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Sony CLIE PEG-S300 Review

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I have always been a Neo-Luddite when it came to handheld devices. Ever since my brief encounter with a Sharp Pocket Organizer years ago, I’ve held firm in the belief that electronic methods were unnecessary when paper is both more affordable and more portable.

Ever try to slip a Palm (even a Palm Vx?) into your wallet?

Of course, I don’t have thousands of essential numbers, and I’m not a jet-setter who needs to keep track of the day’s flight itinerary. A couple of old business cards, a good pen and real small writing has always sufficed for me.

So how do I happen to have a Sony CLIE?

No, I didn’t give in, exactly. I figured there’s got to be a business opportunity, a niche to be filled, in handheld devices. Because while I don’t use them, a lot of people apparently do.

How do I explore the possibilities if I don’t have one myself?


How does the Sony compare to the Palm Vx? It is thicker than the Palm and it’s thinner than the Palm. Let me be more precise, front to back the Sony is thicker, but side to side the Sony is thinner. Because of this, the CLIE feels really comfortable in your hand.

The design of the CLIE is arguably better than the Vx. The CLIE avoids the simple, chic, model-thin look of the Palm and instead goes for a more traditionally clean, straight-line, two-tone styling that just stands out. The CLIE has a nice heft to it, without being too heavy. The pen, which has a metal body, slides into its holder with an unmistakably refined snap.

Jog Dial

You know the specifications on the CLIE: it’s got the extra jog-dial and the memory stick slot (included is an 8MB stick). Are they useful? The jog-dial would be, if more applications used it. It’s well-designed, sitting right underneath where your left-thumb normally rests (sorry, lefties).

Unfortunately, applications have to be written specifically to make use of it, so only the built-in software that comes with the CLIE uses the jog-dial. It’d be nice if third-party products like AvantGo would start using it.

Memory Stick

The memory stick is the main reason why I chose the CLIE over the Vx though. Expandable memory seemed like a good idea considering offline browsing of web-sites requires anywhere from 50K to 250K per site. Here’s one thing you should know though: just like the jog-dial, the expandable memory can only be used by applications that specifically support it. Meaning for now, the memory stick is mostly unused, since data that needs to be accessed by most applications must sit in main memory.

Backlight and Case

The backlight works! I’ve never had to squint. In bright light, it doesn’t show up at all, but when you need it most, it comes through.

The case is a slightly textured, faux leather that protects the CLIE well and is resistant to scuffs and scratches itself. It folds out towards you and downwards like a super elongated flip-down cell-phone.

What do I think of handheld devices now that I have one? I like AvantGo. I like being able to read the news while on the bus or the MTR. There’s a lot of travel time to kill with public transportation in Hong Kong. That’s what I’ve been using it for.

I’d pick this over the Palm Vx any day, but the Sony CLIE still gets a MONEY TO BURN rating from me. While offline browsing is wonderful, it is not essential, and for all its other functions, well, I can still make do with my old scribbled over business cards.

theVooner’s Second Opinion

The Sony PEG-S300 is a good product, don’t get me wrong. It has all the function of Palm Vx, and then some. As someone who has bought so many PDAs he’s lost count, I love that Sony now has a PDA. I’m a big fan of Palm because of its simplisticity. Windows CE is slow and cumbersome, though that is changing. (I had a chance to play with the iPaq recently and it is very impressive. I may just have to buy one!)

Anyway, I’m an owner of a Palm Vx so for me the next PDA has to be another level up. For most Palm users, that move is to a color screen. So the PEG-S300 is a big disappointment in that regard. The Japanese has a color version (PEG-S500) but it won¹t be in an English version till sometime next year. If you don¹t have a PDA yet, CLIE PEG-S300 may be at the top of your buy list, but with a color one just around the corner, I’d rate this one definitely a WASTE OF TIME.


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