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June, 2004:

Sony Cli&eacute Key Board

Clie KB20 Thumb Baord

This a test of the mini keyboard on the Sony Cli&eacute. What I should do is try and write a whole blog just to see how well it performs for longer writing sessions. I have to admit that so far it’s not too bad and the keys aren’t too small either. Finding certain keys that I am use to hitting blindfolded is a bit of a nightmare, but I guess it is no different than using any new keyboard for the first time; I had similar problem when I switched to my laptop and even my split natural keyboard. I guess one of my biggest concerns will how this little thing consumes batteries. I will have to check the web to find how much power this thing draws by simply being on then how it draws when in a full on typing session like this. The manual doesn’t mention anything (more on that later).

Already I am pretty impressed at how easy it is to use. As this thumb board clicks directly over the graffiti area Sony has provided four extra separate buttons to access the HOME, MENU, CALCULATOR AND SEARCH HOTSPOTS. Hitting either one of these buttons will turn on the Cli&eacute as well. This is particularly useful when you stop to ponder or take a call, so when you return to the Clue you don’t have to enter your phone book or memo pad, any key will simply jump you back into docs to go.

The keys are actually pretty easy to use and although the keyboard is made of plastic and does make some noise when you use it, it is no worse than a game boy. It actually feels as solid as when I type out text on the Nokia 6310i.

As far as pure functionality goes I would have to rate this pretty high. Combine its use with the scroll wheel on the SJ-33 and you can everything you could with the stylus. It doesn’t do everything I still have to use the stylus to highlight text. There might be way to do it but I have yet to find it. The manual that came with it was awful as usual; Sony has done itself yet another disservice by providing very poor documentation. The accompanying CD was just as bad only offering acrobat reader as add on software. This would have been an ideal time to bundle a whole wad of trial software that one could use the keyboard. But this is such a common mistake for Sony, they always manage to score a very high “must have” factor, but the support and extra info is always terrible.

I tried the Palm Tungsten C at Staples and was pretty impressed with its keyboard as well but was annoyed at why I couldn’t manage to use the Graffiti easily on the screen. I can’t see any one needing to use thumb board all of the time, in fact there would be nothing more difficult to do than try and check directions at a red light. The Sony UX-50 is pretty cool too but very expensive and too much overkill. The TREO 600 isn’t too bad either but you can’t easily hold it up to your ear for a phone call it just doesn’t feel natural. I think that smart phones will only really start to take off when they bundle in wireless headsets like Bluetooth. This is one of the main reasons that I bought the SJ-33, its quite compact, it has a nice hard cover just like my Visor Edge, it plays mp3′s and it also came with a Bluetooth memory stick. Granted Sony has sine discontinued the Bluetooth stick and trying to find it here in North America is near impossible.

Overall I am more than impressed with this thing, I really like the fact that you can just stow it when you’re not using it. I’m sure that I will find more uses for it other than e-mails, the odd blog and some notes here and there.