After delivering high-end models with innovative swiveling screens, built-in digital cameras, and minikeyboards, Sony's staking out the middle ground with its CLIE PEG-TG50. This slightly lighter, less bulky model preserves the keyboard, the Bluetooth capabilities, and the multimedia features of the NX70V and the NZ90 but leaves out the digital camera and the larger, swiveling display. The result is an attractive model that should appeal to buyers who want a nicely designed, full-featured handheld but don't want to drop a ton of cash. We knocked the NX70V--and, particularly, the NZ90--for being on the bulky side. But the TG50, while no lightweight, is more pocket-friendly, weighing in at 6.2 ounces and measuring 2.9 by 5.0 by .5 inches. Instead of a swiveling screen, which, some readers reported, encountered hinge problems over time, Sony's gone with an elegant flip-down protective lid that's finished on the outside with brushed aluminum. Like its two more expensive siblings, the TG50 has an eye-catching design that will attract some attention. One warning about the cover: The brushed aluminum is somewhat scratch-prone, so you shouldn't carry the device in a pocket with coins or keys.
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|The CLIE is a bit bigger than many PDAs.|
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|But it's as slim as they come and smaller than high-end Sonys.|
This model, which runs on Palm OS 5.0, has a nice, sharp backlit color screen, though it's not as large as the oversized display found on the step-up swivel-screen models. This one is standard-sized (320x320 pixels) and supports 65,536 colors. Just below the screen are the usual quick-launch buttons, along with a scroll button in the middle and shortcut buttons to take you to the Home screen or bring up Graffiti, if that's your preferred method of text input. A second scroll wheel lives on the side of the unit, along with the useful Back button, a record button, and a power-on switch, which also has a hold setting that deactivates the unit and locks all the buttons. The Memory Stick slot is on the top of the handheld, wedged in between the headphone jack and the Bluetooth and IR sensors.
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|The keyboard's a bit stiff at first but warms up in time. Better yet, it's backlit.|
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|These cradles and cables accompany the CLIE.|
The keyboard is a little stiff at first, and users with big thumbs might have some trouble with it. But over time, we came to like it and appreciated that it's backlit. Grafitti input is an option, but we think few users will opt for this method. All in all, we have no major issues with CLIE's new and improved OS 5.0 interface and quickly got used to switching between grouped sets of applications using the side scroll wheel. For those accustomed to an older Palm interface, however, it will take a little while to get comfortable with Sony's busier front end.
The TG50 comes with the standard CLIE cradle for recharging and syncing the unit. We would have liked the inclusion of a space-saving dongle for syncing on the road, but at least the cradle is rather light and has a low-profile design.
Slots o' fun: The Memory Stick slot is adjacent to the headphone jack.
Typically, CLIE handhelds (or personal entertainment organizers, as Sony calls them) come with good software bundles, and this model is no exception. On top of the company's tricked-out version of Palm OS 5.0, all the usual PDA features are here, including a calendar, an address book, a to-do list, an alarm clock, and apps that allow you to sync with Microsoft Outlook. Sorry, Mac users, you'll have to purchase an extra software package to sync with your machine. An SMS program is built into the OS; additionally, e-mail (CLIE Mail) and Web-browsing (NetFront) applications are available from the included CD-ROM. But you'll need a Bluetooth-enabled phone such as Sony Ericsson's T68i to take advantage of these advanced capabilities; a data-service plan is also required. The surfing experience is a little slower than that of a dial-up connection, but most users will be more interested in exploiting the device's wireless e-mail capabilities.
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|Sony takes advantage of Palm OS 5.0 to develop a sharp-looking interface.|
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|The hold switch turns off the screen while you listen to music, conserving battery juice.|
In addition to taking instant voice memos, the handheld plays MP3 or ATRAC3 sound files, though no headphones or wired remote such as the ones that ship with the NX70V are included. On a critical note, we feel that the TG50, like the NX70V, is a bit volume-challenged. Though the audio is rich and vibrant, it never really got loud enough with our test headphones to block out background noise.
As far as software extras go, the package includes the aforementioned CD-ROM, which is chock-full of programs--and not just trial versions--and utilities. Among the best of the bunch, you'll find a selection of games, a world clock, an image album, and a remote-control app for your home A/V gear. Each application must be installed separately, which is a bit of a drag, but it allows you to fill up your memory with only the programs you intend to use.
Hey, good-looking: The CLIE screen produces a fine image.
After consulting the manual and enduring a little trial and error, we managed to get the Bluetooth working. We set up the TG50 to communicate with other devices via Bluetooth, and we shared text messages and pictures with the Sony Ericsson P800 smart phone.
The included lithium-ion rechargeable battery offered longer life than we expected. For example, we played 3 hours, 19 minutes of MPEG movies with the screen brightness at its maximum. And with the screen backlight disabled, the CLIE played MP3s for 8 hours, 37 minutes before the music stopped.