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Sony CLIE SJ33

Sony's most friendly traditional PDA yet

by Shawn Barnett

Posted May 23, 2003

They've really been cranking them out these past few years, so we've seen a lot of examples, and Sony's SJ33 is the finest "simple" unit they've come out with. Those wanting complexity and the cutting edge design of their larger clamshell units have already moved to the NR, NX, or NZ units. But those desiring smaller units will be pleased with the SJ33.

I remain a steadfast fan of hard flip covers, since the days of the Palm III. This device has one built indelibly into the case. Removing it leaves an ugly hinge protrusion; so if you hate flip covers, steer clear. The SJ33's status as an entertainment device makes the cover an absolute asset. With it closed, you can still see the screen, yet the touchscreen and buttons are protected from accidental activation when the device is playing songs. On past models, the cover itself could activate these buttons.

The device has a hold switch integrated into the power switch, for even more protection and a longer battery life. It's a spring-loaded hold-and-release down to power on, and a slide up to hold. It's innovative, but sometimes frustrating, because if you release the power slide too quickly it can spring up into the hold position and stay there, defeating your attempt to turn the unit on.

The buttons on the front of the unit are cool looking, recessed in a divot that allows easy depression. The scroll buttons are the coolest we've seen. Not as hard to activate as they look, and that green power light is on when the unit is on, even when the audio player is in in hold mode.

A first for such a small device is the 66MHz DragonBall Super VZ. Sony remains the only company to use this processor for a Palm OS device, and their products benefit from a speed boost.

The display is great, a 320 x 320 transflective TFT, and the body all around is pleasingly tapered for comfort in the hand or a pocket.

Software is what we've come to expect from Sony: comprehensive and far more than the average user will take the time to learn. Still, at least they're including a lot of options for the user to choose from. All the bases are covered, from photos to audio, to email, doodling, and even mobile news downloads with Mobipocket. I'd still like to see them fatten up the main font for general usage. Other than that, this is my favorite CLIE ever. From the look of things, this might be the last keyboardless Graffiti Classic-based device from Sony. It'll meet and exceed the needs of just about everyone, and accessories are available for the rest.

-Shawn Barnett

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