Sleek Sony PDA impresses

SAN FRANCISCO (09/22/2003) - None of Sony Electronics Inc.'s PDAs look boring, but the company has outdone itself with the new Clie PEG-UX50-a cleverly designed keyboard-based unit that has more traits in common with a laptop than a conventional handheld. Unfortunately, one of those traits is a high price tag-US$699.

The 6-ounce, Palm-based PDA may look like a miniature notebook, but at 4 by 3.5 by 0.75 inches, it's a lot easier to carry. The wide 2.75 by 1.75-inch display offers 480-by-320 resolution, and my shipping unit's screen-which also can be flipped around and over to resemble a diminutive tablet PC-was clear and sharp with excellent colors.

The keyboard improves greatly on the undersize ones other Palm-based units carry. The keys are bigger, and their tactile response during thumb typing makes this Clié perfect for taking notes or writing short e-mail messages.

Powered by Sony's new Handheld Engine processor and packed with 104MB of memory, the PEG-UX50 ran all the included apps well and easily handled several extra ones I added (though it lacks the conventional Palm buttons that some software add-ons use, so some games are difficult to play on it).

The PEG-UX50 offers built-in Bluetooth and 802.11b wireless connections. Its NetFront Web browser rendered pages well, but some smaller fonts proved a bit hard to read.

Among its other amenities: a built-in, 640-by-480-capable camera that can also record video, and a MemoryStick Pro slot. The unit's rechargeable lithium ion polymer battery sustained about two days of casual use between charges; employing the 802.11b connection significantly reduced battery life, however.

PDA aficionados will find the PEG-UX50 a cool and extremely functional device-if they can afford it.

Sony Electronics Clié PEG-UX50

This PDA is exceedingly sleek, but owning it will cost you.

Price when reviewed: $699.

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