The Sharp Zaurus SL-C700
After the success of the Zaurus SL-5500 and the SL-5600, which was a revamped SL-5500 featuring a faster CPU, a better battery and a microphone, many people expected the next Zaurus would be as innovative as the SL-5500 was when it was first introduced. The Zaurus SL-C700 seems to satisfy this expectation.
The SL-C700 device is smaller than the previous ones and feels much more polished. When I received it, my fiancée immediately wanted to play with it, though she hadn't found the older ones very attractive. The SL-C700, however, comes with some disadvantages, which easily are explained by the lack of official support for it from Sharp outside Japan. Its range of use is quite impaired by the lack of support.
Featuring an Intel XScale PXA 250 400MHz processor, 64MB of Flash, 32MB of RAM, a 65,536 color 640 × 480 VGA screen, an IrDA port, a USB port, both a CompactFlash and a MMC-SD port, a stereo audio jack, a jogdial-like wheel, a comfortable keyboard and a screen that can move between the traditional computer-style landscape mode and the traditional PDA-style language mode, this is the most-advanced PDA currently available.
The audiophile will enjoy the excellent sound output; the typist will find the keyboard pleasurable for a device so tiny; and the graphics fan will be seduced by the crystal-clear screen. Personally, I was much more impressed by the soft and luxurious feeling of the gray case. Although the earlier devices felt a bit like plastic toys, this one proclaims its style with its appearance. The inclusion of LEDs on the left side of the hinge for quick access to battery charge and e-mail status, plus a convenient wheel with OK and Cancel buttons on the side of the machine, showcase the user-friendly design.
One missing feature may be an included microphone. Due to the poor quality of typical PDA microphones and the availability of hands-free earbuds and microphones, this is not a real issue. However, Sharp has listened to customer feedback and did not forget to include an internal speaker. It may not seem natural to include a speaker without also providing a microphone, but its presence allows the SL-C700 to communicate directly to its user through customized tones when an e-mail is received, when the device is powered on or for alarms.
The SL-C700 is officially available only in Japan. Dynamism.com, though, sells the device worldwide for $699 US, plus custom duties. Because it is a big success in Japan, where it is always back-ordered, expect long delays before receiving one. It took two months to have my order processed, and the FedEx parcel arrived after I was no longer expecting it.
Dynamism.com hired a coder well known in the Zaurus community to localize the whole device to English. After the default Japanese applications had been removed, I couldn't spot a single Japanese word except in the Favorites bookmarks. Even with full-English support, two dangerous keys featuring Japanese letters stand between Fn and space. If you press them, you are put into Japanese mode. The English fonts used prevent the application from displaying Japanese, though, so only little squares underlined in red by the Japanese on-the-fly spell checker appear. It took me some time to realize these keys had to be pressed again until an A appeared in the titlebar. When in Japanese input mode, the letter A is replaced by a Japanese character.
The keyboard on the SL-C700 has keys that look big and soft, but a disturbing beep accompanies every key press. The beep can be disabled with a simple click on the audio icon on the taskbar, which brings up the Audio Setting menu. Then, the keys emit soft clicks with each key press, much more discreet than the loud beep.
The quality of the SL-C700 screen is impressive; I had never seen such a screen before. The picture is so sharp you cannot see any individual pixels. The colors and the display are so bright you can use the device outdoors with the backlight on. The SL-5x00 series screens were impressive—much better than the IPAQ, for example—but could not compete with the most recent Sony Clié LCD screens. The SL-C700 screen outperforms the competition and will bring disappointment to previously proud Clié owners.
It takes four minutes to boot the first time the SL-C700 is powered up. During boot up, the SL-C700 told me it needed power on a pop-up window. I found a matchbox-sized charger in the box, with a Japanese/American plug. With a plug adapter, it worked like a charm in the European 230V output, even if it was labeled as only 100V. Dynamism.com comments that no power adapter is needed. The small size of the charger is a big plus; it makes the short battery life, around three hours, less important because it can be carried everywhere.
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