Lets start from the outside. The cover, which is made from a synthetic leatherlike material, is both sturdy and easy to keep clean. Compare this to the cover that came with the Kindle 1, which I know from first hand experience gets really funky with finger grease after a while, or the Kindle 2 which comes with no cover. The 505's cover is securely fastened to the - for lack of a better term - spine of the reader, and includes magnetic stripes to help keep the 'book' closed. It also opens completely flat - meaning I can keep the Reader open on the table and still have my hands free. Now, try that with a paperback... =)
The device itself is clean, uncluttered and oozes of build quality. Not only is the casing in brushed aluminium, the keys have virtually no movement in any other direction than down (ie; no rattling keys). All keys also have smooth travel and solid feedback - you know when you pushed a button on this device. The screen - 6" diagonally, just like the more well known Kindle 1 and 2 - is clear and very, very easy to read under most conditions. More on that in a bit, lets first return to the buttons and their uses.
The main buttons for changing pages are on right side of the device, naturally falling under my thumb as I hold the Reader as I would any other book with two hands. The secondary buttons for turning the pages are in the bottom left corner - right under my thumb as I hold the Reader in my left hand only. Or you can simply use the numbered keys along the right side of the screen to enter a page number directly. The centre of the right hand wheel works as an enter key, while the arrows around the wheel lets you navigate around pages too large to be shown at the Readers screen.
Flanking the wheels are three more buttons - zoom, bookmark and menu. The former lets you select from three levels of zoom, while the later brings up the devices various menu screens. To get to the top level, one have to hit the button multiple times - from reading a book it takes four clicks to get to the top. More on the menu system in a bit - first lets briefly mention the bookmarks.
Bookmarks is one function I didn't find much mention of in the various mainstream reviews of the unit, but one that strikes me as particularly useful - simply put it lets you place a dogs ear at the page you're currently at. These bookmarks can later be returned to, either in each individual book or - and this is the clincher - on a library wide basis. Imagine the uses for this when you got a Reader filled with technical documents, textbooks or various job documents!
The menu system takes a little getting used to, but once the basis is understood you can easily navigate it. The various options are presented lined up with the numbered buttons, and all you have to do to select any option is to press the related button. If you find yourself in a place you don't want to be - for instance you selected books by title, but meant to select books by author - all you need to do is to tap the Menu button to go back up.
Now, the important part of any eBook reader is it's screen... and the screen on the PRS-505 is very impressive. Granted, it takes half a second to update, and it 'only' displays 8 shades of grey, but compare that to a regular pocketbook; it'll take you about half a second to turn a page, and most illustrations are no better (and often worse) than they appear on the Readers screen. You can't read it in darkness as you can the screen of the Eee, but you can read it in full sunlight... in fact, I find the eInk display on the Reader as easy to read as a regular book.
The Reader also have two slots for memory cards - SD / SDHC and Sonys own MemoryStick DUO. While I havn't played around with that feature much yet, I've to say that the Reader not only reads my cameras SD card, but displays the photos in this blogpost beautiful.
Off course, no review of a device such as the Reader would be complete without a look at it's 'puter-side software. And I'm forced to say... despite how much the Reader shines, the eBook Library is somwhat... lacking. Not only is it somewhat clunky as far as importing files goes, but the fact that it insists on dumping everything into 'books' for me to manually go through to add to 'collections' later is somewhat unforgiving... also, the lack of being able to drag a valid book file from my file manager into the Library is counter-intuitive from what I have gotten to expect from software over the last fifteen or so years.
Despite the failings of the PC software, I can wholeheartedly recommend the 505. It simply rocks!
The 505 masquerading as a slim, leather bound book. Sharpie for size reference.
The opened book. Note how the screen is white - not black - when the Reader is off. All the controls can bee seen in this photo.
Close up text at the lowest level of magnification. Notice how sharp the eInk is, even in low light conditions.