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Overall, the Clie 615 is a reasonably sleek unit featuring a color display and the Palm 4.1 OS. I prefer its rectangular form with slightly rounded corners to the flared Palm design. The case is a sort of brushed aluminum finish. I was quite amazed that the 615 is about the size of an old TI pocket calculator and just a bit heavier. It's easy to slip in a shirt pocket, and you won't feel like you are carrying around a heavy object.
The screen seems to be the major reason people might buy the Clie. It is a little bigger than, say, the Palm m130 screen, but it has 320 x 320 resolution. On smaller fonts, games, and especially photos, the high resolution really makes a difference. I showed a few Palm owners a photo in a news article, and could see the drool forming when they checked it out. As good as the screen is, however, it's not perfect. The colors are fairly washed out looking, with a rather bluish cast to most displays. Also, in the absence of a good external light source, the backlight is essential to maintain contrast and readability - this will wear down the battery far faster. The backlight works well and in dark conditions the contrast is excellent. The only time the display is a bit hard to read is a sort of medium-level indirect light situation. It's too bright to make the backlight work well, but not bright enough to actually make the LCD characters pop.
The Clie 615 uses a built-in rechargeable battery. I haven't attempted to see how long it will last, but a few hours of mostly backlit use took it down to 80% or so.
The unit comes with a charger/hotsync cradle. It seems to slide in nicely with none of the mating problems that Palm users seem to have had lately. Separate accessories for charging or synching can be bought independently.
The Sony Clie uses a stylus like the palm. It slides neatly into the body of the PDA. It's very thin, though, even moreso than ones I've seen for the Palm. If you lose one, don't despair. For $15, you can get a three pack of these styli. Nice business if you can get it - they must cost all of $.05 each to make.
The Sony has a thumbwheel on the side that can be used for scrolling or other software-defined actions. Kind of cool, but for reading news stories I found each click to be too small of a bump. I had to keep the wheel moving almost continuously to keep up with my eyes.
The weak point, if the Clie has one, are the buttons. While Palms tend to have separate buttons, Sony decided that users really wanted tiny horizontal bar controls that form an unbroken line across the bottom portion of the unit. Those with fat fingers need not apply. Those with normal fingers will find themselves pushing the wrong button at times. The worst control is the up/down control. While Palm has two buttons for this purpose, Sony has a TINY rocker/toggle gizmo. This is very hard to push up and down, particularly without activating the neighboring "to do" list or address book buttons. Furthermore, while the other controls have a little groove that lets the stylus press them, the stylus can't be used for the up/down control. It definitely takes some getting used to.
Overall, I'm quite satisfied with the Clie 615. It's in the process of being replaced by a model with a faster CPU, so there may be some real bargain prices out there. As it was, I found that it cost about the same as the Palm M130, rather than the M505 with which it competes more directly.
Yes, the size of the screen of the lower palms is the big draw back. I've not looked at the Sony's as a replacement though. I though they were higher priced than that. I was off drolling over Ipaq's.
Out of curiosity, how long is the battery life?
Reviews have been mixed on this issue, too. I read one that complained of short battery life, and another that raved about not having to recharge for a couple of weeks. My guess is that a lot depends on whether you use the backlight. If you don't, I think battery life would be fantastic. If you use the backlight continuously, and do a lot of heavy, continuous stuff like games, reading news, etc., I think the battery would last for 8 hours or so, but that's a wild guess at this point. "Normal" use for appointments, to dos, phone numbers, memos, etc., actually seems to result in the PDA being off much of the time.
I was surprised to find this unit for well under $300, too. I think they are phasing the T615 out, hence the price reductions. When I looked at mySimon a couple of weeks ago, some vendors still had them at $399, while a few had dropped prices to $260 - $290 or so before shipping.
Like Palm, the Clie takes input in either Graffiti (printing recognition) or touch-keyboard using the stylus. Graffiti actually works fairly well, once you train yourself to learn the few characters that you may have to print differently than usual. For example, an "O" is done exactly as most people would write an O - a counterclockwise oval/circle. A "Q", however, is drawn like an O with a brief horizontal extension at the top: "o-", more or less, but connected. My guess is that the keyboard display would be faster for input once you got used to it - one-finger hunt and peck using the stylus is still more efficient than printing, IMO. The Graffiti option is more fun, though, and more like the way you would usually jot a note or record an appointment.
The operation of the Clie has been flawless until today, when it locked up after synchronizing. I had to resort to the reset button (a tiny, recessed button accessed through a paper-clip sized hole). When it locked up again, I rebooted the PC and reset/synched up one more time, this time successfully. Based on the track record of Windows ME vs. Palm 4.1, for the moment I'm assuming the fault was on the PC OS side and not on the Palm side.
At Sony, normal use is defined as 30 minutes per day. That's probably realistic if you are primarily using the PDA functions - looking up a phone number, jotting down appointments, etc. It would be low, IMO, if you used software like games, news feed readers, text editors, etc.
I'm not sure about the recovery characteristics of the built-in battery, or how much power (if any) it loses while turned off, but their claimed life seems quite reasonable, even conservative, based on my limited experience to date.
Battery life is probably only significant if you travel a lot. If you charge up daily, you'll probably never notice that the battery even has a limited life. I currently have the cradle at home - it both charges the battery and hotsyncs via USB. I'll probably add a hotsync adapter at the office, although if I can find a cheap cradle that would be even more practical. For road warriors, car chargers are available. External battery packs that use AA batteries are available as well.
I'd say that only those who do a lot of air travel (or camping, etc.) would have reason to be concerned about battery life. 6 hours of Tetris might well drain the battery - your eyeballs would fry first, though...