Posted June 27, 2003, by Lisa Gade. Editor-in-Chief
The Clié NX73V and NX80V are updates to
the successful NX60 and NX70V models
released in the Fall of 2002. They're evolutionary rather than
revolutionary models, adding a few key features while keeping list
prices the same as their predecessors. The $499 NX73V is very similar
to the NX70V, but sells for $100 less than the NX70V did. The NX80V sells
for $599 and has a higher resolution digicam and a bit more memory
than the 73. Since the NX73V and NX80V have much in common (they
vary only in camera resolution and lighting, finish and amount
of internal memory), some of the review text has been shared between
these two models.
For those of you familiar with the NX70V, here's
the short list of new features on the NX73V: new black finish,
1/4" shorter in length, 1/16th" thicker, CF slot is retractable
and supports memory cards, native Memory Stick Pro support, buttons
for PIM apps are replicated along the top of the screen for tablet
mode use, Decuma handwriting recognition software, Graffiti 2,
an improved display and you get Picsel Viewer rather than Documents
Back side. Notice the
compartment for the CF slot on the top half, with Clié logo.
Comparing the size of the NX70V, left,
and the NX73V, right.
Features and Horsepower
The NX series is feature-laden and powerful,
and the NX73V is no exception.
The NX73V runs Palm OS 5.0 and has a 200 MHz
XScale processor. It has 16 megs of RAM, 10.3 of which is available
to the user. The 73 offers dual expansion: it has a Memory Stick
expansion slot that accepts regular Memory Sticks and the new Memory
Stick Pro media, and a CF slot that accepts Sony's optional WiFi
card and CF memory cards.
Now that Palm has released a few models that
run Palm OS 5.2.1 (which offers support for more than 16 megs of
internal memory) and have 32 megs or more of RAM, the latest NX
models are a bit of a disappointment since they still run Palm
OS 5.0 and have only 10.3 megs (NX73V) and 16 megs (NX80V) available
to the user. You can use memory expansion cards, but there are
still a few programs that insist on being run from internal memory.
Like the NX70V, the NX73V has a 1/3 megapixel
VGA digital camera that takes better pictures than the Palm
Zire 71 and accessory digicams. It can also shoot videos with
audio at 160 x 122 resolution.
The screen is 320 x 480 pixels, and is very nice,
equaling the upscale NZ90's. It is
brighter and more color saturated than older NX series displays.
If that's not enough, you get an MP3 player that
sounds excellent, an integrated keyboard with lighted keys, an
AV Remote, and a new handwriting recognition app called Decuma.
Design and Ergonomics
The NX73V is again quite similar to the NX70V
in terms of design, size and ergonomics. The NX73V is a bit shorter
than the older NX models, and is close to the same thickness. The
ingeniously designed CF slot on the back of the unit is flush with
the body, and pops out about 1/4" when you slide the release
lever. With the CF slot open the unit is slightly thicker than
the older NX models. When using a CF card, including memory cards,
you will have to leave the slot open.
Like previous NX and NR series models, you can
use the unit in clamshell mode, or swivel the LCD panel and use
it in panel mode, which is the same as using a traditional PDA.
New for the NX73V and NX80V are buttons for the Calendar, Address
Book, Notes and To-Do's positioned directly above the display,
so you can use them when the unit is in tablet mode.
The unit sports a striking black metallic finish
and is made of magnesium alloy. The stylus is a lightweight plastic
and metal telescoping unit that lives in a silo located at the
top right of the unit. The 73 has an improved keyboard that's similar
to the Clié TG50's. The keys
are made of hard plastic and are white with orange backlighting
that turns on for a few seconds when the unit is powered and whenever
you press a key.
The 4 buttons for the address book, calendar,
notes and tasks are parallel to each other and surround the up/down
buttons. Unlike the older NX models, the buttons aren't staggered,
and they're noticeably smaller. This parallel arrangement will
likely please gamers.
CF Slot for Sony's WiFi Card and CF Memory Cards
The NX73V has a CF type II slot that can accommodate
type I and type II cards. However, only the Sony WiFi card is supported,
so you'll have to buy Sony's WiFi
card. The driver for that card is pre-installed, so you don't
need to install the driver on the WiFi card's CD.
Prior NX models didn't have CF memory card drivers,
which lead owners to submit petitions to Sony begging for drivers.
The NX73V does indeed have a driver for memory cards (pretty much
any brand), but the camera app, video recorder and voice recorder
do not support saving files to the CF card. Oye! Data Import, which
replaces MS Import, mounts Memory Sticks and CF memory cards. You
can mount only one type of storage card at a time on the desktop
using MS Mount, and you'll need to tap the easy to miss arrow on
the upper right corner of the Data Import screen on the NX to select
CF rather than the default Memory Stick.You can also install applications
on the CF card using the standard HotSync application. I tried
several apps and they ran fine from the CF card.
Sony did release a few drivers for some CF analog
56k modems in Japan, and a fellow who goes by the name Pelaca on
cliesource.com has translated them into English. You can download
the files here.
The AmbiCom CF56M-EZ is supported, and is the easiest of the few
supported modems to find in the US (Amazon.com, Best Buy and some
other retailers carry it).
The Memory Stick slot is Memory Stick Pro compatible
(you'll notice the word Pro above the slot). It requires no additional
drivers to use the Pro cards, which are higher capacity and faster
than regular purple Memory Sticks. Using VFSMark on a Sandisk 128
meg standard memory stick and a Sandisk Memory Stick Pro 256 meg
card, the Pro card came out nearly 2x faster!
The keyboard is quite nice, with good spacing
between keys. The keys are made of hard plastic and are white with
black letters. I always thought the membrane style keyboard on
previous NR and NX models was a bit cheesy, but comparing both
in terms of ease of typing, I find the membrane keyboard easier
to use. The NX73V's thumb keyboard is similar to the Clié TG50's,
and you have to press harder with greater accuracy to enter letters
correctly. Not that this is a bad keyboard, I just find myself
nostalgic for the older version. The keys are backlit orange, and
the light turns on for a few seconds when you first power up the
unit, and turns on whenever you press a key. It does work well
in the dark, though the blue and pink function key masking on the
body just below each key is a bit hard to see since they're faint
and not contrasty enough against the black background. Sony seems
to let style and esthetics rule rather than usability when it comes
to the Fn key masking on the new NX and NZ90 models .
Mac Users: the
Sony Clié doesn't come with software to sync to the Macintosh.
You'll need to buy MissingSync from
Mark/Space to sync with a Mac. It costs $30 and does an exceptional
job in Mac OS 9 and X.
The digicam is a 310,000 pixel CMOS unit that
can take pictures at a maximum resolution of 640 x 480 pixels.
It can also capture video in MPEG4 format (using 2 megs of space
per minute of video). The capture size is 160 x 112 pixels. You
can also record audio with your movies. These files can only
be saved on Memory Sticks. For those of you familiar with the
NX70V, the camera and Movie Recorder applications are identical
to the NX73V's. You cannot save photos or movies directly to
a CF memory card, unfortunately. Image quality is the same as
the NX70V, with a little more color saturation, but also more
chromatic aberrations in the yellows to red.
To view movies created with the Sony, copy
them to your computer and use the free Apple Quicktime 6 Player
as the viewer (see sidebar for details).
You can also view the same cool MPEG movies
that Pocket PC folks do using the NX73V's Movie Player app (again,
see sidebar for details). These movies, especially the wide screen
ones look great when played back in landscape mode! Very sweet.
MP3 Player and Voice Recorder
As you'd expect with a high end Sony PDA, the
NX series play MP3 and ATRAC format audio. The device comes with
Sony's own audio player. You can rip MP3s using the included
Sony desktop software, or better yet, use your favorite MP3 app
and drag the files to your Memory Stick. The sound quality through
headphones is excellent, and you can even use AVLS and bass boost.
The MP3 player can play in the background so you can listen to
music while using the PDA for other tasks. High end Sonys have
the best sounding MP3 playback of any PDA.
The audio jack accepts the included remote
control, or you can plug your own headphones in since the jack
is a standard mini-jack.
The voice recorder can record in long play
and standard play. Standard play sounds surprisingly good and
beats Pocket PCs. The audio format is very efficient and 1.5
minutes takes only 115k of space. You can record sounds/voices/etc
and save them as alarms.
Sample Photos taken at 640 x 480 on auto settings.
Click on photos to see full size image.
The images look much better when reduced in size and the full
size images aren't as sharp. The white orchids above always
photograph well with PDAs.
Notice the color aberrations in the gray
cat's fur (orange hotspots).
The unit comes with Sony's new launcher for their
OS 5 PDAs, which most users enjoy. You can still use the standard
Palm OS home screen or 3rd party launchers if you prefer. The bundle
of Sony apps is always good: you get a paint program, image editor,
movie player and recorder, image viewer, ink note app, AV remote
control software and several desktop apps for doing such things
as viewing photo albums, creating sounds and etc. on your desktop.
Unfortunately, Documents To Go, a popular application suite that
allows you to view and edit MS Office files, is not included. Instead
you get Picsel Viewer pre-installed, which offers read-only access
to MS Office files and Acrobat PDFs.
The new NX models offer both Graffiti 2 handwriting
recognition and Decuma. Even though they don't run Palm OS 5.2,
which has Graffiti 2 built-in, you still get it. Graffiti 2 offers
a more natural way of inputting printed characters. Decuma is excellent!
It has virtually no learning curve, and as you enter characters,
Decuma turns them into text in the input area first, so you can
correct any mistakes before telling Decuma to enter the text into
your current document. You can write several words at once, or
one word at a time. Decuma should be a big hit, and has great accuracy,
even with my terrible left handed scrawl.
The NetFront 3 (rev. 1.1.47) web browser is included
with the Clié and it does an excellent job of rendering
pages. Netfront offers support for HTML 4, .css, frames and cookies
and it runs full screen, so you'll have the full 320 x 480 pixels
to view web pages. For those of you familiar with earlier versions
of NetFront on Cliés, this version doesn't give nearly as
many "page too large" errors for complex pages. If you
want a much less beautiful but faster browser experience, try Handspring's
Blazer which costs $20. While it doesn't have high res support,
it is fast and efficient.
For email, you get Clié Mail 2.1, which
is a decent app that supports multiple email accounts, signatures,
filters and syncing to your desktop.
Display and Battery Life
The transflective display is absolutely lovely!
It's even brighter and more color-saturated than previous NX series
models. It looks the same as the NZ90 display,
and there is no distortion or wavy lines to be seen. Compared to
other Sony PDAs which have very sensitive digitizers, you have
to press the screen a bit harder.
Battery life is good for a Palm OS PDA with this
many features. Though not as power-frugal as Palm brand PDAs, the
NX73V should last 3 to 4 days on a charge. If you use the optional WiFi
card, then battery life depends on how much time you spend
online. I surfed for an hour and used up 25% of the charge. The
battery is not user-replaceable.
As always, Sony's high end Cliés are great
PDAs! It offers many multimedia features, a decent VGA digicam,
and the largest screen available on a PDA in the US. Pro: For
a VGA camera, this one takes good pictures with little impact on
battery life. Great screen-- once you've used a high-res plus Sony,
you'll find it hard to use anything else. Backlit keys make typing
in poor lighting or darkness easy. Excellent sounding MP3 player.
Supports Memory Stick Pro and regular Memory Sticks. CF slot accommodates
memory cards and Sony's WiFi wireless network cards. Decuma handwriting
recognition and Graffiti 2 should make most users happy. The voice
recorder sound quality is very good and recordings are surprisingly
small. The unit is sturdy and the clamshell design means I can
frequently go without a case. Con: You
can't save multimedia files recorded by the NX directly to the
CF card using the built-in apps (camera, movie and audio). As with
all Clié models, no Mac support out of the box: you need
to buy MissingSync for the Mac. It isn't cheap, it's on the large
side. You must spend additional money on Sony's WiFi card to make
use of the NX's WiFi capability and Bluetooth isn't included (except
on Eurpean model NX73Vs). It isn't small, but then how else would
they fit in the large display and keyboard.
x 480 pixels, 65,000 colors backlit TFT active
matrix transflective display. Hi res plus.
MHz XScale processor. 16 megs of built in RAM (10.3
megs available), 32 megs ROM.
image resolution: 310,000 pixels (1/3 megapixel)
image sizes of 640 x 480, 320 x 240, 160 x 120, 320
x 480. Movies with audio recorded at 160x112 pixels.
White balance, brightness and several effects settings
1/4 (H) x 2 7/8 (W) x 7/8 (D) inches, 8 oz.
Uses a rechargeable Lithium Ion Polymer battery.
AC adapter/charger included.
in speaker for alarms. Built-in stereo MP3 Player.
It plays real sounds rather than only Midi synthesized
sounds. Voice recorder built-in.
OS 5, Palm Desktop 4.1 for Clié (Windows only)
and the usual suite of Palm and Sony applications.
Sony apps: CLIE™ Album, CLIE™ Camera,
CLIE™ Mail, CLIE™ Memo, CLIE™ Paint,
CLIE™ Remote Commander, CLIE™ Viewer,
Flash Player 5, Image Converter v.1.0 (for PC), Memory
Stick Backup, Data Export (for PC), Data Import,
Movie Player, Movie Recorder, PictureGear™ Studio
(for PC), PhotoStand, Photo Editor , SonicStage™ LE
v.1.5 (for PC), Sound Converter 2 (for PC), Sound
Utility, Voice Recorder, World Alarm Clock. 3rd party
software (not trial, full versions): MobiPocket Reader
(Franklin® Electronic Publishers), NetFront 3
Web Browser, Decuma handwriting recognition, Graffiti
2, Picsel Viewer, Intellisync Lite.
sync cradle, headphones, remote control, rechargeable
battery and A/C adapter included.