One of the newer (2002) models in the Sony Clie line, the PEG-T615C (or PEG-T600C in Japan, or PEG-T625C in Europe) features a high-resolution (320x320) 16-bit color screen and a decent speaker. It retails for $399. Unlike its cousin, the PEG-T760C, it does not play MP3s unless you buy a $130 "audio adapter" as well.

I received the T615C as a birthday gift last month, to replace my aging Palm III. I've been using Palm devices for about five years now, and so I've come to store my entire life on them. My original device was a PalmPilot Personal with 1MB of RAM; I upgraded it to a Professional with 2MB of RAM, then later got a Palm III which featured 2MB and an IR port for beaming things. The new T615C has 16MB of internal memory -- huge considering the small size of Palm OS applications and records -- and I picked up a 64MB Memory Stick on the cheap from Lexar. Even after putting things like Avantgo on there, it will be hard to fill 80MB in the absence of MP3 playback. One nifty thing: I was able to take a stick full of pictures from my friend's Sony Mavica camera, and view them immediately on the Clié. Sony is the master of centralization, having put Memory Stick slots in all of their major electronics products except the PlayStation 2. Using MS Import, the Clié in its cradle appears like a hard drive in Windows XP, letting me transfer files to and from the Memory Stick very quickly and easily.

The unit is about as large as my old Palm III, and feels about as heavy. The aluminum casing is very stylish and rugged; while the small labels on the back suffer a bit from traveling around in my pocket unprotected, the unit itself feels very solid. It comes with a simple flip cover that flops around a bit, but can be unlatched from the back. I think I'll get a hard case for it, when one comes out. The whole thing weighs about five ounces, and I carry it around in my hip pocket with my wallet, or my jacket pocket easily.

The screen is a transflective color LCD similar to that used in the Game Boy Advance. The screen is impossible to read indoors without using the backlight, but with the backlight it is gorgeous. The colors skew blue a little bit, but aside from that it is excellent for viewing photographs. Sony has once again stressed multimedia for their organizers: the Address book lets you put a small Print Club-sized thumbnail image beside the name, which links to a full-screen image. The included PictureGear Lite software is a bit clunky, but it gets the job done in converting images to fit on the device. Images are stored with very little compression, but you can use third-party apps like AcidImage and FireViewer to view larger JPEG files. I have several subway maps on my Memory Stick, for example. One other nifty trick: you can "retouch" photos by loading them in "CLIE Paint" on the handheld, adding thought bubbles and drawing fake beards on them. Nice touch.

Three weaknesses exist for me with the PEG-T615C. First of all, since the T-series (along with the PEG-T415) is so new, there are very few accessories for it. My old Palm III accessories, such as my GoType! Keyboard, are useless with it. This isn't a big problem, since I didn't use the keyboard quite that often. Second, the battery life is limited. The Memory Stick drains the battery particularly quickly, as does the backlight. While I haven't ridden the battery down to zero, I find it necessary to drop it in the cradle for a full charge every day. I've traveled with it for weekends without a problem, using it lightly as with any Palm OS device. Lastly, most people have a beef with the buttons on the front. While the application buttons (Date Book, Address Book, To Do List, and Memo Pad) have a nice solid feel to them, the up/down rocker switch is damn near impossible to press. Fortunately, Sony included a jog dial and a Back button on the side, which can be used in lieu of the up/down rocker and Applications silkscreen button in most applications.

A small sun icon in the corner of the silkscreen can be used to adjust brightness of the backlight, a nice touch. Finally, in another traditionally Japanese way, a small hook on the side lets you attach a little lanyard to the side as you would with a mobile phone. Unfortunately, such lanyards are hard to come by in the U.S.

I received the Clié as a gift, so I can't comment on whether it's worth the money. My advice: wait until the next generation PDA comes up, and snatch the T615C for $250-300 at CompUSA in a close-out. Or, if you're feeling like a new color PDA, splurge. The high-res display is breathtaking, and if you already own a Mavica you can shuttle the Memory Stick back and forth between the camera and PDA. All in all, a very cool PDA.


Update: On June 28, 2002, I lost my Clié after mistakenly leaving it on a Long Island Railroad train. I suck.

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