The new Sony Clie PEG-UX50 is a head turner. It's like driving a new car, people around me turning heads to look at this small wonder. Even a friend of mine, Pocket PC fanatic, noticed it: "This is the fist Palm device that impress me".
It's a very small package, as you can see in the picture when compared to a Sony Ericsson P800. Only 175g (103x86.5x17.9mm). Interesting to see that Sony replaced the name Personal Digital Assistant with Personal Entertainment Organizer, because of its capacity of integrating business and entertainment in the same unit.
Sony has designed, engineered and manufactured a new processor for the handheld that has been optimised with three key benefits in mind: multimedia processing, battery life and reduced size, all characteristics of a top of the range mobile device.
Dubbed "Handheld Engine", the new processor (model CXD2230GA) will probably power future versions of Clie handhelds. The processor features Dynamic Voltage and Frequency Management (DVFM), a Sony developed technology designed to maximize battery life. Documentation says that approximate battery life is 14 days, but based on a 30 minutes use a day and power savings options turned on. Perhaps because I connected to my network via Bluetooth a few times, took some pictures and tried the wi-fi, I found prudent to recharge it every day.
The UX50 integrates both Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11b) and Bluetooth on a single device, a widescreen 480 x 320 pixels colour display (65k) and a camera (still and video). If this is not enough, there's an infrared and USB ports too.
Memory is handled at four levels. In addition to the main 16MB RAM, the backup memory allow for an auto-backup capability. When the device detects that the battery level is extremely low, it automatically stores information to a separate built-in non-volatile memory.
The 29MB Flash ROM acts as a hard drive, where the user can store multimedia and data files, including MP3 audio, MPEG-4 video, JPEG still images and office document files. If this is not enough, a Memory Stick slot is available for users to add music, movies or programs.
The keypad is in a corrugated format, with the keys on top of each ridge. This format makes it easier to type, and it's actually very nice. The keys are backlit, and it also includes a handy function key (marked in blue). The Jog dial is positioned in the front, with four organiser keys.
The Graffitti2 area can be positioned in either side of the screen, and it can hide when not in use. Not all existing programs take advantage of this extra widescreen space available, but all the built in programs do, including the web browser and e-mail programs. The screen can be twisted around, and the device can be used as a tablet, with the keypad hiding behind the screen.
The Sony Clie UX50 with its screen flat as a tablet...
The device is powered by Palm OS 5.2, and comes loaded with productivity and entertainment applications. The basic Palm Address Book, Date Book, To Do and Memo Pad applications are there. The standard Palm Launcher is present, but Sony loaded a 3D application browser with some bells and whistles (I'm too conservative and changed it back to the fun colours of the origina launcher).
The standard Launcher: nice colours in a bright easy-to-read screen
Also part of the productivity package:
a pop3 e-mail client called ClieMail, with attachments handling capabilities
a SMS program
a world clock program
a voice recorder application
As part of the entertainment package there are some built-in applications and some demo ones:
AcidSolitaire (CD demo)
Agendus (CD demo)
Audio Player (built in, MP3 and ATRAC3 formats)
Bejeweled (CD demo)
Clie Album (built in photo album)
Clie Files (built in file manager)
Clie Memo (built in pad)
Clie Viewer (built in image viewer)
Insaniquarium (CD demo)
Movie Play (built in mpeg movie player)
Photo Editor (built in image editor)
Photo Stand (built in photo frame)
WorldMate (CD demo)
In a category of its own is the camera, incorporating a high quality integrated 310,000 pixel camera with 3x digital zoom that rotates up to 240 degrees and captures either JPEG still images of up to 640 x 480 dots or Movie Player format videos of 160 x 112 pixels. The software included allows the user to take still photographs or movie shots in MPEG4 format.
Camera view finder during snapshot (no it does not stretch images, it's a widescreen TV)
Example of picture taken with built in camera
Example of Address Book entry with image
Wireless communication is very well implemented. I tried accessing the Internet using a Bluetooth LAN Access Point and through my shared internet connection. I also transferred files from my desktop to this device by drag-and-drop into the icon in my desktop's My Bluetooth Places, including mpeg movies (you can also install applications without having HotSync at all. Simply transfer the .prc file using Bluetooth, and when the transfer is finished the system will ask if you want to install the file as a program ).
Bluetooth devices paired
Of course accessing the internet via my Bluetooth enabled mobile phone was also painless, but users will be able to wirelessly access the Internet and share e-mail either via a Wi-Fi enabled local area network (LAN) or a cell phone with integrated Bluetooth technology that is set up with data access service.
Choosing a wi-fi access point
Status after connection
Access Netfront browser: Connecting through CafeNet
Access Netfront browser: Geekzone on the small screen
Access Netfront browser: Another web page example
Two things I didn't like about the whole package: the stylus is too little, too short. It seems breakable - and there's no spare in the box. And a problem I found on the Access Netfront browser: the login dialog to password protected pages accepts only 20 character in username. I had to ask Cafenet to change my username to something shorter to be able to login.
This is a seriously cool device, and Sony is showing again how they're innovative on the handheld front. For serious Palm users, looking for a connected device this is one to consider .
Thanks to Sony New Zealand for arranging the Sony Clie, and thanks to CafeNet for providing access to their network for our review.