Leaked service manuals for Sony's upcoming PRS-300 and PRS-600 e-reader devices have revealed the specs of the anticipated successors to the Sony PRS-700. Unfortunately, no pricing or release date information was included, but the manuals are dated July 2009, so the features revealed are fresh.
What we do know: the PRS-300 will have an internal memory of 440MB, but no option for external storage, while the PRS-600 will have the same internal memory plus an MS/SD card slot for extra memory should you desire it. As for screen size, the PRS-300 will have a five-inch screen, while the 600 model will have a six-inch touchscreen display. Both models The PRS-600 will be available in silver, black, and red, while the PRS-300 will sport blue, silver, and rose exteriors.
So how do these new e-readers stack up to Amazon's market-leading Kindle? The Kindle 2, currently $299 from Amazon (it debuted at $360), is still working from a keyboard rather than a touchscreen like the PRS-600, but beware this seemingly awesome Sony feature: one complaint about the earlier PRS-700 is that the touchscreen layer picked up too much glare. The Kindle 2 also has a far greater capacity, with 2GB internal memory translating into 1.4GB of storage space for books, enough for 1,500 titles. That's about 3.5 times what Sony's new devices offer, though expanding memory is obviously not a problem for Sony's 600 model, with its SD card slot. The Kindle's six-inch e-ink display is equivalent to that of the PRS-600, though the new Kindle DX's screen trumps both at 9.7 inches.
But the main advantage the Kindle has over Sony's new products is wireless connectivity, which isn't addressed in the leaked service manuals, suggesting the new devices may have to be tethered to a PC to download. Unfortunately, we're also in the dark on backlighting as well as pricing for the Sony devices (the PRS-700 debuted last year at $400, but the pared down PRS-300 may well be less expensive than the Kindle). But we may not be waiting long to find out everything we want to know about the Sony's Kindle competitors. The PRS-700 is no longer on sale in the SonyStyle store, signaling that the release of the PRS-300 and PRS-600 devices could be upon us any day now.
UPDATE: Sony has gone official with the PRS-300 and PRS-600, which will be known as the Pocket and Touch respectively. The backlighting feature that contributed to increased glare in Sony's PRS-700 has been dropped in the new touchscreen PRS-600, and unfortunately neither new model will be Wi-Fi enabled, though Sony promises a wireless model is coming soon. In the meantime, the company has added Mac compatability to its new e-readers (an improvement that will soon extend to older models through a firmware update), and both will be available by the end of August.
But the real kicker is the price: the PRS-600 will retail at a Kindle-equivalent $299, while the scaled down PRS-300 will debut at a far more reasonable $199. If that's not enough icing on the cake, Sony is also dropping the price of new releases and bestsellers in its e-book store from $11.99 to an Amazon-esque $9.99. As we've noted before, Amazon has set the standards for the e-book business, with Barnes & Noble and now Sony following Amazon's pricing scheme. It remains to be seen who, if anyone, can break that model.