Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sony Clié PEG-UX50

Back in 2003 I was a PalmOS-toting fanboy. I had a Palm Tungsten T3, but what I wanted really was the Sony Clie PEG-UX50 Personal Entertainment Communicator. Sony was in the process of exiting the PDA market, no doubt to concentrate on their Sony Ericsson partnership (which resulted in the Symbian-powered P800 the year earlier), but not before unleashing a couple of really desirable hardware (the TH55 was another one). Sadly the UX50 was too expensive, retailing at around £500, but then it had specs and features that were unheard of back then. In fact the 480x320 high resolution screen found on the UX50 was so advance that even Apple was still using that screen resolution on their iPhone models until 2010.

I was recently offered to loan a UX50 from a friend of mine and keen to try it out, I immediately said yes. The UX50 is the more expensive model of two Clie UX models, being the only one with WiFi. Back then PalmOS did not support Wireless LAN natively, but Sony did well to get it working with the UX50 (correct me if I am wrong - my memory is a bit hazy). The first thing I did when I had some time to play with it was to connect to the internet and see if I can get the web browser online. Sadly these days everything we have are WPA and WPA2 protected and back when the Clie was released, WPA protocol were still not very widely supported. I did not want to tinker with my router, so instead I created a wireless hotspot on my phone. The basic app allowed me to create a connection using WEP or no security, and within minutes I was online.
The browser on the Clie was never going to be able to cope with the increasingly sophisticated world wide web. It only had 16MB of RAM for dynamic heap. The NetFront by Access (who now owns the code to PalmOS) browser itself has a maximum cache of 1.5MB. Fortunately you can disable images, animations, tables, CSS and Java which helps a lot. Thinking that Twitter would be useless, I went straight to, a web-based and mobile friendly twitter client. And voilà, it worked! After keying in my login credentials I was soon tweeting using a 2003 PalmOS device. No IrDA needed or cable. Most websites would not load (unsurprisingly), but mobile optimised sites like loaded just fine. Scrolling was limited to either using the stylus or the jog-dial on the bottom. Incidentally, why aren't any manufacturers using jog-dial in modern hardware? It's functional.

In the next week or so I will be attempting to use the Clie again as a backup device to my current main smartphone and see if there's anything it can't do in 2011. Personally I am in love with the hardware design of the UX50 and wish Sony would resurrect the design with current specs and software. I found even the five row QWERTY keyboard to be better than almost every keyboard equipped smartphones on the market.


Anonymous said...

I am trying to revive one as well. I hope to use it as an internet radio. I will need to connect to my apple airport express however in order to make it work. WPA2. Anybody know how to get one of these onto a WPA2 network?

Andy Quek said...

Wow, I had it once.
I sold it because it had a crappy battery life. Now i wished there is another.

Andy said...

I just picked one of these up for nostalgia. I had one back in the day and it was great. I thought I would find a bunch of mods for it but as of now I haven't found anything. I though I would find a site dedicated to these. Oh well, I just play with it. It's a neat little unit that was way ahead of it's time.

Vroom said...

What a wonderful review. I am sitting here at my desk staring at my Sony Clie lovingly. It served me well back when it was the coolest gadget around. So far ahead of its time. But now, , even though it still looks brand spanking new, it will just sit there as an momento of those beautiful PalmOS days. Thank you Palm - you were the best in your day.