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Sony Clie TG50

(Discontinued)

Posted April 3, 2003

The Sony TG50 might be viewed as the replacement for the T665C which was Sony's previous high end tablet design Clié. However, it has a few significant design changes that sets it apart from Sony's previous slate design PDAs: the TG50 has a built-in thumb keyboard and an integrated flip cover. It runs Palm OS 5 and has built-in Bluetooth wireless networking.

The case has a brushed aluminum finish, as does the plastic flip cover. The cover is removable, but like the SJ33, you'll be left with a large hinge exposed if you do remove the cover. The corners are rounded, which not only looks good but feels nice in the hand.

Sony CLIE TG50

 

Display

The screen is a backlit hi-res transflective 320 x 320 pixel, 65,000 color TFT screen and offers sharp images, text and icons. Like many recent Sony PDAs, the screen has a slight blue cast. The bottom 1/8th inch of the display shows some distortion due to what appears to be uneven lighting. That area has alternating areas that are more lightly and darkly lit and it's most noticeable when displaying white backgrounds.

Keyboard and Buttons

While most companies design a keyboard and use it on all their keyboarded units, Sony seems to want to try a variety and see which is most successful. The TG50 has a new keyboard design and thus the TG50, NX series and NZ90 each has significantly different keyboard design! The keys on the TG50 are chicklet style translucent milky colored affairs that are smaller and more closely spaced than the NZ90's chicklet keys (they have to be since the TG50 is smaller than the NZ90). In contrast, the NX series sports Sony's first keyboard design, and it uses a membrane keyboard where the keys are raised and ridged on a molded membrane rather than being separate plastic chicklet pieces. The TG50's keys have an orange backlight that illuminates whenever you press a key— not only very cool, but quite useful if you're using the PDA in a poorly lit area. It does turn off a few seconds after the last key is pressed to save battery power. At the moment, this is the only PDA with backlit keys. The keys on the TG50 are stiff and you need to use a firm touch to type, which for most of us means using our thumbnails rather than the meat of the thumb.

The standard Palm OS buttons are typical Sony: small. They're the strip of adjoining buttons you can see above the keyboard. It has buttons to launch the usual Palm built-in apps, along with a home button (the round button to the left of the button strip, which turns into the menu button if you press and hold it for a few seconds). The right round button functions as the find button. In the center of the button strip you'll find a single button with a center ridge that functions as the up/down rocker. It works OK, but will leave gamers wanting or buying Sony's accessory game controller.

If you want to use Graffiti occasionally, you can press a button to bring up a Graffiti area. Note that this Graffiti area takes up half the display, so it may not be easy to see the area where you're entering data.

Horsepower and Expandability

The TG50, like Sony's other high end Palm OS 5 models, has a 200 MHz XScale processor and 16 megs of internal RAM, 11 of which are available to the user to store programs and data. The rest of the RAM is set aside as program memory (just like the RAM in your PC) so fairly large and complex programs can run on the PDA. Some Sony value-added programs are permanently stored in ROM, not in this RAM area.

If you find you need more room, you can store docs and apps that are expansion-card friendly to optional Memory Sticks. These are tiny stick-shaped removable memory cards already used in past Cliés, some Sony digital cameras, and supported by newer Sony VAIO notebooks. They come in 32, 64 and 128 meg capacities. The TG50 also supports both the new Memory Stick Select cards, and Memory Stick Pro cards which come in 256, 512 and 1 gig capacities.

You'll be able to use Clie T, NR and NX series accessories such as thier camera, cradle, keyboard and more with this PDA.

The unit has an IR port for syncing and beaming to other Palm OS PDAs.

MP3 Player and Universal AV Remote

Like higher end Cliés, the TG50 has a built-in MP3 (and ATRAC) player. The unit doesn't come with headphones. The Sony MP3 app offers bass boost, repeat, and background play, so that the music won't stop if you use another application.

Bluetooth

Like the recently released NZ90, the TG50 has a built-in class 2 wireless radio with a range of ~30 feet. I suspect that all future high end Cliés will include Bluetooth. You can use Bluetooth to connect to Bluetooth enabled mobile phones so you can use the mobile as a modem. You can also use Bluetooth to sync to your computer if you've got a Bluetooth adapter installed on your computer (see our Bluetooth article and review for more info on Bluetooth). The TG50 synced to our PC which has a Bluetooth USB dongle adapter and also connected to our Bluetooth access point for Internet access.

 

 

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Software Bundle

The software bundle with Sony PDAs is always excellent, though recent models such as the TG50 no longer include Documents To Go, which is a real shame. Instead you'll get Picsel Viewer which can view (but not edit) MS Office docs and PDFs. If you want to be able to edit Word and Excel docs, you'll need to get your own copy of Documents To Go, or another Palm OS office suite (see our review of these apps here). Sony includes their own software for image viewing and editing that runs at high resolution, an MP3 player, AV Remote, movie player which can play MPEG1 and MPEG4 movies, and you get some nice 3rd party software like Intellisync Lite for syncing to Outlook and the NetFront web browser.

Size and Battery Life

The TG50 is just a little bit longer than the T665C and while not the most petit PDA, it's certainly not overly large and is quite slim making it pocket-friendly. The battery life is quite good for such a powerful multimedia unit. I used the TG50 for several days without having to charge it. The unit has a Lithium Polymer battery that is not user replaceable.

Conclusion

Pro: It's a powerful, fast Palm OS 5 device with a 200 MHz processor. The keyboard lights up making it very usable in poor lighting conditions (heck you can type in the dark!) Built-in Bluetooth, MP3 player, movie player and AV remote control make this a versatile multimedia PDA. You can use Sony T, NR and NX series accessories. The software bundle is generous. Con: Wavy lines at the bottom edge of the screen make an otherwise lovely screen seem imperfect. If you intend to use Graffiti, keep in mind half the screen will be covered by the Graffiti area. Battery isn't user replaceable.

 

Specs:

Display: 320 x 320 pixels, 65,000 colors backlit TFT.

Performance: 200 MHz XScale processor. 16 megs of built in RAM (11 megs available to the user). 16 megs of ROM for OS.

Size: 2 7/8 x 5 x 1/2 inches. 6.2 ounces.

Modem: None included

Battery: Rechargeable Lithium Ion Polymer. Not user replaceable.

Audio: Built in speaker for alarms. MP3 and enhanced polyphonic sounds.

Software: Palm OS 5 and the usual suite of Palm applications, including Palm HotSync, Address Book, Date Book, Clock, To Do List, Memo Pad, Calculator. In addition, you get Sony Software: Audio Player, CLIÉ™ Paint, CLIÉ™ Photo Stand, Memory Stick Backup, Memory Stick Export v. 1.2 (for PC), Memory Stick Import, PictureGear Lite (for PC), Photo Editor, World Alarm Clock, and a lot of trial/demo software.

Other software: Palm Desktop 4.1, Intellisync™ Lite v. 4.0 for syncing to desktop programs other than Palm Desktop, Picsel Viewer for viewing Word and Excel files on your PDA, NetFront web browser, Flash Player 5, MobiPocket Reader (Franklin® Electronic Publishers) and StreetFinder Express.

Protective cover, USB sync cradle, AC adapter/charger included.

 

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