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Sony CLIÉ PEG-T665C review: Sony CLIÉ PEG-T665C


Colin Duwe
5 min read
With the CLIE PEG-T665C, Sony took everything good about the PEG-T615C--including its terrific color screen and solid design--and added a faster processor and MP3 support to make quite an attractive Palm OS PDA. But with units such as the Toshiba Pocket PC e310 now selling for less than this CLIE and a whole new Palm OS on the horizon, it may not be the right time to invest in the T665C. Only the headphone jack and the hold button on the left side of the T665C distinguish it from the previous model, the PEG-T615C. The brushed-metal case has a solid, durable feel, and at a 0.5-inches thick, this model is quite slim for a color handheld and slips easily into a shirt pocket. Sony's designers also did a great job sculpting the edges, so this CLIE feels just right in your hand.
Sony's motto: Design, design, design.The CLIE's top hosts the usual suspects.

Below the screen are the typical four application controls. In the middle of those is a minuscule scroll button that's small enough to be nearly useless. Fortunately, there's a jog dial on the left that can perform most of the same functions.
The jog dial is thumb-thing special.The lack of a clasp may irritate some users.

To protect the screen, Sony provides a removable, black-leather flip cover, but since it lacks the magnetic clasp found on other CLIEs, it tends to flop around.
A small USB cradle is supplied to connect the CLIE to your PC. To recharge the built-in battery, you can plug the AC adapter into either the cradle or the CLIE itself via a small dongle. It would have been better if Sony had found a way to permanently attach the dongle so that you wouldn't have to worry about losing such a vital accessory.

This cradle doesn't rock.A small--and easy-to-lose--dongle makes for cradle-free connectivity.

Thanks for the Memory Stick.
The T665C employs a 66MHz Motorola DragonBall Super VZ processor, which keeps the bundled audio and video apps moving, and 16MB of RAM. (Older Palm OS PDAs tend to have 33MHz processors and 8MB.) That 16MB is likely to be more than you need for storing calendar, contact, and to-do-list info, but if you plan to load up lots of third-party applications, you'll appreciate the extra capacity. There's also a Memory Stick slot on the top of the unit to add even more memory for storing MP3s, video clips, and other data.

Sing along with strictly Sony-sanctioned songs.
The other significant internal improvement is the addition of an audio player, which has good sound quality and even sports a bass-boost function. However, the player suffers from a few quirks: while it is compatible with both MP3 and ATRAC3 files stored on a Memory Stick, it can't play tunes stored in system memory, making the purchase of an expansion card nearly mandatory. Also, you'll quickly discover that the bundled SonicStage software that Sony provides for shuttling music between the PC and the CLIE isn't worth your time. The software works with only the Open MG Memory Sticks, but ironically, there's nothing open about Sony's draconian copy-protection scheme. However, by using the bundled Microsoft Import application, you can easily drag and drop MP3s from your PC to a Memory Stick. The hold switch on the side turns off the screen, extending playback time from 1.5 hours to more than 4 hours.
Aside from audio apps, there's a lot more software to be found on the included CD, though many titles are trial or demo versions. Worthy of special mention are Documents To Go Standard Edition for working with Word and Excel files and Margi's Presenter-to-Go, which plays PowerPoint slide shows. If you're looking for something a little more fun, there's also Sony's signature gMovie (a video player) and PictureGear Pocket (an image viewer) to show off the high-resolution screen. With CLIE Paint, you can draw freehand or on top of photos that are stored on the device.

Why doctor a photo if it's not sick?Like changing channels with a stylus? You'll love Remote Commander!

As an added bonus, Sony includes remote-control software so that you can use your PDA to command your home-theater gear, although we didn't like using the stylus to navigate the menus on our TV. Our only serious gripe with the CLIE software is the absence of Mac support; you can, however, buy third-party Mac software at an extra cost. For most day-to-day tasks, you'll have a hard time noticing this CLIE's faster processor. The Palm OS is remarkable for its ability to provide a snappy user experience from meager hardware. But if you put a T615C beside this newer model and play a video clip in gMovie, you'll see that it looks slightly smoother on the T665C. The difference is real, but most folks won't find it significant enough to warrant replacing their current PDA.
One drawback of the faster processor and the built-in audio support is that battery life is a bit limited. According to Sony's spec sheet, the T665C should last for 5 hours of regular use--30 minutes each day for 10 days--or 4 hours when playing MP3s with the screen turned off. In our tests, we got 3 hours with the backlight on and played back MP3 music for 5 hours, 20 minutes with the screen turned off. That's a bit short compared to previous Palm OS devices, and some Pocket PCs that we've tested can do quite a bit better.
One thing to keep in mind while shopping is that this CLIE--and other Palm OS PDAs--seems to use less power when turned off, so you can leave it unattended for a week or more and it will still power on when you return. Conversely, many Pocket PCs drain their battery completely just sitting in a drawer.

Sony's smallish screen offers decent image quality.
The T665C's high-resolution (320x320-pixel) transflective LCD is one of the best that we've seen on any PDA; it's razor-sharp with especially rich colors. A transflective screen uses a traditional backlight for dim situations and also reflects ambient light from the front, making it easy to read in very bright sunlight. Most other color PDAs use a reflective LCD with small sidelights squeezed in between the screen and the digitizer--the part that you actually tap with your stylus. We appreciated that it's easier to tap precisely on this screen because the gap between the digitizer and the LCD is smaller. The only complaint that we can levy against the screen is that it's small when compared to those of Pocket PCs.


Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7