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Old 01-13-2005, 08:33 AM   #1
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TH55 to Tapwave Zodiac *owner* review

I've written this for any TH55 owners who may be considering the Zodiac as an alternative:

After owning a TH55 for a year I've finally decided to move on and bought a Tapwave Zodiac 2. I really think the TH55 was the best PDA Sony produced, shame they abandonded us. I looked at moving to the Pocket PC PDA and bought a HP 3715 but returned it after a week after it lost my data twice (something that has never happened on the PalmOS) and I really could not get used to the clunky interface and PIM software. I also looked at the Tungsten T5 but that is just too buggy and Palmone look to have lost their way (reminds me of the last days of Psion).

I've kept looking at the Zodiac since it was released but thought it wasn't for me. But the specification looked great and after using one briefly in a shop, decided to get one. Although in the UK this isn't easy as the Dixons chain currently are the only sellers and they bumped up the price considerably (£330). Anyway I managed to get one for £240 off PC World after various sale offers and web discounts.

The unit itself is not much larger than the TH55 and feels about the same weight. There's a nice feel to the case with its round edges. I was concered about the unit not looking professional enough at work but I think they've actually got the design just right as it looks more 'grown-up' than the PSP and Nintendo DS. Plenty of people have commented on it's good looks. The stylus location is poor but it isn't as bad as a lot of people have made out.

The screen looks to be the same as the TH55 but actually the colours aren't as saturated as the TH55 and the blacks aren't quite as deep, which is a bit of a dissappointment. I've always loved the landscape ratio (being a previous Psion owner) and thought not including this option on the TH55 was a major oversight.

The laucher actually works very well with the joystick and I've soon got used to it. I also use McPhling. The nice thing that Tapwave have done to the PalmOS are the little tweaks, such as having an automatic time limit on the sound muting and the auto vibrating alarm when the sound is muted. Navigating looked to be a problem initially but there are so many buttons on the thing and the action buttons are fully re-assignable so that it's just as easy to use as the TH55. Speed of use was a concern with moving to the Zodiac as I could quickly get to all my data on the TH55. But this hasn't turned out to be a problem and I'm now just as fast on the Zodiac.

The extra included software is a mixed bag. The photo viewer is good but I prefer RescoViewer. The MP3 player is frankly naff - but Tapwave have announced a substantially improved version in the version 1.2 software. The included video player is also poor and doesn't appear to make use of the hardware support the Zodiac has - I think this is also being fixed in the 1.2 software. It's a shame they didn't include the Tungsten enhanced PIM suite but perhaps there was a licensing issue. 3rd Party software compatibility has rarely been a problem so far. I never used the Clie Organiser as I found it too slow and clunky - also the desktop software was dreadful.

I'm not much interested in the Zodiac specific games you can buy from Tapwave but I do like emulators and there are already some great Zodiac specific ones available such as "Little John" (SNES, GB, NES etc). I'm looking to develop for this machine too as it has a nice graphics chip and the Native (ARM) Application support means games porting can be done easily.

Battery life is just great! Quite a bit better than the already great TH55. Also the 128MB ram is way more than anyone should need on a PalmOS device - nice.

Stuff I miss from the TH55:
* WIFI - I can get by without it and use bluetooth quite a bit more now, but I think I'll have to buy a card.
* builtin memory card reader. Something the Clie's have had for quite a while and only now Palmone are trumpeting their support on the T5 (making out as if they invented it). OK there are software alternatives.
* Picsel viewer - never understood why this isn't generally available.
* that's all!

Stuff I like about the Zodiac over the TH55:
* Landscape screen
* Processor & Graphics Performance.
* SD Card support
* Battery
* Memory

Psion 3a > Psion 5 > Psion Revo > PalmPilot 1000 > Psion Revo+ > Palm m505 > Clie T625 > T3 > Clie T675 > Clie UX50 > Clie TH55 > Zodiac 2

Last edited by Jingo : 01-14-2005 at 05:36 AM.
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Old 01-13-2005, 01:53 PM   #2
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I was just about to sell my TH55, and then the deal fell through. After I unpacked my TH55, I realized just how amazing this machine really is. Sure it is not as fast as the newer ones, but you have to admit that Sony almost got it right. In fact if native screen rotating was supported as well as dual wireless in all models, Sony may have got it perfect. Thank you for the review, I don't think I can own a Zodiac "I don't think I would ever get my work done.
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Old 01-13-2005, 02:08 PM   #3
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Bah, the TH55 is the best PDA ever made (probably).
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Old 01-13-2005, 03:04 PM   #4
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I have both a Zodiac2, a TH55 and a UX50. I had the UX50 first, then purchased the Zodiac and finally picked up the TH55 because I was intrigued by its design and was afraid I wouldn't be able to get one if I waited. There is something to LOVE about each of the units so I haven't been able to force myself to part with any of them and I use them sort of interchangebly. Of the 3, the Zodiac seems to have the most power and best battery life. It is also the best for reading ebooks which I do a lot of. The Zodiac is a full featured, fully capable PDA and there isn't anything that isn't business-like about it. The only thing missing, now that there is SDIO wi-fi card capability, is a camera and I don't miss that at all.

I agree with pretty much everything Jingo said in his review and highly recommend the Zodiac as an alternative to the Clie's or and PalmOS device on the market today.
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Old 01-13-2005, 03:25 PM   #5
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If I wasn't so interested in seeing where handhelds are going I would be looking alot more in Tapwave's direction.

As it is, I really agree the TH55 is about as close to getting it right as I've seen.
It still fills me with wonder sometimes. (sniff)

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Old 01-13-2005, 03:27 PM   #6
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Yeah, the Zod is a neat bit of kit. I must admit I thought it would be bigger than it is!

For the Built-in Memory Card Reader bit, check out CardImport 2.0 from Soft Tick - It's a really awesome bit of kit - Like Data/MSImport, but better as it uses standard USB protocols and so doesn't need drivers and will work automagicall on Win2k/ME/XP/Linux/Mac etc
And you can pick which of the Zod's two SD cards to use as drives

One comment piqued my interest, about the Zod having better battery life than a TH?! I find that hard to believe!! Are you serious?!?!?
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Old 01-13-2005, 03:32 PM   #7
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Me too! I was upgrading from a T|C. I had to choose between a TH55 and a Zodiac2. Wow, that was a tough time for me. I made the right decision, though. I'm sure. The Zodiac is just plain AWESOME as a PDA. It can do so many things. It's become my little media device. Sure, it won't function exactly as you want it right out of the box, but if you invest a little time in it, you can get it to be the best darn PDA you have ever used. Oh, and the battery life is AWESOME. I go days on end without recharging.

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Old 01-13-2005, 03:55 PM   #8
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I still like my TH better 'tho
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Old 01-13-2005, 05:10 PM   #9
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Good Evening-

I absolutely love my TH. It is the best PDA I have ever owned and I have owned my share. But I have been interested in the Zodiac. I use my WiFi on the TH VERY regularly and would miss it being built-in as well as probably not enjoy the sticking-out aspect of a plug-in SD WiFi card (or the not-always-ready-to-go aspect either). Bluetooth is way over-rated and poor. I bought a T3 for a back-up to my TH and it of course has BT...not impressed. It is as easy to set up BT internet access on the PC as it is to open a Campbell's soup can with my teeth (that means it is not easy).

I am glad to hear about the long battery life though as the T3 is horrible. One question to you Zodiac users, can you switch the unit so that when you power up you are automatically in portrait mode?


P.S. Very good review!
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Old 01-13-2005, 07:21 PM   #10
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Yup, it does. Each app has saves the way it is exited, so when you enter that app again, it is oriented the way you left it. Note: the Zodiac is very comfortable to hold in portrait mode as well. What most people don't see is that the Zodiac is a PDA at heart - not a gaming machine. It is a PDA enhanced for multimedia and gaming. Just my kinda thing. There are so many reasons to get a Zodiac. I've loaded up everything I could want onto it, including many Earthcomber maps, and I've still got 40MB+ left on it. As well as more space left on my TWO SD cards. I looove dual SD slots - it's really nice.

The Zodiac (the Zodiac 2, especially) is a very good deal for what you get PDA-wise. It's got great internals as a PDA that most people look over when they scoff at it for being a lacking game machine. It's a PDA enhanced for fun.
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Old 01-13-2005, 07:24 PM   #11
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I too considered the Zodiac 2 when shopping to replace my UX50. But the WiFi and BT capability pushed me over to the TH55/E1. I never looked back. I hope if Zodiac would release an upgraded version, that it would have a built in WiFi and replacable batteries. Something Sony forgot to touch. I bet it would really wipe Palm out of the market. I could care less about Palm's capability to retain it's memory even when fully discharged. Why? Because with all the available backup programs out there like BackupMan, who cares if you don't retain the memory when fully discharged. Plus look at what they released, a half baked T5 and Treo 650, with all their memory glitches.

Palm Tungsten T>Sony UX40>Sony UX50>Sony TH55/E1>HTC Universal (O2 XDA Executive)
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Old 01-13-2005, 08:58 PM   #12
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Awesome thread! Thanks Jingo for a frank and direct review. Very helpful!
I own a TH55, and I love it! I do use the WIFI a lot. That is the one item I waited for when I was looking at PDA's, and the one item that disuaded me from getting a Zodiac.
Good luck to you with the PDA! Let us know a little later how things are going after you've had it a little longer.
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Old 01-14-2005, 09:04 PM   #13
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I was able to try a Zodiac 2 and HP ipaq 4700 on CompUSA on my way home today. I have to say, I was disappointed by the Zodiac's screen. It is not as vibrant and colorful as our TH55's screen. That alone made me put it down after playing with it for a few minutes. The HP ipaq 4700, on the other hand, is fast, very light, with highly vibrant and crisp screen, but it feels and looks cheap on my hand. Plus I am not a fan of the touch pad that came with it. I prefer a D pad or 5 way navigator combined with a jog dial.

Palm Tungsten T>Sony UX40>Sony UX50>Sony TH55/E1>HTC Universal (O2 XDA Executive)
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Old 01-14-2005, 09:46 PM   #14
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So the Zodiac's battery os better than the TH55's?
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Old 01-14-2005, 11:13 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by MrNako
So the Zodiac's battery os better than the TH55's?

Technically yes.
The TH-55 battery is 1000mah, and the Zodiac has a 1540mah battery. Ive heard it has good battery life, and since most battery intensive programs are optimized for it, it would make since.
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