MobileTechReview.com PDA, Notebook and Phone Reviews and buyers guide

PDA Phone Notebooks Gaming Gadgets iPhone & iPad Shop Discussion

Advertisement

Sony Clie model PEG-NX73V

(discontinued)

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 To Go.

Back of Clie NX73V
Back side. Notice the compartment for the CF slot on the top half, with Clié logo.
Sony Clie NX70V
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!

Keyboard

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 .

 

 

 

 

Questions? Comments?
Post them in our Discussion Forum!

 

 

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.

 

Sony WiFi card
Sony's WiFi card: Read our review!

Digital Camera

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.

cat

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.

fruit

Notice the color aberrations in the gray cat's fur (orange hotspots).

Software

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

Specs:

Display: 320 x 480 pixels, 65,000 colors backlit TFT active matrix transflective display. Hi res plus.

Performance: 200 MHz XScale processor. 16 megs of built in RAM (10.3 megs available), 32 megs ROM.

Camera: Still 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 are available.

Size: 5 1/4 (H) x 2 7/8 (W) x 7/8 (D) inches, 8 oz.

Modem: None included.

Battery: Uses a rechargeable Lithium Ion Polymer battery. AC adapter/charger included.

Audio: Built in speaker for alarms. Built-in stereo MP3 Player. It plays real sounds rather than only Midi synthesized sounds. Voice recorder built-in.

Software: Palm 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.

USB sync cradle, headphones, remote control, rechargeable battery and A/C adapter included.

 

Back to MobileTechReview.com Home Questions? Comments? Post them in our Discussion Forum!