Little cradle can rock your world

Small as the Sony Cli' is, it has an even smaller remote control to help navigate safely while driving.

Henrik G. de Gyor

Charger for Cli' handhelds works in your car, has GPS software and reads you your e-mail

If you often work from your car, how and when do you charge that handheld computer? It gets to be a hassle.

Sony's PEGA-CC5 car cradle not only recharges the handheld from the car battery, it also incorporates Global Positioning System navigation. The docked handheld displays your car's location and movement. Even better, it can read you that information through the car's speaker system.

Weighing about 6 ounces and measuring 3 by 5 by 1.5 inches, the PEGA-CC5 cradle fit snugly on my dashboard and connected effortlessly through an FM transmitter to preconfigured 95.9- to 101.9-MHz radio frequencies. Once connected, the PEGA-CC5 successfully used its text-to-voice function to read e-mail, schedule appointments and sound a buzzer alert through the car's speakers.

On the software side, the PEGA-CC5 had Rand McNally Corp.'s StreetFinder C Travel Navigation with a VCA-36 GPS antenna to give directions and show location and destination on a map.

I tested the cradle with the $559 Cli' PEG-NX80V handheld. I loaded its Memory Stick with multiple MP3 and ATRAC3 compressed audio files to see whether they would play through the car's speaker system.

It took about 15 minutes to install the hardware portion of the cradle. Most of that time was spent getting the handheld ready. First I had to make sure that Palm OS Desktop for Cli' was installed; otherwise the cradle installation wouldn't work. Next I had to synchronize the Cli' with a PC and install the same software on it.

Finally I removed the handheld's protective cover and rotated the top to expose the LCD. A car charger cable connected to the cradle.

The handheld, when docked, went into what Sony calls in-vehicle mode. The Cli' Launcher home screen and Palm OS standard screen did not appear, but the icons got bigger and arranged themselves in blocks so that I could easily see and navigate them.

Also, the names of some of the operations changed in the in-vehicle mode. For example, the Audio Player became simply Music. The included Sony remote control made it simple to select a file, and I could listen to music and surf the handheld with relative ease.

The catch is that the PEGA-CC5 cradle is compatible with only three Cli' models: the PEG-NX80V, PEG-NX73V and PEG-TG50. Buying one of them adds about $450 to the $300 cradle price.

Little touches make the Sony PEGA-CC5 a great companion in the car. For example, the Today default application senses when the handheld has been docked. It immediately reads out the date, scheduled appointments and the number of unread e-mail messages.

If you already own a Cli' that can use the PEGA-CC5 cradle, I highly recommend buying one. If you don't have the right handheld and don't spend much time in the car, forget it.

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