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Sony Clie TJ27

Feb. 10, 2004, by Lisa Gade Editor in Chief

Discontinued

About two years ago, Sony introduced the first PDA with an integrated digital camera, the NR70V. Now with the TJ27 and TJ37 models, even entry-level Cliés come with an integrated digicam!

These two new models replace the TJ25 and TJ35, which were introduced in the Fall of 2003. The integrated digicam is the most salient upgrade to that line, along with WiFi on the TJ37. The TJs have high res 320 x 320 pixel color displays, a 200 MHz processor running Palm OS 5.2.1. These digicam toting Cliés will likely compete with Palm's very successful Zire 71. Like its predecessor the TJ25, the TJ27 is targeted at business users who don't crave multimedia and bells and whistles, but rather a highly portable and powerful machine. The TJ37, which adds MP3 playback hardware and software along with a movie player will suit those who want a good dose of multimedia in a reasonably priced unit.

Sony CLIE TJ27
Sony TJ25 back view

 

Design and Ergonomics

The TJ27 and TJ37 look identical except for the casing color, headphone jack and combined IR/WiFi windows located on the top edge of the TJ37. Both have an aluminum casing that's attractive, light and strong. The TJs are very small and light. They come with a detachable black flip cover which snaps onto the left side of the unit. The camera lens is located on the back of the unit and there's a slider switch which allows you to cover and protect the lens.

The combined power button/hold switch is located on the lower right side and the camera capture button is just below it. The Memory Stick slot and IR port are on top. The four application buttons are interestingly designed: the left pair are actually one piece rocker switches, as are the right pair, which means you won't be able to do simultaneous button presses in games. While the earlier TJs used the same rocker design, they had circular buttons, while the new TJ27 and 37 have slim horizontal bars. I personally prefer buttons which are larger and easier to press. The TJs have a combined jog dial and left/right directional control on the front where a d-pad or up/down keys would be located on other brands and models. This jog dial allows you to scroll up and down, or move sideways, while pressing on the center functions as an action button. I would prefer a standard 5 way directional pad to this design and I prefer the jog dial on the side where it's easy to manipulate when holding the unit with one hand.

Sony Clie TJ27

Above, the side of the TJ27, with capture button and power/hold switch slider on the left end.

Horsepower and Expandability

The TJ27 and TJ37, like Sony's other high end Palm OS 5 models, have a 200 MHz processor. Like prior TJs, the new models use the same 200 MHz i.MXL ARM family processor that feels snappy and responsive in all tasks. The TJ27 has 32 megs of internal RAM, 23 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.

The TJ27 and TJ37 have a Memory Stick slot that works with regular Memory Sticks and Memory Stick Pro media.

The units use the same connector as all recent Cliés, so existing peripherals should work with the TJ (other than cradles). The TJ models come with a USB sync cable and no cradle. A cradle is available separately if you prefer a cradle over a cable.

Display and Sound

The screen is a backlit TFT hi-res 320 x 320 pixel, 65,000 color TFT. Though Sony makes some of the sharpest and brightest PDA displays on the market, the entry level TJs have screens that are sharp, but not particularly bright. Colors are saturated and pleasing when viewing JPEGs, so it makes a nice image viewer even though it's not the brightest PDA on the block. The screen has a slight cool color bias (like most Cliés), and is evenly lit with no stray light coming from the edges of the display.

Unlike other Cliés, the TJ27 has what Sony calls a "buzzer" for alarms. It emits the familiar Palm OS midi sounds for alarms. It doesn't have polyphonic audio, and offers no MP3 playback or stereo output capabilities.

Battery

Both models have a Lithium Ion Polymer rechargeable battery that is not user replaceable. Since the display isn't hugely bright, the TJ27 doesn't consume a great deal of power, and the i.MXL processor seems quite power efficient. It should last a few days on a charge using PIM and office apps. Gaming and video playback will shorten battery life, which is true of all PDAs.

Software Bundle

Since the TJ27 is a low end PDA by Sony standards, it doesn't come with a huge software bundle. You'll get Palm Desktop 4.1 for PCs (not Mac), Intellisync Lite for syncing to Outlook, Clié Image Viewer, Memory Stick Backup, Clié Launcher, Graffiti 2 handwriting recognition, the usual Palm OS PIM apps and Clié Memo and the free Palm Reader. If you're a Mac user, you'll either need to give iSync a try, or get MissingSync from www.markspace.com to enjoy full syncing capabilities with your Mac. Though the TJ27 doesn't come with software to view and edit MS Office docs in the box, users who register their Clié will recieve a registration code to download and register DataViz® Documents To Go® Professional Edition version 6.0 for free.

 

 

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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.

 

Camera

We've come a long way, thanks largely to Sony when it comes to integrated digicams. While other brands of PDAs with integrated digicams tend to be larger to accommodate the camera, the new TJs are remarkably small and Sony hasn't increased the size while adding the camera into what essentially is a revision of the compact TJ25 and 35 models. Sony has the best line of integrated cameras, and they take very good quality photos by PDA standards. I was impressed at how well the TJ27 did with low light indoor shots even though the unit doesn't have a flash or capture light. Outdoor pictures were pleasing, though some overexposure is apparent on very bright daylight shots. Since PDA cameras are typically VGA affairs with CMOS sensors that have been shrunk down to fit in a handheld, so don't expect to throw away your standalone digicam. That said, the Cliés continue to beat the competition.

The TJ27 has a CMOS .31 megapixel VGA digicam capable of taking photos at a maximum resolution of 640 x 460. Unlike higher-end Cliés, it cannot shoot movies.

To take photos, simply press the capture button on the side of the TJ, or launch the Clié Camera application. If you forget to open the lens cover, the Clié will remind you when you launch the app.

The TJ can save images in 640 x 460, 320 x 240, 320 x 480 or 160 x 120 size to either internal memory or a Memory Stick. 640 x 480 images average about 100 to 125k. You can let the Clié set brightness and white balance automatically, or you can tweak the settings yourself. The unit offers two effects: B&W and Sepia (higher-end Cliés offer more effects).

sample1 sample2

Above, sample photos taken with the TJ27. Click on the photo to see the original full-size image, unedited.

The TJ37 includes the above mentioned software, and adds Decuma handwriting recognition which has appeared on other recent Cliés. It's an excellent system that allows you to write naturally and even write an entire sentence at a time. In addition, the TJ37 comes with Picsel Viewer, a very capable application that allows you to view (but not edit) MS Office documents, HTML files and PDFs.

Comparing the TJ27 to the Zire 71

If you're in the market for a relatively low cost Palm OS PDA with an integrated camera, the TJ27, TJ37 and Palm Zire 71 are your choices. If price is important and you don't need an MP3 player, the $199 TJ27 compares well to the $249 Zire 71. While the screen is brighter and better on the Zire 71, the TJ's is certainly very nice and usable. The TJ takes better pictures than the Zire 71, is more compact and has no moving parts (the camera mechanism slides open on the Zire 71). Once you register your TJ27, you'll be able to download Documents To Go 6 Professional for viewing and editing MS Office documents, while the Zire 71 doesn't come with an MS Office suite. The TJ27 has 10 megs more available memory than the Zire 71.

Conclusion

Pro: Fast Palm OS 5 device with a 200 MHz processor. Has an integrated VGA digital camera that takes good shots by PDA standards. Attractive unit that's among the smallest and lightest PDAs. You can use Sony T, SJ and NX series accessories, including Sony's keyboard. Con: The screen isn't very bright on either model. Battery isn't user replaceable. Not much of a software bundle. No polyphonic audio, so you'll be enjoy only a limited palette of midi alarms.

List price: TJ27 $199

 

Specs:

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

Performance: 200 MHz i.MXL processor (ARM family processor made by Motorola). 32 megs of RAM with 23 available to the user.

Size: 4 1/2 x 3 x 17/32 inches. 5 ounces (145 grams).

Battery: Rechargeable Lithium Ion Polymer. Not user replaceable.

Camera: .31 megapixel CMOS VGA camera for photos (not movies). F2.8 lens with 3.6mm focal length (equiv. to a 35mm lens on a 35mm film camera). Focus range .23m to infinity. White balance: auto, outdoor, indoor A (incandescent) and indoor B (fluorescent). Picture effects: none, B&W, sepia. Brightness: auto and 5 steps of manual adjustment from -2 to + 2. Self-timer and 2x digital zoom.

Audio: It has a "buzzer" for alarms that uses midi sounds, and no discreet speaker and no polyphonic audio as on other Cliés.

Modem / Wireless: No modem included. WiFi 802.11b on TJ37 only.

Software: Palm OS 5.2.1 and the usual suite of Palm applications, including Palm HotSync, Address Book, Date Book, Clock, To Do List, Memo Pad, Calculator and Graffiti 2 handwriting recognition software. In addition, you get Sony Software: Memory Stick Backup, Data Import/ Export (for mounting Memory Sticks on PC desktops) and a lot of trial/demo software. Documents To Go 6 Professional can be downloaded for free upon registration of the Clié. Desktop software: Palm Desktop 4.1 for PC (not Mac), Intellisync™ Lite v. 4.0 for syncing to Outlook on the PC.

Screen flip cover, USB sync cable, AC adapter/charger and software CD included.

 

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