Last month, Sony unveiled two new handhelds, the PEG-UX50 and PEG-UX40. These will use a clamshell shape with a built-in keyboard and have 480-by-320 pixel screens. They will also include a digital camera. In addition, the UX50 will have integrated Bluetooth and 802.11b wireless networking capabilities, while the UX40 will include just Bluetooth.
Though not expected in the U.S. until early next month, these models are now available in Japan and therefore new information is available about them.
One of the more unusual features of the UX series is the arrangement of its memory. In addition to its 16 MB of RAM, these models offer 29 MB of additional Storage that Sony calls Internal Media. This acts like an internal Memory Stick. Japanese users have confirmed that the devices’ camera and voice recorder can save files directly to the Internal Media. It can also be used to store applications and, of course, MP3 files can be played from it. In addition, the Internal Media can be mounted on the user’s PC as a removable drive.
These models have a total of 104 MB of memory. They have 8 MB of embedded memory in the CPU. They also have 32 MB of DRAM, broken into 16 MB for the user to store applications and files, and 16 MB of heap memory, which is used by applications when they are running. They also have 64 MB of NAND Flash. Of this, 16 MB is dedicated to backup the user’s RAM, and 29 MB is the Internal Media. The final 19 MB is where the operating system and built-in applications are stored.
While the contents of the 32 MB of DRAM will be lost if the handheld’s battery is completely drained, the NAND Flash is non-volatile.
While the screen resolution on the UX50 and UX40 is the same as on some of Sony’s other models, the screens aren’t oriented in the same way. The NX and NZ models have their screens in portrait mode, which means they are longer than they are wide. The UX series uses landscape mode, so their screens are wider than they are long. These two screen orientations use different APIs, which means that apps written to take advantage of the NX series’ Hi-Res+ screens won’t be able to make use of the extra space on the UX series’ Wide-Res ones.
The UX series soon won’t be the only Palm OS models to use a 480-by-320 pixel screen. The Zodiac, Tapwave’s upcoming game-oriented handheld, will also use this resolution. In addition, Palm’s rumored T3 will also have a Hi-Res+ screen that supports landscape. However, both of these also support portrait mode, which the UX series does not.
Developers wishing to add support to their apps for the virtual Graffiti area on all three of these handhelds will have to use different APIs. According to a PalmSource spokesperson, there is no standard API for landscape-oriented screens. The company’s policy is to allow its licensees to create their own API’s necessary to support new features. This allows the licensees to develop, with PalmSource’s advice, APIs based on “real world” experience, rather than PalmSource developing an API based on theory. Later, PalmSource will create a standard API based on the experiences of all its licensees. This is the same process that led to Hi-Res and Hi-Res+ support being added to Palm OS 5.
Of course, almost all Palm OS applications will run just fine on the UX series. However, until developers customize them, they won’t be able to hide the virtual Graffiti area and take advantage of the extra-wide screens.
People in Japan report that many third-party applications have already added Wide-Res support, like AcidImage and AcidSolitaire from Red Mercury and the latest beta of Palm Reader Pro from Palm Digital Media.
While their display is the same resolution as the one used in the NX series of handhelds, Sony has reduced the physical size of the screen to 3.2 inches when measured diagonally, while the NX series’ screens are 3.8 inches. This means a UX series’ screen is about 70% the size of an NX series’ one. Those who already have one of these report that the size difference is noticeable, but acceptable.
Previous Sony handhelds did not handle audio the same way other Palm OS 5 devices did. This is why audio players written for Palm’s Tungsten T or Zire 71 don’t work on most Clies. However, the UX series includes the Palm OS Sound API, so these third-party applications now work.This means that Sony users will have access to Ogg files and variable bit rate MP3s.
Those eager to see the capabilities of the UX series’ built-in camera should visit Sonicboy’s personal web site. This has numerous pictures and a few videos taken with the device.
These models run a new processor from Sony called the Handheld Engine. This consists of a Sony-made ARM926-based processor, a Digital Signal Processor (DSP), and a CXD2230GA graphics accelerator chip. Sony says this processor has been optimized for handheld devices, focusing on battery life and speed, and it will allow Movie Player to play video at 30 fps at 320 by 240 pixels. To save power, the exact frequency of the processor varies between 8 MHz and 123 MHz, depending on the demand being placed on it.
Walter Mossberg from the Wall Stree Journal did a review of the English version of the UX50 running a beta version of its system software and applications. According to Mr. Mossberg, “Battery life varies widely, depending on your task. If you use just the Palm organizer functions, such as the address book and calendar, you should be able to go for days between charges. If you play audio constantly, even with the screen off, battery life drops to about 16 hours. Using Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet cuts battery life to just 4.5 hours.”
One of the most notable parts of the UX series is its keyboard, which is the largest ever integrated into a Sony handheld. According to users in Japan, it’s the first Clie model running OS 5 to use “sticky” keys, which means that after pressing the Shift key, the next letter pressed will be capitalized. On the NX series, the Shift Key must be held down to capitalize a letter.
Pricing and Availability
Sony’s official store, SonyStyle, is taking pre-orders for these now. The UX50 is going for $700 and will be available on or before September 12, while the UX40 costs $600 and will be out on or before September 26. In addition, Shopper.com lists a couple of online retailers taking pre-orders for the UX50, one for as low as $629.
Once again, thanks to Eugene for his help with this article.