Sony will be officially releasing their new 3rd generation T3 e-Reader next week in the US, Canada and overseas. The overall build quality mirrors the previous iterations of the hardware and most of the differences are software related. With minor tweaks and updates, how does this e-Reader stack up against the competition?
The Sony PRS-T3 features a six inch e-ink Pearl display screen with a resolution of 1024×768. This is not quite as fancy as some of the new devices hitting the market in the next few weeks and seems to be using outdated technology from last year. It also is lacking the front-lit display that allows you to read in the dark. Instead, Sony has covers that have a built in reading light and will retail for $60.00 when they are released at the end of October.
Sony made a very odd design choice with the new sleep covers and other cover accessories. If you device to remove the cover you will have the battery, SD Card and other ribbons poking you from the back. Sony basically has mandated that you must always have a cover on the device. It does not have the same backing as every single e-reader on the market.
Underneath the hood is a 1 GHZ Freescale processor and 512 MB of RAM. Sony says that the built in memory is 2 GB, but when you take it out of the box for the first time, you only have a paltry 1.2 GB of storage space. If you are a voracious reader, you must invest in an SD Card.
As e-Readers have processed over the years, most have scrapped physical buttons to go with capacitive touchscreen displays. Tablets also have followed suite and all common functions are accomplished with software. Sony has buckled the trend by sticking with the page turn, home and settings buttons. This allows you to simply hold the device with one hand and are able to turn the pages, quickly and easily.
The hardware basically mirrors the Sony PRS-2 and there are really no differences in the overall aesthetics. If you have had a prior model, you know what you are getting yourself into. The main allure of the T3 is the software.
The Sony PRS-T3 is running on Google Android, which maintains the same theme as their entire modern line of e-readers. Nook is the only only mainstream brand that has their OS, much to the enjoyment of hackers who like to root their devices.
If you like to take notes and make quick annotations the T3 is the right e-reader for you. You can use an official Sony Stylus to augment any type of eBook, whether it is a PDF or EPUB. Any changes you make will be saved to your device, but you cannot export the books with all of your notes. Sony has always had deadly support for handwriting and note taking. The one drawback, is unlike previous models, this does not come with at Stylus. Instead, you must buy one from Sony and they normally cost $20.00.
There are a few key software features that make the T3 stand out from the competition. The first is Evernote, which allows you to connect up your account and sync notes, books and text changes directly to your account. The second main element is an Overdrive shortcut, that takes you to the Sony website with a stripped down version of the digital library lending service. You simply just need a library card and your four digit pin code, and you can select your library. Anything you borrow, you can read directly on your Sony e-Reader, and they are the only company that has a longstanding relationship with Overdrive.
The one thing that made me dig this e-reader was a very small factor, but is very unique. Most e-Readers if you are connected to WIFI have a timeout. This preservers your battery life, but automatically shutting off the internet. Kobo Readers are notorious for doing this and if you need to connect to a website, it often takes a good three minutes for everything to reinitialize. Sony has a cool option to let you disable the timeout.
The PRS-T3 has a dedicated homescreen that lists the four last books you have purchased or open. At the very top is the book you are currently reading and displays the page you are on. The main menu is simply designed and a bit elegant. Kindle e-Readers often have links to books you can buy, directly on your main page, which can be dis concerning to always be prompted to buy something else.
You basically buy this e-Reader for EPUB, PDF and FB2 files, it supports little else. Still, you can buy books from other websites and load them directly on it with Adobe Digital Editions.
The overall reading experience lacks when you stack up the T3 head to head against the Kobo Aura or even the Kindle Paperwhite. Text seems to be a little dim, also there are plenty of advanced options to adjust There are a very options that you change the darkness of the text and background. None seem to really make a huge difference, might may offset the glare from the reading light.
There are nine different font sizes and when you select one, it updates live. This means the text changes in real time and provides the reader with an indication on any changes you make. There is seven different font types, but you would be hard pressed to really know what they do, without trying them out. I mean, when is the last time anyone used “Really No. 2” or “Frutiger Neue” or even “Univers Next”? I have used over a hundred e-Readers and have never seen such a woeful attempt to not license any official fonts.
There are eight different dictionaries that are loaded on the T3 by default, but will really differ depending on what region you bought it from. The Canadian edition has different versions of French, English and Spanish. If you don’t know what a word is, you can long-press on it and select the dictionary you want to use.
The T3 does not have an accelerometer or gyroscope. Instead, if you want to get out of the standard portrait mode, you can hit a settings button and visit landscape. This may suit different types of media better, such as newspapers, magazines or graphic novels.
The PDF experience allows you to re-flow the text with settings options. You have to really go through a series of trial and error configuring, until you find that sweet spot. You can also pinch and zoom to more quickly find the perfect viewing perspective. When you are in the process of zooming a small notification area appears, that gives you a sense on where you are within the document. It pales in comparison to Kobo’s options that actually lists text and images in in the preview pane, instead the Sony just has white on black. Once you find your ideal prospective you can use the page turn keys to flip a page and maintain your settings. You cannot use touchscreen swiping and gesturing to turn a PDF page, if you are zoomed in.
The Sony PRS-T3 really feels like the company isn’t even trying anymore. They are using hardware internals that e-Readers in early 2012 were using and haven’t really updated it in any significant way. Considering the new Nook, Paperwhite and Kobo Aura are using cutting edge technology, this feels sluggish in comparison.
Sony used to have the BEST PDF support in the business for many years, but have quickly become a distant number three. They haven’t been able to solve the refresh issues with constantly turning pages or zooming in. This is mainly because they failed to use e-Ink Regal technology, which drastically reduces “ghosting” and refreshes.
You should buy this device if you have a panache for using a stylus and taking notes. The T3 really shines when you are drawing or just drawing arrows and diagrams. I can see this being very useful for people who need to augment technical PDF files or for school. This reader is also perfect who just want to read and don’t need a ton of distractions with games, lights and all the other gobbledegook. If its your first e-Reader, it is a solid investment.
If you are a fiendish reader and looking for a hot new item to really use as your main digital book reading device, I would go with something else. Turning it on for the first time and using it for a few hours, just felt like a dated unit. A few days of using it, and I long for the Aura, which is superior in every way.
Solid Stylus Support
Internet Experience is great
Faded text and weird font options
$60 for a lighted case?
If you remove the sleep cover, it back internals jab at your hands
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.