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Sony Clie TJ37

Posted Feb. 11, 2004, by Lisa Gade Editor in Chief

Discontinued

Sony, better known recently for their high-end handhelds, has gotten the entry to mid-range market beat with the new $299 TJ37, announced Feb. 10, 2004 in the US. This unit packs a lot of great features into a reasonably priced and surpisingly small PDA.

The TJ37 and its lower featured sibling the $199 TJ27 replace the TJ25 and TJ35, which were introduced in the Fall of 2003. The TJ27 and TJ37 have much in common and share the same casing, though differing in color— the TJ27 is gunmetal colored while the TJ37 is silver with gray trim. You'll notice similarities in some sections of our TJ reviews because the units have much in common. Both new TJs have integrated VGA digicams, the same 200 MHz processor, high res display and memory specs, but the TJ37 adds WiFi 802.11b wireless networking, an MP3 player, an internal speaker and a better software bundle. These low-priced digicam toting Cliés will likely compete with Palm's very successful Zire 71.

Sony CLIE TJ37
Sony TJ37 back view

 

Design and Ergonomics

The TJ27 and TJ37 look identical except for the casing color, headphone jack and WiFi/IR window located on the top edge and green WiFi indicator light on the bottom left 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 TJ37 is finished in silver, with a gray surround that runs around the edges.

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.

Horsepower and Expandability

Like Sony's other high end Palm OS 5 models, the TJ37 has a 200 MHz processor. The TJ37 uses the same 200 MHz i.MXL ARM family processor found in the TJ25, TJ35 and TJ27. It feels snappy and responsive in all tasks. The TJ37 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 TJ37 has a Memory Stick slot that works with regular Memory Sticks and Memory Stick Pro media.

The unit uses 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.

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 and TJ37 (they use the same camera) 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 and fuzziness 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.

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The TJ37 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).

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.

MP3, Sound and Video

The TJ37 has a single speaker capable of playing polyphonic audio, and has a stereo headphone jack. The TJ37 comes with the popular AeroPlayer for MP3 playback (three skins are included). The TJ models use the Palm OS sound APIs rather than custom Sony APIs, so audio software for Palm brand PDAs should run on the TJs. While not quite as good as top of the line Cliés, audio playback is still excellent. Sony is a leader in audio gear, and that shows in their line of PDAs.

For video playback, the TJ37 comes with Kinoma Player 2 for the Clié. Kinoma Producer for the desktop, which allows you to rip your own videos to Kinoma format isn't included. Kinoma is the most popular video player for Palm OS PDAs, and version 2 supports stereo audio, full screen playback and offers reasoanbly good video quality. Since many Kinoma videos available for download on the Net have been recorded in low quality suitable for older and slower Palms, you may want to rip your own videos to get higher quality movies. The TJ37 does a good job of video playback using Kinoma, and played movies smoothly.

WFi

Want to do a little surfing with your Sony, or do some light email work? The TJ37 will let you do just that. Since few Palm OS PDAs come with integrated WiFi 802.11b local area network wireless networking, the TJ37 will be on your short list if WiFi is your thing. WiFi configuration works similarly to the high end Clié UX50, and it supports both 64 and 128 bit encryption, power saving mode (the radio turns off after periods of inactivity), DHCP and static IPs. You can enter the name of the access point you wish to use (SSID), or you can use the "Auto Connect" profile which will connect to any available access point that doesn't use encryption using DHCP (great for Starbucks or the airport).

For email, you get Clié Mail, which is a decent app that supports multiple email accounts, POP3, signatures, filters and syncing to your desktop. NetFront 3.1, an excellent web browser, is included with the TJ37. It supports JavaScript, caching, cookies, SSL and you can even change its user agent string if you wish to fool sites into thinking you're using a desktop browser. The browser also offers best fit, zoomed and text-wrapped page viewing, as well as allowing you to drag the page around on screen if you prefer that to scrolling. NetFront ran well and I didn't encounter any of the "page too large" errors that annoyed older NX series Clié users. However, I did find that pages loaded slowly even when signal strength was good. In comparison, my UX50 loads pages very quickly using NetFront.

Battery

The unit has a Lithium Ion Polymer rechargeable battery that is not user replaceable. 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. When using WiFi, I was able to surf continuously for three hours even with the WiFi power saving option turned off. Three hours is quite good by today's standards, and you likely won't find a PDA that lasts longer using only the standard internal battery.

Software Bundle

The TJ37 comes with a good 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. In addition you get Clié Mail, NetFront 3.1 web browser, Decuma handwriting recognition (a very nice input system that allows you to enter whole words or groups of words at a time), Picsel Viewer (allows you to view MS Office documents as well as PDFs), Kinoma Player 2 and AeroPlayer for MP3s. If you want to edit MS Office docs on the Clié, you'll be happy to hear that users who register their Clié will recieve a registration code and download link for a registered copy of DataViz® Documents To Go® Professional Edition version 6.0 for free.

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.

Comparing the TJ37 to the Zire 71

The TJ37 costs $50 more than the Palm Zire 71, but it does add a few strong features: integrated WiFi 802.11b, 10 megs more available internal memory, an MS Office and PDF viewer (Picsel Viewer) built into ROM which means it doesn't waste precious storage space. Once you register your TJ37, 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. Though 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).

Conclusion

Pro: Fast Palm OS 5 device with a 200 MHz processor and a good amount of RAM. Has built-in WiFi 802.11b wireless networking. 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. Good software bundle. Con: The screen isn't very bright on the TJs. Page loading is slow using the included NetFront web browser. Battery isn't user replaceable.

List price: TJ37 $299

 

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 speaker and supports polyphonic audio. It also has a standard stereo 3.5mm headphone jack.

Modem / Wireless: WiFi 802.11b is included. No modem included.

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), Clié Viewer (for images), Clié Mail and a lot of trial/demo software. 3rd party software incudes NetFront 3.1, Picsel Viewer, Kinoma Player 2, AeroPlayer and Decuma handwriting recognition 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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