The Sharp Zaurus SL-C700
When the boot is finally over, the setup screen welcomes you. After calibrating the screen sensors with five clicks, you must enter the local date, time and time zone. New York is included by default, along with Tokyo and other important cities.
Next, the default launcher pops up. Many applications are installed by default. I tried the personal information manager (PIM) first. I was disappointed by the small font used in the datebook and address book until I realized this font is used in every other application. Comparing the screen in front of me to the Japanese user manual screenshots, I realized it was smaller than what it should have been. An e-mail to Dynamism.com technical support confirmed that the English localization of the device had the unexpected side effect of implementing a different font by default. It has been reported to Dynamism.com, so the devices now should ship with a normal font.
Another problem is the strange alphabetical ordering in the address book—A, Ka, Sa and so on. This is Japanese alphabetical order, which is not exactly suited for English speakers. Another problem is the lack of XML support for former SL-5x00 owners. Someone at Sharp must have had the clever idea of removing the industry-standard XML format in favor of an obscure binary data format, where data is stored in ~/Applications/dtm with strange names. Personally, I liked the old ~/Applications/Datebook and ~/Applications/Addressbook, with XML files that could be imported or exported into other applications easily.
I installed the original SL-5x00 Addressbook, which required only putting the addressbook.xml file in ~/Applications/Addressbook. For some reason, the SL-5x00 series datebook is not compatible with the SL-C700—it displays only a line instead of the meetings scheduled. So I decided to go with Korganiser embedded, which uses the same format of the award-winning desktop software. I simply put the addressbook.xml file and the calendar on a CompactFlash card and copied them to the Zaurus.
Even with my best efforts over several days of attempts augmented by forum support, I did not come close to having the Zaurus syncing to either Windows or Linux. The desktop setup is a mystical adventure I may try again when I have more time or when an English user manual is available.
HancomWord and HancomSheet, the Zaurus' word processor and spreadsheet, were interesting on the SL-5x00. They have matured into fast, easy-to-use and professional software on the SL-C700, able to read and save Microsoft files without any problem. Although the import may be slow sometimes, having the documents available everywhere is a pleasure.
The big 640 × 480 screen of the SL-C700 provides a true interface to the user. The screen rotation between 640 × 480 landscape mode and 480 × 640 portrait mode is supported perfectly. It also enables an editing session to take advantage of the wider screen and the keyboard, as well as a quick visualization of the data using a taller display and a simple press of the wheel.
Configuring the internet connection is a kid's game. Being the lucky owner of a home wireless network, I had only to go to the network setting application, give a title to my connection, type my encryption key and select auto (dhcp) mode, a mode where IP addresses are assigned automatically. Plugging in a wireless CompactFlash card presented a globe-like icon with a big red cross on it. Clicking this icon showed me a list of available connections, where I chose the wireless connection I had set up and was connected. The list of connections means the SL-C700 is able to move from one network to another without any trouble—a necessary feature for a mobility device.
Both the Netfront browser and the Qtopia mail client are present on the SL-C700. They once again outperform their SL-5x00 equivalents. Although the Opera browser was not able to display every web site on the tiny SL-5x00 screen, Netfront is perfectly compatible with every web site I tried.
If the text is too small or too large, the Fn-3 and Fn-4 shortcuts allow the user to resize the display dynamically. The Fn-1 and Fn-2 shortcuts complete this customization with a brightness increase or decrease, which is useful when the ambient light changes.
Tabs allow multiple web sites to be opened at the same time. The browser is easy to use with self-evident menu items and icons and few configurable options. This ease is welcome as the only user manual is in Japanese.
The e-mail application also is easy to configure and use. I had to type only my POP server, user name, password and outgoing mail server to receive e-mail on the Zaurus. I immediately was able to reply off-line. Mails too big to be stored reasonably are not downloaded. It still is possible to retrieve them, but each message requires manual confirmation. Once again this is a useful feature to prevent the PDA memory from becoming full of junk mail and useless attachments.
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