By Ed Hardy
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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