Sony CLIE PEG-TJ review: Sony CLIE PEG-TJ

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MSRP: $299.90

The Good Built-in Wi-Fi; integrated 310,000-pixel camera; fast processor; MP3 and video playback; slim form factor.

The Bad Comes with outdated Date Book and Address Book apps; no Bluetooth; dim screen; poor battery life; lacks user-replaceable battery.

The Bottom Line The Sony CLIE PEG-TJ37 stays competitive with an integrated camera and Wi-Fi but runs out of steam with a dim screen and poor battery life.

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7.3 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7

Review summary

Sony has revamped its popular CLIE line, and the PEG-TJ37 picks up where the midlevel PEG-TJ35 left off. The $300 TJ37 adds more memory, an integrated 310,000-pixel camera, and wireless connectivity, but it suffers from a dim screen and poor battery life. The updated model faces stiff competition from the PalmOne Zire 72, which also comes with a built-in digital camera, Bluetooth, and a faster processor for the same price. Largely because of the camera, the Sony CLIE PEG-TJ37 is slightly bigger than the TJ35, but the updated PDA is still slim and sleek, with an attractive finish of metallic gray. The 5-ounce body measures 4.5 by 3 by 0.53 inches and feels sturdy in your hands.

The handheld's main attraction is its 320x320-pixel, 65,536-color transflective TFT display. Just beneath it is the dedicated Graffiti-input area, and lowest of all are the controls. Between the left- and right-arrow menu-navigation keys is the depressible barrel roller, which Sony first introduced on the TJ35. Scrolling up and down with the jog wheel is simple, but we'd prefer to have it side-mounted for easy one-handed use.

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Two horizontal bars replace the circular shortcut keys of CLIEs past.

In place of the earlier designs' circular buttons, Sony now features two slim, horizontal bars that you rock to either side to take shortcuts to the date book, the address book, the to-do list, and the memo pad. They look great but make it too easy to select the wrong application.

Sharing the back panel with a speaker and a tiny Reset hole is the camera lens. When you want to shoot a picture, you retract the TJ37's built-in protective cover with a switch on the bottom of the unit. Then a button on the right-hand side, just below the power/Hold key, gives you one-press photo-capture capabilities.

For charging and computer syncing, the bottom-mounted docking port accepts a dongle with connections for the AC adapter and the USB cable. All three accessories come in the package, but if you prefer a desktop cradle, you'll have to purchase it from Sony for $30.

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Plug in to stay powered up and connected to your PC.

Rounding out the TJ37's chassis are a Memory Stick expansion slot, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a Wi-Fi radio (a green light illuminates on the bottom when Wi-Fi is on), and a stylus holder, all of which reside on top of the handheld. To attach the included protective cover, you pop its two tabs into holes on the CLIE's left side. Unlike the TJ27, the Sony CLIE PEG-TJ37 does a better job in the wireless and entertainment arenas. The PDA comes equipped with Wi-Fi capabilities that, when coupled with the included CLIE Mail and NetFront 3.1 apps, allow you to send e-mail and browse the Web. Sony also bundles Kinoma Player 2 for video playback and Aero Player for MP3 files. Just be aware you must load these programs from the CD that comes in the box; they don't come preinstalled on the handheld.

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Snap away with the TJ37's 310,000-pixel camera...

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...and store all your photos on Memory Stick media.

You won't miss any Kodak moments with the TJ37. Its integrated camera provides 310,000-pixel resolution; zooms to 2X; and can save 640x480, 320x480, 320x240, or 160x120 photos. White-balance and brightness settings let you adjust for indoor and outdoor scenes, and when you're feeling artsy, you can give your pictures a black-and-white or sepia effect. Of course, the TJ37 won't produce the same image quality as a dedicated digital camera, but the handheld is good for quick snapshots.

We're pleased to see Sony boosting CLIE memory capacity. The TJ37 provides 32MB of RAM (23MB of which is user-accessible) and 16MB of ROM. However, photos require a lot more, so you'll have to expand the storage space with the TJ37's media slot. Along with standard Memory Sticks, the CLIE accepts 1GB Memory Stick Pro media, which will hold a lot of high-resolution photos and audio.

Though Sony made hardware improvements for the TJ37, the PDA's software is a little disappointing. You get the usual PIM (personal information manager) applications, but the company stuck with the old Address Book and Date Book instead of upgrading to Contacts and Calendar, which sync better with Microsoft Outlook and have enhanced features. In contrast, the new programs come with the PalmOne Zire 72. But the TJ37 runs Palm OS 5.2.1, and its software bundle includes Palm Reader, as well as the CLIE Launcher and CLIE Memo utilities. Sony also throws in some extra apps not found in the TJ27, such as Graffiti alternative Decuma Input and PicselViewer for viewing but not editing Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. And the good news is that when you register online, you can download DataViz's Documents To Go for free. The tool lets you view Microsoft Office documents--a real necessity if you're planning to use the TJ37 in any business capacity.
The Sony CLIE PEG-TJ37's 200MHz i.MXL processor, combined with the newly boosted memory, keeps performance relatively fast. In a couple of instances, switching between apps brought up the "please wait" screen, but the delay was brief and not too distracting.

For CNET Labs' battery tests, we installed our own copy of Kinoma Video Player on the handheld, set the screen brightness to 50 percent, and looped a clip. The lithium-ion cell was disappointing, lasting only 2 hours, 50 minutes, or slightly less than the Zire 72. Sony says the CLIE should provide up to 10 days of normal use before needing a recharge. We were also unhappy to discover that, unlike the TJ35's battery, the TJ37's isn't user-replaceable.

Connecting to the Internet was a breeze with the TJ37's Wi-Fi radio. It was able to find and connect to a hot spot right away, although the PDA took some time to upload Web pages. The NetFront browser doesn't support Flash-based Web sites, but it allows you to switch to the SmartFit view to eliminate side-to-side scrolling.

Again, the TJ37 is no substitute for a real digital camera, but the handheld snapped some decent photos. Even though the CLIE doesn't have a flash, indoor shots came out clear and well lit. Pictures we took outside, however, sometimes appeared washed out, and the problem was especially bad on sunny days.

The TJ37's high-resolution screen delivered a sharp, crisp view and captured the littlest details. It also performed well in sunlight. Unfortunately, its image quality was overshadowed by the display's overall dim, gray appearance, which didn't improve even when we bumped up the brightness to its highest setting.