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

PDA Phone Notebooks Gaming Gadgets iPhone & iPad Shop Discussion

Advertisement

Sony Clie NX80V

(discontinued)

Posted July 9, 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 CCD digicam and a bit more memory than the 73. Note: 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.

Those of you who are regular readers know that I was a big fan of the NX70V. There were a few things I'd like to have seen improved on that model, and the NX80V largely addresses them. It has a better camera, more memory (though not as much as I'd hoped), even better battery life, a CF memory card driver and is a bit more compact. If only it had Bluetooth like the Clié TG50 and NZ90!

Sony Clie NX80V

back of Sony Clie NX80V

 

In some ways, the NX80V is what the Clié NZ90 should have been. While the NZ90 has some issues with battery life related to the camera and flash, and takes 8 or 9 seconds to get the camera ready for the first shot, the NX80V shows no significant drop in battery level even when using the capture light, and is ready to take photos as soon as you launch the camera application. While the NZ90 is quite large and heavy (the biggest current PDA on the market), the NX80V is significantly smaller and lighter.

For those of you familiar with the NX70V, here's the short list of new features on the NX80V. It has a new silver finish, 1/4" shorter in length, 1/16th" thicker, CF slot is retractable and supports memory cards, native Memory Stick Pro support, the buttons for PIM apps are replicated along the top of the screen for tablet mode use, Decuma handwriting recognition software, Graffiti 2, 15.5 megs of available RAM, an improved display and you get Picsel Viewer rather than Documents To Go.

NX80V

Features and Horsepower

The NX80V runs Palm OS 5.0 and has a 200 MHz XScale processor. It has 32 megs of RAM, 15.5 of which is available to the user. The 80 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 15.5 megs (NX80V) available to the user. Though 15.5 megs isn't a lot, several large apps such as Picsel Viewer and Netfront are stored permanently in ROM, which will save you about 5 megs of space in RAM. You can use memory expansion cards, but there are still a few programs that insist on being run from internal memory.

 

 

Deals and Shopping!

 

 

Questions? Comments?
Post them in our Discussion Forum!

 

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

 

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.

 

 

Side view. The Memory Stick slot is located on this side, and while it's hard to see here, it says "Pro" above the slot, indicating compatibility with Memory Stick Pro media.

The 2.1 megapixel Sony Clié NZ90 is the king of the hill when it comes to integrated camera resolution and quality. However, it also lists for $799 and can be cranky about battery life when using the camera. At 1.3 megapixels, the NX80V camera is now the second highest resolution digicam among PDAs behind the NZ90. It can shoot still images at 1280 x 960 and 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 NX80V is again quite similar to the NX70V in terms of design, size and ergonomics. The NX80V 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. This design is reminiscent of minidisc players and cassette Walkman units, and the assembly feels adequately durable. 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.

The new silver finish is very elegant and cool looking! It's head and shoulders above the older NX and NR models, and has a high tech quality appearance. It could easily fit into a James Bond movie, or at least a Sharper Image catalog . The only drawback is that the finish causes glare in bright sunlight. The unit's casing 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. Like all Sony styli, it's still uncomfortably small and light.

Like previous NX and NR series models, you can use the unit in clamshell mode, or swivel the LCD panel and use it in tablet 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.

Both the NX73V and NX80V have 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.

Digital Camera

The digicam is a 1.3 megapixel CCD unit that can take pictures at a maximum resolution of 1280 x 960 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. Video 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 NX80V's, with the addition of the capture light button. You cannot save photos or movies directly to a CF memory card, unfortunately. The fixed focus lens swivels on a vertical axis, so you can shoot images in clamshell mode or tablet mode. You can even take pix of yourself while looking at the display.

Image quality is markedly better than the NX73V, as it should be since the unit has a much higher resolution camera employing a CCD rather than CMOS camera. What's the difference? Most standalone digicams have CCD sensors, which is the original modern sensor technology. CCDs take higher quality images with less noise. CMOS sensors, which are a newer, cheaper technology, cost less and consume less power than CCDs. Kudos to Sony for getting such excellent battery life out of a CCD camera!

The NX80V has a neutral density filter for shooting pictures in bright daylight. An ND filter basically reduces the amount of light hitting the imager, so that images aren't over-exposed when the amount of ambient light excedes the minimum aperture of the lens. The ND filter is activated using a switch near the camera lens, and it slides the filter across the lens. For you image manipulation geeks, photos are saved with an embedded sRGB profile.

While not nearly as good as NZ90 images, the NX80V blows away the remaining competition, including add-on digicams. Images are reasonably sharp, with accurate colors and good saturation. The images do have noise (esp. low light pix), and highlights in bright sunlight wash out to white when using auto settings. However, given the size of the images, you can easily edit them and reduce them in size to 640 x 480 or even 1024 x 768 for sharp web presentation. For print, the images work up to 4" x 6".

The NX80V doesn't use a traditional flash, rather you can turn on what Sony calls a capture light to shoot still images and videos under low light conditions. The capture light is located next to the lens, and is like a small flashlight that emits extremely bright white light. It's so bright, that I've used it to illuminate a dark closet! It works well for subjects that are 6 feet away or less when shooting still images. Surprisingly, it didn't seem to make any difference when shooting videos. Why not use a traditional flash? The capture light doesn't use nearly as much power, and doesn't have to charge before taking pix.

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 NX80V'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 1280 x 960 on auto settings. Click on photos to see the full size unedited image.

rose

cat

Some filtered light, no flash used.

guitar

Indoors, at dusk with capture light. Plenty of noise, but easily cleaned up with programs like Neat Image if one desires.

CF Slot for Sony's WiFi Card and CF Memory Cards

The NX80V 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 led owners to submit petitions to Sony begging for drivers. The NX80V 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 on the desktop, as well as 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 equally easy to use. The NX80V's thumb keyboard is similar to the Clié TG50's, and you have to press harder with greater accuracy to enter letters correctly. Key travel is quite short and the keys are barely raised. Not that this is a bad keyboard, but it could be improved if the keys had more travel and were easier to press. 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 light 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 silver 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 .

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. Picsel does have its good points: documents look lovely on screen with formatting preserved, and it can read native Word and Excel docs, with no conversion (or formatting) loss.

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 harder and the screen feels mushier.

Battery life is great for a Palm OS PDA with this many features and a CCD camera. I played games for an hour, viewed docs with Picsel Viewer, and took 30 pictures (about half with the capture light) and a video, and the battery dropped only 3%! It's better than the older NX and NR PDA models. 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. . As with most PDAs, certain functions and hardware items are disabled when the power drops below a certain level. The Sony NZ and new NX models are the only ones that tell you what gets turned off when: the CF slot is turned off at 20%, the Memory Stick slot is turned off at 10%, Multimedia playback and record are disabled at 15% and the capture light is disabled at 25%. The battery is not user-replaceable.

Conclusion

As always, Sony's high end Cliés are great PDAs! It offers many multimedia features, a high res 1.3MP CCD camera, capture light for low-light shots, and the largest screen available on a PDA in the US. Pro: Takes pretty decent 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 you've recorded using 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! You must spend additional money on Sony's WiFi card to make use of the NX's WiFi capability and Bluetooth isn't included. 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 PXA 263 XScale processor. 32 megs of built in RAM (15.5 megs available), 32 megs ROM.

Camera: Still image resolution: 1.3 megapixels CCD camera. Image sizes of 1280 x 960, 640 x 480, 320 x 240, 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. Not user replaceable. 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!