Pros: Very good price/performance, excellent screen, navigation controls
Cons: Preloaded, non-removable apps consume 5mb of the available 16 internal RAM
Though a computer professional for 15+ years, I never really had much regard for the usefulness of a PDA, preferring the laptop form factor for portability. However, I became interested in the latest crop of PDAa and found them to be truly useful computing devices. My recent purchase of the Sony Clie TG50 confimred this.
My main criteria for this purchase was for the device to have excellent human factors usability and to also be either WiFi or Bluetooth enabled. An integrated MP3 player was also desireable to eliminate an extras device to carry around. I also did not want to purchase one of the very high end PDAs whose prices approach those of laptops. These made no economical sense to me. This collection of criteria limited the field quite a bit. In fact, the decision came down to the Clie TG50 or the Palm Tungsten T.
The Tungsten T looks like a nice compact PDA, but upon further analysis, the Sony was clearly the better PDA. The TG50 affords the user several modes of input. There's the typical built-in Grafiti method (using software based Grafiti rather than the "silk screened" area on the Palm devices). Then theres a built-in. backlit keyboard which Is actually easier to use than it appears, even with the tiny keys. The keyboard has a very solid feel and the orange backlight makes it very useable in low light. There's a built-in application called Clie Memo for handwriting memos. Finally, theres a builtin digital voice recorder. In other words, there's an input method for any situation you could be in.
Bluetooth makes the TG50 into a communcations device and really extends the usefulness of this PDA. Of course, you need another Bluetooth device to talk to. I bought a USB Bluetooth adapter for my laptop ($35) and now I can surf the web on the TG50, receive email, and also Hotsynch via Bluetooth.
The TG50 runs the most recent version of Palm OS, version 5. It also runs fairly fast (as PDAs go), using an Intel Xscale processor at 200 mhz. The unit has 16mb of internal RAM, 5 of which are mapped out for the included Sony apps, leaving 11mb of user RAM. This not a severe limitation because the included apps are useful and the included memory stick slot allows the unit to be greatly expanded. Many apps can be made to run from the memory stick, making limited use of the internal RAM.
Amongst the included app is the NetFront browser. I was skeptical that web access would be doable or usable on this unit, but it really does work. Combined with the high resolution and very bright screen, web site articles are very readable. The jog dial, a Sony design exclusive, makes navigation intuitive. While this does not replace the web browsing experience of a desktop or laptop computer, that fact that it is usable on this PDA illustates how well designed this machine really is.
MP3 playback is enabled via the included Audioplayer app. A memory stick is required for this function. The unit has a separate DSP devoted to audio playback and thus it is possible to multitask the MP3 play back while you work in another PDA application. With a decent set of headphones, sound quality rivals dedicated MP3 players. From Sony, you would expect this function to be well designed and it is.
Finally, the unit is very well made and is slim enough to fit in a pants pocket. This is critical also, as what use is a PDA that is not easily transportable?
As if all this wasn't enough, Sony is running a $50 rebate incentive, making this a very price attractive package. In my research, it really stands alone in the PDA market. It has already proved valuable to me. It gets my recommendation for being both a well designed organizer with well integrated entertainment functions, in a very professional package.