Sony CLIE PEG NX80V Review

Sony CLIE PEG NX80V

“Packed with many useful applications, the NX80V remains true to the Sony design elements and the Palm philosophy of simplicity.”
  • Decuma input system
  • high resolution camera
  • excellent screen
  • Only 16MB of usable memory
  • no built in WiFi or Bluetooth

Summary

The Sony Clie NX80V is an elegant, speedy, and full featured Palm OS 5 based PDA, but still lacks enough memory for serious usage and offers no built in wireless options.  Packed with many useful applications, the NX80V remains true to the Sony design elements and the Palm philosophy of simplicity.

Introduction: Models models everywhere but not one that is just right!

On the heals of the NZ90’s luke warm acceptance, Sony released the NX73V and NX80V as a compromise between size and camera quality.  But before we could get our hands on the NX80V, they announced ANOTHER Clie line, the UX40 and UX50.  Confused?  We all are.  Here’s the rundown of the recent Clie Model madness:




































































  NX73V NX80V UX40 UX50
Camera resolution: 310k Pixels 1.3M Pixels 310k Pixels 310k Pixels
Memory: 11 MB 16 MB 16MB 16MB
Dimensions: 2 7/8 x 5 1/4 x 7/8 2 7/8 x 5 1/4 x 7/8 4 1/8 x 3 ½ x 23/32 4 1/8 x 3 ½ x 23/32
Weight: 8 oz. 8 oz. 6.2 oz. 6.2 oz.
Screen orientation: Verticle Verticle Horizontal Horizontal
Expansion options: 1xCF slot, 1xMS slot 1xCF slot, 1xMS slot Backpack battery, 1xMS slot Backpack battery, 1xMS slot
Special features: European version,   
  includes Bluetooth Built in Bluetooth, USB Emergency backup memory, USB

MSRP:


$499


$599


$599


$699

  

Does that make it easier?  No, it really doesn’t.  Let’s make it more difficult.  Check the website and you will see that the memory stated above is not what is listed.  Sony has made it a practice to confuse the amount of actual memory you can use.  Above is listed the ACTUAL USER ACCESSIBLE memory.  Some programs that ship with the unit reside in RAM, and in the case of the UX series, the system has 16 MB of memory to perform an emergency backup, should the power drain completely.  Not confused enough?  Okay.  What if I told you that the CF slot cannot be used to play movies or music?  And the recently introduced car charger with built in GPS and FM transmitter cannot be used with the UX series.  If you were looking at any of these models, you have undoubtedly slammed your head into the desk by now.  Fear not, we will try to clear this muddy water.

Upgradeability

The first questions we had to ask, is where the NX80V fit in this lineup.  The one component that sticks out is the camera resolution, which unfortunately cannot be upgraded.  From there, the NX80V niche falls into place.  With no built in wireless options, but two media slots, anyone looking to later upgrade to wireless technology, but not sure which one, has two open routes.  Either the Sony WL100/WL110 802.11b CF card or the Sony Bluetooth Memory Stick.  Unfortunately, there is no combo card sporting either standards or one plus extra memory, so choose wisely. 

Music can be played off the Memory Stick Pro compatible slot, but a hack is required to the same with the Compact Flash slot.  Also, it is worth noting that Sony uses proprietary DSPs for MP3 decoding, so Palm OS based MP3 playing applications available on non-Sony devices will not work.  But this could be for the best.  The Clie sound quality is light-years beyond the current Palm offerings, and the Clie NX80V is bundled with ear buds and a remote for easy playback.  The ear buds are the typical low quality variety, but the headphone jack on the remote is a standard one, so the user can use any set of headphones they please.  MP3 playback can be set to the background, so you can still use the device while listening to your music.

Performance

The 1.3M Pixel (max resolution 1280×960) camera has a built in light source, an ND filter for taking pictures in bright settings, and supports 2x zoom.  Files are saved as standard jpegs, and the overall quality was excellent, especially when you consider they are coming from a PDA.  As if that isn’t enough, the NX80V can record movies in MPEG-4 format at 160×112 with a maximum time of one hour.  Movie playback was completely smooth, and picture load times averaged 2-3 seconds.

Click on any of the pictures for a larger image:

Sony Clie NX 80 original picture

Original picture taken with the NX80

NX80 picture taken indoors

Sony Clie NX80 picture taken with indoor filter on

 

Picture taken with the invert filter on

Picture taken with the invert filter on

 

Picture taken with Sepia filter on

Picture taken with Sepia filter on

 

Picture taken with Solarize filter on

Picture taken with Solarize filter on

Upgradeability Continued…

The Clie NX80V is compatible with the newly introduced PEGA-CC5 Car cradle.  The $299 cradle sports built in GPS, FM transmission (for playing MP3s on your car stereo), and charger dock.  An excellent option for mobile professionals not available on most other Clies, including the newer UX series.

What still amazes us is the amount of built in memory.  The reviewer was able to install Documents To Go (Microsoft Office document editing program, not included with the unit), Epocrates, and Vindigo (with three locations stored).  And that was it.  With Pocket PC options running as high as 128MB, and most sporting 64MBs, the 16 MB NX80V looks miniscule.  Some applications can be run off of Memory Stick media, and Sony packs a nice file manager with the NX80V, which makes it easier to juggle data, but takes away from available MP3/ATRAC and camera storage and is not compatible with many applications.  In particular, medical professionals using programs like All Scipts and EPocrates, will easily run through this memory before installing any other third party software.  Consider a Memory Stick a required accessory.

The Hardware

We had only two hardware gripes.  The power switch is almost impossible to get to when the unit is in the cradle, and awkward to use one handed.  And the stylus is far too thin to be useable.

Buttons include a quick access voice recorder, photo capture button, and application buttons on both the keyboard AND tablet halves.  Previous units made access to the standard Palm Date book, Contacts, To Do, and Notes applications impossible when using the unit in tablet mode.  Not so with this model.  The keyboard is backlit, which is a nice feature when in dimly lit areas, but the alternate key tags are not visible, and very difficult to see even in well lit situations (these are the labels for the symbol produced when a modifier key is pushed). 

The 1.3M Pixel (max resolution 1280×960) camera has a built in light source, an ND filter for taking pictures in bright settings, and supports 2x zoom.  Files are saved as standard jpegs, and the overall quality was excellent, especially when you consider they are coming from a PDA.  As if that isn’t enough, the NX80V can record movies in MPEG-4 format at 160×112 with a maximum time of one hour.  Movie playback was completely smooth, and picture load times averaged 2-3 seconds. Click on the performance tab above this review and the performance link below this review to view sample images taken with the NX80’s camera.

The most striking improvement appearing in this Clie is the new, more readable display.  The NX80V has a transreflective display, capable of 320×480 resolution.  Rather than a purely backlit TFT display which loses readability when the light striking the screen from outside is brighter than the backlights on the inside, the transreflective technology reflects external light back through the display, essentially boosting the backlight in proportion to the environment.  The result is the most readable display we have seen yet under any conditions.

The Software

Graffiti had to be removed from Palm devices as the result of a lawsuit, and in many devices was replaced with Graffiti 2, originally known as Jot!.  Sony takes this a step further and includes the Decuma Input system.  This is the closest the Palm platform has come to true natural handwriting recognition, and instantly became our Graffiti replacement.  Accurate and easy to learn like any input system should be;  the input system can be selected from a drop down in the proprietary Sony Clie Launcher.  In addition to Decuma, Graffiti 2, Graffiti 2 + mini launcher, and a network data monitor can be used to fill the ‘soft’ input area.  The ‘soft’ input area, as opposed to the ‘hard’ input area of many devices, is a ‘virtual’ Graffiti area that can be hidden, freeing up 1/3 more screen space.  Once you try it, you will never go back.

The standard Sony Clie applications were bundled, including utilities to move data from a desktop computer to and from the Memory Stick while the Clie is in the cradle, a couple token games, NetFront browser, Clie remote control, and a document viewer (Picsel).  But, unlike some previous Clies, no applications for editing Office documents or spreadsheets.  Obviously not what we wanted to see.  Overall, with the exception of the Decuma input system, we felt the software could have been better.

Conclusion

While the top of the line Clie market is now easily the most confusing in the PDA world right now, the NX80V should be considered the flagship model for anyone considering a Palm based PDA, and needing only one method of wireless networking.  In all, the hardware and the software were very well integrated, the unit is attractive, and feels solidly built.  While it runs $100 less than the UX50, remember that the un-upgradeable camera is the NX80V is much better, and in general we feel that the best bet for product longevity is the device with the most expansion slots.  What would have made the Clie NX80V a solid 9 or 10 star product would have been at least one form of built in wireless and at least 64MB of user accessible memory.  The biggest downfall to all the currently available Clies, and we can’t stress this enough, is the amount of available memory.  Hopefully this will be remedied in the next few months, as Sony’s high end Clie product line has had a recent refresh rate of 5 months.

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