Windows® 98 Second Edition, Windows®
Millennium Edition, Windows® 2000 Professional, Windows® XP Home Edition,
Windows® XP Professional, CPU: Pentium® II 400 MHz or faster
(Pentium® III 500 MHz or faster is recommended), Available Memory: 96 MB RAM
minimum (128 MB or more is recommended. 256 MB or more is recommended with
Windows® XP.), Available hard disk space: 200 MB minimum (350 MB or more is
How many of you remember the Only in
Your Dreams PDA Contest that The Gadgeteer held back in 2001? The second
prize winner, Danny W. S. Whang, submitted an entry that looked like this:
I really loved his design, and my comment at the time was, "If Danny would
have added a bit more memory and a soft graffiti area, I would be very tempted
to buy this PDA if it were available today…"
Until now, the only PDA with anything even remotely resembling this design
was the Zaurus c760. Unfortunately,
I am just too heavily invested in software for both the Palm or Pocket PC OS to be able to
voluntarily make the switch to Linux. So I have been patiently waiting for one
those two platform’s licensees to take pity on me and produce my mini-laptop.
For some time, Sony has been the only Palm or PPC OS manufacturer to offer any
clamshell keyboard devices. But as much as I liked their innovative PDA designs, they
still didn’t have quite the form factor I was looking for. Instead of a horizontal
keyboard model, they were making vertical keyboard models. While these PDAs,
which include their CLIÉ NR,
NX & NZ series, all offered beautiful virtual graffiti screens and many
different options such as cameras, Bluetooth and 802.11b wireless, I personally
found their vertical keyboards too awkward to use for any length of time – I
always went back to graffiti, keeping the PDA screen folded open in
tablet/portrait mode. Even though owning one of these models required carrying a
larger PDA than I might have otherwise, it was a fair trade-off because of the
features I got in return.
When news came down the pipeline about an upcoming horizontal keyboard model
CLIÉ with virtual graffiti, a built-in camera and Bluetooth as well as built-in
802.11b, Julie and I dusted off our credit cards and put in our pre-orders.
Sony CLIÉ PEG-UX50/U be the PDA I had been waiting for all of these years?
Would the keyboard be as useable as I had hoped? Or would I just end up using
the PDA in tablet mode the majority of the time? Would the screen be just as
wonderful as Sony’s other 320 x 480 virtual graffiti screens? Would I even want to
keep the PDA after reviewing it?
Sony is actually offering two CLIÉs with this mini-laptop configuration, the
UX50 and the UX40. The main differences between the two models are that the
50 has WiFi (in addition to Bluetooth), it costs $100 more, and it has a
metallic silver case whereas the 40 is gunmetal grey. Otherwise, they are
essentially the same PDA. Since my home has a WiFi network, I was more interested in
Interestingly enough, whereas the box for the PEG-UX-50 says "Personal
Entertainment Organizer," the Sony site calls it a "Mobile Internet
Communicator." I guess this is so that none of us mistakes these new CLIÉ’s for
a lowly PDA.
I am the first to admit that I had a lot of expectations for the new UX50.
Did it live up to them? Let’s take a look…
Included in the UX50’s package were the CLIÉ handheld itself, the charger
cradle, USB HotSync cable, retractable stylus (more on this toothpick
later), AC adapter, hand strap, installation CD-ROM, instruction manuals, End
User license agreement, Graffiti2 card, and the Limited Warranty statement.
Bear in mind that since I use a
CLIÉ NZ90 everyday, I am used to a larger sized PDA. So when I opened up the
UX’s box my first thought was, "Oh it is so cute and tiny!" Just
looking at the metallic clamshell exterior, and knowing what the PDA was
supposed to be capable of from reading its specs, I was already feeling
Then I opened the lid and got my first look at the screen…not a total
disaster size-wise, but it was certainly smaller than I had expected. As if to make it
seem even smaller, there was a thick black plastic border around the 2.74"
(6.96cm) wide x 1.84" (4.67cm) tall screen. For comparison, the average business
card is 3.5" (8.8cm) wide x 2" (5.1cm) tall.
After charging the CLIÉ, I was a bit concerned because the first time I powered
it on the screen was not backlit – in fact it was almost impossible to see
anything. It was as if all I could see was a light ghosting of the familiar
Palm welcome/set-up screen. I did a soft reset and that took care of the problem, revealing a
bright, beautiful high resolution screen. I had heard rumors that the screen was
not that bright, but when kept at about mid-point on the brightness slider, I
found that the screen looked great. Here is an un-retouched screenshot
comparison of my NZ to the UX. Both are set at the same point on the brightness
slider, and as you can see the UX is holding its own.
Before I go into much more about my experience with the UX, let’s take a look
at the hardware…
Processor: Sony CXD2230GA
Operating System: Palm OS software version v.5.2
Memory: Total 104 MB (16 MB available for storage of files and programs.
Additional 16 MB available for system back up. Additional 29 MB available for
Display: TFT color display with backlight, 480 x 320 dots; 65,536 colors
Interface: USB (for HotSync® operation), Infrared (IrDA 1.2), Memory Stick slot,
Bluetooth™, Wireless LAN (IEEE 802.11b WiFi)
Dimensions and Weight: Approx. 4 1/8 x 3 ½ x 23/32 (projecting parts not
included), Approx. 6.2 oz. (including stylus)
Power: Output: DC 5.2VInput: AC 100V – 240V
Battery: Lithium-ion polymer rechargeable battery (internal – non user removable)
Expansion: Memory Stick® media (recognizes Magic Gate & Memory Stick Pro cards)
As I previously mentioned, the UX50 has a silver metallic shell, quite
similar to the magnesium shell on my NR70V.
The metal gives the CLIÉ a substantial feel, without making it feel too
heavy. For comparisons sake, my NR70V weighs 7.2 ounces (204g) while the UX50
weighs just 6.2 ounces (172g). The UX50 actually weighs just 0.1 ounce more than
the Tungsten T (with plastic screen protector on). In fact, to go a step
further, the NZ90 that I normally carry everyday weighs 10.3 ounces (293g); so
you can see that the UX50 is a light-weight in comparison.
From left to right: the UX, NR and NZ. Top view: the UX, NR
and NZ. Side View: the UX, NR and NZ
Side by side, the Palm Tungsten T and the UX
This PDA feels solid as a rock – even the swiveling screen feels tight, not
the least bit wobbly or loose. It passes Julie’s famous creak test with flying
Looking at the unit when it is closed, you can see that the screen portion –
or top half of the PDA – does not meet evenly with the bottom portion.
This leaves the bottom buttons exposed when the screen is in tablet/landscape
mode. These buttons are from left to right: the jog-dial, Back button, Web
Browser, E-mail and Date Book. Of these, the Web Browser, E-mail and Date Book
buttons are re-mappable. To the left of the jog-dial is the microphone, and
continuing to the left is a large loop for those that prefer to keep their PDA
on a lanyard (one is included in the box). The jog-dial on the UX is almost
better described as a "jog-wheel," in that it reminds me of the paddle wheel on
a riverboat. The jog-dial is wide, barely textured, and inconveniently placed
for one handed operation. I have managed to read two complete e-books while
testing the UX, and I gave the jog-dial a fair chance – but I dislike it
The right edge of the CLIÉ contains from left to right, the stylus silo, the
Memory Stick Pro slot, and the headphone jack.
While we are in this area, I should mention that the stylus that comes with
the UX is a retractable toothpick that I would only recommend using when you
have forgotten your full-size stylus. it appears to have been designed with
nothing more in mind than the briefest of entries or screen taps. Using it for
any amount of time is guaranteed to bring on a bout of hand-cramping; I think
this is easily one of the worst stock styli I have even used. Perhaps since this
is a PDA with a built-in keyboard, the stylus was considered more of an
afterthought than it might have been on a traditional handheld. In any case, I
suggest you keep a good multi-pen handy when using the UX.
When closed, the stylus measures 2.5", and when opened it is 3.7". I found
that when carrying the CLIÉ, the stylus would try to pop out of the silo at
will, sometimes by as much as 1cm. Even though the stylus hasn’t actually fallen
out yet, it appears to be only a matter of time before it does.
I should also mention that in case you didn’t already notice it in my list of
contents, the UX does not come with a set of ear-buds. I thought this was a bit
chintzy of Sony, especially given the price of this particular high-end CLIÉ.
Moving right along…
The left side contains the Hold/Power sliding button, the Infrared port, the
mini-USB port, and the previously mentioned lanyard loop.
Considering the fact that this is a landscape oriented screen, I wonder why
Sony didn’t keep the jog-dial on the upper left, like it is for all of it’s
other PDAs. It would have been perfect for one-handed operation – scrolling
through e-book pages and other items, but instead, they did this combo
power/hold slider. The power is turned on by sliding down, and turned off by
sliding down again. Hold is achieved by sliding the bar straight up to a locked
position, and it is released by sliding the bar back down.
The mini-USB port is covered by a plastic tab on the end of a rubbery dongle.
While I think it is great that there is a cover for this port and that this
isn’t a loose piece waiting eventual misplacement, the dongle is a bother and
gets in the way when attaching the mini-USB. I would have much preferred it if
there could have been a way to integrate the mini-USB port into the cradle and
not into the PDA, just because it is such a hassle. Since the only time you need
to use this port is when hot-syncing, it might be in your best interest to
quickly figure out how to sync wirelessly – either through the use of Bluetooth
or WiFi. Perhaps in the future there will be peripherals that use this mini-USB
port on the UX. When/If that time comes, I may rethink whether its location is
still inconvenient or not; but for now, I believe it is.
Like the NR70V, the camera lens located at the top of the UX rolls to provide
its own protection or for ease when looking at the screen and capturing pictures
or video. More on these features later…
The back of the UX has the speaker and a reset button that you can access
with the tip of a stylus. I always like it when a PDA has a nicely sized reset
button, as I hate having to unscrew a stylus to get to the reset pin.
When the screen is flipped up in laptop mode, or laid back in tablet mode for
viewing, you can see the LED lights on the border that designate when Bluetooth
or WiFi are being used.
The UX50’s qwerty keyboard is very nice, definitely a much easier to use size
than the vertical models. I got a couple of pleasant surprises with this
keyboard: the first being that it lit up with an orange backlight when being
used, and the second being that it included numbered buttons – which neither my
NZ nor my NR series CLIÉs have. There is not much differentiation between the
keyboard buttons and their pad, but the keys are set on the crest of the
"ripples" that comprise the background off the keyboard. This raised placement
as well as the lighting helps make the keys easier to use.
The buttons make a nice light click as they are pressed, and double index
finger typing is actually quite speedy. I would like to see the tab button
actually move between fields in future models, instead of just scooting down the
line. However, I am not sure if this is an OS issue or just a programming
detail. It would also be nice if capital letters could be achieved by a longer
press of a key, instead of having to to hit the shift button. Things like that
would make using such a little keyboard a much better experience, in my opinion.
It is a nice feature that by hitting the shift key once, you get a single
capital letter. If you click it twice, it performs a "caps lock" allowing
multiple capitals in a row.
Another cool feature that has been added is the use of the Control button in
conjunction with a keyboard number to launch a designated application. The
designated application can be set in preferences.
Overall, I like the size of the keyboard, and I much prefer it to the
versions on the NR and NZ. The keyboard is much easier to use, and I especially
like the new numbered keys. However, I found that for most data entry, I still
relied on graffiti. In fact, over the time I have been reviewing this unit my
keyboard usage has dwindled to almost nil. I think this is mainly because I have
became more proficient in Graffiti2.
The last piece of hardware I would like to discuss is the cradle, or perhaps
I should call it the "sled." Unlike the traditional cradles that prop a PDA
upright, the UX series comes with a 3" x 4" sled into which the CLIÉ snaps.
The power cable plugs into the sled instead of the PDA (unlike the mini-USB
for syncing). I don’t like the fact that in order to charge the CLIÉ while
traveling, I will have to lug that sled along. Any aftermarket charger that you
buy will only be able to plug into the sled, as there is no slot on the back of
the UX for one to attach. If I had had the choice of putting either the sync or
charge port on the actual body of the UX, I would have definitely chosen the
I found the UX50’s battery life to be fair during the last week and a
half that I have been using it. Anytime one uses WiFi for an extended period,
especially with a backlit screen, it is expected that battery life will be
sucked dry rather quickly. In my tests, I found that I could get almost 3 hours
use before hitting 20%, with the backlight set to middle brightness. For simple
e-book reading, the battery lasted for almost four hours before it fell to 25%,
with the backlight set to medium.
One battery feature that I wish Sony would have added to the UX is the Smart
Lithium Battery Information screen that my NZ has. It tells me the how long I
have used a battery, as well as how much time is left. It also keeps track of
how many charge cycles my battery has been through and how much degradation if
any, there is to the battery. All the UX’s battery screen tells me is how much
life is left by percentage. I feel let down, when I look at this measly
information. There is an
extended battery pack that you can buy from Sony, which is supposed to
triple your original battery life. Of course, it also adds a great deal of bulk
to the UX50 – but if you need it, you’ll buy it.
One of the most exciting features exclusive to this new PDA (at the time
of this review’s release) is the landscape oriented screen. There are quite
a few applications that would greatly benefit from this view, and it would seem
that web browsing would be one of the most obvious areas in which the UX would
shine. Unfortunately, many of the programs that would most benefit from the
landscape orientation do not yet support it. I am thinking specifically of
Documents to Go,
HanDBase, and the like. Thank goodness
automatically works in landscape, or I would have been in trouble!
While many programs have adjusted their views to include the 320×480 high
resolution+ vertical screen of the soft graffiti PDA’s, it would appear that we
will have to wait a while for the 480×320 versions to begin appearing.
Hopefully, it will won’t be too long a wait. As it is now, being able to only
view these programs in what amounts to 320×320 is like re-entering the stone age
– especially once you have grown used to 320×480. Here is an example:
If I would have had more entries, you would have seen data all
the way down to the toolbar…
As with most Sony CLIÉ’s, the UX50 comes with a nice selection of built in as
well as aftermarket trial software. With that said, let’s take a look at what’s
Sony Software – while I won’t discuss every program, I will touch on a
Audio Player – Sony’s MP3 player. Interestingly enough, it is only displayed
in 320×320. This was poor planning and implementation on Sony’s part in my
opinion – a full screen display would have been much more impressive. The UX’s
speaker is not really strong enough to listen to music out loud, but playback is
great over headphones.
Note how the landscape version does not use the full screen,
whereas the portrait version does. This feels like a rushed, incomplete product.
CLIÉ™ Camera – Software that drives the camera. The camera is a 310K
effective pixel…which means it is 0.3megapixels. Obviously this is not going
to replace your usual digital camera, but in a pinch it is a little bit better
than nothing. Pictures can be taken in the following sizes: 640×480, 320×240,
160×120, and 320×480.
There are three zoom settings, which I have represented here…
CLIÉ™ Files – a built-in file explorer. Handy for moving apps from internal to
CLIÉ™ 3D Launcher – You can adjust the slider at the upper right until the
programs curve across the screen like the display on a one-armed bandit in
Vegas. JACKPOT! Little balls, like dancing atoms, twirl around selected items…
CLIÉ™ Mail – Handy e-mail program that is tied in with the camera and movie
recorder software. Extremely handy for e-mailing on the fly, either via BT or
CLIÉ™ Viewer – View and manage internal or memory stick pictures on your CLIÉ.
Data Export v.1.0 (for PC) – Program for PC that allows you to move data from PC
Data Import – Program for CLIÉ that allows you to turn the PDA into an external
drive. This is the primary way that I move apps or MP3s onto my CLIÉ’s memory
stick, since my MS reader won’t work with Pro cards.
Image Converter v.1.1 (for PC)
Movie Player – Plays the movies you record with the CLIÉ
Movie Recorder – Records movies onto your CLIÉ, complete with sound. Recording
can be done in three bit rates, V:256/A:32kbps, V:192/A:32kbps and
V:96/A:32kbps. Movies may not be extremely sharp (due to the low mp of the
lens), but the playback is extremely smooth.
PictureGear™ Studio (for PC)
Remote Camera – Allows you to set up a BT connection with an enabled camera and
control the camera with your CLIÉ.
SonicStage™ v.1.5 (for PC)
Sound Utility – Allows you to organize the various alarms that are on the UX50
World Alarm Clock – Displays the time in 3 zones, and allows up to 5 custom
alarms to be set.
Noticeably absent is the Memory Stick Backup program that usually ships with
all CLIÉ’s. I could have done without something else if they would have included
this! In its place are the assurances (in the manual) that when you hot-sync
your files are backed up. Does that make you feel safer? Me neither. So I am
doubly glad that I already use BackupMan.
Palm™ Organizer Applications – No organizer that contains the Palm OS
can ship without at least a few of the basics. At least the UX manages to
convert the top four into landscape mode. Once again, I will not comment on
every program, rather I will touch on a few…
Address Book – looks great with the new landscape mode – you can even
add a picture to the entry, if you would like.
Date Book – also looks very good in landscape mode…
To Do List – more kudos are in order…
Memo Pad – and yet again…
Card Info – gives data about the internal media and added Memory Stick (if
you use one)…
Palm™ Desktop v.4.1 (for PC)
Launcher (Palm Standard Launcher) – Same old launcher, it’s just in landscape
Short Message Service (SMS) – allows you type out SMS messages on your CLIÉ,
then send them via Bluetooth over your GSM phone.
Value Added Software – Any time you see the double asterisks (**),
these titles are shareware. Otherwise, they are full versions. I have added
links so that you can read about the software is any given title interests you.
Be forewarned, many of these programs do not support the landscape mode.
Hopefully in time that will change…
Palm Reader and sample 2 e-Books**
Picsel Viewer – Allows you to read (but not
edit) almost any document on the CLIÉ. Nice GUI, by the way…
Pre-Installed Third Party Applications –
Decuma Input – Allows you to define symbols as to ten "shortcuts for lengthy
text that you enter frequently."
Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t Shortcuts under Prefs
already do that? I thought at first that this program might be useful to help me
get around some of the new Graffiti2 letters that I was having trouble with. I thought I might be
able to remap them in the old way, but because of the steps involved and the way
Decuma swallows up half of the 320×320 screen, I resolved to just "get over
it" learn Graffiti2.
Decuma is at least, easy to use. You just enter your designated symbol on the
line, then hit the arrow. But then, shortcuts were always easy, too. Decuma is
accessed by calling up the soft Graffiti screen and clicking on the keyboard
"a", if you have Decuma set as default in it’s settings.
I found it interesting that while I was using the UX50, some of the programs
that I thought would receive the most benefit from a landscape orientation didn’t seem all that much more viewable. Witness this shot of the
Gadgeteer mobile version…
As you can see, more info is actually displayed in portrait mode – and it is
just as viewable as the landscape version.
The programs that would have demonstrated the best benefits of landscape,
such as Documents to Go, Quickoffice and HanDBase aren’t even available in
landscape format yet. In fact, so many things about this particular PDA feel
incomplete, including its own built-in software, that I can’t help but think
that Sony was in a race to see who could market and sell the first landscape
PDA. Guess what? They won! But at what cost for us as consumers? This is not an
inexpensive unit, and in some ways it feels very much like a beta version – even
though it is a very cool beta version..
As much as I thought I would like looking at things on a landscape screen, I
found that I missed using the portrait view – especially when I had the screen swiveled
around in tablet mode. If there were a software fix that would allow a user to
specify when a program should be seen in portrait or landscape, then this would
feel like a more complete solution. But as things are, it feels too restrictive.
While the keyboard is nice, I didn’t find myself using it much more than the
one on my NZ90 after the novelty wore off. I never felt comfortable with it for
extended text input, and I can’t imagine trying to compose a lengthy document on
I can live with the camera not being the greatest, but I would almost prefer
having no camera to having a lame one. Perhaps I have become spoiled by the 2
mega-pixel camera on my NZ, but going back to fuzzy shots was really a step
Over time, in addition to the issues I have pointed out, the small size of
the UX’s screen and the placement of the jog-dial have become the final blow to
what I thought originally might be the perfect PDA for me. To be honest, I will
be boxing this PDA up and sending it back to the company I bought it from
tomorrow. Perhaps a future version of this PDA will address more of the features
I find important.
Price: $699 Search for the
best price here.
Landscape screen orientation – finally
Useable and decently sized compact keyboard
Compact, solid design
Bright, beautiful screen
Built in WiFi and Bluetooth
Built in camera
Lack of landscape support in native Sony and Palm software
Inability to swap between landscape and portrait mode