Sony PEG-SJ20 Review, Part II

By Ed Hardy
News Editor

The SJ20 is Sony's new entry-level handheld with a backlit monochrome screen, 16 MB of RAM, Palm OS 4.1 and the same shape as the previously released SL10.

This is the second part of my review. Part I was published about a week ago, after I had only had the SJ20 for a few days. In it, I covered my opinions of the SJ20's screen and shape and I don't see a need to go over those again. If you haven't read Part I yet, I strongly urge you to do so.

Battery Life
The most significant feature of the SJ20 I didn't cover in the first review was its battery life. This is because I hadn't had it long enough to do a realistic test.

You can't get a good idea of the battery life of a handheld by just keeping it on continuously until the battery runs dry. Handheld batteries aren't designed to perform well this way. People use their handhelds intermittently and their batteries perform best when they are allowed to rest.

To get what I believe are real numbers for battery life, I installed an application called UpTime. This tracks the amount of time a handheld is on. Then I used the SJ20 normally. This means I used it as my address book, read AvantGo, HotSynced a couple times, played some games, and that sort of thing.

As I said in the first part of this, I think the SJ20's screen pretty much requires using the backlight so that's how I tested it. There is no way to adjust the backlight besides on or off so it was on at full strength the entire time I ran this test

I got the first low-battery warning after 7 hours and 30 minutes of use. A few minutes later the backlight cut off and wouldn't turn on again until I recharged the handheld. At 8 hours and 20 minutes, the SJ20 gave its final warning and shut down.

One of the advantages of monochrome screens is they use much less power than color ones and it is good to see that the SJ20 follows this thumb-rule. As a comparison, the T665C, with its hi-res color screen, gets just over 2 hours of use with its backlight on full.

I was going to perform the same test with the backlight off but after some preliminary tests, I decided it wasn't possible for two reasons. Like I said, I think the SJ20's screen is just too dim to use without the backlight and I couldn't take using it for a long time without ever turning the backlight on. Also, the backlight appears to be the major user of power on the SJ20. With it off, its battery will last for weeks. I don't think you would be willing to wait until late September for me to run this review.

The SJ20 runs a 33 MHz Dragonball processor, which is what you'd expect from an entry-level model like this. It gets a BenchMark 2.0 score of 207%, which is just what it should get considering BenchMark uses a 16 MHz processor as its standard.

It also has 16 MB of RAM, which is the maximum you can get on a Palm OS device at this time. This is probably more storage that a majority of people who will buy this model need. Combined with the Memory Stick slot, the SJ20 owners will able to store even very large files and applications.

Memory Stick Slot
Being a Sony model, of course the SJ20 has a Memory Stick slot. I applaud Sony for including this on even its entry-level models. It allows the handheld to store a tremendous amount of information and applications.

However, when I was using the SJ20, its Memory Stick slot seemed to be quite slow. I tested it with VFSMark and it got a score of 32 out of a possible 100. Some operations were extremely slow. In its worst example, it is 2% of the standard speed for writing to files on the Memory Stick. Fortunately, the most frequently used function, reading from the Memory Stick, gets a decent score of 70% of the standard.

This doesn't cripple the handheld or anything but doing backups takes a while. There is a noticeable lag opening applications and eBooks from the Memory Stick but, like I said, this is more of a minor irritation than anything else. I chalk this up to the sort of thing you have to expect from a $200 handheld. You just aren't going to get the same performance you get from a $400 one.

Another nice touch in the SJ20 is that it includes both a Jog Dial and Back button. Previous entry-level Sonys lacked the Back button. Working together, these two let you control most of the functions of the handheld with just your thumb, but not all. This isn't Sony's fault; many developers still haven't added Jog Dial support to their applications. The one that is most frustrating to me is AvantGo. Still, many applications are Jog Dial-enabled and let you do many things with one hand. For example, it is fairly easy to look up a phone number just using the Jog Dial and Back button.

The buttons on the SJ20 are good, though not perfect. For most users, they are fine. It is really game players that are more demanding and it is this group who will find the SJ20's buttons to be adequate, though not great.

The buttons are a good size and are comfortable to use. However, there is no space between the Date Book button and the Address Book button. On the other side, the To-Do List and Memo Pad buttons also touch. This can make it difficult to distinguish between buttons in fast-paced games. The Rocker switch is kind of small, which makes it not as easy to use as it could be.

The Power button is on top. It is small and sits flush with the casing. This makes it not very easy to push but I think preventing accidental pushes is probably more important when you are talking about the Power Button.

The SJ20's flip cover is black and clips to the back then stretches over the top and then down the front of the handheld. This allows it to give some protection to the Memory Stick slot and Power button.

The stylus is the Sony standard one, which I'm not fond of. It's just too thin. However, I don't hear a lot of complaints from other people about this stylus so maybe I'm carrying out a one-man campaign. The SJ20's stylus is black and silver to match the handheld's casing. Unscrewing the top reveals a Reset Pin.

The SJ20 doesn't come with a cradle; instead it has a cable that is plugged into the wall for power and another that hooks to the USB port of a desktop to HotSync. The HotSync cable doesn't carry any power, though the USB port provides a bit. Turns out USB ports don't provide very much power and trying to recharge a handheld through one is a slow process. Both the SJ20's cables run together into a single adapter that plugs into the HotSync port, so you can recharge and synchronize at the same time.

It looks like Sony has standardized on a single HotSync port design, as all three of its product lines now use the same one. This means the SJ20 can use many of the same peripherals designed for the T-series, including the new KB11 folding keyboard.

The SJ20 offers a very good monochrome screen and great battery life. Its Memory Stick slot is a bit slow but I don't think that is too big a flaw. All in all, I think it is a very good handheld for its price and a worthy replacement for the S360 in Sony's lineup.

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backlight color?

Polyman @ 8/26/2002 3:20:55 PM #
Is it just me or does that backlight look blue-ish?

"In an interstellar burst, I'm back to save the Universe." - Radiohead "Airbag"
RE: backlight color?
Ed @ 8/26/2002 3:24:56 PM #
It is very difficult (or maybe even impossible) to take a picture of a handheld that makes the screen look anything close to what it actually looks like in person. That's why all the pictures of handhelds you see in catalogs have "simulated" screens. This means a screen shot has been pasted over the image to make it look like that's what the handheld screen is showing.

In short, you can't tell what a handheld's screen looks like from a picture. You need to see for yourself. Short of that, take my word for it. As I covered in the first part of this review, the SJ20 has a nice white backlight and good contrast.

News Editor

RE: backlight color?
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/26/2002 4:20:25 PM #
How even does the backlight seem? Are there obvious regions of bright and dark? Does it appear to be white LEDs or fluorescent or electroluminescent or...?
RE: backlight color?
volcanopele @ 8/26/2002 7:11:55 PM #
I was playing around with an SL10 at Best Buy today (when I got my NR70V :) and the screen to me didn't look so much bluish but they were definitely using greyscale icons in the launcher. I am not sure if other greyscale 4.0 devices use greyscale devices but my previous palm, a Visor Platinum, used by default black and white icons. With a hi-res screen, the greyscale icons do give the impression that they are in color.

RE: backlight color?
ext1jdh @ 10/18/2002 10:29:35 AM #
The backlight is actually quite bright. It is similar in brightness to the Compaq Ipaq PPC's. The color is very white with an almost unnoticeable yellow tinge to it. As the battery life diminishes, the more noticeable it gets, but the battery life is nice and long, so it is not a problem. The brightness is stable across the entire display.
What I would like to see is some transparency behind the input area so you can see the icons and writing area when in complete darkness.

RE: backlight color?
prodigy @ 4/25/2003 7:45:53 PM #
The blue border around the screen had me flipping out for awhile too..... I recieved the device as a gift, and didn't know that the screen was black and white, it took me awhlie to figure it out...


YET Another nice PDA from sony...

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/26/2002 3:27:19 PM #
gee, I just hope this one lasts more than 3 months.....
RE: YET Another nice PDA from sony...
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/26/2002 5:56:40 PM #
It won't. It's a SONY.
RE: YET Another nice PDA from sony...
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/26/2002 7:41:20 PM #
I can't figure out why some are upset that Sony keeps constantly improving their products at such a rapid speed. Why does it bother you? Your PDA has not changed - it's the same one you bought - just because a new, improved version is released doesn't change it. I think we should praise and not criticize Sony for continuous product development of what are already HIGH QUALITY products. The other alternative is Palm, Inc. who, for whatever reason, like to move at a glacial speed.
RE: YET Another nice PDA from sony...
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/26/2002 8:49:11 PM #
With proper care, it will easily last at least a couple years. That, of course, won't prevent Sony from releasing several improved products on which its probably already spent R&D money.
RE: YET Another nice PDA from sony...
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/26/2002 9:37:54 PM #
I agree with the top, why complain, if you dont want sony theres always palm or acer right. People complain when sony released a product that is only available in japan and left out the other part of the world. Now that they release all of their handheld in here too, a lot of people are still complaining, what do you people want anyway????
RE: YET Another nice PDA from sony...
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/26/2002 10:02:27 PM #
They're just dumb trolls.

The only reason you'd complain is if all you care about is having the latest and greatest, which is purely for bragging/showing-off purposes.

RE: YET Another nice PDA from sony...
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/27/2002 11:08:36 AM #
People just keep comparing apples and oranges...Palm Inc and Sony will never run their businesses the same way! Palm is relatively small, therefore they have limited resources for Research and development and production. Their business plan has them putting out a handheld and tweaking things slowly. They'd be out of business in a year if they did what Sony does. Sony has the resources in both R&D and production to put out new models all the time. They both are good--Sony really does do more innovation but Palms are good for the platform because less "techy" people like to buy something they have seen around for a while. It makes them more comfortable. There really IS a place for everyone right now...the future remains to be seen.
RE: YET Another nice PDA from sony...
prodigy @ 4/25/2003 7:43:12 PM #
Why complain!!!!!!!! No body is forcing you to go out and buy every handheld that sony makes...........


Memory Stick slot speed

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/26/2002 3:46:39 PM #
In regards to the the Memory Stick slot:

"This doesn't cripple the handheld or anything but doing backups takes a while. There is a noticeable lag opening applications and eBooks from the Memory Stick but, like I said, this is more of a minor irritation than anything else. I chalk this up to the sort of thing you have to expect from a $200 handheld. You just aren't going to get the same performance you get from a $400 one. "

So are you telling us that an expensive Sony model has a faster running Memory Stick slot? I never read this speed issue before. If it is slow than why use it, the 16mb of ram is enough then for the users who buy this.

RE: Memory Stick slot speed
Ed @ 8/26/2002 3:52:24 PM #
> So are you telling us that an expensive Sony model has a faster running Memory
> Stick slot?

Definitely. A T665C has a VFSMark score of 101, indicating that it is slightly faster than the application's benchmark, a Palm m500 with a 16 MB SD card.

> If it is slow than why use it, the 16mb of ram is enough then for the users
> who buy this.

Memory Sticks are nice for doing backups, even if you aren't trying to carry around more than 16 MB of files. There are other uses too, but I get your point and I agree, many of the people who get a SJ20 will never need a Memory Stick for it.

News Editor

RE: Memory Stick slot speed
Token User @ 8/26/2002 4:36:06 PM #
It would be interesting to know how the slower data transfer will effect IO operations for items like GPS and Bluetooth.

RE: Memory Stick slot speed
bobes @ 8/26/2002 4:41:16 PM #
I wonder if it's just a bug in the software (which is fixable) versus a hardware issue.

RE: Memory Stick slot speed (and use)
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/26/2002 4:59:05 PM #
Does Sony provide software that allows accessing programs directly from the Memory Stick or must third party software be obtained and installed? Is access to the Memory Stick limited to reading programs (e.g. e-books, Wordsmith, Docs to Go, etc.) or can data be input for programs kept only on the memory stick (e.g. Pocket Quicken).
RE: Memory Stick slot speed
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/26/2002 4:59:43 PM #
Thanks for the input guys. I didn't know much about the memory stick issue.
RE: Memory Stick slot speed
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/26/2002 6:26:37 PM #
A deja vu?

Ed, what hacks have you installed? When I used BatteryLog hack to monitor the batter usage of my N610C. For unknown reason, it slows down the performance of momery stick. I just got a VFSMark of 29, the write speed is extremely slow. However, if BatteryLog is disable, VFSMark is about 70.

RE: Memory Stick slot speed
Ed @ 8/26/2002 10:50:40 PM #
I disabled all my hacks and ran VFSMark again and got the same score.

News Editor
RE: Memory Stick slot speed
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/27/2002 9:04:47 AM #
I also have an N610c and got a VFS mark of 69. I use Uptime to monitor my unit on time and it doesn't affect my VFS speed. I was wondering if anyone with a T615c would post thier VFS mark.

Thanks Ed for an informative review and I hope you post the VFS mark for the upcoming SJ30 when its available.

RE: Memory Stick slot speed
LanMan @ 8/27/2002 10:33:21 AM #
"can data be input for programs kept only on the memory stick (e.g. Pocket Quicken)."

LandWare specifically states that Pocket Quicken data must be in RAM. However, other programs can access data from card. You can use a 3rd party apps such as PiDirectII to load read-only data from card, or you can use the MsMount (freeware) to load read-write data.


RE: Memory Stick slot speed
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/27/2002 2:51:26 PM #
RE: "Some operations were extremely slow. In its worst example, it is 2% of the standard speed for writing to files on the Memory Stick."

2%? Even 20% would seems slow.

How many seconds to write a file of (for instance) 1 MB?

RE: Memory Stick slot speed
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/18/2002 11:39:05 PM #
I have tried MSmount on my PEG-320, however it seems to just not work. I've tried installing it twice and both times no icons show up. If I go to delete it from the memory the program is there, but I just can't seem to run it. Any suggestions? Are there any other programs that do the same sort of thing?


RE: Memory Stick slot speed
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/28/2002 3:31:24 PM #
I sm having a peg s320 and am presently using msmount too - as far as I know you *won't* see any icons for msmount, but you will find msmount as an option under preferences, where you will be able to control it's behaviour. I think it's a great utillity making it possible to use applications from the memory stick which normally wouldn't runfrom there.

Photo of flip cover?

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/26/2002 3:58:45 PM #
Can you put up a photo of the flip cover so we can see how it looks on the handheld? Thanks.
RE: Photo of flip cover?
Ed @ 8/26/2002 4:00:22 PM #
I actually took a picture of the flip cover and it's just a big black rectangle. Sorry, it would take me 5 or 10 minutes of fiddling to put this picture online and, in the end, you'd have a picture of a black rectangle with Clie written on it. (It reminded me of the obelisks from 2001.) So I decided it was pointless. I'm sure you can imagine in a black rectangle in your own mind and have a very good idea of what it looks like.

News Editor
RE: Photo of flip cover?
Palm Cow @ 12/15/2002 10:32:55 AM #
The ZDNet review has a pretty good picture of it with its flip cover. Personally, I like the picture!
It will re-direct you there.

Hail the Cow!


I.M. Anonymous @ 8/26/2002 4:00:24 PM #
Will the bluetooth stick work with this model?
RE: Bluetooth
Ed @ 8/26/2002 10:48:01 PM #
I haven't tested it but I believe it will.

News Editor

No ratings

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/26/2002 4:19:24 PM #
Ed, where did the ratings go for this review? Have you discontinued the use of them?
RE: No ratings
Ed @ 8/26/2002 10:48:38 PM #
I'm experimenting to see if anyone cares that I didn't include them.

News Editor
RE: No ratings
big_raji @ 8/26/2002 11:07:46 PM #
I usually don't care about ratings the first time I look at the review, since I'm usually reading the text of the review anyways.

When it's time to buy though, I like to look back at the reviews and quickly refresh my memory by looking at the ratings.

Don't get rid of them!


RE: No ratings
mikeliu @ 8/27/2002 12:37:41 AM #
personally I don't care much for the ratings, kinda glad they're gone. Everything is 4 or 5 stars anyways, so it really doesn't mean much.

Now maybe if the ratings were "re-centered" or something...make 3 stars average....then it might actually convey something, but as they were, I say drop em

RE: No ratings
Haber @ 8/27/2002 6:40:49 AM #
Never noticed they were missing, so I guess that means I'm either very non-attentive or never utilized them to begin with. Only thing I remember about them is that they formatted bizarrely in AvantGo on my huffing and puffing Palm Vx.

RE: No ratings
swinginjonny @ 8/27/2002 11:51:05 AM #
I noticed them missing. I like them but I agree that they need to be recentered. They aren't very useful if they are always good. I am a consultant for both training and purchasing and they act as a good summary to help me remember the good points and not-so-good points of each handheld. Maybe you could only list and rate features that are above or below average, everything else will be assumed a 3 and you could rate the others from 1-5. Just brainstorming.

(Self-confessed Palm Geek)

360 or 320?

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/26/2002 5:20:30 PM #
is the resolution of the screen 360x360 or 320x320?
RE: 360 or 320?
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/26/2002 5:22:12 PM #
"It features a 360 by 360, backlit, monochrome screen, 16 MB of RAM, and a Memory Stick slot."

ups, it's only on the front page, not on this review...

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