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Sony CLIE PEG-SJ33

Hot on the heels of the PEG-SJ30 comes Sony's newest CLIE, the SJ33. It seems that the company has taken criticism of the SJ30 to heart, for the new model is different and better designed than its elder sibling, boasting a slick clamshell configuration and integrated MP3 playback. Although the SJ33 is not without flaws, its improvements far outweigh its imperfections, making it a good handheld for the money.
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Written by Roger Hibbert on
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7.7/10

Sony CLIÉ PEG-SJ33

Very good
Pros
  • Built-in MP3 player
  • fast processor
  • high-resolution screen
  • slick clamshell design.
Cons
  • Flimsy scroll buttons
  • runs Palm OS 4.1 rather than OS 5.0.
  • Editors' Review
  • Specs

Hot on the heels of the PEG-SJ30 comes Sony's newest CLIE, the SJ33. It seems that the company has taken criticism of the SJ30 to heart, for the new model is different and better designed than its elder sibling, boasting a slick clamshell configuration and integrated MP3 playback. Although the SJ33 is not without flaws, its improvements far outweigh its imperfections, making it a good handheld for the money.

Design
We like the SJ33's overall design, which recalls the days of the Walkman. Our review unit was sheathed in charcoal-grey plastic, with rounded corners and a flip-top protective cover. Unlike the SJ30's detachable cover, the SJ33's faceplate is semi-transparent and non-removable; with the power on, you can see the screen glowing behind tinted plastic. Although it's slightly larger and heavier than the SJ30 at 7.1cm by 10.8cm by 2.0cm and 173g, this CLIE's design makes it better-looking and much more pocketable than its predecessor. Flip open the lid, and you'll see the same generous, high-resolution screen that's found on the SJ30, with a shortened Graffiti area. The SJ33 has recessed buttons at the bottom that are hard to accidentally push. Unfortunately, the scroll buttons in the middle have atrophied a bit more, making them suitable for scrolling only -- not games. Also, the scroll buttons' functions are largely duplicated by the jog dial on the unit's left side. We liked the Back button and the sliding power/hold switch, which is another safeguard against this CLIE powering up without your knowledge. Sony has placed the Memory Stick slot on top of the unit, next to the infrared port and a new companion: a headphone jack for the unit's built-in MP3 player. No cradle comes in the box -- you get just an AC charger, a power/synchronisation dongle, a USB cable and a set of headphones. Although the headphones lack the in-line remote control that comes with the NZ90's phones, they do have a neat, super-miniature volume knob. Like the SJ30, the SJ33's rechargeable battery is also removable -- once a screw and a panel are removed. The SJ33's cell isn't quite as easy to replace as the fully enclosed batteries found on Pocket PCs such as HP's iPAQ H1910.

Features
The SJ33 packs a punch thanks to its 66MHz DragonBall Super VZ processor, although it has only 16MB of RAM and 4MB of ROM. Of course, the Memory Stick slot allows you to add as much storage as you can afford. Palm and Sony both offer handhelds running Palm OS 5.0, but the SJ33 uses the older OS 4.1. Despite its OS deficiency, users will be happy about the SJ33's integrated MP3 player and stereo headphones. Sony's audio player supports MP3 and ATRAC3 files, although tunes will play only from a Memory Stick, not the internal memory. Nevertheless, the audio player works well and even has a bass-boost function and a primitive visualisation feature. This CLIE comes with as number of programs preinstalled to start entertaining you right away. Among these are Astraware's Bejeweled and Kinoma Player -- the latter plays converted MPEG files on your handheld. A short video of dolphins is included to demonstrate Kinoma's capabilities. Sony's standard software bundle -- grouped into categories such as Desktop, Image, Utilities and Third-Party -- comes on the installation CD. The Desktop selection includes a CLIE version of Palm Desktop, plus IntelliSync Lite 4.0 to synchronise contacts and calendar info between your PC and your handheld. The Image category includes PictureGear, which lets you convert images so that they're viewable on the CLIE. However, as we've said before, we'd prefer it if the SJ33 could view image files directly. One let-down is the Kinoma Producer. This application makes MPEG files compatible with the SJ33, but the bundled version is a demo, good for only one day and able to convert just 15 seconds of video. The Utilities package offers a few useful titles. Documents To Go and Presenter-To-Go respectively let you view and edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. Memory Stick Export lets you drag and drop files to and from the removable media when Memory Stick Import is running on your desktop.

Performance
The SJ33's swift 66MHz DragonBall Super VZ processor provides plenty of number-crunching ability for most tasks. We found this CLIE to be responsive and more than powerful enough to handle the graphics and the sound of the bundled games such as Race Fever and Zap 2016. Some blips occurred when we played MP3s in the background and switched between applications (to Sony's credit, this issue is mentioned in the manual). MP3 playback -- in the absence of any other activity -- is good; the speakers play loud enough so that you can still hear the music when you're on a moving train. The SJ30's same great display is back for an encore performance; with a high, 320-by-320-pixel resolution and a 65,536-colour palette, there's little not to like. The screen is very readable with the backlight on and looks good even in bright light, with the backlight on or off. Sony rates the SJ33's battery life at about 4 hours of continuous MP3 playback with the backlight on, and up to 10 hours with it off. We didn't test this unit with the backlight off, but with it on, the SJ33 squeezed out 3 hours and 50 minutes of music before it clammed up due to low battery power.

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