Those wonderful people at Dynamism have lent us a software-customized Sharp Zaurus SL-C750 to play with for a few weeks. I was very eager to get my hands on this device and my initial impressions are very good. Well, to be quite honest, this device blew me away along with all my iPaq and Axim-toting co-workers, the moment I unpacked it...
The SL-C750 is a clamshell design with a rotating screen, allowing the device to be used in landscape (where it looks like a very small notebook) or portrait mode (where it looks more like a generic PDA). In landscape the screen resolution is 640x480, and the brightness and clarity of this screen is absolutely outstanding. This is by far the best display I've seen on a handheld device.
The build quality is far better than the SL-5000 series Zaurus PDAs. The hard plastic case feels really rugged, and it snaps closed with a very reassuring "clunk". The keyboard has really surprised me; in all the pictures I've seen, it looked like a nasty membrane keyboard but in reality it is a very nice, usable keyboard.
Here's a quick screen shot of the Applications Tab, which is similar to the SL-5600 but rendered at about twice the resolution. Note that I added tkcEditor from theKompany so I could play with some bash scripts on the way home from work; this added the first tab with the angry face icon. The responsiveness of the Qtopia user interface is very good. Click on the image to see it unscaled at 640x480 (but then imagine it being 3.5 inches diagonally).
I quickly fired up a terminal and played around with the linux OS a little; on the software level it seems very similar to the SL-5600 and earlier 5000 series devices from Sharp. As always, if you choose to ignore the linux OS you still have a powerful PDA in your hands. I think the SL-C750 has the honour of being the first PDA for which screen grabs need to be scaled down to fit the 500-pixel BargainPDA format! As above, click on the image to see it unscaled.
The Dynamism team have basically taken a Japan-only device and translated a large part of it to English language and US usability. Although the translation is not perfect or complete, they have done a remarkable job. The balance between this impressive hardware and the installed software is something we will be looking at in our full review of the device, coming soon. And yes, you may hold your breath.
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