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Sony PEG-S320 Review
By Ed Hardy
The S320 is Sony's new mid-range model with a monochrome screen and a Memory Stick slot.
It is light and fits well in the hand or pocket. It only weighs 4.3 ounces. For comparison, the N610C weighs 5.6 ounces.
Its casing is silvery plastic. Across the bottom of the front are the standard buttons, also in sliver plastic, set in a chrome square. The Scroll Up and Down buttons are combined into a rocker switch shaped like an hourglass.
Oddly, it has the Sony logo above the screen and the word Clié just above the buttons but you have to read the fine print on the back to see that it is a PEG-S320.
On the left side, right at the top, is a Jog Dial. It doesn't have the Back button from the N series.
Having the power button on the top took a bit of getting used to. When I was first looking over the handheld, I wondered if it was an eject button for the Memory Stick.
The right side is taken up by the Stylus channel, which is almost completely inside the handheld.
On the bottom is the serial port, which is exposed the same way all serial ports are exposed these days. This makes me nervous but everyone does it this way so it must not cause too many problems. On either side of the port are slots that clip-on peripherals can use to hold themselves on with. There is a third slot near the middle of the back.
The stylus is the standard one from all Clié models, with a metal shaft and plastic top and tip. Under the top is a reset pin. Nice to see Sony didn't skimp on the stylus to save money.
It is reasonably viewable from the side. You could probably use the S320 with another person if you were willing to stand really close.
There is a small icon in the silkscreened area that, when pushed, allows you to adjust the contrast.
Thank goodness it doesn't have the reversing backlight of some old Palm models. Its backlight works fine, though the S320 doesn't have the built-in function the N series does that remembers what state the backlight was in when the handheld was turned off. You can always install GlowHack or any of its clones if you want this function.
The plastic over the screen has a texture I don't quite like but I just did what I usually do: put a piece of Scotch tape over the Graffiti area and didn't worry about it any more. Other than that writing on the screen was fine. I didn't have to push unusually hard to write or anything like that.
The Jog Dial
I congratulate Sony for their inclusion of it on all their handhelds, even this mid-range one. I have a few suggestions for improvements, though. When using the S320, I really missed the Back button from the Sony N series. This greatly improves the use of the Jog Dial.
I would suggest they add some functions to the Jog Dial itself, many of which are borrowed from the Back Button on other models. It would be great if you could turn the handheld on by just holding down the Jog Dial. Also, there are lots of applications where holding down the Jog Dial doesn't do anything. I'd like to suggest that holding it down select the Categories drop-down box and/or give access to the menus.
However, Sony did have to make some compromises to keep the price low. While the S320 has a Memory Stick slot, it doesn't come with an actual Memory Stick. This is no big deal; the very high-end N710C is the only PalmOS handheld that comes with an expansion card in the box.
The Flip Cover
The S320's flip cover works like no other I've seen. It actually starts on the back and folds around the top and then goes down the front. It is held on with a pair of L-shaped clips that snap onto the top then reach down the back.
This arrangement means the flip cover serves to protect the Memory Stick slot, which doesn't have its own door. It also means the flip cover has to be swung around to the back to reach the power button, remove the stylus, or use the IR port. I don't think this is a flaw, it just takes some getting used to. It is nice that the cover helps protect the power button from being pushed accidentally and even prevents the stylus from coming out unexpectedly.
When it has been flipped around to the back, it sticks out below the bottom of the device about a half inch or so. This isn't a big deal but I thought you might have been wondering what that was in the first picture.
Despite the fact that the USB port is capable of providing some power to charge the S320's battery while the cable is plugged in, the USB cable provided doesn't do this. Sony probably decided it wasn't worth it. Reports on third-party combination HotSync/charging USB cables say they take about nine hours to charge the handheld.
It comes with a separate power cable that is the exact same as the ones that come with the N610C and N710C. I think this is the best power cable available because it can also be used as a travel charger. The prongs on the wall plug even fold down to save space.
This means it it uses Palm's method from running apps on expansion cards. When a Memory Stick is plugged in, its contents appear in a new category in the default Launcher. Tapping on an app on this list copies it to RAM and then runs it from there. When the app is exited, it is removed from RAM.
It also can run Palm Web Clipping apps right out of the box, which surprised me a bit. Just to be sure, I put the Palm Infocenter PQA on the S320 and made an Internet connection with my modem. It worked like a dream.
Of course, it also has the Attention Manager, which lists past alarms that have gone off but have not yet been acknowledged. As a person who sets a lot of alarms, I like this.
It has a copy of MS Gate, which is close in function to McFile and allows the user to view the complete contents of RAM and the Memory Stick and move files around. It also has MSAutorun that will run a specified application when a Memory Stick is inserted.
It comes with gMovie and PG Pocket, though only gMovie is installed on the handheld. PG Pocket must be copied from the CD. Frankly, I don't see a lot of use for either of these on this handheld. The S320's screen, while adequate for normal PDA use, isn't something I'd choose to watch multimedia on or even look at my vacation pictures. If that's what you want to do, you need to think about a N610C or N710C.
They have modified the Address Book app so that listings can include people's pictures. This is a nice touch, though it takes up too much screen space when editing the address. Again, the screen on the S320 isn't really suited for this, though.
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