Last updated: 2004.05.21

Sony Clie TH55 PDA Review

| HotSync Wifi | Battery | Memory Stick File Transfer | Other Software | links |

This review contains my user experience of using my Sony Clie Th55 PDA. I owned a Palm Vx for a long time. This is a major PDA upgrade for me.

Out of the Box Experience

The TH55 comes in a small green box. It is sealed with a little Sony sticker. Cutting open the sticker openning the box revealed a very well packed inside. The Clie, documentation, and the accessories are very well packed inside the box. I did have a little trouble getting the AC adaptor brick out of the carton at the bottom. This is my first upgrade to my old Palm after many years. The TH55 definitely looks sexy. Unfortunately, as recommended by the documentation, I need to fully charge the Clie before I start using it (in theory to condition the battery for maximum life).

Box Content

The Clie comes with a USB cable and a universal power adaptor. The cabling is a little strange in that both the power input and the USB (HotSync) input terminates in a small custom plug that plugs into the actual connector for the Clie. (I'll post a picture to show the details).

The Sony connector to the Clie is different from the Palm's connector. So non of my Palm stuff will work with the Clie.

It also comes with a stack of paper documentation. However most of the user manuals are in PDF only form on the installation disk. The documentation seems very much an after though, since it is very difficult to locate the information within the mess.

Document to Go

Document to Go is a free download after you register the Clie. The process seems almost manual. I registered my Clie online, only to recieve and email with the product key to download the software after 2 days. Note that you get the Professional version of Document-to-Go, which does not include a PDF reader. Adobe has a free PDF Reader for Palm OS. I have not tried it yet.

Hotsyncing via WiFi

This is extremely complicated to setup. I had to dig through the documentation and online forums to get this to work. Let me give a simpler explanation on how to do this:

  1. First you need a working wireless network.
  2. It helps if you first get wifi working on the TH55. This means get to the point where you can browse the web using NetFront via wifi via your home wireless network.
  3. The key to Hotsyncing over Wireless is this: you are syncing using "Modem via Wireless Service", not doing a network sync. Again, you are using Modem sync, not network sync.

Another annoyance on the WiFi hot syncing -- I have a wireless network at home and in the office. They have different IP address ranges. Therefore the both the laptop that I sync to, and the Clie, hasdifferent IP addresses during syncing. As a result I keep getting prompted by the sync software to whether I want to make the PC my primary PC.

Battery Life

It took me 6 hours to fully charge the TH55 for the first time. After that the first charge lasted me for five days of intermitten usage. That's not bad at all. I used wifi a great deal and the camera a great deal as well. As I do not yet have a memory stick I have not used it to listen to music. That may drain the batteries faster.

Infrared

The Infrared port on the TH55 is on the top right corner of the unit. It is so well integrated into the device that you may not realized it is there in the beginning. Since my laptop's IR port is on the left hand side, each time I put the Clie down next to it the laptop recognized that "a device is nearby".

Transfering Files between PC and Clie Memory Stick

There are different ways to do this. The Clie application CD comes with a driver that mounts the memory stick slot onto the PC as a disk. You need to install the Data Export software on the PC, which imports the driver. Strictly speaking you don't need the data export software. It is just a smart file copier that puts the right files into the right folders on the Memory stick. Note that this is also the way to put pictures on your Clie. the Clie makes a very nice portable photo album, to show off your family/toys/art collections.

The trick to using the Data Export/Import tool is that you have to start the Data Import application on the Clie to make the connection.

The software however have a problem with non Latin characters. I used iTunes to rip some Asian music onto my drive, which XP's and W2K Smartly name the files with asian characters.

AdvantGo

I used this a lot with my old Palm Vx. I am now trying it again. I hate installing software on my desktop, so this time I installed the Handheld only software. You have to manually setup the News server name and user name etc. It is very simple. Because the TH55 has wifi, I just sync with AdvantGo wirelessly when I am near a hotspot.

  1. Download the handheld only zip file
  2. Sync/install the four .prc files onto the Clie
  3. Start up AGConnect and configure the News Server
  4. Try syncing wirelessly
  5. Start Advantgo (a separate application) and you are all set.

The AdvantGo Connect software configuration instruction is very well hidden on their website. Basically, set the News Server to: sync.advantgo.com, leave port at 80, enter your user name and password, and that is it.

MobiPocket

This is a offline news reader plus ebook reader. The version that was on the Sony CD is out of date. Most of the news channel that was on that version is no longer valid. You have to upgrade to version 4.8. Currently I find this software clumbesome, and most likely to remove this from my system soon.

Sony Software

The Clie came with some additional software. The ones that I am trying out are:

  • mobipocket by Franklin -- comes with a desktop helper that downloads news.
  • PowerOne calculator -- This is worth installing and then download the rest of the skins from the publisher infinity software. You get a pretty good math calculator from them.

Additional Software

I started to add application to the Clie. These are the ones I am using or planning to use:

  • big clock -- carried over from my Palm V. Nice big display. It now support skinning. However, I used to use this when I dock my Palm V on the docking stand and leave the machine powered on. The TH55 does not come with a docking stand. How I use this remains to be seen.
  • Ebook reader -- I like iSilo and the related iSiloX software. A lot of free materials are available in the iSilo format, but best all, the Windows desktop iSiloX let me capture and download web pages to the palm for reading. This is extremely useful. They have iSiloX available (free) for all sorts of platforms. There is also a command line option for automating tasks.
  • Music player -- Pocket Tunes of course! It will play variable bit rate MP3 and stream music. The Sony supplied media player will not play variable bit rate MP3s.
  • I am still looking for a good IMAP email client. SnapperMail does not do IMAP yet.
  • Learning Japanese, use Ken Shirriff's alpabet learning software. or Learning Japanese from 3Store -- which is the one I am trying now.
  • I used to use the TopGun SSH client. But it is only SSH1 which is not very useful these days. Use PSSH instead.

Accessories

Why do I have to spend extra money for accessories? Should this thing comes with a docking cradle? How about the cost of an extra charger and an extra sync cable? Most people would travel between at least office and home, and I don't want to be caught without power or fast syncing at either location.

Miscellanous Notes

  • Strange that on the bottom button bar, you can click to check on the wifi status, but you cannot disconnect the connection from that screen. I have to go to "Preference | Network" to disconnect it.

Links