Sony Clie TG50
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
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.
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
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.
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.