MobileInfocenter
A First Look at the Sony PEG-NR70V

By Ed Hardy

I have to start this off by pointing out that I've only had the NR70V for about a day, which is why I'm calling this a "first look". Still, I've played with it enough that I think you might be interested in my first impressions. There will be a full review of the NR70V in a few days.

Overview
For the benefit of those of you who have been living in a cave and haven't already read about the NR70V, it is a clamshell model that has a 320 by 480 screen with a virtual Graffiti area. It has a built-in keyboard, digital camera, and MP3 player. It has 16 MB of RAM and is the first Palm OS device to use a 66 MHz processor. It has an impressive feature set and an impressive price: $600.

NR70V The Screen
Without a doubt, the NR70V's 320 by 480, 16-bit screen is its crowning glory. It's just awesome to look at. The amount of screen real estate is great and the colors are good. Colors aren't as bright as they are on my PC monitor but they are close.

While it mostly looks great, the screen isn't perfect. Mine has some small dim shadows along one side. I've heard some T615C users complain of this too. I have no idea yet if this is going to be common on the NR series.

At this point the screen has a lot more potential than anything else. It is desperately crying out for software that make use of it. Frankly, I think Sony kind of dropped the ball in this area. The NR70V ships with one, that's right one, app that takes advantage of the 320 by 480 screen. That's its PhotoStand that shows a slideshow of images while the handheld is in its cradle.

I think Sony decided to do something close to what Palm did with VFS support in OS 4.0 and the m500 series. They built in the hardware and gave third-party developers an API and said, "Go to it".

I just wish Sony had stepped up to the plate themselves. None of the built-in apps support the larger screen. Heck, HandEra did this for the 330 and Sony has about a thousand times the resources. The Date Book and Address Book would have been really improved with a full-screen view.

Fortunately, third party apps have been appearing rapidly that support the NR70V's screen, most notably TinySheet and Action Names Datebook from iambic and the beta of AcidImage from Red Mercury. I'll try to get some mini-reviews of these out during the two short weeks I have the NR70V before Sony wants it back.

But once a good number of productivity apps and games are out that support the larger screen, it's going to be killer.

While I'm on the subject, I'm getting tired of writing "320 by 480 screen" over and over. From now on, I'm going to call it "hi-res+", to differentiate it from Sony's 320 by 320 screen, which I call "hi-res".

Graffiti Area Virtual Graffiti Area
The discussion of the virtual Graffiti area goes hand-in-hand with talking about the hi-res+ screen because the extra screen real estate comes from being able to collapse the Graffiti area.

There is a small blue arrow at the bottom of the screen that will make the Graffiti area disappear, if an app supports it. Even when it's gone, there are small icons in a band that take the place of the Home, Menu, and Find buttons. Also in this band is a battery meter, an icon that indicates if a Memory Stick has been inserted, and a clock.

This band is there almost all the time, even when the Graffiti area isn't hidden. But some apps take over the whole screen, like PhotoStand.

Having the Graffiti area created by the OS has other advantages, too. As you write in the Graffiti area, your lines appear on the screen immediately where your stylus touches.

If you tap an icon, a Qwerty keyboard replaces the Graffiti area.

Like I said, I'm not going to go into third-party apps at this point but I want to point out that trying to use the popular MiddleCaps Hack crashes my NR70V 100% of the time as soon as I so much as touch the Graffiti area.

NR70V Clamshell
The NR70V is like no other Palm OS handheld before. It's shaped like a clamshell, with a keyboard and hardware buttons on one side and the screen on the other.

But if you would prefer the more standard design, it can do that to. You can rotate the screen to where the clamshell is closed but the screen is on the outside.

I think this is great. I tend to spend a lot of time with it in tablet mode but when I want to type something, I switch it to clamshell mode. Of course, I carry it around completely closed.

It's like the NR70V is its own hardcase. I don't think opening it and doing to twist-flip to put it into tablet mode is much more inconvenient than many other cases I've used.

A nice touch is if you close the handheld while it is on, it will turn itself off. When you open it again, it will turn itself on again.

The Keyboard
At this point, about all I'm going to say about the built-in keyboard is typing on it takes some getting used to. Pressing the keys isn't too hard but getting used to the different key arrangement is taking me a while. I'll keep practicing with it and let you know what I think in the final review. I'll also do some speed tests between it and Graffiti.

Audio Player
In some ways, the NR70V's MP3 player works pretty much the same as the one from the N760C. MP3s are stored on a Memory Stick and played through the headphones. But the NR series has a much better built-in speaker than the N series did and it makes good use of it. If the headphones aren't plugged in, the song gets played by the speaker.

The audio on the little built-in speaker isn't very loud, but it sounds pretty good. At least to me. I'm sure real audiophiles will turn white in horror at the idea of listening to music on a single small speaker.

The Camera
Until now, everything I've said applies to both the NR70 and the NR70V but here we come to a parting of the ways. The NR70V has a built-in digital camera, while the NR70 does not. If you are thinking of getting the NR70, skip this part.

The camera is built into the hinge and can be rotated to point at the user or away. It can also be rotated downward towards the handheld, which serves as a lens protector.

Camera App The camera app isn't the same as the one on the Memory Stick camera I reviewed a while back. The best change is the view finder is at least twice as big.

You can take pictures at various sizes: 320 by 240, 160 by 120, and 88 by 88. These small sizes help save space on your handheld but also limit the usability of the camera. I doubt you'd like all your vacation pictures to be saved at 320 by 240. Still, they are good for taking some shots of your friends goofing around and then emailing them to them the next day for blackmail. That smallest size is so you can include thumbnails of people in the Address Book.

Speaking of saving space on your handheld, another other major improvement is you can take a picture and and have it saved directly to a Memory Stick.

Sony did a good job of integrating the camera in to the handheld. There is a button on the left hinge that, when pressed, either launches the camera app or, if it is already open, takes a picture.

The Motherboard
Last but certainly not least, the NR70V packs the 66 MHz Dragonball Super VZ. I ran Benchmark 2.0 and got an outstanding 307%. It can run the spell checker in WordSmith blindingly fast.

The NR70V has 16 MB of RAM, which is a nice amount. This gives you plenty of room to store all your most frequently used apps and data. Though the power users who are likely to spring for a high-end device like this one should really get a Memory Stick or two for all the other games and files they only use occasionally.

It also has 8 MB of flash ROM, which will come in handy for those of you who still like to store extra stuff in ROM. It will also let you install upgrades, if Sony releases any for this model.

The Future
I keep hearing this hashed out on message boards around the Web so I'll do my part to clear something up. Palm OS 5, which is coming within the next six months, will run only on handhelds with ARM-based processors, which the Dragonball Super VZ is not. To put it another way, the NR series will not be able to run OS 5. Period.

That will certainly cause some of you to hold off buying a new handheld until the fall. While I can understand this, I'd like to point out that many of the hot new features that will be in OS 5 are already in the NR series, like the larger screen and multimedia capabilities.

Coming Soon
I know there are lots of things about the NR70V I haven't covered yet. For example, I haven't even mentioned the built-in TV remote or the Jog Wheel. I'm also sure you want to know about the battery life but I need more time with it to do my tests. I'm sorry but you'll just have to wait until the full review. I've said enough for a preliminary one like this.

Conclusion
It's still to early for me to draw any real conclusions on the the NR70V. So far, you can probably tell I think it's very cool but I'd like to use it for a few more days before I made the final call.


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Thanks

welwyngc @ 5/1/2002 9:17:00 AM #
Looking forward to your ongoing experiences with the NR70v.

I am interested in the battery life.

RE: Thanks
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 9:31:09 AM #
me too
RE: Thanks
Liam @ 5/1/2002 10:06:07 AM #
Thanks Ed! You have the best Palm related site. Keep up the great work.

RE: Thanks
Altema @ 5/1/2002 11:26:49 AM #
Good article as usual Ed, thanks for the info. I would NEVER never be interested in such a device, but, well, if Sony does not want it back right away, umm, could you ship it to my address?

Battery life of NR
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 12:08:44 PM #
I have both the T615 and an NR (sans camera). So far the new NR does "seem" to run down the battery faster. I'll have to wait a few weeks to see what the difference really is.

Wonderful screen. Better reds than the old screens.

RE: Thanks
stephen007 @ 5/1/2002 1:48:20 PM #
Argh! Don't say the NR battery runs down faster than the 615. My 615's battery life is already short enough as is!

On a similar note I was thinking about this the other day... since the NR70 has exactly 50% more screen real estate than the standard model you'd think it would use 50% more battery power when it's on. This, of course, does *not* translate into 33% less battery life because it's also dependent on how big (physically) the battery is. After all, that explains why the 615 has a shorter batter life than the 710/760.

We'll have to see.

Stephen

RE: Thanks
mashoutposse @ 5/1/2002 3:22:46 PM #
Also note that the NR70 has a faster processor.

RE: Thanks
Recce @ 5/2/2002 12:44:06 AM #
The NR70's battery is pretty bad. I've been using mine for 1 month plus now.

The rated life is about 5 hours max, 1 hr shorter than the T615. Viewing a ebook while listening to MP3 is even worse, around 2 hours.

But the specs and especially the colouful screen overshadows the battery disadvantage to me.

"The only easy day was yesterday"

RE: Thanks Ed
rigter @ 5/2/2002 8:26:15 AM #
Thanks Ed...

... for trying to be fair and unbiased in your reports
... for trying to end these stupid Sony-Palm-Whatever flames. These flames are keeping me away from the comments pages more and more ...

Cheers,
Jan

/*
One thing a computer can do that most humans can't is be sealed up in a cardboard box and sit in a warehouse.
*/

RE: Thanks
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/2/2002 11:54:33 AM #
battery life is whats keeping me away from sony devices. im gonna wait for a better T615.
RE: Thanks
Berliner @ 5/3/2002 1:49:57 PM #
Recce,

how long does the battery last if you read an ebook without listening to mp3???

TIA for the info.

-B.

...Wherever you go, there you are...

RE: Thanks
escobar @ 5/3/2002 3:33:26 PM #
Aprox. 2 hours! :(

RE: Thanks
Recce @ 5/4/2002 10:24:15 AM #
Just reading ebook without using MP3 is the same as using it as normal, i.e. about 5 hrs continuous battery life.


"The only easy day was yesterday"

Palm, Handspring and Handera are History

I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 9:15:26 AM #
The other Palm OS hardware manufacturers will soon be a fond memory, like Pets.com and Webvan. The Sony hardware is so much superior. Wait till they release integrated wireless and cell phones by the end of this year.
RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
Ed @ 5/1/2002 9:28:46 AM #
Guys, do we really have to have the "Sony Rules! Palm drools!" argument one more time? It's gotten really old. It also doesn't make a lot of sense. This is a great new handheld and its good for the entire Palm platform, not just Sony. It provides a very high-end option for people who might otherwise have defected to the Pocket PC.

No model is right for everyone and no manufacturer makes handhelds that are right for everyone. Each has their advantages and disadvantages. It is up to everyone to decide which is most important to them and pick the appropriate handheld. As Mike Mace said at the PalmSource conference, "The killer application is diversity."

We don't want just one company making Palm OS devices. Without competition, prices go up and innovation goes down. We need a variety of manufacturers making a variety of handhelds with a variety of feature sets to satisfy a variety of customers.

Say you got your ultimate wish and Sony drove Palm, Handspring, HandEra and all the other companies out of business. The entire Palm platform would hang on the whim of a huge company who, at best, ranks handhelds somewhere in the middle of its gigantic list of products. Do you really want the Palm OS to die because some Sony executive decided to drop it to free up more development money for camcorders? If only one company makes Palm OS handhelds, that is possible.

Let's give up this pointless infighting. It isn't interesting to read and it is certainly a bigger danger to the Palm platform than Microsoft is.

---
News Editor

RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 9:35:14 AM #
And just how many people do you think are going to shell out $500-$600?
GET REAL!!!
I'm impressed with this unit, but it will be a while before I jump on the band wagon and buy one.

And one more thing, I own a Sony, but this Sony superiority attitude (it's not all Sony owners out there just a few) is getting a little old.

RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 9:40:36 AM #
I would prefer that the other companies *don't* die off. Competition is what this country is built on....well....with the US Postal Service being the exception. And every other initiative that "Big-Government" Democrats believe in. Whoops, wrong forum.

Anyway, in my twisted world, I'd prefer that Casio and Compaq, Toshiba, etc. all leave the Future-less PocketPC, and start offering some truly exciting, innovative, and more importantly *USEFUL* options in the Palm hardware arena.

Competition....or should I say FAIR competition (wink, wink, Microsoft) ALMOST ALWAYS makes for a happier consumer, in the long run.

RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 10:07:13 AM #
Really. I own a Sony Clie and love it, but heck, I'd drop it in a minute if one of the other manufacturers came up with anything close. Quite simply because Sony support SUCKS! I've had several experiences with it, and they weren't fun, although finally resolved to my satisfaction.

There is one big reason Palm still wins over PPC and that is PRICE. People buy Palms because they just want the basics and can get a Palm very cheap compared to the PPCs...particularly the new m130 in color now! These new Sonys certainly won't change THAT.


RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
TDS Computer @ 5/1/2002 10:08:10 AM #
Thank you, Ed, for finally responding to the Sony zealot who constantly rehashes the same statements over and over. Maybe coming from you, he will stop.

Does this handheld feel big and unwieldy? It almost looks like it would be awkward to use, considering its length and the built in keyboard. Also, is it "slippery" like the 760 series was? I actually had one slip out of my hands once because it was so smooth.

The feature set is gorgeous on this unit.

Visit us at www.tdscomputer.com

RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 10:20:38 AM #
I looked at one at CompUsa yesterday. Unfortunately it was not charged so I couldn't look at the screen. It is very well made and looks nice. I didn't like the keyboard at all and would not use it. I think the twist style is just a way to come up with a place to put a big battery for that huge screen. I also think the battery life would be very limiting. I wouldn't buy one though because OS 5 is so close and I'm finally getting tired after years of buying the latest coolest handheld.
RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 10:38:30 AM #
Unit looks nice, but I too would like to know how a seven ounce unit feels in one's trouser pocket. (Too big obviously for a shirt pocket). Having recently bought a 6 oz plus Handera, it feels noticeably heavier than the 4.9 oz Palm units. A PDA that stays at home because it's too big is useless, no matter how good the feature set is....
Come on, people...
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 10:56:55 AM #
Let's put aside our pride and hatred, or whatever. Sony has put great effort and ideas into its new handhelds. Whether they will be hot cakes, we don't know. But we know PDAs' limits have not be reached yet. Hopefully Palm or Sony will include these niche features (camera, keyboard) and sell the units at an affordable price.
RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
Beavis @ 5/1/2002 11:10:46 AM #
Do away with anonymous postings and this board will become more civilized.

RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
nategall @ 5/1/2002 11:34:05 AM #
>And just how many people do you think are going to
>shell out $500-$600? GET REAL!!!

me. But see, this is the great thing about a consumer driven market place. A company puts a product out there and it either sinks or swims. Even a small company can put out a "better" product then the big boys if they work hard at it.

thank god for
1. the free market
2. palm allowing others to use their os
3. diversity
4. Ed and the kickin' reviews. (thanks ed!)

"why can't we all... just get along?"

nategall says "blah!"

RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 12:17:03 PM #
Sorry! Sony geek. This expensive model with a useless camera might also go tank in 6 months. Clampshell KB is good only for notebook, but does not make handheld more handheld. Extra 2 oz and size is painful ego to carry.
RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 12:59:28 PM #
My response to the above message:

Yes you'reright 16Ounce egoheavey Mountain Dew good.
Homer mad less filling great screen market recovering.

Grammar Enlish important not.

RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 1:14:34 PM #
LOL!!! Now that is funny!!
RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 1:54:49 PM #
Some people live for their work, others work to live!
Some people use their PDA to aid and support the process of working to live. Others appear to live for their PDA.
The best innovators have used the humble reverse side of a cigarrete pack to initiate and record a spark of genious.
Lets all keep our feet firmly on terra firma and use the device that suits our own particular purpose, to our own particualr advantage.
JPN.
RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
Pentagonal @ 5/1/2002 2:16:34 PM #
Some people constantly wait in the wings to be the first to pounce on a new story here, and it is always some inflammatory nonsence intended to drive the quality of the conversation right into the ground. Get a job!

RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 2:30:35 PM #
I have a job ( the work to live type) aided comprehensively by a well used HE330. I have also tried out numerous other PDA's and believe simple is best.
My point is that I use the HE330 as a tool rather than a toy. On that basis I feel strongly that it has advantages whose value have some way to run. I also feel strongly that the PDA concept is to simplify one's life, rather than add another layer of complexity. After all, the 'A' does stand for something.

JPN

RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 4:38:50 PM #
ED!!!! THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU!!!!

I think there's some lone goon out there basically sitting on PIC, constantly refreshing the page, hoping to read a Sony story so he can be the first to post, and wants to run the same old line about Sony wiping out Palm, Handspring, and HandEra. Heck, he's been up to it for over a year now, and his "prophecy" still seems untrue.

But hey! I think you finally stopped him! And for that, I offer a HUGE "Thank You!"

RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 4:58:13 PM #
Palm didn't put hires and ARM support in PalmOS5 so that only Sony would use it. We're definitely going to see beefed up Palms in the future. Does it pay to have the goodies now? People shelling out $ for the new clies won't be able to upgrade to OS5 so what's the point? There are very few games and other multimedia apps that take advantage of the hires and when Palm sets the new hires standard I doubt people will develop for just the Clies
RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 5:13:42 PM #
Handera is going to go because they are ****ing stupid. They had innovations 1 year to 18 months ahead of all other PalmOS suppliers and they did nothing but shoot themselves in the foot one time after another.

Even now they have old hardware that is getting older by the minute and yet they say or do nothing to help themselves or the people who bought into thier equipment. Glad to see them go!! Sony will RULE!!!!!!

RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 5:34:45 PM #
Ouch, you used the 'F' word.

Sony already rule in many fields. I have one of their excellent widescreen tv's. Others make excellent w/s tv's too. They dont' however ask you to pay $600 or 700 (in my part of the world) for a device that can double for the remote control they have already sold you with your tv.
You still miss the point.
A carpenter does not need a digital clock built into the handle of his hammer, yet some hammers are built better than others. Sony may rule in the world of those who buy a PDA to change their TV channel, or photograph their pet cat ( or is it a badger?). Other innovators will always emerge to conceptualise, design, and develop for a particular part of a very large market.
JPN.

RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
Ed @ 5/1/2002 6:07:26 PM #
> Sony will RULE!!!!!!

Wow, I made that beautiful appeal for reason and yet we still get replies like this one. Should I repost the entire thing and hope this guy reads it this time? Maybe I'll just shorten it. All of us are tired of "Sony Rules!! Everyone else drools!!!" It isn't true and its sophomoric. What the Palm platform needs is competition, not one company making all the handhelds. Diversity is the killer app.

---
News Editor

RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 6:50:07 PM #
yeah yeah Ed, you said it! err one question tho... doesnt sophmoric mean wise but stupid??
RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
Ed @ 5/1/2002 7:23:45 PM #
Sorry, no. According to Dictionary.com, it means, "Exhibiting great immaturity and lack of judgment"

http://www.dictionary.com/search?q=sophomoric

---
News Editor

RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 7:28:19 PM #
I like the whole idea of a rotating screen.

Like Ed said, it's its own case, and rotating it isnt any more inconvenient than opening a case.

Remember back when sony put those things on camcorders..
Now they all have one!

RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 8:52:53 PM #
Gotcha Ed, its just that the word roots confused me... soph=wise more=stupid
RE: Palm, Handspring and Handera are History
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 9:16:24 PM #
Usually I actually prefer a little lively discussion. Meaning, I don't immediately call someone who happens to disagree or have a disparaging view a "troll". this and most other boards need to get over that term and quit using it everytime someone bags their PDA of choice. Engage them on the points. If they clearly have no basis or knowledge to back up their claim, they maybe they're a troll.

That having been said, some of the Sonyistas should take a stroll over to the PPC boards or even the so-called "neutral" sites like PDA Buzz and listen to what those folks have to say about the Palm OS your Clies use. Not only are most of them living in denial, but they vehemently hate the Palm OS and are quite smug about it. It might cause you take on a little unity with the rest of the Palm, Handspring, Handera, etc. users out there.

Going forward, the OS is the most important thing for Palm the combined company. The OS dominates the PDA world (PPC is far, far from a threat) and has the potential to run most any small digital device in the world.

Ok, speech over.

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