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I've never had a PDA before, and I'm not usually one for flash gadgets, although I do like technology. However the Clie NX70V has me completely converted. And that means it probably has wide appeal from the non-tech-savvy to those with techno-joy. It does all the normal PDA things - acts as a diary (allowing you to schedule recurring events is particularly handy), lets you write memos and draw diagrams, lets you make "to do" lists, have an address book, etc. It also lets you view, edit and create files in a number of formats including Word, Excel, Access and an art package. It takes photographs and digital video footage (better than a mobile phone, but not as good as a good digital camera. It can store voice memos, play MP3 files. You connect it to your PC via a cradle which is supplied with it. Once installed you just sit it in the cradle and push the button and all the information synchronises between Clie and PC. You can also transfer information via the memory card (which is the same format as many digital cameras etc, and fits in a port in my printer) or via a LAN card into a network. The data can go straight into Outlook, or other applications according to your needs. You can input or edit data in three different ways. You can either use the mini-keyboard inside the Clie, or you can put up a virtual keyboard to type on with the touch stick, or you can use handwriting. The handwriting system is very natural, and apart from having to learn a slightly different way to write certain letters (such as K, X, V, F) and soon becomes familiar enough to be as fast as typing. I thought it might be something I didn't use very much, but my Clie has won a place in my bag. It is smaller and lighter than a diary and does so much more! I've been amazed at the number of times it has been hand to take a photo, for example. And the more I learn about it the more useful it becomes. I know also that ther
e is loads more it can do - you can download programs and games for it. Besides it is a sexy little thing, with its rotating screen, bright colour images, clear sound, and feature packed format. It will make other PDA owners jealous. And most importantly it makes life easier.
I've had a couple of PDA's, ranging from calculator-like Sharp Zaurus's through to my latest - the Sony Clie PEG-NR70V/E. The Sony is my first colour PDA, replacing a very venerable PalmIII mono model. A work colleague bought one and I was just smitten with the clarity of the screen, and the neat screen folding mechanism. More than two months down the road, and I'm STILL impressed with the clarity of the screen and the simple elegance of the screen folding hinge, of which more in a moment. The '70V is an elegant design in a magnesium alloy, being a tactile matt silver grey finish. This then opens up in the manner beloved of all Star Trek fans, (think large version of the communicator from the original series!), to reveal the screen at the top, the camera and power button in the middle, and the normal PalmOS application buttons, plus a diddy keyboard in the lower half. The fun doesn't end there - take the keyboard and rotate it 180 degrees right-to-left, then close the device again. Now you have a 'classic' i.e. keyboardless PDA driven by the stylus - unfortunately one also upon which you can no longer use the Palm buttons. :-( When you want to put the device away - open it up, rotate the screen back, then close it - and the fragile screen is protected again. This is one of the three key differentiators for the '70V - when you want to type then there's a keyboard, otherwise it's nicely concealed. It's such an obvious design that I'm surprised that no-one else has done it before! The second difference for the '70V is the screen, this is a beautifully legible 320x480. Software has to be written to take account of this extra size, but it's worth it. Normal Palm programs also work fine, optionally using a Sony feature called HiRes Assist, which smooths the display out a bit. For comparison, normal colour Palms, like the IIIc, are 160x160 resolution, and the new Palms are 320x320. The
display is especially clear indoors, as sunlight tends to bleach it out, (the screen is backlit which is probably why it looks better indoors). The last difference is the inbuilt camera. This is a real gimmick, since the resolution is so low as not to be that useful. It does serve to keep my kids amused though. ;-) There's a 'shutter' button on the left hand side of the hinge in case you want a quick pic taken, and the camera software, makes a simulated shutter-click/wind-on noise for you when the picture is being taken. Key aspects of PDA's are size, weight and battery life. On the last-mentioned the '70V is at best disappointing - the battery gauge supplied has a tendency to sit at 100% for ages, then start dropping like a hippo from a hi-rise! On the matters of size and weight however, Sony design excellence again comes to the fore. The '70V is quite small, (it's about the same thickness as a standard one-disk DVD box, and two '70Vs could sit on the DVD case side-by-side), and not as heavy as you would assume for all the technology it packs. Compared to other devices, such as the the iPaq, the Sony looks positively elfin! When it comes to use, the '70V, like most PalmOS devices excels. Doing a side-by-side comparison with a PocketPC device, shows the Sony to be extremely responsive, easy to use and stable. It's a shame though that the stylus supplied is so cheap feeling and not that nice to hold. I'd strongly recommend sourcing a matt chrome replacement from Proporta, which not only feels better, but also matches the case design better. Software supplied is the standard PalmOS fare, albeit with a few extra Sony-supplied items, such as a slide show program for the camera. An unremarkable selection all told, and most people will probably want to spend a little more buying in some extra software, (like the DateBk5 PIM, iSilo document reader, etc). Oh, and there's no games either. :
-( Again, in a side-by-side comparison, the PalmOS utilities appear to be easier to use and faster than their PocketPC counterparts. One point to watch is that the supplied charger/cradle is USB only, as is the supplied Windows HotSync software. You can get an RS-232 HotSync cable from 3rd party sources, (Expansys is the best bet), but then you have to use the Palm-branded PalmDesktop4.0 software, (it's a download from the Palm site), in place of the serially-challenged Sony version, (no idea why they should deliberately remove serial support - ah well). NT users beware! The cradle again is a beautiful thing to look at in it's matt chrome, white and clear colour scheme, and would not detract from any busy executives desk. (A replacement is more than 60UKP, so be careful with it!) Expansion is limited to Memory Stick modules. There's a variety available, such as GPS, etc. I personally disklike MS memory modules as they're not available in large capacities and are quite expensive. If you're going to buy MS's get the Lexar ones, as they're good quality and noticably cheaper than the Sony branded parts. Also get the large ones, since a 128MB stick will actually let you view 30 minutes movies using the free Kinoma software, that is available for download, (try http://www.clieflix.com/ for some movies, and movie trailers are available on the Sony Pictures website too), or get an MP3 version of a CD album. (There's some supplied software for converting/uploading music, and a corresponding application on the Clie for playing it). This has now been replaced by the faster PEG-NX70V model, which has a fast ARM processor, rather than the 66MHz Motorola in the NR70V. So hopefully, there should be some good deals on the older model. If so, and you're looking for a classy and capable device, then I'd recommend the Sony Clie PEG-NR70V. Help and information is readily available from either the official Sony sites,
or http://www.clieplanet.com/, the latter being especially highly recommended.