Sony is feeding on scraps at the e-reader table, and their compact PRS-350 is not going to change anything about that. What they were going for was a travel-sized idiot-proof e-reader to win over people who don’t already own one.

What they ended up with was a device that gets a lot of things right, but falls short on quite a few others. No Wi-fi or 3G is unforgivable for its price of $180, about $40 worth of unforgivable. The buttons feel cheap and ready to fall off, and there’s no headphone jack for audiobooks.

On the other hand the device is small and comfortable, its 5.5 ounce weight is less than competitors have managed, and the five inch, 800 x 600 pixel screen has 16 levels of contrast that at the stronger settings is amply good enough for daylight conditions. The display is augmented by infrared touch screen which makes it so easy to highlight passages that the option just beckons you. So does turning pages, which feels more natural as a touch gesture on the screen.

Ultimately, in spite of the pleasant reading experience, or to spite those who would like to purchase the PRS-350 for its usability, the Sony Reader Store looks hopelessly malnourished when compared to the offerings of competitors, and the only way to upload books to the reader is through USB port and annoying Sony software.

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