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Sony T415 Review Part I
By Ed Hardy
11/12/2001


Preface
On Friday, Sony sent me a pre-production model of the T415 to review. Normally, I like to spend at least a week with a product before writing a review. In this case, I thought there was so much interest in the T415 I wouldn't make you wait and I'd write up my first impressions. A much more complete review will be out in a week or so.

Screen
The T415 is the first Palm OS model to have a 320 by 320 monochrome screen. This is a compromise that allows this to be a mid-range priced handheld.

To be honest, the T415's screen isn't what I hoped it would be. There's no other way to say it: it's a bit dark. I was able to compare it to the screens on a Palm m125 and a Visor Pro and both of those models have screens with better contrast. The background, rather than being white or green, is kind of a dark grey. It looks good in bright light but in anything less the thin fonts on its hi-res screen are a bit difficult to see. I have to use the backlight frequently.

It's screen does not look like the pictures that are on the SonyStyle site. Those show a screen with wonderful contrast and a paper-like background. That is not what the T415 I have looks like.

It's possible I have been spoiled by using a color screen. I showed my review model to a friend who uses a Visor Deluxe and he thought the screen was fine, though he agreed the fonts were hard to see sometimes.

I don't want to argue the semantics of whether the screen is monochrome or grayscale. According to Sony it is a monochrome screen so I'm sticking with that. Its shades of gray all have a bluish tinge. When I first turned it on, I thought they had pulled a fast one on me and the screen was really color because all the Launcher icons looked blue. Turns out everything that isn't solid black looks a bit blue.

If the screen is important to you, the best advice I can give at this point is see the T415's in person and judge for yourself before you buy one.

Casing
As I'm sure you've heard by now, the T415 is the thinnest Palm OS handheld ever, though it's only a gnat's whisker thinner than the Palm m500 and V. Still, that's pretty darn thin. For the rest, it is 4.7 by 2.8 inches and 4.3 ounces.

It's in a very professional-looking aluminium casing. I generally try to let people judge appearances for themselves but I have to say I like the looks of the T415 a lot.

Buttons
On the front, under the screen, are the standard hardware buttons. Sony has made these very thin and put horizontal ridges on them. They are usable enough but I don't think game players will like them much. They poke into your fingers.

I don't think anyone is going to much like the tiny rocker button Sony is using for the Up/Down buttons. It's just too small and difficult to tell apart with your fingers from the buttons right next to it.. Pushing it up or down moves it hardly at all.

Around the hardware buttons is a black metal piece with the logos for the buttons stamped into it. This shows fingerprints all too well.

Jog Dial
I'm very glad Sony was able to fit a Jog Dial into this slim casing because I love them. They even included the Back button from the hi-end models. I think the Jog Dial makes so many routine tasks easier.

The back view of the Jog Dial looks really cool and is one of the best parts of the T415's external appearance.

Memory Stick
As this is a Sony handheld, of course it has a Memory Stick slot. It doesn't come with a Memory Stick, though. It does have all the applications you need to save files to the Stick and a new one that will let you backup the contents of RAM to it.

TV Remote
Possibly the coolest feature in the T415 is the built-in TV Remote. They have increased the strength of the infrared port and added software that lets you control most kinds of home electronics that have a remote.

This works surprisingly well. I made a pest of myself this weekend turning on TVs wherever I went. You just have to tell it the make of the TV, VRC, DVD player, or whatever and you are ready to go. I haven't had 100% success, though. I still haven't managed to make it work with my VCR, though it is of a brand name that is supposed to work.

You can even channel surf with the Jog Dial and use the hardware buttons, too.

Sound
Thankfully, Sony dumped the miserable speaker that is in most Palm OS models and put in one that is capable of putting out some decent sound. The T415 has an app called, logically enough, Sound Utility that can play converted MIDI and WAV files. To be honest, I haven't had a chance yet convert any sound files and I've just been playing with the ones that came on the device.

These sound pretty good. You aren't going to throw out your portable stereo but being able to carry around sound clips is fun.

Alarms
Did I mention that use can use any of your new sounds as alarms? Say goodbye to "beep beep beep" and hello to "It's time for your next agenda item, sir".

The T415 also has a vibrating alarm like the one from the Palm m500 series. In addition, you can set a small LED built into the front to blink when an alarm goes off. This only blinks a few times, though.

Peripherals
The T415's cradle is not the same as the one that comes with other Sony models. In fact, the T415's thin shape means it can't use any other Clié peripheral that connects to the serial port.

The cradle is a bit more complicated than I'm used to from Clié models. It is made up of the cradle itself with a USB plug for data. For power, a small plug goes from the cradle to a sizable power transformer and then to a wire with a plug on it. Unlike other Sony handhelds, the power cable can't also plug into the handheld to be used as a travel charger.

The stylus is absolutely the slimmest I've ever seen. It will almost fit into the left channel lot on the m505. I don't know what is supposed to hold the stylus in its slot but it isn't working on my review model. I can turn the T415 upside down and one hard shake will see the stylus come shooting out.

The flip cover is black and has a rough texture. It curves all the way across the top of the handheld and clips onto the top part of the back. This means you can't access the Memory Stick slot without opening the flip cover. To do this, you just flip it around to the back.

Conclusion
Actually, I think it is too early to draw any conclusions. I don't think three days is long enough with this handheld for me to have very informed opinions. Check back in a week or so for Part II. If you have any topics you think I absolutely need to cover in it, please write them in below.

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Pictures of the screen?

I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 12:10:11 PM #
Ok, so you have given us an idea that it's something new, but that it ain't so good. Pictures of the screen on, PLEASE?!

RE: Pictures of the screen?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 12:45:33 PM #
He said it was dark. Maybe it was on in the picture?

RE: Pictures of the screen?
Ed @ 11/12/2001 12:45:48 PM #
I didn't overlook it; turns out to be almost impossible to get a decent picture of a handheld's screen. Too far away and you can't see anything and too close and you get a picture of the camera's reflection in the screen cover. That's why all the handhelds you see in catalogs and webstores have simulated screens.

But you asked so I'll show you the two best ones I could get. This is PG Pocket:
http://www.palminfocenter.com/images/img_Sony_T415_r_4_L.JPG

Here's a comparison shot with a Visor Pro:
http://www.palminfocenter.com/images/img_Sony_T415_r_5_L.JPG

These pictures haven't been modified at all. This is exactly what came from my fairly limited digital camera.

---
News Editor

RE: Pictures of the screen?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 1:04:40 PM #
how is the backlight? is the background "paper-white" with the backlight on?

RE: Pictures of the screen?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 1:12:16 PM #
Please give more details about the backlight. Are the pictures with or without the backlight? Does the backlight supply significantly more contrast in normal lighting conditions? Is the backlight white, reverse, etc.?

RE: Pictures of the screen?
Ed @ 11/12/2001 1:12:39 PM #
The backlight is blue-green which makes the entire background this color. Thankfully it isn't the reversing backlight that some handhelds still use. It isn't very bright. In regular room lighting I can't really tell if the backlight is on or off and the screen's contrast is basically unchanged.

There are no conditions that I have found in which the T415's background is paper white.

---
News Editor

RE: Pictures of the screen?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 1:35:20 PM #
And the screen is somewhat smaller than the Visor Pro from the pictures.

RE: Pictures of the screen?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 2:29:21 PM #
Thanks for posting the pictures. I suppose this is going to be up in the air until they come out in retail, and probably after that... it will be the m505 of mono screens: love it or hate it.

RE: Pictures of the screen?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 5:48:51 PM #
Ed, did you try a circular polarizer filter for your camera lense? It can help remove reflection.

RE: Pictures of the screen?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 6:32:32 PM #
This is disconcerting. I was really looking forward to finally replacing my Vx with something actually worth the price. The only outstanding thing about this PDA is the screen, in my opinion, and now it appears that's not quite as advertised. The other features I find quite unimportant. I'll definitely want to see this one in the store before buying.

RE: Pictures of the screen?
jamuka @ 11/12/2001 6:55:47 PM #
is the screen really black when turned off?

RE: Pictures of the screen?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/13/2001 8:50:58 PM #
How does it compare with a m500? I'm debating between the T415 and the m500. Thanks

RE: Pictures of the screen?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/20/2001 2:33:20 AM #
I tried a T415 in a retail store today and found the screen is indeed too dark. I will skip it for T600 (or maybe T615 of the US market).

RE: Pictures of the screen?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/20/2001 2:33:20 AM #
I tried a T415 in a retail store today and found the screen is indeed too dark. I will skip it for T600 (or maybe T615 of the US market).

Pre production?

digilaw @ 11/12/2001 12:35:08 PM #
Does that mean that the screen could be improved when the units hit the retail stores?

RE: Pre production?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 1:49:42 PM #
Yes! The screen will be paper-white once they incorporate b & w active matrix displays.

RE: Pre production?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 2:24:37 PM #
What do you mean by that ?

RE: Pre production?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 3:09:22 PM #
Who are you and how should we qualify your comment?

RE: Pre production?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 4:06:52 PM #
Awww... I doubt they're going to incorporate active matrix TFT. Don't listen to the guy, it's just another Pro-Sony blind supporter, who can't accept the fact that the T415's screens suck. I can't believe they were going to try to sucker people into thinking that it looks like the SonyStyle web pics.

RE: Pre production?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 4:11:33 PM #
Were? From the posts here, it sounds like they still are suckering people with the SonyStyle web pics.

RE: Pre production?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 9:25:13 PM #
Hmmm, I'm about to upgrade my two year old IIIxe and I had high hopes for the T415's display, since I mostly read with my Palm.

It looks like I'll go with Sony's 760 (which I've used & really like) or the Handera 330 (which I've seen and really like). (No, not a PocketPC -- I tried an iPAQ -- nice machine, but not for me).

Take Care All!

-Brett Blatchley
Pfafftown, North Carolina, USA

B&W is possible
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/13/2001 8:49:40 AM #
From the spec, it states that it's an EL diaplay instead of LCD, therefore I believe B&W is possible. The strength of EL is supposed to have better contrast especially ..... to have daylight-readability with much less power.

Hope it's mature technology!

about the stylus

I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 1:37:21 PM #
my sony clie 610 is an awesome pda, but when sony want's to cut costs on a lower end product they really cut costs, apparently the stylus holder on the clie 750 is spring loaded? I don't know I though I read that somewhere, but the stylus on my 610 has nothing, I have own the unit since september, and I have lost atleast three stylus because they fall out so easily, once when I was carrying the sony in my visor phone belt clip case the stylus shot up as I was getting into the car, and the top snapped off as it hit the steering wheel. Try it with any sony, turn it up side down, give it a hard shake, and the stylus will come flying out everytime.

Atleast I can say that I don't have bleeding thumbs like those poor unfortunate m505 users and their unrelentingly tuff to remove stylus

RE: about the stylus
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 2:12:58 PM #
None of the clie's stylus are spring loaded.
I suggest you take a piece of clear tape, and put it on the top of the Clie. that will make your stylus very tight like a..... :) it works quite well.

RE: about the stylus
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 6:50:16 PM #
My, that must look professional. The m505 stylus is out and about yet still stays tight after a couple days of use.

RE: about the stylus
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/13/2001 10:04:11 AM #
For $400 I shouldn't have to use scotch tape to perform so simple a task as holding the stylus in place.

Perhaps Sony wants to boost sales of replacement styli, since their 3-pack sells for $3.00 more than any other company's.

RE: about the stylus
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/13/2001 5:03:24 PM #
Gosh your stylus still stays tight after a couple days of use, who'd of thought. A whole 2 days, wow maybe its time for an upgrade.

RE: about the stylus
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/16/2002 11:28:59 PM #
I got a T415 and i turned it upside down and shook it as hard as I dare and couldn't get the stylus out.

Mr. CaN

RE: about the stylus
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/23/2002 2:33:36 PM #
perhaps you all should consider NOT turning you sony upside down and shaking it... lol... get yourself a 10 buck case and you'll be fine!

Sony's WebSite for the PEG-T415

Palmfood @ 11/12/2001 1:52:42 PM #
Take the tour, for a B&W Palm it's quite impressive. Check out the trumpet on the second page.

http://www.sonystyle.com/vaio/clie/peg_t415_index.shtml


RE: Sony's WebSite for the PEG-T415
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 4:10:47 PM #
Yeah right! Just as Ed put it, these aren't the real screens! Sony tries to pull a fast one on their customers... again. Please don't be a pathetic sucker for these pics. Just admit that the Peg T415 is probably the crappiest and darkest monochrome screen out there, with the exception of it's high-res.

RE: Sony's WebSite for the PEG-T415
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 8:03:35 PM #
Yeah.. I think you could claim false advertising if the final unit's screen looks like this demo model.

THIS:
http://www.palminfocenter.com/images/img_Sony_T415_r_4_L.JPG

DOES NOT LOOK LIKE THIS:
http://www.sonystyle.com/vaio/clie/peg_t415_tour_02.shtml

RE: Sony's WebSite for the PEG-T415
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/14/2001 7:45:14 PM #
It only indicates that PEG-T415 has hi-res display. But... The screen capture (data) is NOT affected by the quality of display (e.g.: It has the same either backlight on or off).

RE: Sony's WebSite for the PEG-T415
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/22/2001 5:09:29 PM #
BTW. The Sony website has a disclaimer that says that the screen image is simulated. I went to a local electronics store that just got the T415 in the same day. Fortunately, I was able to take a look at it. I agree with the review that the contrast on the screen is not all that great, I would personally like to see the screen have a white background, as opposed to the soft grey background. However, I would purcahse the T415 becasue there is a vast difference between screens that have 320x320 resoultion and than 160x160. The screen is nice. The PDA is a fantastic designer, however the up/down knob may prove to be some trouble.

Up their sleeves

I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 2:25:56 PM #
Anyone think they have a "better" screen up their sleeves? I bet the production model due in stores in 2 weeks or less will be just the same as this one, not that its a bad thing, but I try not to get my hopes up too high.

RE: Up their sleeves
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/29/2001 6:14:47 PM #
would it be posible to replace whatever was behind the screen (presumably the backlight) and put something else in like:

http://www.edmundoptics.com/IOD/DisplayProduct.cfm?productid=1393

also nobody has conformed or denied that the preproduction modle is going to be like the final

RE: Up their sleeves
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/30/2001 2:57:53 PM #
I've seen the production model, and its screen is no better.

If it is true, then it's a poor B&W screen

I.M. Anonymous @ 11/12/2001 2:36:50 PM #
If the screen is not paper white & back , what the hell is that in their sonystyle web page ? They show their customers an illusion and give them a real poor
stuff ? That's not right !

RE: If it is true, then it's a poor B&W screen
Supermoo @ 11/12/2001 2:59:27 PM #
Sonystyle.com/micros/clie/

"screen images simulated"

It's the same throughout the site, there are no official photos of 'real' screens for any new Sony Clié.

}:8) Supermoo

RE: If it is true, then it's a poor B&W screen
TheClone @ 11/12/2001 4:32:36 PM #
How is this any different than the simulated screens on the palm website before the launch of the m505? Not that the m505 screen is bad, it just wasn't what I expected after reading all the hype.

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