Leave it to Sony to take a perfectly ordinary business tool like a PDA and turn it into something, well, fun. But the Sony Clii PEG-N710C features provide more than entertainment value.
While the 320 by 320 pixel, 8-bit color screen isn't as vibrant as the Sony monochromatic N610Cs, it is certainly good enough to display business graphics and most photos. Even the address book takes advantage of the color screen, allowing photos to be attached to contacts.
While there aren't as many color applications as black and white programs, those that support color are easier to use and more intuitive. Multimedia applications like Clii's own gMovie video player and PictureGear Pocket wouldn't be possible without a color screen, but everything from expense tracking to spreadsheets becomes more manageable with a color interface. While early color units from Palm and Handspring felt a bit sluggish, the Sony Clii runs with no noticeable speed problems despite the high-resolution color screen.
The N710C comes bundled with all the standard software that Palm users have come to know and love (or hate), plus a few bonuses. The unit includes a number of titles aimed more at recreational than business use, but the bundled AvantGo allows the Clii to be loaded with content from any Web site . RandMcNally's StreetFinder. enables Clii users to turn the handheld into a portable mapping device. Finally, Vindigo provides business travelers with info on food and entertainment in most major metropolitan areas.
The built-in movie player is slightly less useful than the photo browsing software, but the ability to watch streaming video (the length of which is determined by the Memory Stick being used) could come in handy for showing a client a quick presentation in the field.
The built-in MP3 player eliminates the need to pack two devices for a commute or business trip. Having an MP3 player built in comes in handy for work, too, allowing traveling employees to listen to speeches, interviews, shareholder reports, and any other corporate audio in MP3 format.
All this audio and video goodness is stored on Sony's Memory Stick cards, which slide into the unit and can be swapped to provide more storage. The Clii N710C comes with 8MB of RAM on board, plus a rather anemic 8MB Memory Stick card. Files can be transferred to Memory Stick with either an additional card reader or by simply docking the Clii and transferring files as if the unit were an additional hard drive.
The Clii doesn't seem to sync any faster or slower than any other device we've used. Sync speed seems controlled more by the host OS running the backup software and the connection (pure USB for Handspring, USB to serial for Palm, etc.). It also seems to be based on the amount of data being transferred and the platform from which it's being transferred. Since the Clii has both Vindigo and AvantGo, it's really hard to time it. The sync times change each time a sync is made, depending on how many files are selected and how many updates were made.
With a brushed metal finish and matching buttons, the N710C is one of the sharpest looking Palm devices on the market.
Perhaps the only downside to the device is its price. $499 is a lot to pay for a Palm; it's more than one third the cost of a whole Macintosh iBook. But size matters, and as long as the price of color LCD screens stays high, so will the price of color Palm devices. Sony packs a lot into this device, though, making it worth the money.
Sony Clii PEG-N710CRating: 90
Manufacturer: Sony877-760-7669; www.sony.com
Configuration: Palm OS version 3.5.2s; 33MHz Motorola Dragonball VZ; 8MB of memory (4MB of Flash plus 8MB of RAM); Reflective TFT 320- by 320-pixel color display; 4.67 by 2.80 by 0.66 inch; 5.65 ounce; IrDA port; Expansion Slot compatible with Memory Stick removable memory; Internal Lithium Polymer Rechargeable battery; AC Adapter
Pros: Slim, sleek, color device with MP3 and video playback
Cons: $100 more than color unit without MP3 playback; no Mac support