After weeks of rumors and speculation, Sony has officially announced the NX series in both the U.S. and Japan.
The NX series is based on Sony’s NR series but adds significant new features. The most important change is that NX series models run Palm OS 5 on a 200 MHz ARM-based processor. They also have a slot that will allow an 802.11 wireless networking card to be plugged in.
Aside from these changes, the NR series has quite a lot in common with the company’s NR series. The form factor is quite similar, including the clamshell design with a swivelling 320 by 480 screen and keyboard. However, the NX series models is a bit thicker because of the extra room needed for the new card slot.
Like the NR series, there are two versions of the NX series. The NX70V will have a built-in camera capable of taking both still images and video, while the NX60 will not.
Palm OS 5
These are the first models that any company has announced that will use the Palm OS 5, though Palm Inc. will announce its first OS 5 model October 28.
The new operating system allows companies to use ARM-based processors which are much faster than the ones in current Palm OS handhelds. The NX series will use Intel’s PXA210 XScale processor which runs at 200 MHz. This has advanced features to conserve battery power and improve multimedia performance.
Both models have 16 MB of RAM of which 15 MB is available to users. They have 16 MB of flash ROM. It is not yet known if they will be upgradeable to Palm OS 6.
Wireless Card Slot
The NX series has a slot that will allow the user to plug in an 802.11 (Wi-Fi) wireless networking card. This will allow the handheld to connect to a local Wireless Network to surf the Web, read email, and HotSync. The theoretical top speed of this is 10 MB per second at a range of 300 feet but both of these will be less in real world conditions.
The slot on the NX series has been designed to take CompactFlash cards. Contradictory information is available on exactly what CompactFlash cards can be used. According to Sony’s U.S. site, the the NX series will only be able to use the PEGA- WL100, a card available only from Sony. This will be sold separately from the handheld for $150. The Japanese site, however, lists several cards that are compatible with it, including all analog modems. At this point, it is too early to say if third-parties will be able add support for other types of CompactFlash cards.
Of course, the NX series also has a Memory Stick slot.
The NX70V’s predecessor, the NR70V, had a digital camera but the new version sports an improved one. It can take still pictures at up to 640 by 480 pixels, larger than the NR70V is capable of, but the real advance is the ability to take video. The camera can store about 2 MB per minute of MPEG4 video onto a Memory Stick. These videos are 160 by 112 pixels.
The NX series will also be able to play movies recorded in MPEG1 or MPEG4 format at up to 320 by 240 pixels.
The NX series is quite similar to the NR series, using the clamshell design with the swiveling screen that allows it to be reconfigured into a tablet shape. It still has the mini keyboard, the Jog Dial, the same HotSync port and stylus, and the other features familiar from the original.
The primary change is the addition of the wireless networking card slot, which adds significantly to the thickness. While the NR series is 5.5 by 2.9 by .68 inches, the NX series is 5.5 by 2.9 by .93 inches. It also weighs slightly more, 8 ounces verses 7 ounces.
The NX70V will be available in two colors, silver and dark gray. The NX60 will be available only in gray.
Of course, the NX series can handle MP3 and ATRAC3 playback. This can be done through the included stereo earbud speakers or through a small speaker built into the back of the handheld. Its audio player app will allow users to specify the order in which songs are played.
Both the NX series models will come with a wand which will allow users to remotely control its audio player. The screen can be turned off when music is playing to save the battery.
Sony is also going to offer the PEGA-SPC100K, a cradle with a built-in speaker. This allows users to play music aloud from their Cli? while leaving the handheld in its cradle. The SPC100K costs $100.
OS 5 has built-in support for multimedia and the NX series takes advantage of this by adding a voice recorder. Recordings can be saved to internal memory or a Memory Stick in ADPCM format. It can store roughly four minutes of recording per megabyte.
The NX series’ screen is 320 by 480, with virtual Graffiti. This means the Graffiti area can be hidden when not in use, allowing more screen real estate to be used for images, documents, etc.
On the NX series, Sony did something it didn’t do for the NR series: rewrote the built-in applications to take advantage of the larger screen. Users can now use an Address Book, Date Book, and Memo Pad that support Hi-Res+ without having to buy one from a third-party developer.
In addition, Sony has created a user friendly mode for the application launcher, designed to make these easier for first-time handheld users. Power users will still be able to access the standard application launcher, which also now supports virtual Graffiti.
Battery life does not appear to be the NX series’ strong point. According to Sony, these models will last for about 5 hours of use with the backlight off before needing a recharge. Of course, this will be shorter with the backlight on.
Pricing and Availability
The NX70V will cost $600, while the NX60 will be $500. Both will be available around the beginning of November.
Thanks to Eugene for his help with this article. -Ed