The Sharp Zaurus SL-C700
Both an audio player and a video player are present on the SL-C700. They are completed by a picture viewer and an audio recorder. The audio player plays MP3 files perfectly, keeping a playlist for the user. The sound output is excellent, and the user interface for the audio player is intuitive. A volume control and a randomize function allow the SL-C700 to be used as a digital jukebox. The audio player is completed by a clever display-off button that turns off the whole screen, saving battery usage to prolong the musical experience.
In the case of the picture viewer, a list of the digital pictures I had on my CompactFlash card was presented with thumbnails. I could then click on each thumbnail to see the pictures individually or start a slideshow to use the SL-C700 as a digital picture viewer. My fiancée was impressed by the quality of the pictures we took on New Year's Eve on such a small display. They were crisp and bright, with such beautiful colors it was hard to believe we were viewing them on a PDA.
I do not like carrying a laptop with me when I am traveling, which can be annoying when the on-flight movie is bad. But next time I take a long flight, I will not envy the big, portable DVD player the person sitting next to me has. Saving a DivX file to a 256MB CompactFlash disk, then watching it on my PDA, however, certainly will make my flight neighbor jealous. Thanks to the Doctor Z video player, it is possible to enjoy a high-quality playback without frame drop if the movie has been recoded with some settings regarding the supported DivX codec, the SL-C700 screen and supported frame rate.
Another interesting feature of the SL-C700 is the complete Java support. I always am looking for more knowledge of the sky and galaxies, so sky maps are the first applications I install. I went to the Solun web site at www.piecafe.demon.co.uk and downloaded the Java version, designed for the SL-5500. It worked like a charm on the SL-C700, after some minor tweaks to use the 640 × 480 resolution. The high resolution allows comfortable use, even if the lack of memory quickly reminds you the SL-C700 is not perfect.
After the honeymoon with the new toy, I realized the SL-C700 was not without fault. The first problem is the resolution tweaking. Although using a different processor from the one the SL-5x00 uses, every SL-5x00 application should work fine on the SL-C700. However, some have been coded using fixed-screen sizes, which cause them not to scale well on a bigger display. To avoid this problem, Sharp introduced a low resolution (240 × 320) portrait mode to emulate the SL-5x00 screen better. It is active by default, however, and the transition between high resolution and low resolution takes four seconds, which seems like forever if you need the application at that moment.
The Doctor Z video player works fine and officially is SL-C700-compatible. The SL-C700 also comes with excellent e-mail support. I tried the free SL-5x00 applications, and most of them work fine even if the high resolution mode is selected. It takes only a long click on the application icon then selecting/deselecting the run-in compatibility mode icon to give it a try.
Another annoying problem is the lack of memory. 64MB of Flash means 64MB of storage space, where 30MB are left for the user. Although 32MB may seem a lot for a PDA, Qtopia is memory hungry, which does not leave a lot for the user. When I run the audio player and a command line, only 600K are left. Even worse, only 4MB of memory are free after a clean boot up, which means there is little room left for the applications to run. I had many errors due to the lack of available memory when using Java applications. The device became sluggish until a screen suddenly appeared and asked me to stop some applications.
A serious problem my unit had was the SD port; for some reason, inserting an SD card resulted in a complete lock until the card was removed, when the traditional four-minute reboot takes over. I had to send it back to Dynamism.com.
I also could not find any cases or accessories for the SL-C700. In Japan, some accessories are starting to be made available, but it is hard to order them on-line when you do not speak Japanese.
I must admit that even with these problems, I miss my SL-C700. The default PIM suite is not really usable, but the multimedia suite, the office suite and the internet suite were more than what I needed to be happy with my PDA. Most of the problems I experienced are explained easily by the lack of official support in English. The lack of XML support and SL-5x00 backward compatibility in the PIM is a bigger issue, because it certainly cannot be solved by official support.
With some help found on the SL-C700 forums on externe.net/zaurus/forum, I will start using the SL-C700 on a daily basis when it comes back. It will completely replace my former PDA, the Zaurus SL-5500, when I can run a good PIM suite that syncs to the desktop computer.
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