September 01, 2010, 11:31 AM — Leave it to Sony to throw a new twist into the e-reader game: The company's refreshed lineup of e-readers and new touchscreen technology ups the ante over its competition. The E-Ink e-reader has just gotten way more interesting.
All three of Sony's new models use the E-Ink Pearl display that's already made a positive impression on the Amazon Kindle (3 rd generation) and Amazon Kindle DX Graphite. The new twist is that Sony has ditched the annoying touchscreen overlay of its previous Reader Touch Edition; that overlay was responsible for many of that unit's faults, including its unresponsive navigation, terrible glare, fuzzy text, and poor contrast.
But that was then. The new crop of readers blows all of those problems into the past.
Instead, Sony uses an infrared optical technology touchscreen on each of its new models: The Reader Pocket Edition, Reader Touch Edition, and Reader Daily Edition. The touchscreen works by using infrared sensors to detect where your finger is on the screen; it compares that information against a matrix that identifies where your finger is and what action you are trying to accomplish, and then performs that action.
I found the result compelling--a highly responsive E-Ink touchscreen display. In my hands-on time with the units, I was impressed by how light of a touch was required to make a selection, the polar opposite of my experience with the Reader Touch Edition.
Add that to the new Readers' improved specs (lighter weight, more compact design), stylish looks, plus its support the open ePub format, and Sony has definitely given us reason to once more take its e-reader hardware seriously.
Unfortunately, Sony appears not to be reading the headlines about the current e-reader price war, and the prospects for a $99 e-reader. Instead of providing competitive pricing with Amazon's $139 Wi-Fi-only Kindle, or even a slight premium (this is Sony, after all; a premium is often to be expected), Sony's pricing feels is high: The 5-inch Reader Pocket Edition, $179; the 6-inch Reader Touch Edition, $229; and the Reader Daily Edition, $299.