Sony PEG-SJ30 Review, Part I

By Ed Hardy
News Editor

Sony has been revamping its entry-level and mid-range models. As part of this, it has created the $300 PEG-SJ30, the first color, mid-range model it has ever released.

With the introduction of the SJ30, Sony is shuffling its handheld series around a bit. For most of this year, it has had the very high-end NR series, the high-end to mid-range T series, and the entry-level S series. The SJ30 is the first S-series device to debut at over $200, and quite a bit over $200 at that. Therefore, Sony's Clié line is currently made up of the very high-end NR series, the high-end T series, and the mid-range to entry-level S series.

I haven't had a chance to fully test the SJ30 so this will be part one of a two part review.

The Screen
One area Sony didn't scrimp on with the SJ30 is the screen. As near as I can tell, it is the same screen as on the T665C. In short, it is beautiful.

It is 320 by 320 pixels, of course, and has none of the ghosting that the new monochrome S-series models have. It reproduces colors very well and doesn't have the muddy reds from the T615C.

It is not, however, perfect. Its whites are slightly blue. Not as blue as they look in the image with this review, but a touch blue. And one of the reasons I think it is the same screen as on the T665C is it has the same flaw: small, wavy shadows right along the bottom edge.

This screen looks best indoors but is usable outdoors, even in direct sunlight.

At 4.1 by 2.9 by .7 inches, the SJ30 isn't super slim but it is shorter than most color handhelds. It fits well in a pants pocket. That brings up an interesting point. I think a thicker handheld fits better in my hand than a very thin one. So, to me, it is a matter of tradeoffs. Very thin models ride better in my pocket but not as well in my hand, while thicker models sit well in my hand but not as well in my pocket. I'm happy there are both kinds available.

At 4.9 ounces, it is a bit heavy for me to put in a shirt pocket. Like I said, I generally carried it around in my front pants pocket.

The casing is all plastic. It is white and silver, rather than black and gray like the SL10 and SJ20. It think it looks pretty good, if not very stylish.

All of the members of the newly redesigned S series, the SL10, SJ20, and SJ30, are all exactly the same size. I don't care what some Sony websites say, I've put all three of them side by side and I know. The SJ30 even has the slight bulge the SL10 needs in order to fit its AAA batteries in. This means that all these models will be able to use the same cases.

Memory Stick Slot
One of the hallmarks of Sony's handhelds is the Memory Stick slot. This allows users to store large amounts of applications and files. They make 128 MB Memory Sticks now and Sony has laid out a timetable that has them reaching 5 GB over the coming years.

I know this sounds odd, but there are non-memory Memory Sticks. Shows that you need to be careful not to be too specific when you name your products. Anyway, you can get a camera that plugs into the Memory Stick slot and you can even order a Bluetooth module, though this sells for over $200.

Like the rest of the new S-series models, the SJ30's slot is a bit slower than average. I tested it with VFSMark and it got a score of 41 out of 100. Still, that's a bit better than the SJ20's score of 32. This means that loading applications and files off of a Memory Stick is going to be a bit slow. However, this doesn't appear to affect Kinoma; that app has no problem playing movies off Memory Sticks.

The SJ30 uses the same HotSync port that it first debuted on the T-series. Since then, it has become universal across Sony's whole line. This means that this handheld can use many of the same accessories and cables designed for other models.

What It Doesn't Have
Because the SJ30 is debuting at the same price the T615C is currently selling for, comparisons between the two are inevitable. The SJ30 lacks the enhanced speaker and enhanced infrared port of the T615C. One thing people need to accept with this model is that it isn't a successor to the T615C. The T615C started out as a high-end device and has a lot of high-end features. Only after it had been available for many months did it work its way down to a mid-range price. The SJ30 was made to be a mid-range model and doesn't have all the high-end features of the T615C. In a few months, SJ30 will be available for less than $300, while the T615C will be gone.

I hope I've given you enough info on the SJ30 to at least whet your appetite. So far, I think it stands up well against its competition, the other mid-range color models: Palm's m130 and Handspring's Treo 90.

Update: Part II of this review is also available.

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Buttons & A Case

ranbarton @ 8/30/2002 9:38:28 AM #
Ed - Any comment on the feel of the buttons? Are they as lousy as some of the Sonys have been, or are they more usable? Does it come with a case of any sort? Thanks for the first part of your review.

Ran Barton
RE: Buttons & A Case
Ed @ 8/30/2002 9:48:05 AM #
Sorry, I'd have written more on the SJ30 but I finished up this part at after 1 am last night and I've got to sleep some time.

I'll say more about the buttons and flip-case in the second part of the review. If you absolutely can't wait, read my review of the SJ20. The buttons are the same, but the flip cover is a different color:

News Editor

RE: Buttons & A Case
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/2002 11:12:26 AM #
If you're referring to the buttons on the T415 and 615, I happen to like them. Are they a gamepad? No, but most PDA users aren't using them for gaming. I like the buttons on my Tseries alot more than the Palm M100 I started with.
RE: Buttons & A Case
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/2002 12:06:00 PM #
Held one at Sonystyle in Hong Kong and found the colours and buttons to be much much better than the T-615C. Felt good holding it.

Personally I think this is a great entry color PDA.

Buy it and use it to manage your life and don't worry about the next one (ones!) coming out in a few weeks' time:)

RE: Buttons & A Case
robrecht @ 8/31/2002 6:00:59 AM #
Don't worry about the next life or future lives?

Is that because if we manage this life well we'll be assured of a good next life or does only this life matter?

Posts on this site are becoming very philosophical if a bit off topic.

Thanks, Robrecht

RE: Buttons & A Case
andrewholler @ 1/17/2003 10:58:30 PM #
It is great. What are the positives to the buttons/negatives?

I wish I could I afford one of these machines.

no infrared port???

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/2002 10:44:44 AM #
it's useless!!!!!!!
RE: no infrared port???
Ed @ 8/30/2002 10:47:56 AM #
Of course it has an infrared port. Sorry, I realize that sentence wasn't particularly clear. The adjective "enhanced" applies to both the speaker and the infrared port. The T615C has an enhanced infrared port, compared with many other Sony models. The SJ30 doesn't have this.

News Editor
RE: no infrared port???
Kaitou @ 8/30/2002 10:50:11 AM #
it has a standard infared port, it just doesn't have the enhanced remote control port that the T and NR series have

RE: no infrared port???
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/4/2002 9:03:10 AM #
Read the article...yeesh.

Looks like Sony listens

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/2002 11:13:36 AM #
We all complained about the long, narrow designs of earlier Sonys. They listened. Good for sony. I wish they would make them a little thicker to put in the equivalent of 3 batteries. I miss my Vx's 1 month battery life.
RE: Looks like Sony listens
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/2002 12:07:05 PM #
I'm not waiting for Palm's new models (dont like the sound of them anyway). Sign me up for a SJ30!
RE: Looks like Sony listens
andrewholler @ 1/18/2003 6:59:06 PM #
No kidding, the didn't make too much of a jump for the SJ20, but still this is a great device especially for the price.

Slow Screen?

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/2002 11:12:34 AM #
Does the screen take longer to update than a T615?

I thought to make these low end device that a video coprocessor was eliminated. The SL20 has a noticable delay to fill the screen with icons.

RE: Slow Screen?
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/31/2002 3:27:45 PM #
maybe you should read the article.
RE: Slow Screen?
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/5/2002 9:43:39 PM #
I've read and reread the article; it doesn't say anything about a slow screen refresh. What conclusion did you arrive at?
RE: Slow Screen?
andrewholler @ 1/17/2003 11:00:43 PM #
Slow screen, fast screen? Does it just not load very quickly?

Battery Life

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/2002 11:37:20 AM #
Sony list battery life as something like 12 hrs for an SL30 and 14 hours for a SL20. Is the difference really so small. Can the SL30 be used indoors without the backlight or with a low backlight setting?

SJ30 price?

LanMan @ 8/30/2002 12:12:39 PM #
Ed, maybe I missed it, but did you list a price for the SJ30? I know that it looks like it's going to be $300+, but how much "+" is it?

RE: SJ30 price?
Ed @ 8/30/2002 12:34:07 PM #
The official price is $300, which is what SonyStyle is offering it for. I looked around to see if any of the webstores that offer handhelds have the SJ30 yet, hoping I could suggest one with a lower price, but couldn't find any that list it yet.

News Editor
RE: SJ30 price?
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/2002 12:37:03 PM # list the unit at $299.99.
RE: SJ30 price?
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/4/2002 12:10:15 PM #
with some coupon codes you can get it at for $255.00 as of 9/3/02
RE: SJ30 price?
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/9/2002 3:28:13 PM #
Costco has them for $229. - just picked one up, NICE !!!
RE: SJ30 price?
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/9/2002 4:49:57 PM #
I went to the Costco web site and did not see anything.

Where do I find this deal?

RE: SJ30 price?
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/22/2002 2:49:30 AM #
Costco has the PEG-SJ30? Where is this Costco located?
RE: SJ30 price?
andrewholler @ 1/17/2003 11:01:19 PM #

What is the price in Canada?


I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/2002 12:12:42 PM #
Ed, one suggestion for taking your screenshots:

Try different lighting conditions.... obviously I think your screenshot is kinda poor since the PDA seems to have a blue background instead of white.

RE: Screenshots
Ed @ 8/30/2002 12:25:58 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.

News Editor

RE: Screenshots
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/2002 1:31:29 PM #
With digital cameras, it's an issue of white balance. You can either balance for ambient light (which is what Ed looks like he's doing) or for the PDA screen itself. Unless both the ambient light and the screen backlight have similar color temperatures, you'll get funny colors either way. Here's a photo I just took of my Sony 610 in a room lit by natural sunlight. I white balanced for the screen. It gives a pretty good representation of the screen image but notice the silver casing has a bluish cast.

my 610:

Read more about white balance here:

RE: Screenshots
Ed @ 8/30/2002 2:03:09 PM #
Some better pictures of the SJ30:

News Editor
RE: Screenshots
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/2002 2:13:03 PM #
Here's an example of a good pda screenshot:

RE: Screenshots
bobes @ 8/30/2002 5:44:04 PM #
it seems like there's a screw to access the battery compartment. Does that mean that the battery is replaceable?

Proof Positive!

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/2002 12:18:23 PM #
Ed does have five fingers.
RE: Proof Positive!
Ed @ 8/30/2002 12:33:07 PM #
I have to admit, I was thinking about that when I took this picture. =)

News Editor
RE: Proof Positive!
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/2002 1:36:32 PM #
Following the line of his hand I'd say the index finger is definitely real. It wouldn't be that hard to dub in a middle finger though....I'd consider a digital image supporting proof, but not absolutely positive... ;)
FAKE! [was RE: Proof Positive!]
Palm_Otaku @ 8/30/2002 2:47:17 PM #
No way! If you look carefully at the image, it is OBVIOUS that the extra finger was Photoshopped in!

Ed, you don't have to be embarrassed - I'm sure there are lots of famous people who have less than the full complement of fingers. Look at the Simpsons and Mickey Mouse for example!

Oh, and if you are miffed that I've outed your secret, feel free to give me the middle finger.

Oops, that's right - you don't HAVE a middle finger! [gd&r]

RE: Proof Positive!
abosco @ 8/30/2002 10:48:13 PM #
It can't be, because there is still a typo in the end!

whet should be wet


(This program has performed an illegal operation and needs to close) "But I only went to! Oh..."

RE: Proof Positive!
gonnabe @ 8/31/2002 11:43:09 AM #
Sorry abosco, but Ed's right with his use of "whet."

Per Webster's...

whet---to make keen; stimulate (e.g. to "whet" the appetite)

Ed's just showin' us his fine literary skills. Go, Ed!

Careful When Naming?

cyn @ 8/30/2002 12:39:35 PM #
I know this sounds odd, but there are non-memory Memory Sticks. Shows that you need to be careful not to be too specific when you name your products

Kinda like PCMCIA?

(Personal Computer Memory Card International Association)

Name's don't mean a thing, as long as you make a surname or acronym that people will use. That said - Sony needs to push using "MS" wherever possible - hopefully Microsoft doesn't smite them with their wrath.

RE: Careful When Naming?
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/2002 1:30:40 PM #
That would be a sight to behold... Microsoft battle against Sony... not that the PS/XBOX front hasn't started it already.
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