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Sony Clie TG-50 Review

Highs

  • Exceptional quality
  • spectacular design
  • loaded with features

Rating

Our Score 9
User Score 9

Lows

  • Metallic housing and screen scratch easily
  • screen size is smaller than other PDAs
Yes folks, with incredible precision, the masterminds at Sony have cast off the status quo and gone unconventional.

Summary

All in all, Sony’s Clie TG50 is an extreme device.  It is important to remember that first and foremost, this is a PDA.  It is not a portable TV, nor is it a Harmon Kardon stereo.  What it is, is sheer technological genius.  In its basic form it is not complicated by swivel screens or built-in cameras. The PEG TG50 is yet another example of Sony’s prowess at building competent multifunction electronic devices that satisfy the needs of today’s demanding consumer and greatly impact the overall quality of their life.  Overall, I believe Sony’s Clie PEG TG50 ranks a competitive 9.

Introduction

 

Sony did not introduce the world to PDAs, but let there be no mistake that Sony is perhaps the supreme innovator in the PDA realm at this time.  Sony has broken the mold, blown it up, burned it and buried it.  Gone are the days of the PDA that simply keeps track of appointments, people, places, numbers and the random note.   People need and demand more from their portable devices, and with a plethora of autonomous single-function devices, they also need to do more with less.  Most people can recall a time when they witnessed another individual fumbling with cell phones, MP3 players, PDAs, voice recorders, remote controls, etc., etc. I find myself pitying the person who has become ensnared in the endless tangle of cords, adapters and gadgetry.  The purpose of all these things is to help make our lives easier not to complicate them even more.

Of all the companies out there, Sony stands out as one of a couple who actually grasp this concept.  Sony is so interested in moving the Clie out of the stodgy and simplistic PDA arena that they have turned to calling their devices Personal Entertainment Organizers, partly because of its multitude of capabilities beyond that of an electronic day planner.  Yes folks, with incredible precision, the masterminds at Sony have cast off the status quo and gone unconventional.

I was amazed when I received the Sony PEG-TG50 Clie, first at how compact and light it was and then by the superb craftsmanship of the product.  The brushed metal casing is the epitome of refinement in a market filled with cheap plastic competitors.  The whole device disappears in your pocket, weighing in at a svelte 6.2 oz.  Even the stylus is remarkable. Let me just say that this is the first PDA to have a stylus that felt like an expensive pen in my hand.  If a PDAs stylus is any representation of the device it comes with, then this little contraption should be quite extraordinary.

Before even opening the clamshell cover protecting the Clie’s keyboard and screen, I found myself in awe of the features and ports on the periphery of this device.   Along the top edge, there is a headphone jack, the Bluetooth node, the IRDA LED remote emitter and the Memory Stick port.  Along the left edge, there is the voice recorder button, Sony’s exclusive Jog Dial Navigator with Select button and the Power switch.

Features

Equipped with an ARM-compliant 200 MHz processor and an absolutely stunning TFT color display, this PDA is designed to perform. The screen is bright and clear, colors are lustrous and vibrant.  With a color range of 65,356 colors this little screen has color depth that rivals some LCD monitors.  The only drawback is its screen size.  The 320 x 320 screen is rather petite compared to the competition.

The keyboard is particularly small and somewhat awkward to operate.  The buttons are made of a slick transparent plastic that allows them to light up from beneath. While they are hard, the buttons are slightly domed in shape and make it difficult to use a stylus.  The buttons are also so close together that depressing them with your fingers can be a bit of a challenge especially if you need to type a lot. 

Situated between the screen and the keyboard, you will find the main application keys.  Five rectangular keys flanked on either side by a round control key. Beginning in the middle, the center key, also known as the rocker switch has a raised edge on it.  Why Sony would place this annoying edge on this key is beyond me, because to either side of it are two application keys (total of four) with long thin dimples which are much more stylus-friendly than the raised edge on the rocker switch. This brings us to the round buttons, which are also dimpled to be stylus-friendly by the way.  The one on the left is the Home button and if you hold it down it will launch the MENU function.  The one on the right launches the FIND function and if you hold it down will launch the Graffiti function.  I am not a fan of Graffiti and lean more towards typing, and that is perhaps why I found the keyboard somewhat of a challenge given its size.

The TG50 came equipped with the run-of-the-mill productivity suite for keeping track of names and numbers and organizing appointments and memos. The most significant difference I found with the Sony was with the advent of Sony’s Jog Dial.  This little proprietary navigator device makes shuffling through names and numbers and navigating programs on the fly very easy with one hand.   I do not recommend trying to use this or any device while attempting to drive.  The Jog Dial makes navigation very quick and easy.  Way to go Sony!

The Digital Voice Recorder is a very nice feature to have incorporated in this handheld. There have been countless occasions while driving or doing other things, when I was unable to jot a note to myself, or I found myself without paper and pen.  Having a recorder at your disposal can be a valuable asset.  The onboard 11MB is somewhat limiting; however, this is one of a new breed of Sony’s PDAs that is compatible with Sony’s proprietary Memory Stick.  Memory Stick Media used to be limited to 64 MB, but the TG50 is compatible with the new 128 MB Memory Stick.  No word yet on whether Sony’s newest 256 MB Memory Stick Select is compatible or not.  The ability to add, swap and replace memory in my humble opinion is one of the definitive characteristics of this device that places above the competition.

Use and Testing

A visit to a local consumer electronics store that shall remain nameless proved that the Clie TG50 is quite capable of controlling most electronics on the market, with some exceptions.  I wandered the store turning devices on and off, frustrating a few customers who were shopping.  Personally, I found a few incompatibilities with my Panasonic TV which is about 6 years old and my Kenwood 5-disc CD changer which is even older.  If I had to guess my appliances are older than the codes on file within the Clie. 

Besides productivity, the Clie TG50 is loaded with features for passing the time.  MP3 playback is seamless and enjoyable, sound quality is good for an MP3 player, yet it lacks, depth.  Although it is equipped with Sony’s MegaBassâ„¢ circuitry, I found it did not measure up to the sound quality found on similar MD or CD players.  The difference is not dramatic, that is to say the sound is not poor. To clarify, the sound it delivers is quite good, but if you are an audiophile or you have a sensitive ear, you will notice the difference in sound compared to a quality dedicated audio device.  I think it is important to note that in order to use the Clie as an MP3 player it is necessary to purchase a Memory Stick (available in 16 MB, 32 MB, 64 MB and 128 MB).  One thing I would like to see is the incorporation of an AM/FM function in order to be able to hear local radio stations.  While this could be perceived as an extraneous add-on, it is a feature many people would enjoy if available.  Commuters, travelers and anyone who enjoys listening to sports radio, talk radio or just music could enjoy their favorite station while they are getting organized or conducting business on their PDA. 

The Clie TG50 is capable of playing video games, movies and displaying photos. As a gaming device, the full-color screen makes the games enjoyable, but I’d like to see slightly better graphics. The games I played which were included were fairly basic and did not employ high-level graphics.   As for movie playback, full-motion video is amazing for a handheld, while somewhat choppy for fast-action video. I was impressed given the simple fact that this is first and foremost a handheld and not a TV.  The limitation of the device is the size of the Memory Stick.  Most movies greatly exceed the capacity of Memory stick technology, so watching a feature length film is not yet possible.   I don’t think you would want to watch a full-length film on the TG50 simply because the 320 x 320 screen is too small.  Besides the form factor of the screen ruins what we all enjoy about the big screen and our tubes at home.  Size matters for movies and TV programs.  Overall, I preferred the Clie’s ability to organize and display photos.  It is a great device for the transport of photos and memories.  If I were a business traveler on the road a lot, it would be invaluable to me to have such a device that was capable of carrying photos of my family at home.  For that matter, it is a great back-up device for presentation graphics in case the originals become corrupted or the laptop bombs out while on the road. 

Conclusion

All in all, Sony’s Clie TG50 is an extreme device.  It is important to remember that first and foremost, this is a PDA.  It is not a portable TV, nor is it a Harmon Kardon stereo.  What it is, is sheer technological genius.  In its basic form it is not complicated by swivel screens or built-in cameras. The PEG TG50 is yet another example of Sony’s prowess at building competent multifunction electronic devices that satisfy the needs of today’s demanding consumer and greatly impact the overall quality of their life.  Overall, I believe Sony’s Clie PEG TG50 ranks a competitive 9.

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