Introduced to the US market on 10 February 2004, the Sony Clie TJ37, and its lesser cousin the TJ27, look to be a solid competitor to the well-established Zire 71 from Palm. With a suggested retail of $299 – currently $100 more than the Zire 71 (including the new $50 rebate from PalmOne) – is the TJ37 really that much better? Compared to the Zire 71 the TJ37 includes a much better camera, 10MB more in RAM, includes Wi-Fi (802.11b), and better software (to include a full version of DataViz Documents To Go Professional Version 6.0 – worth about $40). IMO, that’s worth $100 – if you want Wi-Fi. If Wi-Fi is not a must-have for you then I first suggest you reconsider as I really enjoyed how it was implemented in the TJ37. Otherwise, I’d recommend the Sony TJ27 for $199 – basically a TJ37 without the bells & whistles (i.e., Wi-Fi, MP3, and 16MB ROM vs 8 MB ROM). Sorry Zire fans.
So what exactly do you get for $299? The box contents include:
On the plus side, I found the Quick Start Instructions to be helpful (IMO — Sony instruction manuals are generally better than most) and I liked the quality of the handstrap — no cheap plastic here. On the down side, Sony’s three-piece Hotsync/Charge approach leaves a lot to be desired — more on this later. I would also classify the “protective cover” as disposable — hard to install and only offers basic impact protection to the screen. A wide range of accessories for the TJ37 are available, and the TJ37 should be able to use all accessories currently available for the Sony T, SJ and NX series PDAs.
I’ll skip the specs — if interested check out Sony’s TJ37 spec sheet. Let’s just say here that I can’t feel any difference while holding a Tungsten T3 (not extended) in one hand and the TJ37 in the other. In terms of style, the TJ37 offers nothing spectacular – basically silver front and back, with the sides being what I call a “Zip disk Grey”. The InfraRed (IrDA 1.2) port, Wi-Fi LAN port, Headphone jack, and Memory Stick slot are all located on the top edge of the unit. The left-hand side is bare except for the Protective Cover attachment slots. The right hand side features the Sony “Power/Hold” button, as well as the camera shutter button. Along the bottom edge, you’ll find the USB Hotsync port, the Wi-Fi indicator light, and a slide button that operates the camera lens cover and powers up the camera.
The back of the TJ37 features the camera lens port, speaker, and a reset hole. Note that a soft reset can be done using the stock stylus tip without having to first remove/extract a special reset pin from the stylus.
I found the 320×320 screen to be small, beautiful, and not as bright as other Palm PDAs. I say small because I’ve gotten used to the larger 320×480 screens found in my T3 & Garmin iQue 3600. I also find the screens to be not as bright as my T3 and Zire 71. But the color rendition does seem to surpass the other Palm PDAs I’ve used.
So what’s not to like? Number one in my book is the Hotsync/charging cable. The Sony “System” consists of an AC adaptor (that is about 3″ x 2″ x 1″), plus a USB cable, plus a small connector piece that ties all the cables together and plugs into the USB Hotsync port on the bottom of the TJ37. What a joke — lose the little connector piece and you are dead in the water. Also note that a desktop stand is a $30 accessory. Note to Sony (and Palm for that matter) — check out what Garmin did for their iQue3600.
The second thing I did not like was the stock stylus. About a half inch shorter and much thinner than stock styli found in Tungsten PDAs, I found the TJ37 stylus much too small to write comfortably with (and I’m not a big guy). The TJ37 stylus also collapses too easily while being used. Something for the Sony design team to take a look at. Please!
Lastly, the TJ37 design is somewhat unique with respect to the application buttons and jog dial. The application buttons are rocker switches that combine the datebook & address book on the left-side rocker, and the todo & memo functions on the right hand rocker. Located between these two rocker switches are the jog dial and left/right action buttons. To be honest, I found the button design of the TJ37 to be one of its biggest drawbacks — I much prefer the D-Navigator buttons found in the Palm T-Series PDAs. I also found Sony’s rocker-style application buttons difficult to use and prone to errors in getting the desired selection (e.g. getting datebook when I really wanted the address book).