Sony is putting a new twist on PDAs. Not only does the CLIE PEG-NR70V have a slick, clamshell design with a swiveling display, it also houses a built-in digital camera, a keypad, and a host of multimedia functions. Roughly the size of a swanky cigarette case, this CLIE will no doubt turn heads. But with an asking price of $599, Sony is catapulting Palm devices into the high-end Pocket PC range. This PDA's design is pretty clever. When closed, the brushed-aluminum case feels rugged, and the large, colorful, 320x480-pixel transflective LCD is well protected. You can open the casing to use the keyboard, or you can rotate the screen 180 degrees, fold it back down to cover the keyboard, and use the NR70V like a traditional Palm device. Measuring 5.5 by 2.8 by 0.7 inches and weighing 7 ounces, this CLIE is bigger and heavier than almost every PDA that we've reviewed recently. It slips easily into a jacket pocket but will weigh down your shirt pocket.
|The NR70V is a full-figured handheld.||However, it is svelte in profile.|
Round and round: The CLIE's swiveling screen.
If you prefer the BlackBerry school of data entry, the small, built-in thumb keypad is one of the better that we've tested, largely because the keys are well spaced. Above the keypad, you'll find the typical four application buttons. Between those controls are two tiny scroll buttons, which we found too small and flush to be very useful. Like all CLIEs, the NR70V has a jog dial on the side. Below that is a hold switch, which turns off the screen without deactivating the unit--useful for saving energy while listening to MP3s.
|The CLIE comes with a nifty MP3-player controller.||Thumbs away! Typing à la BlackBerry.|
The big difference between this model and the $499 NR70 is the inclusion of a built-in CMOS camera, which resides just above the keyboard and below the screen. The camera sits within a movable spindle in the NR70V's hinge and can be positioned to point toward you or away from you--great for catching coworkers in natural poses. There's also a Memory Stick slot for adding additional memory and accessories.
This CLIE's cradle is larger than that of most PDAs and includes a stylus holder on the side. True to Sony design, even without the CLIE inserted, the cradle doesn't look out of place on any desk. Unfortunately, unlike other CLIEs, the NR70V doesn't ship with a dongle or a USB cable, so if you want to sync or recharge the batteries, you have to do so via the cradle.
|Smile: You're on CLIE cameraÂ…||Form and function: Pretty stylish for something as mundane as a cradle.|
Crank some tunes on your CLIE.
While the music player works as advertised, the SonicStage software that Sony provides for moving tunes to and from the CLIE is a disaster. Fortunately, Memory Stick Import/Export, another bundled application, makes the NR70V appear as a hard drive on your PC's desktop. Thanks to that application, it's simple to drag and drop MP3s onto the PDA.
Edit documents on the fly--or on the road.
Artsy types may prefer to snap images and edit them on their NR70V. This CLIE's camera lacks a flash, but it does have some advanced controls, including effects, white balance, and brightness. Once you have your pics, you can view them in PG Pocket or doctor them in CLIE Paint.
|Shutterbugs can fine-tune the camera's settings.||A cure for beauty, compliments of CLIE paint.|
Sony also continues to bundle Intellisync Lite for the PC with the CLIE line. While this program has some distinct advantages--field-level synchronization, for instance--it is more difficult to use than Chapura's PocketMirror, which comes with other Palm devices. The continued lack of Mac support is another thorn in Sony's side. Mac owners will still need to buy Mark/Space's Missing Sync software, which is sold separately.
The CLIE's screen is both large and high-resolution.
The large, high-resolution, 320x480-pixel transflective LCD makes photos look especially good, although the difference is somewhat less noticeable when using third-party applications such as AvantGo. But before you get too excited about shooting photos with the device, take note that the 100,000-pixel camera is able to capture only 320x240 still images at its highest setting. The pics that we took around the office came out nice enough so long as our subjects were well lit. That said, this is one the more impressive displays that you'll find on a handheld and is easily viewable in all lighting conditions.
However, such a large screen is also a tremendous battery drain. In our tests, with the screen at its maximum brightness level, a fully charged battery discharged in just 2 hours, 53 minutes. On the other hand, the unit has more longevity when it comes to MP3 playback. With the screen off, we squeezed 8 hours, 50 minutes of music from the battery before it could no longer hold a tune.