Pros: Sony style... good size and easy to carry around. Great entry-level PDA
Cons: Poorly designed stylus... Needs a docking cradle... For some: memory stick
I purchased this Sony PEG TJ35 to replace a Sony PEG TG50 that I had. So in my review, youll probably find me making many references in comparison or contrast to those two units. You should also consider checking out reviews the TJ35s closest competing hardware offering in the Palm Tungsten E. Also, be aware that Sony is planning to release an updated version of the TJ35. The TJ37 should be available soon: http://www.bargainpda.com/default.asp?newsID=1841
You may also want to know that Sony has acknowledged an issue with some TJ35s and a faulty backlight. I am not going to consider the faulty backlight issue as a fault against the TJ35. Newer runs have fixed the problem, and Sonys approach at remedying the situation with affected users has been exemplary. Sony is now offering to fix anyones TJ35, free of charge, even if the backlight problem has not yet effected their handheld. The service is very quick, and Sony pays for all shipping costs. More details from Sony can be read at:
Anyway, on to the review:
Overall, I find the TJ35 to be very well designed, and the subtle features really add up to make this a near-flawless product. I feel that consumers will get a good value with a purchase of a TJ35 if they can find one for a ball-park figure of $200 or less. Initially, Sony was selling TJ35 models at a retail price of $250 and they soon offered a $30 mail in rebate. I had found that many vendors had actually dropped the price of a TJ35 to around $200 and Sony still offered the $30 rebate. Thus, the effective end price of my TJ35 was just $170. At this price, the TJ35 is one of the best PDA alternatives in its category.
I think the best types of users for this product are students or professionals who are looking for an organizer, but dont need to rely on the organizer every hour of every day to remain connected to their office. Yes, the TJ35 has connectivity options, but they pale in comparison to other devices whose designed intent was targeted at professionals on the go. It seems that Sony intends the TJ35 to be an introduction to their handheld products, and they throw in a few bells and whistles that most casual consumers are looking for. For more stylish, trendy users, Sony does offer the TG50 as a personal entertainment organizer. It seems that users who really want a fun and playful organizer should consider the more expensive TG50 - simply because it is targeted at those users. However, most users looking for an organizer that happens to have bells and whistles should do fine with a TJ35.
The one thing that I appreciate about this Clie is its outer case. The external chassis is very well constructed, and the subtle accents and layout make the visual appearance very appealing. It really does look like Sony took great care in the build quality. Yes, the backlight issue exists, but since Sony is willing to rectify that flaw, it seems to demonstrate that Sony trully set out to make a very good, high quality device. The addition of a folding front flap helps keep it looking good (at least, on the front). I think the TG50 is better-built than the TJ35 but its probably just in my head. I have no qualms about throwing my TJ35 into my pocket or into a bag and it has held up very well in spite of being in the same pocket as my keys or my cell phone.
In terms of hardware and performance, the TJ35 does everything that I want it to do. The screen looks very good although it seems the Tungsten E devices have better screens. Hardware wise, the TJ35 is fairly powerful, and it zips along where I never notice any waiting screens. Battery life has been exemplary for my use, and I usually go 2 or 3 days between full charging sessions. Synching via USB and infra red has been very easy and painless. I have had no problems putting media onto the TJ35, and it was very easy to start listening to music which sounded great through my earbud headphones. The memory stick media slot may be of concern, but I did not have any problems with it. Read below, in the Cons section for my thoughts about memory sticks.
Usability is fairly sound. My cons are centered around this area, but for the most part, the TJ35 is pretty good. The scrolling thumb wheel offers good response and feel, and the location of switches and buttons is fine. The bundled software greatly enhances usability and it doesnt take much for you to start listening to music or viewing documents. It would be nice to have a better document-editor, but I dont have a pressing need to do much document manipulation. I had to re-learn the graffiti input system after going away from the TG50, but that only took a few days. The Sony Launcher is well designed, and the included software lets you use the handheld in a variety of interesting ways.
The down-side is focused in the usability of the TJ35. First and foremost is the frustratingly skinny stylus. The stylus is the same collapsible design as in the Sony NX73 and NX 80 models. Basically, it resembles your powered car radio antenna in that one part of the stylus fits within the other half of the stylus. That means, when you put it away, it only takes about 2 inches instead of 4 inches. While it is novel, the fact that it is so thin in some places really hurts its usability. Also, the stylus doesnt stay extended all the time, and I often find myself re-extending it to full length because it had collapsed into a 2 inch nib while I was using it. The weight of the stylus is also strange where it does not feel very comfortable when held in my hand. I dont mean to say that using the stylus is impossible, just that its more annoying than it should be.
The second to the usability of the TJ35 is the lack of a docking cradle. I guess Im just used to see docking bays with Hotsync buttons for all palm devices but the TJ35 doesnt have one. You are stuck with a very strangely designed adaptor with 2 cables protruding out of it. Sony decided that they wouldnt rely on a computers USB cable as means to power the Clie. This wouldnt be so bad if there was a docking cradle, but the alternative that Sony uses for the TJ35 means that you have to attach a strange dongle every time you want to charge or sync. On top of that, the dongle has 2 separate cables exiting from it that need to go to two separate targets one is the USB connection and the other is the power cord.
The last usability issue I have is that Sony remains hooked on the use of Memory Stick as its means of removable media technology. For those of you with existing Sony products, you probably dont care. However, for someone who is new to Sony it makes the leap difficult. The TJ35 was meant to play mp3s and do interesting multimedia tasks. Unfortunately, the only true means of doing those tasks is centered on proprietary (and rather expensive) technology. Thus, users should take care when considering what hardware they may already own, and whether they truly intend to use their TJ35 as an MP3 player or file transportation device.
One thing that is nagging me is that the TG50 doesnt have most of these shortcomings; which makes me wonder if Sony designed the TJ35 poorly on purpose. To me, the TG50 would be perfect if not for its support of memory sticks, but since you get a cradle and a proper stylus with a TG50, that alone seems to make the TG50 worth the extra money.
As an alternative, I suggest that you try out the JavoEdge sync cable / charging cord. In essence, your Clie can now use the USB power from your computer or laptop as means to charge your battery. The down-side is that you must have your computer on in order to charge your Clie, but it does become much easier to manage. Of course, spending $20 for something that Sony *should* have done in the first place is not my idea of good design. Visit the JavoEdge website at:
In summary, I think the TJ35 is a great PDA if not for its lack of a docking cradle. There are some weird design elements (such as the decision for Memory Stick and that darned stylus) that I just attribute it as Sony is being Sony. Overall, I would recommend the TJ35 as a great option for an entry-level PDA. But, users who want more multimedia or power-business-user options may need to consider something else.
While the TJ35 is a good unit, I think many users would benefit by getting a PEG TG50 instead of the TJ35. I was able to get a TG50 for $50 more than what I paid for (after rebate) my TJ35. While I would recommend the TJ35 to someone who wants the best thing for a very low price, users willing to spend a bit more should really consider the TG50 over the TJ35.
Last, if you care to read my review over the TG50, please point your browser to: http://www.epinions.com/content_122370231940