Brighthand’s First Impressions of Sony’s PEG-UX50

by Reads (34,641)

The PEG-UX50 is a new handheld from Sony that offers an impressive collection of features, like both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, a high-resolution screen, a large thumboard, plenty of memory, and a camera. However, all this comes for a high price: $700.

I’ve only had a UX50 for a few days so I’ll just cover some of its most significant features at this time. A full review will be available in the near future.

Size

I can tell you the dimensions of the UX50 but that won’t give you a real impression of how small this handheld feels in your hands… and in your pocket. Recently, Sony’s high-end handhelds have crept up in size until they have reached the point where they are barely pocketable. The UX50 is a strong reversal of this trend. It is amazingly small for the features it offers.

Honestly, I can hardly believe Sony was able to get a high-resolution screen, two types of wireless networking, and all the rest into a handheld that is 4 inches by 3.4 inches by .7 inches (103mm x 86.5mm x 17.9mm) and weighs 6.2 ounces (175 grams).

Screen

However, in order to make the UX50 as small as it is, the designers had to make some compromises. The most significant of these is that Sony reduced the size of the screen. While the UX50’s screen has the same 320-by-480 pixel resolution as the company’s other high-end handhelds, it’s physically much smaller. The recently-released NX80V has a screen that is 2.15 by 3.1 inches, while the UX50’s screen is 1.8 by 2.7 inches. This means the UX50’s screen has only about 70% of the area of the NX80V’s.

While that sounds bad, in real-world use the UX50’s screen is quite usable. Text, even on the smallest font, is easy for me to read. And pictures even look better, because pixels are smaller and closer together. In short, the smaller screen isn’t something that fills me with joy, but it’s something I could live with.

Something that does fill me with joy is the landscape-orientation of the screen. Being able to look at documents and web pages without having to constantly scroll left and right is wonderful. However, it was a mistake to have the screen only support landscape mode and not also portrait mode. This device would be much more useful if it could do both. Fortunately, third-party developers are already picking up Sony’s slack. I predict that many applications, including application launchers, will be available in the near future that will offer both portrait and landscape for the UX50.

Text Entry

Because the UX50 has a landscape orientation, it has room for a wide keyboard. This makes it the best built-in keyboard Sony has offered so far.

The keys are large and well spaced. They are also on ridges, raising them a bit off the face of the handheld. Even after minimal practice, I can enter text faster with a UX50 than I can with the thumboard on a NX80V.

One of the best things about the keyboard is Sony finally realized we need “sticky” keys. This means you no longer have to hold the Shift key down in order to capitalize a letter. It sounds like a small change, but it adds significantly to the keyboard’s usability.

Of course, the keyboard isn’t your only option. The UX50 allows you to enter text in a virtual Graffiti area. Because the screen has a landscape orientation, the Graffiti area is on the side, rather than on the bottom. (It is normally on the right but can be moved to the left for the convenience of lefties.) As part of its new arrangement, the number area is now above the text area, rather than to its side. After some practice I’m finally getting used to having everything moved around.

Buttons

The buttons on the UX50 are in a very unusual place: along the very front. This allows them to be accessible when the device is in both tablet and clamshell modes.

This handheld has fewer buttons than most. Instead of the usual four buttons for launching applications, the UX50 has only three. And it has no Up/Down buttons at all. This is going to make playing many games quite difficult.

Also along the front edge are the Jog Dial and Back button. This is kind of an odd placement for these and they aren’t tremendously convenient to get to there. They would be well placed if this handheld could be used in portrait mode, but it can’t. As it is, the Jog Dial and Back button would be better off where the UX50’s camera is now.

Wireless Networking

One of the best parts of the UX50 is that it offers both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, allowing you to surf the Web or get your email from just about anywhere.

Wi-Fi is great when you are in range of an access point. You can get one of these for your home for a fairly low cost and there might also be one at your office. In addition, numerous coffee shops and bookstores have them.

The UX50’s Wi-Fi range is quite good. It can connect to my cheapie access point from anywhere in my house and only peters out at the end of my driveway.

Wi-Fi isn’t available everywhere, though. That’s where the built-in Bluetooth comes in. You can use it to connect wirelessly to a mobile phone and access the Internet from anywhere you have mobile phone service. Of course, your phone has to be Bluetooth enabled.

Once you are connected, you will enjoy surfing on the UX50’s browser, which allows you to surf the Web in landscape mode. There are still plenty of pages that are wider than the UX50’s screen, but the amount of scrolling I have to do has definitely been reduced.

Availability

Last week, a few lucky people were able to find the PEG-UX50 in stores, and Sony began to ship them to people who had made pre-orders. Now the device is widely available and anyone who wants one should be able to get their hands on one.

SonyStyle, the company’s official store, has the UX50 in stock and orders made today can arrive tomorrow.

Shopper.com lists a number of web retailers that also have this handheld in stock, including CDW, eCost, PC Mall, and several more. While most places are asking the full suggested price of $700, several are offering it at a discount, one for as low as $620.

For those who would prefer to do their shopping at brick-and-mortar stores, the UX50 can be found at many Best Buy, CompUSA, Circuit City, and Fry’s stores. The web sites for most of these can show the locations that have them in stock.

The UX40, a similar model with Bluetooth but no Wi-Fi, still isn’t expected to be available until later this month.

Non-conclusion

So far the UX50 seems like an impressive device that offers a lot in a small package, but I haven’t had it for long enough to draw any firm conclusions.

I’m looking forward to doing some additional testing, especially of its battery life and multimedia capabilities. Look for a complete review of the UX50 in a week or so.

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