MobileInfocenter
Sony Clie UX50 First Impressions
By: Ryan Kairer
September 15, 2003

Sony Clie PEG-UX50 ~ Click for largerDesign
Immediately, the first thing that struck me about the UX50 was it's size. The thing is really small, much smaller than I imagined it would be from the pictures. It's only slightly larger than a compacted Tungsten T. It is compact, solid and well constructed device without being too heavy or bulky.

The UX50 physical dimensions are 4" x 3.4" x .7" inches (103 x 86.5 x 17.9mm). It weighs 6.2 ounces (175 grams). It is very pocketable and won't put a big drag on your pants. The casing is a light silver color and is made of magnesium. It is very smooth and is both scratch and fingerprint resistant.

The UX50 features a wide screen landscape orientated design. The screen lifts up to reveal the keyboard. The screen can also be rotated around to use the handheld in a tablet like manner, but you still have to use it in a horizontal orientation. The screen is surrounded by a black, presumably magnesium border. To the right are two status LED's that indicate a bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection.

The hinge is a bit like a cylinder, the left end hides the swivel camera and the other side has a dedicated capture button for the camera and a 1/8th inch headphone jack on the side. Underneath is the typical logo area, the speaker and the battery contacts for the cradle.

The left side of the UX50 has the power/hold slider and a bicolor LED to indicate power and recharging status. Next is the IR port, which is a standard IR port, not the enhanced one that sony typically uses. Next is a the mini usb port which is hidden by a attached flip out cover. To sync the device you have to use this port as the cradle does not include a syncing port.

Coming around to the front of the handheld on the immeadiate left is a rather large lanyard loop. I guess the Japanese really like to wear their PDA's around their neck or belt or something, because I have never understood the constant need for these loops on a pda. Next are three small openings for the internal microphone, a jog dial, back button and three application buttons (web, email and the datebook). The right edge contains the stylus silo. Around to the right side is the memory stick slot and two more LED's, one for memory stick activity and a recording indicator.

Sony Clie PEG-UX50 ~ Click for largerSony includes a new flat cradle, which is more like a docking station. However, it is only used to attach the power chord to charge the handheld. The included stylus is sony's small toothpick thin metal stylus. It has been miniaturized even further with a manual expand and compact design. IMHO, this is the worst iteration of a stylus ever.

Keyboard
The built in keyboard is the largest and most spacious found on a clie. There are 5 rows of keys with a dedicated number row at the top. Using the keyboard is not half as bad as some early reports would lead you to believe. The keys themselves are large and are the same silver color as the case. They have an orange backlight for night typing that will shut off after 10 seconds of inactivity. Overall, the keyboard is comfortable and easy to use with your thumbs, however it is far from perfect.

The keys do offer some tactile feedback, but not very much. The keys are large enough that even with pretty big fingers you won't have a problem with unwanted letters and hitting two keys at a time. The keys are absolutely flush with the casing and do not really protrude at all. While the actual keys themselves are not raised, the different rows of the keyboard are slightly pronounced. This makes it easier to tell where your fingers are but doesn't do much for the ease of pressing the keys.

One final note is that Sony needs to put much more work into using the keyboard to do common task that require a stylus tap. There are too many instances where you have to grab the stylus and readjust your hands, just to do a single tap on the screen. With as large a keyboard area that sony had to work with I'm very surprised they left out a d-pad that could control on screen events and taps.

Sony Clie PEG-UX50 ~ Click for largerOne major design discussion that takes some of the "fun" out of the device is the lack of the four standard palm os buttons and the up and down hardware buttons. Sony only includes three application buttons and decided to leave out the traditional up/down buttons. There are software up/down buttons on the on screen "status bar" or you can also use the keyboard for page up/down. However those two workarounds are not always a suitable substitute for the real buttons. Because of the lack of buttons, many games will be incompatible, uncontrollable or might even be uncomfortable to play.

Processor and Memory
The UX50 has a system total of 104 MB or RAM. Of that 16 MB is available for traditional storage of files and programs, another 16MB is used for the dynamic heap. Another 16 MB or non-volatile memory is dedicated for system back up to save the contents of RAM when the battery is low. Finally, there is an additional 29 MB available for media storage, that acts as a traditional memory stick and allows you to store native pictures and music files.

Sony Clie PEG-UX50 ~ Click for largerThe UX50 debuts Sony's new handheld processor system, suitably dubbed the handheld engine. The engine combines a Sony manufactured ARM926 based processor, a Digital Signal Processor (DSP), and a CXD2230GA graphics accelerator. The processor speed varies between 8 MHz and 123 MHz, depending on the demand. The system and the dedicated graphics chip support a version of OpenGL.

So far I can say that the performance is just about on par with Clie's that run the 200mhz XScale PXA255 processor. I've yet to test some of the more demanding games, but I've yet to experience any slowdown. The system ran great while I surfed the net over Wi-Fi and listened to a mp3 at the same time with no lag.

Screen
The screen is a swivel design that can be rotated and used in both the flip up and tablet mode. It is a TFT color backlit display with 480x320 pixel, 65k color screen. The screen itself is very small and the pixels are packed in densely, creating a very crisp display.

The screen is bright and very evenly lit, there are no "stage lights" or light waves in the display at all. The screen is pretty bright, though at full strength is a little less bright than it's NX series cousins. It is best suited to indoor and office use, and slightly fades in sunlight, but is still usable.

Now here comes the kicker, the display can only be used in the horizontal landscape mode. While some may gawk at the lack of a portrait mode, I've found with use that most of the time I am using the keyboard and only need landscape mode. However, it would be nice to have a portrait mode so you can use the device like the traditional clamshell clies in tablet mode. I hope Sony can address this with a software update and add screen rotation.

Sony has updated all of the core palm os applications to take advantage of the widescreen display. Programs that work with the high res+ format will not work with the new screen orientation and must be make "UX" aware. All other "square" apps will run just fine, with the input area and status bar on the right or left side. Most of the Sony specific software has also been updated to take advantage of the screen including the movie player, Netfront, Flash, Clie Mail and others.

Wireless
The UX50 has both integrated Wi-Fi (802.11b) and Bluetooth (v1.1) wireless. The UX40 model only includes Bluetooth and is $100 less. Having dual wireless is really excellent and very convent. You can use high speed Wi-Fi from home or the office and use Bluetooth with a mobile phone while on the road. The Wi-Fi range is excellent and is much more receptive than the range of the Palm Tungsten C.

Sony Clie PEG-UX50 ~ Click for largerThe included web browser, Netfront v3, takes advantage of the wide screen and does a great job at rendering most websites. It is a proxy-less browser and supports animated gifs, tables, CSS and javascript. On the lowest zoom setting some sites actually render almost exactly as they would on a desktop due to the widescreen layout. Just check out the picture of PalmInfocenter on the UX.

Camera
The digital camera is a 300k pixel camera and has 3x digital zoom. The camera supports up to VGA (640x480) resolution, You can also record and play back video (MPEG4, 30 fps, 160x112). While not the highest resolution camera out there on a PDA the UX takes excellent pictures for a VGA camera. It easily bests most VGA camera phones as well as the Zire 71 in both quality and color accuracy. Here is a unedited sample image.

Battery Life
So far I've only been using the UX50 for less than a week so it's hard to make an informed battery life call. So far I've gotten roughly 4-5 hours of use out of a full charge. That is with heavy use, with lots or wireless and camera action going on.

For those that can't live with the standard battery life, There is an extended battery clip on accessory, the PEGA-ED40 that will increase battery life up to 3 times the standard capacity. It costs $120 and attaches to the bottom of the handheld.

Sony Clie PEG-UX50 ~ Click for largerPreliminary Conclusions
So far I have really enjoyed using the UX50. In fact, it's the first handheld to come out that I'd consider replacing my Tungsten T with. The dual wireless, camera, great screen and large keyboard in a small form factor make a very useful and productive device. At $700 the handheld is not cheap, but you get a lot and you pay a lot. Stay tuned for more in our upcoming in-depth full review.

The devices can be ordered from SonyStyle.com. The PEG-UX50 retails for $699.99 and the UX40 is $599.99 USD. Some online retailers are offering the UX-50 starting at $629 USD.

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review

Gar @ 9/15/2003 1:06:50 PM #
Wow... that is quite a review. Thanks! I will just send folks I talk to here rather than try to say it all myself. Keep up the great work.

-----------------
My wife has to sell a lot of candles (www.ccandles.com) to buy her new Palm.
RE: review
TTrules @ 9/26/2003 5:52:25 PM #
Must...have....

RE: review
rw747 @ 9/29/2003 5:46:19 AM #
Just seen the thing in the flesh as it were and was mightily impressed. I went back to the internet to check here and read the reviews which seemed to be fairly black and white. The white guys really liked it and talked my language as a really portable unit that works with both wi-fi and bluetooth.

One guy mentioned the T3? What is that or rumoured to be that?

I have a T2 now which is fine except for the damn keyboard which used to be a novelty but is just a plain nuisance carrying around. No probs for smaller keyboards for me as long as the things work.

Application compatibility do concern me. I must have Datebook, SplashID, Docs to Go 6 plus email and web browser.

Richard
Richard

RE: review
rw747 @ 10/5/2003 12:36:47 PM #
I bought the UX50 and there are nice things and not so nice.

First off the migration route sounds really nasty. Sony say 'we don't support Palm upgrades' and of course vica versa. NOT good news.

It seems that I cannot have both a T2 and UX50 on the same computer.

If some kind soul can advise otherwise this would be excellent.

Richard

Short, feature rich but...

a3 @ 9/15/2003 1:16:25 PM #
The width and the lack of portrait mode makes me look in another direction...

____________________________________________
Former Tapwave's Helix fan, now a T|T3 fan.
RE: Short, feature rich but...
Palm_Otaku @ 9/16/2003 12:20:38 AM #
What are the actual dimensions of the display (relative, say, to the NX80V shown in one of the photos)?

RE: Short, feature rich but...
TTrules @ 9/26/2003 5:48:22 PM #
The size of the screen is 3.2 inches. That's .6 inches less than the 3.8 inch screens of the previous clies.

One Palm to rule them all!

-Sniffer

lanyard loop, keyboard, interface

mpermann @ 9/15/2003 1:16:23 PM #
Just a guess, but I think a good use of the lanyard loop would not be to hang the UX50 from your belt/neck, but to secure it to your wrist. In case you dropped it, the loop around your wrist would prevent the fall. Thinking about how many times I've dropped my Tungsten T (many more than my other Palms thanks to the fidgety slider and snap cover) that might not be such a bad idea.

I played with one of these at CompUSA. Couple things bothered me:

1) I have to look at the keyboard to type. I am a touch typist and I like to look at what I'm "writing". Graffiti offers this advantage--I don't have to look at my hand when entering data. I wonder if you'd eventually be able to type w/o looking on this (or any thumb-style) keyboard. Can anyone who has owned a Blackberry, Treo or other thumboard PDA tell me if they learned to type without looking?

2) Didn't like the unfamiliarity of the proprietary Sony interface. I've heard you can switch the UX50 to the standard Palm app launcher. Would be great if the full review commented on this.

RE: lanyard loop, keyboard, interface
Admin @ 9/15/2003 1:28:15 PM #
yes, you can switch to the standard palm os launcher. After a bit of getting used to the 3d launcher is alright, but a little gimmicky. I've got a number of things I will go into further on the full review, I'll try to cover all questions so if you have any post here.
RE: lanyard loop, keyboard, interface
GenericMan @ 9/15/2003 1:39:45 PM #
The lanyard is mainly for personalization. In Japan, Hong Kong, and elsewhere in Asia, everyone has some kind of charm or decorative strap on their cell phone. Putting a lanyard loop on PDAs is just an extension of this.

The manual for the Japanese Game Boy Advance actually contains a warning against swinging the GBA around by an attached strap. In addition to the GBA and Clie, I've seen lanyard loops on my Sony digital camera and my Japanese-English translator.

RE: lanyard loop, keyboard, interface
Raptor1313666 @ 9/15/2003 5:02:16 PM #
Concerning the lanyard loop, I used the heck out of it with my CLIE T-615C. The device was nice and thin, but also a little slick. A wrist-strap wrapped around my palm (my hand, not my PDA) did wonders for "holding" security.

I cease using the loops when I get my case (typically a Vaja), but in the interim it works very well.

-Richard "Raptor" Powell

"Nice guys may finish last, but you know, the company's much better back here."

RE: lanyard loop, keyboard, interface
Best of Bread @ 9/15/2003 8:43:53 PM #
Perman,

I used to be an avid Blackberry user. You can type without looking with the Blackberry keyboard. I'm not certain if the form factor of the UX50 would allow the same accuracy.

John

Pilot 1000/Palm Pro/Palm VII/m505/Tungsten T(with T68i)

RE: lanyard loop, keyboard, interface
Wasobi33 @ 12/6/2003 10:01:05 PM #
I really like Rhino skin cases, theyre tough and they leave the ports accessable. http://www.saunders-usa.com/rhinoskin/

Im looking into the UX50 for my first PDA for internet, music, and video viewing use. I have e-mailed about the RhinoSkin case for the UX50, no reply yet.

Choice is an illusion created between those with power, and those without.

Gilding the Lilly?

flevy @ 9/15/2003 1:26:50 PM #
In my experience, a PDA is attractive because it performs a small number of essential functions well which allows it to have excellent ergonomics. With all due respect to Sony's engineering excellence, the UX50 looks less like a PDA and more like a laptop designed for a hamster.

RE: Gilding the Lilly?
Foo Fighter @ 9/15/2003 1:33:27 PM #
It reminds me of Barbi laptop.

-------------------------------
My blog: www.pocketfactory.com
RE: Gilding the Lilly?
robrecht @ 9/15/2003 1:47:17 PM #
LOL

Thanks, robrecht
RE: Gilding the Lilly? Mine went back...
JPVann @ 9/15/2003 11:46:13 PM #
I had mine for 5 days - found some major issues I could not live with (though having wi-fi was tough to give up!):

1. Screen too small for everyday, hard use.
2. Having to pull out the damn stylus just to move from field to field is STUPID! Tab, arrows do nothing in most apps.
3. Found I coulod not get in and get out like I can on my Tungsten T - and its what the heck I own a PDA for.

Bottom line - nice toy if you have the money; not very useful for someone hard charging in sales like me all day - I already have a wireless laptop if I need one.


Jer 23:29

RE: Gilding the Lilly?
painted_dog @ 9/16/2003 7:53:54 AM #
I too found this annoying then someone (sorry i forget who) from a previous article posted said they thought that "ctrl N" & "ctrl P" (next & previous) jump you up & down lines in the forms. I went to Comp USA to try this & actually its "ctrl O" & "ctrl P" but they work !

-painted dog

How do apps translate onto the screen?

Louis Berk @ 9/15/2003 1:52:54 PM #
I read another review elsewhere which concerned me about how apps translate to the landscape screen. If this device is to be useful to me I'd want to be sure that DocumentsToGo, ToDoPlus, Verichat, VersaMail et al ran effectively.

The combined Bluetooth/WiFi is VERY attractive (Palm, please note in your forthcoming products).

Louis

For $700 this device still needs...

phoneboy @ 9/15/2003 2:13:24 PM #
Great Review.

1. Of course adding portrait support is a no brainer. C'mon Sony, start using your brain.
2. The lack of the traditional 6 applciation and up/down buttons is disturbing. Think of all the games you can no longer play on this.

But wait! Look at all of the real estate around the screen! Putting application/up/down buttons on the 320 side of the screen would make using it tablet style in portrait mode a dream.

Fix those two shortcomings, Sony, and you can have my $700. (Even though that would still be overpriced.) Please hurry, my NR-70 is getting old.

RE: For $700 this device still needs...
Beavis @ 9/15/2003 2:32:40 PM #
Don't wait for Sony to fix any of these shortcomings in a software update. They will fix it in the UX70.

RE: For $700 this device still needs...
helf @ 9/15/2003 2:38:46 PM #
You mean traditional 4 app buttons and up and down.. not 6...

And the hting needs a heck of a lot more ram. Why in the hell did sony give their 700buck unit 16megs of normal ram? wtf? Should have at least 32 if not 64-128..

Look like I'll pass this up and get a 128meg zodiac and a wifi sd card when they come out.

RE: For $700 this device still needs...
jamesgood72 @ 9/15/2003 2:57:05 PM #
The game situation is not as bad as you think, although not as good as it could be. The up/down rocker is recreated in the up and down arrows on the keyboard (just above the hardware buttons). With NesEm, for instance, you can program quite a comfortable selection of keys for it.

One extra hardware button would have been good though.

-James.

RE: For $700 this device still needs...
jamesgood72 @ 9/15/2003 3:00:11 PM #
Oh, and Helf, the 16MB for programs is more that I need. As for data (pictures, mp3's, videos, emulator roms, word docs, spreadsheets, etc), memory sticks are more than convenient. I don't want to have to Hotsync each time I add MP3's etc, it's much better to swap the memory stick into my PC...

My cents on that (even re-occuring) debate.

-James.

RE: For $700 this device still needs...
dstrauss @ 9/15/2003 3:06:42 PM #
Price is a real "ouch." This looks to be more of a laptop replacement than most. True, it's not comparable, but a very small, light notebook (Best Buy & Sam's) is the Avertec with 30mb hd, 256kb; DVD/CDRW; 12" screen; under 4 lbs for $849. True, not equal at all by comparison and portability, but the UX make sit look like a great bargain.

RE: For $700 this device still needs...
arielb @ 9/15/2003 7:08:34 PM #
16 megs would be more than you need-yeah if you only had to pay 200 bucks for it. See you always have to compare the features with the price

RE: For $700 this device still needs...
phoneboy @ 9/15/2003 7:12:50 PM #
"You mean traditional 4 app buttons and up and down.. not 6..."

It's 6 buttons including the up and down buttons.

RE: For $700 this device still needs...
theonlymorgan @ 9/16/2003 9:41:56 PM #
Only 16mb?
Please, I am hoping for a 1 GIG Palm Soon. I can collect, and collect all kinds of Medical Apps. I have always fought to stay 1 mb under my max ram. just so I can have some breathing room. Please, get serious about making these things.

only 300k Camara? same as above, please start putting stuff in these things.

hey by the way, I can not fit my laptop into my pants pocket, I can fit a PDA in there. I use my PDA as a truely mobile device, and carry it around all the time. whip it out, put a little something in it, and then go on, I can't imagine, taking out my entire Laptop to add my neice's powderpuff football game into my laptop.


RE: For $700 this device still needs...
GearHead @ 9/18/2003 11:04:14 AM #
I loved it : Hamster LapTop! This was Great!

I don't hink I am going to shell out $700 hard earned dollars for this. I rather wait for SONY to come up with somethingelse and drop the price on this one...

Still very happy with my Tungsten T...

Free 802.11 No More Wires!!!
Support your local WAN!

RE: For $700 this device still needs...
Wasobi33 @ 12/6/2003 10:04:03 PM #
Actually, you can get this PDA for $513 + $50 rebate so its not that bad for Sony quality.

Choice is an illusion created between those with power, and those without.

Memory?

Tere @ 9/15/2003 3:01:03 PM #

The mempry doesn't add up. 16x3+27=77. There's still 27 of the 104 Mb unaccounted for.


- Tere

RE: Memory?
Tere @ 9/15/2003 3:07:52 PM #

I meant 16x3+29=77. Sorry.

- Tere
RE: Memory?
Admin @ 9/15/2003 3:56:52 PM #
the rest is likely the Palm OS itself and the bundled sony applications
RE: Memory?
jamesgood72 @ 9/15/2003 4:04:09 PM #
8MB embedded memory in CPU.
16MB user RAM.
16MB heap.
16MB backup memory.
19MB internal memory stick.
The rest is preinstalled apps, I believe (Netfront, etc).

-James.

RE: Memory?
naturefreak85 @ 9/15/2003 8:54:32 PM #
still doesnt add up that adds up to only 85 megs of memory what about the other 19? and it is 29 megs for memory stick not 19 megs of memory stick

RE: Memory?
Fidel @ 9/16/2003 5:09:00 PM #
It is:

8MB RAM embedded with the processor
+32MB RAM on the 'mainboard'
-16MB for applications
-16MB for dynamic heap
+64MB FlashROM
-16MB for backup of application-RAM from above
-29MB for 'internal MS'
-19MB for OS and pre-installed apps in ROM
8+32+64=104.

Also, the 29/19MB for MS/OS+apps differs in size between japanese, US and european versions. I believe the 29/19 is for Japan, the US (only english) ROM is smaller, thus leaving more space for the internal 'MS', the european version has only 26MB for this, because there the OS is included in three languages (english, french, german).

Not good for games?????

Cheetah @ 9/15/2003 3:03:06 PM #
This is a killer for me...so close...

Maybe the version will have portrait and keys for games!

RE: Not good for games?????
Edward Green @ 9/15/2003 4:52:46 PM #
An no Sony Gamepad either. Sigh.

Edward Green
--
http://www.khite.co.uk
RE: Not good for games?????
Wasobi33 @ 12/6/2003 10:05:31 PM #
Its funny how Sony made a gamepad for the really cheap PDA, which you probably couldnt play games on anyway :-P. Too bad its not compatible with the other models.

Choice is an illusion created between those with power, and those without.

Bleh

tthiel @ 9/15/2003 4:32:03 PM #
I am totally underwhelmed by this device. Tiny not very good screen. Bulky not very good keyboard...$699???? Puh-lease.

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