sometimes that pace suddenly slows to a crawl. The page refresh is not invisible, but fast enough that you quickly become accustomed to it. (Page refresh is when you move to the next page, the screen flashes dark for a moment then returns to normal with the new text.) My PRS-350 is playful. It likes to play a game called Hide The Battery Charge. Sometimes it will tell me the battery has drained and it needs to go to sleep even if I have just fully charged it. Nothing works until I plug it back into my computer. Within moments it laughs and says just playing. We good. Full battery on board. Hey, let’s get a snack. While this is rare, it’s only fun for one of us and that one is not me.

I believe this is what keeps 350 from overtaking the 505 in people’s hearts. Still, because we’ve gone Touch we can’t really go back.  Even with it’s little quirks, the 350 shoved 505 out of my life. The crisper text, the ability to navigate by finger swipe, the note taking and highlighting ease all combined to make 350 my dominant travel reader. Then someone gave me a Kindle. WHAT WILL HAPPEN? (A really long and certainly boring review of outdated tech I still own, for one thing.) Oh, it’s go time around here. With four readers sharing real estate on a desktop meant for a maximum of two, someone is going to hit the curb. It won’t be iPad, he’s the 800 lb gorilla in this gang. Also, Steve Jobs would beat me up. I know he’s super sick and all, but that guy intimidates me. I’m pretty sure his turtleneck hides super secret weapons from the future. C’mon, iThings AND Pixar? No way that’s natural.) Hey! This would be a good place for a segue! I know I said we’d talk the upcoming Sony T-1 talk today, but as it’s an Android based unit and Amazon is talking about it’s Android based Kindle upgrade, I think we’re going to talk about them together and later. Probably under What To Buy. (I love spending other people’s money. Ask anyone who’s stood near me with a wallet.) Also, I asked Sony if they’d pretty please consider giving me one because I am super extra special and they didn’t call me back. I think I had the right number. I mean, it’s not like Nook answered or something.

Points of Awesome

  • Small Size Without Sacrificing Reading Experience
  • Lightweight & Elegant
  • Good Storage Capacity
  • Long Battery Life
  • Touch, Not The Bad Kind
  • Note Taking, Highlighting
  • Custom Lock Screens
  • EPUB (Public Library) Compatible

Points of Bummer

  • Must Be This USB Connected To Use
  • Can Be Fickle
  • Super Extra Slow Compiling Issues
  • Discontinued Product
  • Lacks Flavor When You Lick It
  • Sony Charges $65 For A Stylus
Sunday(ish) – Kindle, All That Or What?
Monday – So What Do I Buy? 
Tuesday – Why Calibre?