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Hands on: Sony PRS-700BC Reader

Touchscreen eBook Reader wins us over

Sony has been showing off all sorts of desirable new kit at CES, among the best of which are its VGN-P500 Series ultraportable laptops and a third-generation eBook Reader.

Sony has been letting us have a play with its lovely new PRS-700BC electronic book reader at the Consumer Electronics Show. Sony launched its second-generation PRS-505 Reader model in the UK in November, but US bookworms are an iteration ahead of us and can already buy this touchscreen model. The new version is slightly smaller and squarer than its predecessors and looks better for its design rethink.

Sony PRS-700BC Reader 272The $399 PRS-700BC has a night light as well as the ability to brighten the gently backlit screen. It also boasts a row of hardware buttons running beneath the 7in display to jump to specific pages or chapters and an annotation feature so users can make research notes or commentary as they go. Predictive text makes text entry slightly less cumbersome than it would otherwise be, given that there isn't a full keyboard. Instead, Sony has stuck with the screen itself being the main focus of the 700BC Reader.

The touchscreen is used to flick from page to page in a far more intuitive manner than on other eBook readers we've tried out and can also be used to highlight text, to bookmark content and, most impressively, to scroll through entire documents. You can speed-read what's onscreen and easily find the part of the document you were looking for.

A 1GB flash memory card supplies eBook content for the Sony 700 Reader, so there's no need to hook it up to a PC in order to transfer content to it. Additional books can be bought from Sony's US store and from Borders bookshop. (In the UK, Sony has a partnership with Waterstones, with the DRM and download mechanism handled by Adobe Digital.) ?As with previous models, the PRS-700BC can display and resize on the fly PDF and rtf Word document content, show highly detailed images (albeit in monochrome) and can be used as an MP3 player.

Sony says the PRS-700BC's battery will last for two weeks on standby, so you could load it up with enough content to keep you occupied on a two-week holiday. Pricing and a launch in the UK has yet to be decided upon. However, in the US it has just gone onsale for $399 while the PRS0-505 version costs $299.

See also our review of the Sony PRS-505 Reader

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