- ✓Slim, lightweight design
- ✓Jog Dial.
- ✕Monochrome screen undermines the CLIE's multimedia aspirations
- ✕Memory Stick stores data only.
Sony's CLIE PEG-S300/E competes with other slimline, mono-screen devices like the Palm m500 and Handspring Visor Edge. Like its Palm and Handspring counterparts, the CLIE PEG-S300/E features an expansion slot -- in this case, Sony's proprietary Memory Stick slot (an 8MB card is included). CLIE stands for 'Communication, Link, Information, and Entertainment' -- all of which sound pretty promising. Unfortunately, Sony's first pocket computer doesn't live up to the billing, and unless you really love its industrial design you'd be better off with a Palm or a Handspring.
The CLIE PEG-S300/E uses a 20MHz Motorola Dragonball EZ processor and Palm OS 3.5, rather than the more up-to-date 33MHz Dragonball VZ and Palm OS 4.0 of Palm's m50x range. The CLIE is about the same size as most Palms, and its purple and silver case is just as sleek as the Palm m500 or Visor Edge. At just 121g, the CLIE PEG-S300/E is slightly heavier than the 113g Palm m500, and like the m500 it lacks a flip cover to protect the screen. This means that the included leather case must protect the unit, but unfortunately the case is awkward to use. It doesn't fold back on itself, and so is left dangling from the top or bottom (depending on which way you insert the CLIE), which interferes with holding the unit comfortably. We ended up tossing the case aside.
Ergonomically, the CLIE PEG-S300/E 's Jog Dial navigation control is a major advance. We quickly became addicted to this feature, which essentially replaces taps with the stylus as you navigate through the applications and menus. You scroll the wheel with your thumb to move around, and then press it to select an item. You only need to pull out the stylus to enter data. The familiar up/down scroll button is still there, along with the four application buttons, but we found that they became virtually redundant. However, left-handers will object to the Jog Dial's placement on the 'wrong' side of the screen.
Like most Palm OS devices, the CLIE PEG-S300/E sticks to the basics: address book, date book, to-do list, and memo pad. All four applications are directly accessible via the buttons on the front panel, although the buttons are slightly smaller than standard Palm buttons. Despite the monochrome screen, the CLIE PEG-S300/E is only rated for one to two weeks of battery life -- similar to a colour device rather than one to two months of most mono Palm OS devices. The chief power-draining culprits are the Memory Stick and Jog Dial. To compensate for this, the HotSync cradle comes with a battery charger.
Sony has wisely chosen to ship a USB connector for the HotSync cradle, rather than the slower serial connectors found in older devices and the HandEra 330. Using the bundled Starfish TrueSync software, you can link to common applications such as Outlook, cc:Mail, and Eudora. The CLIE PEG-S300/E does not yet work with Macintoshes.
In terms of storage capacity, the CLIE PEG-S300/E 's internal 8MB of RAM and 2MB of flash memory is par for the course. The included 8MB Memory Stick is a bonus, but unlike Handspring's Springboard slot, it's strictly for storage -- you can't currently run applications from a Memory Stick.
Fortunately, Sony provides a couple of good applications to make use of the Memory Stick: PictureGear Lite for photos, and gMedia for video clips. However, these programs only show up the lack of a colour display, which would make such material a lot more exciting to view. A special addition to the address book lets you attach pictures to contact data.
Should you buy the CLIE PEG-S300/E at £212 (ex. VAT)? Its closest competitors are significantly more expensive: the £280 (ex. VAT) Handspring Visor Edge, with 8MB of memory and a Springboard expansion slot; and the Palm m500, also £280 (ex. VAT), with 8MB of memory and an SD/MMC slot. The Visor Edge has the advantage of wide support for the Springboard slot, and although there are as yet few modules available for the SD/MMC slot, you can at least run applications from it. The Sony CLIE PEG-S300/E has some nice enhancements, especially the Jog Dial, but we advise that you wait until the colour model -- already available in the US -- is released over here.