Brighthand reviews the Sony Clie SJ30

by Reads (9,259)

Despite soft sales in the handheld market, Sony continues to pump out new models. Two weeks ago it was the SJ20, a month ago it was the SL10, two months ago it was the T665C, and it was only three months ago that Sony came out with the innovative NR70V. And Sony’s not done yet.

Today Sony unveiled the Clié PEG-SJ30, the third member of the new S-series. It includes a high-resolution 320×320 pixel color TFT display with even backlighting (well, there are a couple of subtle shadow areas), a lithium-ion rechargeable battery, 16MB of internal memory, and a Memory Stick expansion slot. It runs on PalmSource’s Palm OS version 4.1 software.

This seems to complete a product family that includes low-end models (with both monochrome and color displays and priced from $150 to $300), mid-range models (with and without multimedia capabilities and priced from $300 to $400), and high-end units with unique designs and special features (priced from $500 to $600).

We’ve been testing the SJ30 for several days and it’s everything we liked about the SJ20, plus a color screen.

What’s inside the box?

Inside the lime green box you’ll find the following items:

  • Sony Clié PEG-SJ30 Personal Entertainment Organizer
  • USB synchronization cable
  • AC adapter
  • Soft vinyl snap-on cover
  • Installation CD-ROM
  • Instruction manuals

Specifications

The basic specifications of the Sony Clié PEG-SJ30 are:

  • 33MHz Motorola Dragonball VZ processor
  • MemoryStick expansion slot
  • Palm OS Software version 4.1
  • Backlit color TFT LCD (320 pixels x 320 pixels)
  • 16MB static RAM
  • 4MB Flash ROM
  • Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • USB/IrDA/RS232 Serial ports

On the outside

As with the previous two S series models, the Sony Clié PEG-SJ30 is slightly shorter and thicker than other Cliés (such as the T series and the NR series). This gives the appearance that much of the face of the device is taken up by the display; there’s little "edge room" around the screen. It’s actually a perfect size for smaller hands.

Speaking of the screen, it’s a beautiful high-resolution color screen, bright and evenly lit, with the exception of some subtle shadowing at the bottom.

As we mentioned in the SJ20 review, Sony’s learned a lot about PDA design over the past two years, especially from a useability viewpoint. It now keeps the sides of the device relatively clear of buttons and switches, save for the Jog Dial and Back buttons on the left side, perfectly placed for activation with your thumb. The only change I would recommend (and this goes for all PDAs) is the addition of a rubberized piping along the entire perimeter of the device for gripability (is that a word?).

The less frequently accessed buttons and such are located at the top of the device. This includes the stylus, power button, Memory Stick slot and infrared port. The SJ30, and all models in the S series for that matter, does not come with the enhanced infrared port (or the Remote Commander app) Sony introduced with the T series.

The commonly accessed buttons are placed on the front of the device, at the bottom for easy access. This includes the LED indicator so that you can see it when charging with the flip lid on.

Sony’s seen fit to modify the buttons from the ones found on the T series devices. (They must have read all of the reviews complaining about this.) The SJ30’s application buttons are plastic rather than metal, and concave rather than convex — much easier to use.

The interface connector appears to be the same used in the T and NR series, so accessories that use it (such as charging cables) should be compatible.

You’ll find the reset button on the back of the SJ30, just below where you attach the included flip lid. Speaking of the flip cover, it’s much easier to attach and detach than the previous versions. Thank you, Sony. The speaker, it should be noted, is not the enhanced variety found on the T and NR series. We’ll miss it.

The SJ30 comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which appears to be accessible using the battery compartment door. (The lower-end SL10 uses replaceable AAA batteries.)

On the inside

The SJ30 operates on Palm OS 4.1 running on a 33 MHz Motorola Dragonball VZ processor. It comes with 16 MB of RAM and 4 MB ROM, as well as a Memory Stick slot for expanding your memory and for using accessories. It also comes with a slew of applications, including the Standard Edition of Documents To Go for working with Excel and Word files.

As far as performance, the SJ30 seemed a little snappier than the SJ20. The monochrome SJ20 seemed to have a slight screen refresh delay, something I did not notice with the SJ30.

Bottom Line

The Sony Clié PEG-SJ30 is the third model to be released in Sony’s new S line of Cliés. For $300 you get a fast handheld with a beautiful color screen, all in a small, lightweight package. The only things you don’t get is built-in music playback capabilities, which requires going up to Sony’s T series handhelds, and wireless, something Sony has yet to built into any of its handhelds.


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