Sony Clie PEG-UX50 Review


  • Built-in Wifi and Bluetooth wireless
  • integrated camera
  • solid battery performance


Our Score 8
User Score 7


  • Bundled Intellisync does not work with Outlook 2003
  • small screen
If multimedia and wireless communication are your priorities, then the UX50 is designed for you.


The Sony Clie PEG-UX50 is indeed one of the most unique handheld devices we have seen. It has packed advanced features like WiFi and Bluetooth wireless, digital camera, thumb keyboard, landscape oriented Hi-Res+ screen, and an efficient processor into one incredibly small and light package. Even though its retail price of $599 is among the highest for a PDA, with all the features built-in, it is not too unreasonable. If multimedia and wireless communication are your priorities, then the UX50 is designed for you.


Recently Sony has announced that they will halt all CLIE production here in the U.S. but there are still several places where you can purchase these great handhelds.

Sony has been constantly pushing the limits of handheld hardware designs with its high quality CLIÉ handheld devices. Since the release of the CLIÉ NR series, Sony has shown the world that PDAs do not have to be limited to the usual tablet form design. Unlike most PDAs, the NR/NX/NZ series CLIÉ handhelds can be flipped open like a clamshell to reveal a thumb keyboard that is very useful for inputting data. Turning the screen 180 degrees and folding it on top of the keyboard transforms the device into a normal tablet PDA.

However, there are some limitations to the NR design. Due to its horizontal orientation, the CLIÉ UX50 is very narrow, which forces the keyboard to be relatively small. When developing the new generation of CLIÉ handhelds, Sony’s engineers chose to completely revamp the traditional design. They constructed the new UX series handhelds around a landscape-oriented screen, making them the first landscape Palm OS devices to hit the consumer market. In addition, Sony managed to pack WiFi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity, a digital camera, a backlit keyboard, and the ability to play 320×240 resolution videos at a smooth 30 fps into this tiny device. How? Let’s attempt to answer that question and as we do so find out all the neat details about the CLIÉ UX50 to see if it’s worth your money.

FYI: The UX40 is the same as UX50 except it doesn’t feature WiFi connectivity and has a gun-metal color exterior.



Like most Japanese companies usually do, Sony put together a nice-looking box for its PDA to attract potential customers. The UX50 arrives in a beautifully packaged soft green box with “Personal Entertainment Organizer” printed under the model number, indicating that you are not getting just any ordinary PDA, but an advanced multimedia communications device. Inside the box you’ll find the CLIÉ PEG-UX50 handheld, a hand strap, a charger cradle, an AC adapter, a USB synchronization cable, a software installation CD, a Graffiti 2 card, and the instruction manuals. The only thing that I found missing in the package is the audio remote control that Sony usually bundles with its high end CLIÉ models.

UX50 package contents

The package contents of the UX50

The Handheld


One word: beautiful! The UX50 is a stylish little device that looks nothing like the typical PDA. It resembles a miniature notebook computer with its clamshell design and built-in keyboard. The casing is mostly made out of metallic silver-colored magnesium alloy that is both lightweight and durable. The framework is also reinforced with two silver-colored metal rails extending from each side of the body. The UX50 is solidly built and does not crack or creak when squeezed.

The UX50 compared to a cell phone

The UX50 compared to a cell phone

Looking down on the device with the screen folded, you’ll notice a CMOS camera located on the left side of the top hinge. The camera can be rotated nearly 360 degrees, making it possible to take pictures in any direction, and even turned facing the casing to protect it from scratches and dust. On the right side of the hinge is a capture/record button. Pressing it once turns the camera on and pressing it again will cause it to take a picture or record a video clip based on your configuration. Folding the screen turns the handheld into a tablet that can be held in a way similar to how you would normally hold a digital camera. Even in its folded form, the bottom portion below the keyboard consisting of a mini microphone, the Jog Dial with back button, and three shortcut buttons (NetFront web browser, CLIÉ Mail, and Date Book) is exposed to ensure easy access to the buttons. The shortcut buttons can be configured to perform various tasks of your choice from the preference menu.

The left side of the UX50 contains a power/hold switch, a power LED, an infrared port, a mini-USB port, and an exaggerated hand strap loop hole. Sliding the power switch downward turns the UX50 on or off, and sliding it upward turns the screen off and locks all the buttons for music playback on the go. The power LED shines orange while the handheld is being charged and turns off when charging is complete. When you’re using the UX50, it remains steady green to indicate that the device is on. The mini-USB port is covered with a flimsy plastic cover that does a good job of protecting the port but makes it harder to plug in the USB cable. Since the charger cradle is used exclusively for recharging the battery, the USB port becomes the only way to synchronize data if your computer lacks wireless connectivity. Thankfully, built-in WiFi and Bluetooth work like a charm making the USB port somewhat less important. Next to the USB port is a large hand strap loop hole the main purpose of which is to provide style rather than functionality.

The right side of the PDA is not as tightly packed as the left. From top to bottom are the headphone jack, Memory Stick PRO slot, record and memory indicator LED, and the stylus silo. The retractable stylus, measuring 2.5″ when fully retracted and 3.7″ when extended, is too small for people with large hands, but sacrificing its size has allowed Sony to include more gems in the precious internal space.

Flipping open the screen reveals a spacious thumb keyboard that glows orange in the dark; a ripped design adds style to the device and at the same time, makes it much easier to type. The 0-9 number keys are also included, and they can be assigned in combination with the control key to quickly launch up to ten different programs. This is simply the best built-in thumb keyboard you can find in any handheld device, period.

The touch screen is small compared to the 4″ screen found on NX series PDAs, but since it has the same number of pixels you won’t be missing anything. Even though I quickly got used to the smaller screen after coming from the 3.8″ Toshiba e755 screen, I still would like to see a larger screen in the future. The thin Sony CLIÉ default system font is hard to read sometimes, but with the help of an excellent program called Font4UX, I was able to choose a better looking system font. The backlight cannot be cranked as high as the NX, but is bright enough for most situations. It is a pleasure to view images on the UX screen since everything appears to be extremely sharp due to the denser pixels. The backlight is uniformly distributed, and no light spots can be found on the bottom of the screen like the TG50 screen. If you are unsure of the screen quality, you might want to drive by a nearby retail store to check whether if it is suitable for your eyes.

On the right side of the screen are two indicator lights to show the status of WiFi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. The Bluetooth indicator blinks with a cool blue light when Bluetooth is enabled, and the WiFi indicator turns yellow when wireless LAN is being used.

Turning the UX50 over uncovers the cradle connector ports, the reset hole, and the speaker. The internal speaker is similar to other PDA’s it’s enough for alarms but is not really suitable for music listening. However, the earphone jack produces wonderful music with louder bass than most Pocket PC’s I’ve used. Closing the clamshell automatically turns the screen off, great for using as a portable MP3 player.

Under the Hood


To achieve high multimedia performance with low battery consumption, Sony developed and manufactured its own CPU for the UX series. The CXD2230GA CPU, which they call the Handheld Engine, packs the ARM962 processor, DSP (Digital Signal Processor), and 8MB 64Mbit DRAM embedded into one chip. According to Sony, this is their largest scale semiconductor product.

The Handheld Engine offers a smooth MPEG4 QVGA (320×240) video playback at 30 frames per second and is able to stretch it to full screen (480×320) without any problem. It lived up with our expectation with beautifully rendered graphics playing without any skips.

The UX50 up close

The UX50 up close

To enable a longer battery life, Sony developed the DVFM (Dynamic Voltage and Frequency Management) technology to control the CPU clock rate dynamically. For example, the CPU runs at a low 8MHz to consume power when using PIM software and speeds up to 123MHz while playing movies. 123MHz might not sound very fast compares to the 200MHz or 400MHz Intel XScale processors, but in reality it runs as fast as the XScales in most programs with even better video performance.

Clie UX50 has a weird memory structure that might be confusing. It has a total of 104MB internal memory, in which, 8MB of DRAM is embedded into the CPU, 16MB of DRAM is available for the user, 16MB of DRAM is used by the system to run programs, 16MB of NAND Flash memory is for system backup (will not be erased when power is lost), 29MB of NAND ram acting as an internal Memory Stick (labeled as Internal Media), and 19MB of NAND ram for operating system and pre-installed applications.

Since the UX50 supports the newer Memory Stick PRO cards, you will be able to expand it with the huge 1GB memory sticks (if you have enough cash). Memory Stick PRO is Sony’s new standard with a higher storage capacity and faster transfer rate. The memory stick slot in UX50 accepts both Memory Stick and Memory Stick PRO memory cards, but it does not yet support MagicGate with the Pro cards.

Software Applications


One of the most incredible aspects of the UX50 is the landscape oriented screen. Landscape orientation gives more viewing space to web pages, documents, spreadsheets, photos, and videos compares to the portrait mode. Most applications I have tested either work with HiRes+ landscape natively or works by enabling landscape support in a useful utility called CodeDiver. (Download link: Use the latest beta version. For instructions, refer to the FAQ page). Landscape support surely is nice, but being able to switch between landscape mode and portrait mode will make the tablet mode much more useful. Unfortunately, the UX50 has yet to include this feature. Rumors are saying that Sony is planning to release a software update that enables screen rotation, but nothing official yet.

The UX50 in tablet mode

The UX50 in tablet mode

To fully utilize the landscape advantage and the strong processor, Sony has created a cool 3D launcher that feels somewhat like the casino jackpot with rotating “atom structure” highlighting the selected items. You are able to switch to the classic launcher or install one of your favorite launcher programs.

In addition to the 3D launcher, Sony bundled a lot of high quality software with the UX50:

  • Clie Files – organizes data files
  • Clie Album – organizes stills and movie images along with voice and written memos
  • Clie Viewer – views still images, movies, and memos
  • Clie Memo – takes written notes
  • Clie Mail – sends/receives email messages
  • Clie Camera – controls the built-in camera
  • PhotoStand – displays slide shows
  • Photo Editor – edits photos
  • Sound Utility – stores sound files in .wav or midi format for use with PIM or Alarm Clock
  • Audio Player – plays MP3 or ATRAC3 files
  • Movie Recorder – records movie clips with the built-in camera
  • Movie Player – plays MPEG4 movies
  • Voice Recorder – records voice memos
  • World Alarm Clock – keeps track of the time with different time zones
  • Data Import – mounts the PDA to the PC as a storage drive
  • Flash Player – plays .swf Flash movies
  • NetFront 3.0 – browses the Internet via WiFi or Bluetooth
  • PowerOne Personal – a full functional calculator application
  • Decuma – recognizes handwritten characters
  • Picsel Viewer – views native word documents and PDF files with font smoothing support and an innovative navigation menu.

On the PC side, Sony includes the Intellisync software for synchronizing with Microsoft Outlook. It failed to synchronize with Outlook 2003 so I had to use Chapura’s PocketMirror, which works flawlessly.

Other PC software including PictureGear Studio that organizes pictures into albums, SonicStage that turns the PC into a jukebox and encodes ATRAC3 for play back on the Clie, and Image Converter. Image Converter is by far the most useful PC software I’ve seen. It helps converting and resizes different types of movie files into MPEG4 format for viewing on the Clie. You can choose from four different presets depending the storage space you have:

  • High Plus Quality: 320 x 240 @ 30 fps 6.7 MB/min
  • High Quality: 320 x 240 @ 15 fps 3.8 MB/min
  • Standard Quality: 320 x 240 @ 15 fps 2.1 MB/min
  • Long Mode: 160 x 112 @ 15 fps 1 MB/min

I was able to squeeze a full length .AVI format movie into a perfectly viewable 200MB MPEG4 file that can be stored in a 256MB Memory Stick PRO card.



The charger cradle is required to charge the UX50, and I dislike the idea of bringing an extra cradle when traveling. Rumors has it that Sony ran out of internal space for the recharging circuits so they have to move them into the cradle. Why not add USB synchronization to the cradle as well?

To extend the battery life to three times as long as the internal battery, you can get the PEGA-EB40 extended battery from Sony for $120. Not cheap, but sometimes you’ve got to have it.

Another exciting new product Sony just released is the PEGA-VR100K video recorder that is able to record TV programs or videos into Memory Sticks. It adds more multimedia capability to the Clie UX50.


As mentioned before, the UX50’s video and audio capabilities are second to none. But how do the other built-in functions perform? Let’s check them out!

The digital camera is a 0.31 mega pixel CMOS camera. It features a 3X digital zoom and is able to take pictures at a 640 x 480 resolution or capture movie clips at a 160 x 112 resolution. While this cannot replace your megapixel digital cameras, it is nonetheless convenient to have around for daily snapshots.

WiFi works great on the UX50 with a strong reception and transfers data fast during web browsing and synchronization. The drawback is that it consumes a lot of battery power. Bluetooth on the other hand has less battery consumption, albeit it only works within a 10 meters range and data transfers are not as fast as WiFi. It is convenient to be able to get connected with a Bluetooth enabled cell phone when you can’t find a WiFi access point nearby. Wireless connection on the Palm OS is more stable than Pocket PC since I no longer need to reset the device every so often to get connected.

Speaking of battery life, the UX 50 does not perform as well as Sony claims it will (of course, we all knew it). It lasted 2 hours and 30 minutes in a stress test with backlight set to high and CPU running at full power using the internal 1000 mAh Li-Ion battery. Playing music or using PIM software yields longer battery life, and enabling Bluetooth does affect the battery life much. Buying an external battery pack extends the battery life by approximately two to three times, but it will cost you $120.



The Sony Clie PEG-UX50 is indeed one of the most unique handheld devices we have seen. It has packed advanced features like WiFi and Bluetooth wireless, digital camera, thumb keyboard, landscape oriented Hi-Res+ screen, and an efficient processor into one incredibly small and light package. Even though its retail price of $599 is among the highest for a PDA, with all the features built-in, it is not too unreasonable. If multimedia and wireless communication are your priorities, then the UX50 is designed for you.

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