For a long time, the only Sony Clie models that offered Wi-Fi were the members of the NX series. Many people passed on these, as they aren’t small and, after you added in the cost of the Wi-Fi CompactFlash card, you could pay up to $750. So lots of people bought smaller, less expensive handhelds and hoped for a Wi-Fi card in Memory Stick format.
In my tests, I found that this accessory has an unusually good range. A Wi-Fi enabled handheld without an external antenna will typically peter out about halfway across my yard. This is also the point where SanDisk’s Wi-Fi SD card starts to lose its connection. A Wi-Fi enabled handheld that has an external antenna can make it all the way out to the end of my driveway. The same is true of the various brands of Wi-Fi CompactFlash cards. The Wi-Fi Memory Stick, on the other hand, still had a decent connection all the way until the middle of my neighbor’s yard.
You aren’t often going to be surfing the Web from your neighbor’s yard, but it’s nice to know you can. And I definitely have a solid, fast connection from my back deck, even through the brick walls of my house.
One of the best parts of the HNT-MSW1 is the software that comes with it. To get connected to your Wi-Fi access point, you don’t have to fool around in the Networking section of Prefs, like you do with many Sony models.
Instead, Hagiwara Sys-Com has supplied an application that lets you scan for nearby access points and connect to the one you’d prefer. You can also quickly re-connect to an access point you’ve used before.
Speaking of which, you’ll have to supply your own web browser or email application. Most Clies come with these, but if yours didn’t there are plenty of third-party options.
Adding a new driver can be a nervous experience, as these are sometime buggy and can cause problems for your handheld. Fortunately, I can say I’ve had no problems with this software and haven’t had to reset my TG50 a single time.
One of the downsides of Wi-Fi access is that it takes a lot of power. I tested the Wi-Fi Memory Stick on a TG50 and found that, with normal use, the battery lasted about 3.5 hours. That’s not 3.5 hours of continuous Wi-Fi access. Instead, I used the TG50 as my normal handheld and occasionally checked my email or went to a web site.
Therefore, I have to say that regular use of the Wi-Fi Memory Stick probably cut the battery life of the TG50 in half. That’s not good news, but it is comparable to other handhelds with Wi-Fi add-on cards, like the iPAQ h1945 with the SanDisk Wi-Fi SD card.
This wireless card works with the TG50, TJ25, TJ27, TJ35, UX40, NZ90, NX70V, and NX60.
My contact at Hagiwara Sys-Com said the NX80V and NX73V weren’t supported because Sony had modified the memory card drivers on these models in order to allow the CompactFlash slot to be used for both Sony’s Wi-Fi card and for standard memory cards. The wireless card’s developers decided it wasn’t worth their time to come up with a work-around, as most users of these models probably already have the Wi-Fi CompactFlash card.
Sadly, Hagiwara Sys-Com made the decision that it wouldn’t sell enough of these cards to recoup the cost of developing a driver for the older version of the operating system, so this card can’t be used with Palm OS 4 models.
An external antenna is a requirement for a wireless card to be able to connect to a Wi-Fi access point from a good distance away. This is why there are no Wi-Fi add-on cards that fit entirely in their slots, including this one.
If it makes you feel any better, the part of this card that is outside the Memory Stick slot is just a bit bigger than the part of the Wi-Fi CompactFlash card that is outside of its slot.
The problem comes when you leave your house. I’m not comfortable carrying my Clie around with this card still inserted. There’s a real possibility you’ll break it off, or possibly damage your handheld’s slot by accidentally yanking the card out. You might wind up doing what I do with my handhelds that have removable Wi-Fi cards: I leave them at home. I rarely use them when I’m away from my access point, instead depending on Bluetooth to connect to my mobile phone. I realize that’s not much help for people who want to carry this card between various Wi-Fi access points, though.
If you want to get an idea of how big it is before you buy one, this wireless card is 1.4 inches wide, 3 inches tall, and 0.2 inches thick. It weighs less than half an ounce. The part that projects from the Memory Card slot is about 1.0 inch by 1.4 inches.
I typically decide whether I think something is a good value by comparing it to similar products, but there’s one thing you have to keep in mind: Hagiwara Sys-Com makes the only Wi-Fi Memory Stick. If you want to add Wi-Fi to your TJ25 or TG50, this is your only option. Period. You can’t go buy a less expensive Wi-Fi SD card because your handheld doesn’t have an SD slot.
On with the price comparisons. The list price on Sony’s Wi-Fi card for the NX series is $150, but it is available online for about $120. The list price for SanDisk’s Wi-Fi SD card is $129.99, but you can find it for as low as $88. Therefore I think the Wi-Fi Memory Stick isn’t a great deal, but it could be worse, considering it’s the only option many Clie users have.
And let’s remember, Hagiwara Sys-Com took a risk on this product. The reason it has no competition is no other company really believed Clie users should be able to upgrade their current handhelds with Wi-Fi.
Honestly, I think a lot of Clie users owe this company a vote of thanks. Without Hagiwara Sys-Com, there would be no way to add Wi-Fi to quite a few Sony handhelds.
And the good news is this card is actually really well done. It offers a wide range, it includes an access point sniffer, and it even looks good.
However, if you are trying to decide whether to get a TJ27 and this Wi-Fi Memory Stick or spring for a TJ37, obviously the TJ37 is the way to go. Still, if you get a TJ27 and change your mind later, it’s nice to know you can still add Wi-Fi.