Entertain me with your dwarf tablet

At first glance, this Sony handheld looks like a dwarf tablet PC. It opens to reveal a screen and tiny QWERTY keyboard, but the screen can swivel and fold back to resemble a more familiar touchscreen device.

Sony Clié PEG-UX50

$1499

At first glance, this Sony handheld looks like a dwarf tablet PC. It opens to reveal a screen and tiny QWERTY keyboard, but the screen can swivel and fold back to resemble a more familiar touchscreen device.

It’s a flexible design that works well. Although the keys are too small for writing great works of literature, they’re surprisingly useable for casual work. When the screen is flipped and the pen removed from its sleeve, the $1499 Clié behaves like any other Palm OS personal information manager (PIM).

In its folded configuration, the Clié is less than 2cm thick and weighs only 175g. It never feels bulky and fits quite comfortably in pocket or bag.

Despite the small size, Sony has managed to pack a lot into the Clié’s case, including USB, Bluetooth, 802.11b wireless, infrared, a Sony memory stick and a camera that tucks into the hinge when not in use. The 480 x 320 screen is bright and sharp.

Sony says the lithium-ion polymer battery will last for about seven hours of use. The Clié ships with a separate dock for charging. We expected the dock to include the USB port and a HotSync button, but instead Sony included them in the PIM itself (syncing is initiated with a button on the display.) That’s useful if you want to sync with a PC away from the dock.

Although the Clié can be run with the screen lit or unlit, we found we couldn’t read the screen without backlighting, which will increase the drain on the battery.

Because the camera rotates on the hinge, it can be used when the Clié is folded or open. Like picture-capable cellphones it won’t compete with a purpose-built camera, but it’s handy for quick snaps. Stills pics can be taken at 640 x 480 resolution, or rudimentary movies at 160 x 112.

There’s no shortage of software in the case. The Clié runs the Palm OS 5.2 operating system, and includes a web browser, photo editor, music player and a viewer for Microsoft Office documents. There’s also a system for recording and playing back audio, albeit in mono (the headphone jack does support stereo).

Sony doesn’t refer to the Clié as a PIM or PDA (personal digital assistant), but as a "personal entertainment organiser". With all the user-land goodies packed into the tiny case, most people will quickly find something to entertain them.

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