The Good Unique handheld design; runs full Windows XP OS; Wi-Fi included; solid processor performance for its size.
The Bad Lacks a built-in keyboard; bigger than a typical PDA; expensive; minimal documentation in English.
The Bottom Line Sony's VAIO U50 packs laptop-caliber power into a PDA-size package, but its high price and lack of a keyboard show that the palmtop form still has a ways to go.
Sony VAIO VGN-U50
Sony VAIO VGN-U50
If you're looking for a full-on Windows XP system in a truly pocket-size package, even the most high-end PDA won't get the job done. The Sony VAIO VGN-U50 palmtop, at $1,799 (as of October 2004), just might. About twice the size and thickness of an average PDA, the VAIO U50 packs laptop-caliber components, including a 900KHz Celeron CPU, 256MB of 266MHz DDR memory, a 20GB hard drive, and Intel's 855GM chipset, in addition to the Windows XP Home operating system. Still, while this configuration offers enough power for most business apps, it's at the very low end of the general computing performance scale and will frustrate people expecting desktop-level responsiveness or storage capacity. The somewhat beefier VAIO U70 model, equipped with a 1GHz Pentium M, 512MB of memory, and Windows XP Pro, is available for a wallet-straining $2,549 (as of October 2004). Take note that these superhigh prices stem from the fact that neither the VAIO U50 nor the U70 is available in the United States--they're available only in Japan. Connected, as we are, we landed a unit from longtime importer Dynamism.com.
Compared with most other laptops, the VAIO U50's specs and features aren't too impressive, but it is remarkable that Sony managed to pack them all into such a tiny box. The machine weighs 1.2 pounds and measures 6.57 inches wide, 4.25 deep, and just about 1 inch thick. Compared with even the most ultraportable laptop, these measurements may not sound unwieldy, but for a device that's meant to be held in your hands, they're right on the edge of uncomfortable; they also make the VAIO U50 noticeably larger than the .
Intended to be held in both hands like a game controller, the brushed-silver and charcoal VAIO U50 has a minijoystick that works as a mouse pointer and a four-way rocker switch (reminiscent of that on the original Nintendo control pad) that also controls the cursor. Both the joystick pointer and the buttons are placed on the right side of the unit, making the VAIO U50 somewhat righty-centric. To select something onscreen, you can press down on the pointer or use the left-click, right-click, and scroll buttons that reside under your left thumb. It's a reasonably intuitive, natural-feeling interface, but the unit's a bit hefty to hold in your hands for long. Perhaps the most significant downside to the VAIO U50's design is the lack of a built-in keyboard--a feature found on the .
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