The latest addition to Sony's CLIE line, the PEG-SJ20 is a $200 Palm-based PDA with a high-resolution monochrome screen and 16MB of RAM. Geared toward the budget-conscious shopper, this capable electronic organizer is a cut above other value-oriented PDAs, packing features such as 2.9-inch, high-resolution monochrome screen and 16MB of RAM. If saving a few bucks is more important to you than features such as color screens, MP3 playback, and wireless connectivity, the SJ20 is a good option. However, if you'd like to save even another $50 or so, Sony offers the PEG-SL10, which is similar in most respects but uses AAA batteries rather than the built-in rechargeables found inside this model. If slim is in, then the rather squat PEG-SJ20 is a bit out. Measuring 4.0 by 2.9 by 0.7 inches, it's shorter and thicker than Sony's T-series PDAs. The silver, lightweight, plastic case is nicely designed, although it's not as sleek as the metal cases found on Sony's high-end models. At 4.5 ounces, the pocketable SJ20 won't weigh you down.
Relatively compact, even for a Palm-based device.
It is a bit thicker, however.
A 2.9-inch monochrome LCD dominates the face of the SJ20. When powered off, the display is black instead of the typical gray or green--a striking look. The bezel that surrounds the screen is much smaller than those found on most other Palm devices, making the display appear longer. (For more on the screen, see the Performance section below.)
Below the screen and Graffiti area are the typical four application buttons and the scroll rocker. On the T-series CLIEs such as the T665C, the scroll button was too tiny to use. Sony has enlarged all the buttons on the SJ20 so that they're easier to manipulate. There's a jog dial on the side, too, if you prefer.
|The jog dial and the Back button speed navigation.||The CLIE with its cover.|
The included adapters and cables are lightweight and compact.
The easy way to add memory.
The SJ20 is one of the few budget-priced Palms that we've reviewed to include 16MB of RAM; most Palm-based devices prior to this model have only 8MB onboard, which is typically sufficient. That memory is used to store data such as contacts and calendar information as well as any additional applications that you choose to install.
If you need additional space, there's a Memory Stick slot at the top of the unit. However, an expansion slot is less important on this model than it is on Sony's more expensive, audio-enabled, color models since you probably won't be storing music, photos, and videos on the SJ20.
A 33MHz DragonBall VZ processor provides the brawn for this device. We've tested many Palm-based PDAs that use this chip, and we've always found it to be more than sufficient for most tasks. In terms of other hardware features, this CLIE has all the basics covered. If you're looking for a PDA that doubles as an MP3 player, you'll need to seek out a different machine since the SJ20 supports only a variety of MIDI sounds. Happily, the built-in speaker is loud enough to wake up all but the strongest sleepers.
Sony has always been pretty good at including extra software with its PDAs, and the SJ20 comes with Documents To Go for working with Word and Excel files. Also included are PictureGear Pocket, gMovie, and CLIE Paint to show off the high-resolution screen. Unfortunately, those additional apps aren't quite as compelling since this is a monochrome model.
View and edit Office files using Documents To Go.
PictureGear Pocket and CLIE Paint used together.
Given that the PEG-SJ20 uses the standard 33MHz processor paired with 16MB of RAM, the overall user experience was pretty good. This PDA responded promptly to taps on the screen and found entries in our list of several hundred contacts quickly. When compared to a CLIE PEG-T665C using a 66MHz processor, there was little difference in the user experience, although the faster processor was opened applications a hair quicker. Also, when we watched video files in gMovie; the faster processor provided slightly smoother playback. But with a monochrome screen and no support for audio, viewing video will likely be a pastime that few SJ20 owners participate in.
The built-in lithium-ion battery in the SJ20 delivers plenty of operating time. To test this cell, we disabled the Palm OS's automatic power-off feature and found that the battery lasted 8 hours, 45 minutes with the backlight activated. That's more than two week's worth of use--at an average of 30 minutes of use per day--on a single charge. That's very respectable and will make living with the SJ20 easy since you'll rarely need to worry about the batteries.
Screen with the backlight turned on.
The high-resolution (320x320-pixel) screen is easy to read when the white backlight is turned on. The text and icons displayed on the screen were crisper and smoother than those found on other 160x160-resolution monochrome PDAs that we've tested. And the white backlight makes for a very black-and-white look compared to the more green or gray screens on other monochrome PDAs. As a result, the SJ20 is easier to read.
However, when the backlight is turned off, it's difficult to read text on the screen. But since the SJ20's battery life is quite good, you should be able to use the backlight all the time without too much concern.