Someone Please Remake the Sony Clie UX50 With Updated Hardware

Updated on 07 February 2010 by

  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • 480×320 touchscreen
  • 3.2MP camera
  • touch optimized OS

Sound like a new product? I wish. These are a few specs from the Sony Clie UX50 which was one of the greatest devices I’ve ever owned, and one that I feel was ahead of its time. The Clie UX50 was available at least as far back as 2003, and had the ultimate form factor. It was a tiny clamshell device with a swiveling screen that could be folded down flat over the keyboard when you didn’t need it. Let me just throw you a few pictures so that you can have a look at this beauty:

clie3 clie4 clie5 clie6

Images courtesy Cnet

At the time of release, the camera on this thing was comparable to what you’d buy if you went out to purchase a new point-and-shoot camera. The 3.2MP camera swiveled in the bezel as well, making it functional as both a front and rear facing camera. Previewing the shot on the 480×320 screen was so much better than the tiny LCD’s that they had on point-and-shoots at the time.

This thing was slim too. Check out how it stacks up against the iPhone (iPhone is purple, UX50 is red):

clie-iphone It ran Palm OS and Sony had built a pretty slick 3D launcher to replace Palm’s boring menu. If you look at this and you’ve also seen the Nexus One’s application launcher you’ll notice that they look suspiciously similar.

clie kbThe keyboard was, simply put, the best thumb-board I’ve ever used. Full QWERTY along with a dedicated row of number keys — it was even backlit! The keys were well spaced and offered great feedback. An intuitive sticky-key system made punctuation and shift key usage quick and efficient rather than a pain, like it is on some devices.

The form factor of this device was seriously incredible and I can’t believe that we haven’t seen it well executed since the Clie UX50 (not that I’ve seen anyway). The ability of the screen to swivel fold back around on itself to cover the keyboard was great because you could turn it into a slate in just one second, not only that, but the keyboard also functioned as a stand if you wanted to prop the device up for viewing media.

Now obviously the UX50 is quite old and the hardware is way outdated at this point. If a company came along and could remake the UX50 with snapdragon and Android… I’d have one purchased before you could say “iPad! inch and I think a lot of others would as well. Why oh why did Sony scrap this design and move on to things like the Xperia and Sony Mylo? I wish I could say, but I for one think that they could make a killing with a modernized Clie UX50.

12 Comments For This Post

  1. Ruben van Gogh says:

    There was a main downside though: if you weren’t on time with charging everything installed was lost. It was a beauty though. I still have one. But the camera ain’t 3,2 mp more like 0,4 mp.
    But I’d like Android on it too.

  2. runagate says:

    I’d never heard of that phone but you’re right, that seems pretty amazingly well designed.

    It’s a great reminder that the current wave of gadgets isn’t bringing the futuristic into our grasp so much as implementing, usually not very thoroughly, great ideas from quite some time ago now that the hardware is powerful and cheap enough off the shelf that even the unimaginative, inertia-crippled major manufacturers are willing to take the risk.

    It’s also a good example of something I’m always trying to explain to people: my fear isn’t that no one will think up genius ways to use technology but that someone will popularize something potentially truly groundbreaking but in a half-finished form and turn a generation off and relegate it to niche platforms that don’t benefit from the price-lowering effect of mass production like the iPhone and Rock Band peripherals has (wireless digital instruments? kids toys in consumer shops long before it’ll ever end up in pro gear catalogs!).

    Multi-touch interfaces and gestural commands are what always gets me irked. Two-finger navigation and pinch-to-zoom? That’s all that a half-dozen monolithic corporations could manage to push out the door? Please…

    What chip does the UX50 have? Judging from the graphics resolution it must have been a calculator by today’s standards, yet if it works better than that released in the interim that’s a great compliment to it’s designers.

    I myself am working away here on UIs for a handheld with an 720p camera, WiFi and Bluetooth with .3ds and Cairo support so I appreciate the reality check.

  3. paran01d says:

    If I recall correctly, this thing had a 133Mhz Sony or motorola dragonball CPU…Closest modern equivalent to this form-factor wise is the Fujitsu u810/u820.

    As a G1 and Milestone owner, I agree with you. If there was an Android smartbook equivalent of the ux50 or u810/u820 I would buy two. One for me and one for the lady.

  4. turn.self.off says:

    to bad sharp went with the netwalker, rather then giving the zaurus line a refresh.

    beyond that i think the closest one can get right now is openpandora or the ben nanonote from qi hardware.

  5. Muliadi Jeo says:

    Yup Chippy I completely agree with you. It is mind boggling sometime for Japanese company. A lot of good hardware on the early days that if they just recycle the design and add new hardware spec, they will become a great device. Just to the name a few: Sharp Zaurus, Sony VAIO U1,U3,U101,UX, Sony CLIE UX.

    The only one that Sony finally brings back is the C1 picturebook form factor -> today is the P series.

  6. Muliadi Jeo says:

    One more good hardware that I forgot: Psion Revo !! :) if only they add keyboard backlit, touchscreen and all the modern hardware spec :) I will buy it in the heartbeat !!!

  7. Ruben van Gogh says:

    and what about the Simpad by Siemens, way before any iWhatever, but lacking the same as this Clie: whenever you were late charging, everything was gone (apps, preferences). No, but now I’m getting real sentimental, then Apple’s Messagepad, when last year after years I recharged, everything was stille there…

  8. James Pond says:

    Well, it’s true that some of Sony’s Clié PDAs were truly amazing devices. I own a Clié NX/80 and it is a master piece.

    The biggest problem, however, was with software. Sony tweaked the Palm OS software to get something decent but as it weren’t “official solutions” (that is, from Palm) it didn’t work very well with third-party applications.

    It was especially true with the UX-50: at that time, Palm OS devices weren’t usable in “landscape” mode at all. Thus Sony hacked something so it would work with the UX-50 but, well, as mentionned before, it was more problems with third-party softwares.

    In short, Sony Clié PDAs were truly great PDA at “out of the box” state, using included software. But on the long run they were a pain in the ass because they didn’t include very well in the whole Palm OS ecosystem.

    A shame that there is no Linux to be ran on these devices as it would have been a perfect modern replacement of Palm OS, if you ask me…

  9. Craig Gunderson says:

    Oh man! Don’t get me started on that little beauty! You didn’t even mention the lanyard loop!

    I had a TG-50 and I was always so jealous of the UX50. The Clie line was awesome. By the end I had a wifi memorystick and was using it to watch converted tv shows on my train ride. I miss that form factor!

  10. Mr. S. Randall Thomas says:

    I launched a new website on the 1st of March 2010. One thing I needed was a cell phone, I had been using (and still am using) the Peek mobile eMail device for mobile communications. The other thing I needed was a Day Planner/Organizer type thing. Yet something that I could sync with my desktop, so paper wasn’t an option. However, I didn’t want to rely on a device that was primarily something else, like a cell phone.

    I’ve owned many handhelds prior to the smartphone, so I was familiar with their operations. First I eliminated any Windows device. I need a serious device that didn’t sacrifice organizing for the sake of entertaining. That really only left me with Palm OS. And in my experience, Sony did Palm better than Palm did Palm.

    I always wanted the UX-50 but in my opinion the TG-50 was more solid in design and just seemed to be a better choice for my need, besides, I already owned one but my wife (then my girlfriend) lost it.

    So I searched eBay and found a new TG-50 for $150.00. I think I paid nearly $400.00 for that first one back in ’03.

    In any case, it’s been about 7 years since it came out, however, I didn’t have a bluetooth anything to pair it with then, I do now. Memory is cheaper now. I found a very large capacity battery for something like $7.00, not to mention the fact that I didn’t even own a computer back then (I surfed the web with wifi pocket pc’s back then).

    So grabbing one of those old devices in good condition at a great price isn’t a bad idea.

    Funny thing is that a lot of these Blackberry users who think they are ahead of the curve ask me “what’s that’s?”. not recognizing the old Sony Clie that seemed to be in everyone’s hands just a short time ago.

  11. exNewt says:

    I still use one, but you left out several things.

    The first is using WiFi or BlueTooth was horrible battery life without the clip-on battery, about as thick as the Clie itself. The second is – as someone noted – complete loss of data if battery went too low. There was also the confusing memory specs, it had different internal memory partitions; 7 MB ‘handheld’ RAM and 30.2 MB “internal’ storage memory. The internal stylusette was so small as to be unusable, but Sony sold a CLie pen like the Rotring model.

    And it was buggy, suppose you backed up to internal RAM, then the unit went dead. After charging, you attempt to restore from backup – guess what – she no work! Also it wasn’t really a mini-tablet, as that implies vertical screen orientation; without (those glorious) 3rd party hacks the screen didn’t change landscape to portrait.

    A beautiful gem like device that listed for $750 when it came out; bought my first one for $300 Sony refurb, 2nd (after camera cable died) for $75 brand new of eBay.

    You also missed the fact that the camera shot video as well! Supported up to 2 GB memory stick, Can’t find the link, but Sony showed a thicker demo model with a phone integrated.

    Had a lot of fun back in the day, I used to use a Mac OS ‘skin’ and had an Apple logo sticker on the Clie lid. A lot of people saw me using it in airports etc., I think I single-handedly started the ‘mini Apple tablet with keyboard’ rumor of about 5 years ago…

  12. exNewt says:

    Great for “secret videos” due to rotatable camera lens and screen; they never see you taping!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtSUT2JGNtI

2 Trackbacks For This Post

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    […] has me pretty excited. I’ve been a long time fan of the Sony VAIO UX series, and have been wishing that Sony would reinvent the Clie UX as […]

  2. Sony Vaio UX Get’s a Dash of Green with Keyboard LED Mod | UMPCPortal - Ultra Mobile Personal Computing says:

    […] I had this done to my UX, I think I’d probably go with orange LEDs to pay homage to the Sony Clie UX-series which had an awesome thumb-board with orange backlit […]

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