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Sony Clie T665 PDA Review

October 26, 2002



Sony adores extraordinary stuff. Like Aibo robots - the only PalmOS pocket computer able to play MP3 files - N710/760/770 (it's the same computer with different operating systems for different countries). And today we have its another computer labeled T665 which was initially developed for the Asian market. 




Appearance and first impressions

The exterior is very similar to the Sony Clie T415/425/615/625. There are not much differences: only a white and green logo saying that the computer is powered by the Motorola Dragonball Super VZ 66 MHz and support of playback of MP3 and ATRAC3 audio files. In the lower right-hand corner, as usual, we have a power button, which is much more handy after the SJ30. But application shortcut buttons remain very small, contrary to the SJ30, and like in the T415/615, and it's not easy to press them especially with the winter gloves on. It takes a while to adapt to the jog dial, for example,  for scrolling a text)  even if you are in very calm conditions. But the dial located on the left panel and which is typical of most Sony's PDAs can help you a lot. Below you can find the back button which other PDAs house as well. First it seems that you can easily do without it, but several days later you realize that you get used to it much stronger than to the computer itself :-). If you press the "Hold" button located below the dial the computer will turn off the screen and start doing its own things. It's very convenient when you use the PDA as an MP3 player. 

Above the action button you can find a stereo headphone jack. There are no more additional connectors, for example, for a remote control, like in the Sony Clie N770 (this model is also able to play MP3). That is why to skip or replay some composition you have to unlock the computer, make changes, lock it again and only after that enjoy music. However, it's written on the box that there is an optional remote control with headphones which connects to the interface connector. It has the same functions as that of the N770. But we haven't seen it on the shelves yet. 




The back of the machine is made of aluminum alloy while the face panel is plastic. I consider such combination very good as metal provides solidity and plastic makes the computer lighter. 

The cover is well elaborate, like that of the SJ30. It's not a problem to fish the stylus out whether the PDA is or not. It's made of leather and stitched along the perimeter. It looks pretty nice, though the label of Clie put in the center is not holographic but simply glittering. The cover is hard and it never happened that applications started without our knowledge, though it might be simply because of the size of the shortcut keys :-). 

Above is an IR port, an extension slot for Memory Stick cards and the stylus. The latter is identical to that of the Sony SJ30, though it's plastic in case of the T665, and aluminum in case of the SJ30. The stylus has to be unscrewed if the computer needs rebooting. But I had to reset it only once, during three weeks of testing, to remove all data before handing in it back. 




Niceties

The IR port allows the computer working as a remote control. The Clie RMC program flashed into the ROM can work only with Sony's TV sets by default. But the Net offers a variety of programs that can control consumer equipment of other companies as well. Thus, the computer could work with a Funai TV, a Panasonic's car audio cassette receiver and an LG's air conditioner. If devices are not produced by Sony, you will have to teach the PDA to response to some commands. In-depth instructions can be found in the help file of the program. As a rule, you must find a remote control from a TV set (audio system, DVD player), place it opposite the computer's IR port and press all buttons in turn "explaining" to the T665 which function every button is in charge of. 

Sometimes it is really much more comfortable to use the PDA instead of a device's own controller. At the distance of 5-6 meters without aiming very precisely you can switch over channels, adjust sound etc. The T665 is beyond any competition here, especially because it's possible to "stick" different commands to the application shortcut and action buttons. In this case the PDA turns into an excellent substitute for a remote control. 

This model has a vibration alert. It's not very strong, though you can perfectly feel it in your shirt pocket or even in a jacket. It's probably because the PDA is much larger than cell phones, even old ones. 




The assistant also supports polyphonic melodies, though they are not so original, affecting or fine compared to modern stylish clamshells. But they are much more pleasant compared to beepers of other PalmOS based PDAs. Moreover, you can listen to MP3 files through the built-in speaker (most WindowsCE computers are able to do it as well). Certainly, the sound is not very loud. 

The MP3 player reminds me the previous multimedia PalmOS based PDA. I wish it could be possible to change the playback program. For example, for PocketPC you can download any player from the Net if you don't like the Windows Media Player for PPC. The N770/T665 doesn't let it. That is why let me focus on some of its downsides. 

First of all, it can play MP3 and ATRAC3 audio files (the CD contains software necessary to change the format). But I have a lot of music in WMA and it's not always handy to convert it to MP3. Though we can go with it as the T665 has no problems with the bitrate (we tried it from 48 kbps to 320 kbps), as well as with the variable bitrate. However, when we tried to load music of the sampling frequency lower than 44.1 kHz we were notified that the file was either protected or damaged. Remember that you should put music only into the MSAudio folder on the memory card.




First time when we enabled the player it displayed the message "No Music Tracks available", though we did have audio files in the MSAudio folder! The problem was in the file names, or rather in non-Roman letters in their names. The sound quality was, however, superb, and I had no complaints at all. 

The display is slick, like that of the SJ30 :-). The resolution of 320x320 pixels looks better to the eyes than the iPaq 3900. The software bundle hasn't changed much since the SJ30: it has acquired only the MP3 player and a remote control emulator. 

Conclusion

The new pocket computer from Sony combines two unique models in one: T625 and N770. It inherits a stylish design, featherweight and a vibra alert from the T665 and takes the MP3 player from the other. Some weak points of the predecessors are turned into the strong ones here: the cover of the new-comer is much snazzier compared to the senior brothers, though I must say the old PDAs from Sony didn't have much imperfections. 

The T665 is a nice choice for all fans of PalmOS who want a computer with functions comparable to most new Pocket PC 2002 based devices. 
 
 

Andrey Klinaichev  (andrey@ixbt.com)
 

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