Pushing the PDA Limits

 
 
By Marge Brown  |  Posted 2003-01-28
 
 
 

Sony Electronics flagship PDA, the Sony Clié PEG-NX70V, is bumped aside by the Sony Clié PEG-NZ90 ($800 street), which advances the product line with an effective 2-megapixel camera, integrated Bluetooth, a removable rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack, and a redesigned USB docking cradle that has an AV output jack and USB printer port—not bad for only $200 more. That said, the price makes it more costly than some entry-level PCs.Sony Clié PEG-NZ90

Like its predecessor, the PEG-NZ90 relies on a 200-MHz Intel PXA250 processor backed by 16MB of RAM, has a 64K color, 320-by-480 backlit TFT flip-and-twist display, and includes a Wi-Fi card slot, a Memory Stick expansion slot, a voice recorder, a thumb-style QWERTY keyboard, a remote control, and a digital audio/video player. The PEG-NZ90s generous application bundle includes Palm OS 5.0, Sonys proprietary interface, and Picsel Viewer, an application for viewing images, PDFs, and Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files in native formats. The PEG-NZ90 is an exciting entertainment device with solid organizational and communication features.

The PDAs sturdy flat black case weighs 10.4 ounces and measures 5.5 by 3.0 by 1.3 inches (HWD), which is relatively heavy and large for a PDA—significantly larger than the Palm Tungsten T and even bigger than the fairly large HP iPAQ Pocket PC H5450. Because of the substantial hinge used to integrate the camera, the device feels top heavy when youre entering data via the keyboard. In the end, the weight of the PDA-camera combination works, although the hinge and the display overbalance the keyboard when the display is raised—a surprise at first, but we soon got used to it.

The Jog dial and Back button are useful for one-handed navigation, and you can use the stylus for data entry with the cover opened or twisted and folded over the keyboard.Sony Clié PEG-NZ90

We love the camera. The Sony Clié has raised the bar for other PDAs (and phones) with integrated cameras. The interface works well, and the flash and digital zoom come in very handy. You can capture images with the cover open or closed, using the Clié Camera S application. The camera has a lens cover, three flash modes, a 2X digital zoom, a self-timer, auto-focus, exposure adjustment, and a range of from 4 inches to infinity. The intuitive interface allowed us to capture shots within seconds of opening the application.

The PDA has a rated 10-day battery life based on 30 minutes of use per day with the backlight off. If you plan to take many photos, its best to travel with a PEGA-BP500 spare battery ($80). Other PEG-NZ90 accessories include the PEGA-WL100 wireless LAN card ($150) and the PEGA-AC10 travel charger ($30).

With so many cool features, the PEG-NZ90 can be a little overwhelming at first. Fortunately, the proprietary application-launching interface is highly graphical and intuitive. It uses both words and images to make starting and using the features and software easier than youd expect. We found the Bluetooth Connection Manager application, for example, to be the best weve ever seen, with helpful information and wizards. Having an integrated keyboard is great, and even though touch typing isnt possible, you can make pretty fast progress with two thumbs.

Aside from the slight top-heaviness when the cover is flipped up, we found the PEG-NZ90 very pleasant and easy to use. Even though its larger and heavier than its Palm and Pocket PC competitors, its worth the weight and bulk because of its sheer feature and functional richness.

Rocket Fuel