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Sony CLIE PEG-NR70V

Sony is putting a new twist on handhelds. Not only does the CLIE PEG-NR70V have a slick clamshell design with a swivelling display, but it also houses a built-in digital camera, a keypad and a host of multimedia functions. Roughly the size of a cigarette case, this CLIE will no doubt turn heads. But with an asking price of £449.30 (inc. VAT), Sony is catapulting Palm OS devices into the high-end Pocket PC range.
Written by Darren Gladstone, Contributor
clie-nr70v-lead.jpg

Sony CLIÉ PEG-NR70V

7.4 / 5
Excellent

pros and cons

Pros
  • Innovative, cool design
  • high-quality, high-resolution screen
  • built-in thumb keypad, camera and MP3 player.
Cons
  • A bit bulky
  • expensive.
  • Editors' review
  • Specs

Sony is putting a new twist on handhelds. Not only does the CLIE PEG-NR70V have a slick clamshell design with a swivelling display, but it also houses a built-in digital camera, a keypad and a host of multimedia functions. Roughly the size of a cigarette case, this CLIE will no doubt turn heads. But with an asking price of £449.30 (inc. VAT), Sony is catapulting Palm OS devices into the high-end Pocket PC range.

When you open the NR70V, it's easy to confuse it for some ultramodern cellular flip phone, but unfortunately, there are no wireless features built in. The large, colourful 320 by 480-pixel transflective LCD is the first thing that you'll notice. The high resolution makes photos look especially good, although the difference is somewhat less noticeable when using third-party applications such as AvantGo.

The screen feels extra large because this model -- like all Pocket PCs and the HandEra 330 -- uses a virtual Graffiti area. As an added benefit, you see your stylus strokes on the screen, which makes it easier to write accurately.

If you prefer the BlackBerry school of data entry, the NR70V’s small, built-in thumb keypad is among the better examples that we've tested, largely because the keys are well spaced. Above the keypad, you'll find the usual four application controls. Between those buttons are two tiny scroll buttons, which we found too small and flush to be very useful. Like all CLIEs, the NR70V has a jog dial on the side.

The design of this handheld is pretty clever. When closed, the brushed-aluminium case feels rugged, and the screen is well protected. You can open the casing up to use the keyboard, or you can rotate the screen 180 degrees, fold it back down to cover the keyboard, and use the NR70V like a traditional Palm device. Measuring 7.2cm by 13.7cm by 1.7cm and weighing 200g, this CLIE is bigger and heavier than almost every handheld we've reviewed recently. It slips easily into a jacket pocket, but would weigh down your shirt pocket.

A key feature of the NR70V is the inclusion of a built-in CMOS camera. Before you get too excited, this 100,000-pixel camera can only capture 320 by 240 pixel still images at its highest setting. The pictures we took around the office were acceptable so long as our subjects were well lit (there's no built-in flash). But this camera is better suited for quick shots to email to a friend than to print for posterity. You can even edit your images using the included CLIE Paint program.

The NR70V is the first Palm OS device to boast Motorola's new 66MHz DragonBall Super VZ processor. The faster processor allows for better video playback, but the 16MB of built-in RAM can't hold much in the way of video files. So count on buying a large Memory Stick to hold your videos, photos, and MP3s. Yes, that's right--the NR70V also has a built-in audio player.

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Although the music player works as advertised, the SonicStage software that Sony provides for moving tunes to and from the CLIE is a disaster. Fortunately, Memory Stick Import/Export, another bundled application, makes the NR70V appear as a hard drive on your PC's desktop. Thanks to that application, it's simple to drag and drop MP3s onto the handheld.

Sony continues to bundle IntelliSync Lite for the PC with the CLIE line. Although this program has some distinct advantages -- field-level synchronisation, for instance -- it is more difficult to use than Chapura's PocketMirror, which comes with other Palm devices. The continued lack of Mac support is another thorn in Sony's side. Mac owners will still need to buy Mark/Space's Missing Sync software, which is sold separately.

The NR70V is the largest, heaviest, and most expensive Palm OS handheld, but its clever design, great screen, integrated keyboard and built-in digital camera make up for a lot of that bulkiness. Ultimately, however, this CLIE will appeal primarily to gadget lovers with deep pockets who are looking to own a unique and stylish handheld. To put it another way: We applaud Sony for the NR70V's innovative design and strong feature set (although we wish it had wireless capabilities), but we’re not sure how practical this device is in a market where there's an increasing desire for smaller, lighter models.