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Following up on its groundbreaking but slightly flawed NR70V, Sony has delivered the NX70V, which has a design similar to that of its predecessor but offers an improved interface, better performance and additional features. The result is a more polished device that is arguably the most capable -- if not the most compact -- handheld on the market. Is the NX70V perfect? No, but it is that rare piece of expensive technology that seems to merit its price tag.
Written by Brian Nadel, Contributor


8.3 / 5

pros and cons

  • Great mix of software
  • Wi-Fi option
  • video camera and keyboard
  • built-in still camera
  • large swivel screen.
  • CompactFlash slot for networking only
  • videos not supported by most media players
  • big and heavy.
  • Editors' review
  • Specs

Following up on its groundbreaking but slightly flawed NR70V, Sony has delivered the NX70V, which has a design similar to that of its predecessor but offers an improved interface, better performance and additional features. The result is a more polished device that is arguably the most capable -- if not the most compact -- handheld on the market. Is the NX70V perfect? No, but it is that rare piece of expensive technology that seems to merit its price tag.

Sleek and silver, the CLIE NX70V is the closest thing to sculpture that you can carry around. The case has a textured feel that contrasts with the smooth, shiny finish of its competitors. With just about every imaginable feature and a few pleasant surprises, the NX70V is one of the largest and most expensive handhelds on the market. In fact, we had trouble deciding whether it was a huge handheld or a micro-notebook. Measuring 7.11cm by 13.72cm by 2.29cm and weighing 227g, this CLIE is longer, thicker and heavier than Palm's Tungsten T. However, Sony has put the extra room to good use, endowing the NX70V with a large 3.9in. screen and a mini-keyboard that makes data entry so easy that you can forget about Graffiti. It takes only a second or two to flip around this CLIE's screen, transforming it from a traditional, touch-screen device to a keyboard-centric system that resembles a tiny notebook. On the downside, the 5mm keys are puny, but since they're spaced 2mm apart, thumb typing is tolerable. We liked the fact that the fold-up screen can be used as an easel, so you can prop up the NX70V. The bad news is that Sony skimped on the stylus, which can't be removed from its holder while docked in the synchronisation cradle (the cradle blocks the stylus slot's opening). The aforementioned cradle is good for syncing at your home base or your office desktop. Travellers can use the NX70V's converter, which plugs directly into the AC adapter and the USB cable, for charging and syncing without the cradle. The screen's hinge houses a full-motion video camera that does surprisingly well with four different white-balance routines and a variety of artistic effects. The 310,000-pixel lens swivels 280 degrees to catch shots from a variety of angles. A new addition to the CLIE design is a CompactFlash Type II slot. This port accommodates another new item, the PEGA-WL100 Wi-Fi wireless-networking card. Don't expect the slot to work with other CompactFlash accessories, though; such products won't be compatible with this CLIE until drivers for the devices have been written.

From the start, the NX70V sets a new standard for Palm-based handhelds. Inside, you'll find the most up-to-date hardware: a 200MHz Intel StrongARM processor and 16MB of RAM, though only 11MB are available for use. Combine this processing power with Palm's OS 5.0 and Sony's high-resolution screen, and you have a very capable handheld. As noted, the NX70V sports an improved interface over the NR70V. In addition to a new category listing to the left of the program selections, the main page is less cramped, and there's room for a useful program list at the bottom. As with the previous model, the Graffiti-input screen is part of the display, so you can write on it or hide it in order to make better use of the screen's space. All the usual PIM features are here, including a calendar, address book, to-do list, alarm clock and software that allows you to synchronise with Microsoft Outlook. Mac users will have to purchase an extra synchronisation package, though. Email and Web browsing are available, but you'll need to purchase Sony's aforementioned PEG-WL100 Wi-Fi card, which slides into the back of the unit, to access such capabilities. The surfing experience isn't as fast as you'd get from a notebook or a desktop computer, but the freedom to roam without wires is liberating. However, we wish that we could view sites in landscape mode (horizontally), and access Java-enabled pages. It's also worth noting that the Wi-Fi card adds another 1.3cm to the CLIE's already substantial size and partially obstructs the unit's camera. Speaking of the camera: video and audio are the icing on the cake for the NX70V, and Sony largely delivers on its promise to merge mobility with entertainment. In addition to taking instant voice memos, the handheld plays MP3 or ATRAC3 sound files. On a critical note, we feel that the NX70V is a bit volume-challenged. The audio is rich and vibrant, but it never really gets loud enough with the included headphones to block out background noise. At least the NX70V comes with an MP3-player controller that lets you navigate, select and play songs without having to open the unit. We were impressed with the full-sound mini-movies that the NX70V makes. With a resolution of 160 by 120 pixels, these clips are pretty small, but come out looking smooth and fairly detailed -- the optics in this CLIE's camera are a definite step up from those of the previous model. Unfortunately, any video created on the NX70V is saved in Sony's proprietary MQV format, which is not supported by most media players. After some digging, we discovered that MQV files will play with QuickTime 6.0. The clips take up about 1.5MB per minute, so they must be stored on a Memory Stick, which isn't included. The camera can take larger still images up to 640 by 480 resolution, but the focus is slightly fuzzy. The unit lacks a flash, so the lighting has to be very good, or the pictures come out grainy. Most handhelds cut corners on software, but this is the NX70V's strong suit. In addition to Sony's version of Palm OS 5.0, the NetFront Web browser and CLIE Mail, the package includes a CD that's chock-full of programs and utilities. The best of the bunch are a selection of games, a world clock, an image album, and a remote-control application. As good as the software is, each application needs to be installed separately, which is a bit tedious.

The NX70V performed well overall. With its aforementioned 200MHz processor, it proved responsive, outperforming a Dragonball-based Palm handheld on similar tasks. We did notice a slight delay when returning to Web surfing after checking an appointment and making a note, but it handled the transition well enough. In an informal performance test using Kinoma Player, the NX70V fell into place just behind the Palm Tungsten T, which also runs Palm OS 5.0 but sports a 157MHz TI OMAP 1510 processor. Running Kinoma Player's built-in performance test, the CLIE produced a maximum frame rate of 355 frames per second (fps) on a low-resolution movie, compared to the Tungsten T's 485fps. Without a doubt, the screen is the centre of attention, and it’s a beauty. The 16-bit display delivers a stunning 320 by 480 pixel resolution with 65,536 colors. Bright, sharp and capable of handling subtle colour variations, it's one of the largest and highest-resolution handheld displays. Although the screen is a major power drain, the NX70V lasted for 4.5 hours on its rechargeable Li-ion battery pack while continuously playing MP3s. It also made it through more than 7 hours of stop-and-go computing, which means that you should be able to get a heavy day’s use out of this handheld before having to recharge.