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Sony Clie PEG-NX70V

Friday 14th February, 2003

To be fair to Sony, it says upfront that its new Palm device, the Sony Clié PEG-NX70V, isn’t Mac compatible. So why bother to review it? Two reasons: it is compatible, if you stretch the point, and it’s an object of lust.

The previous version, the NR70V, was Mac compatible, as long as you were prepared to cough up for a copy of Missing Sync, a third-party software application that allowed it to show up as a Palm device for synching purposes. Missing Sync is also required for the NX70V. And here’s the main rub: we couldn’t get it to synchronise with our Mac via USB, either directly or using a cradle. For the most part it simply didn’t show up as a USB device (although it did show up intermittently). However, with the Missing Sync software installed, you can synchronise your Mac and NX70 using IrDA infrared. In other words, you’ll need an IrDA PowerBook, or external IrDA connection device to use an NX70V.

Palm reader

So why would you want one of these, considering it’s so much of a pain? The Clié has the fastest clock speed of any Palm-compatible handheld, sporting an ARM-compliant 200MHz processor. This additional processor power helps it feel snappy when running Palm OS 5.

It certainly needs to be fast just to operate the amount of widgets that come as standard. The device has 16Mb of internal memory, although due to OS 5’s set-aside scheme you only get 11Mb of useable space. There’s a decent digital camera (310,000 effective pixels) built into the hinge, which you can independently rotate up to 280‚àû, for capturing 640 x 480 pixels (VGA) images and movies.

The Clié supports Sony’s Memory Sticks, including the long-awaited, super-sized version 2 sticks. It also boasts a surprisingly good digital voice recorder that has a good ambient microphone and loud built-in speaker, and can operate in SP and LP modes. LP mode can stick nearly nine hours of sound on to a 128Mb Memory Stick. It also features an IrDA port, as well as a Compact Flash-like expansion port for adding a Wi/Fi adaptor (an 802.11b AirPort-compatible transceiver to you and me) so that you can collect email and browse the Web.

All this, of course, avoids detailing the real reason for buying the NX70V - sex appeal. Sony has stuck with the same design as the NR70V: a flip-open screen that reveals a built-in mini-keyboard, so you can use either Palm Graffiti to enter text, or physically type (using two thumbs) via the keyboard. The screen itself can also be rotated 180‚àû so that the screen can lie on top of the closed device, like a slate. The high-resolution backlit screen is simply gorgeous. The Graffiti area is software driven, which means you can show or hide it and the viewing area can be as large as 320 x 480 pixels. For those learning Graffiti, a nice touch is that software feedback shows you what you’re writing.

Wheel of fortune

The Clié also includes a camera button that lets you activate the video or camera software, and then record. Sony’s Jog-wheel is located on the left of the unit. This is similar to a mouse-wheel and acts as both a scroll-controller and an item selector. There’s also a Back button below it that works just as you’d expect: use the Jog-wheel to select an application from the list, and use the Back button to return to the application list.

If you’re used to, say, a Palm m505, then the NX70 may seem a little larger, which is mainly due to the 802.11b expansion slot. However, to be fair, it seems somehow lighter, which may boil down to the brushed magnesium casing, which is much easier to hold, or the Lithium-ion battery that manages seven or eight hours between charges for normal use. That said, when the unit is switched off it doesn’t seem to drain the battery as much as the notorious m5xx series.

Remote chance

As with any Sony device, in addition to the standard Palm applications, it comes with a set of useful utilities, including a Sony Remote Control emulator for TV, video and DVD, and a complete array of plug-in hardware, including ear-pieces, a carry strap and a remote for using it as an MP3 player. If you have the money, are prepared to synch via IrDA and you want the sexiest PDA with the most gadgets per gram, then you have no choice but to go for the Sony Clié PEG-NX70V. If Apple made a PDA, this would be it.

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ProsFast + Built-in Camera + Sound recording + MP3 Player + Optional 80211b
Originally PublishedMacUser, Volume 19, Issue 4