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Sony unveils tiny wireless pen PC

Look, ma, no keyboard

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Reg Kit Watch Sony will ship a keyboardless PC in Japan later this month. But it's no Tablet PC - instead, this pen-operated, wireless-enabled Windows XP machine will be pitched at mobile media consumers.

The consumer electronics giant is billing the Vaio VGN-U70 as the world's smallest full-function Windows PC. The unit measures 16.7 x 10.8 x 2.6cm and weighs just 550g. Much of the machine's face is taken up by an 800 x 600 transflective colour LCD. The display can also operate at up to 1600 x 1200, but at this stage it's not clear if that's a native resolution.

Sony Vaio U70 with 'fin' stylus and remote control

Apparently, there's a button you can press that reformats the display in portrait mode, not unlike the way the PalmOne Tungsten T3's screen works. There are also buttons that operate the cursor.

The portrait mode is primarily intended to facilitate the device's use as an electronic book. Sony also bundles stereo earphones with a remote control for private audio and video playback.

Indeed, the Sony machine is not unlike Bsquare's wireless Power Handheld, which we reviewed last week.

The U70 is operated using a stylus, but the OS is Windows XP Pro rather than Tablet PC Edition. Sony supplies a cradle into which the U50 can be placed and connected to a Palm-style full-size foldaway USB keyboard and have its battery recharged. The U50's stylus is an unusual design Sony calls "fin-shaped", which can be attaches to the machine or kept separate. It ships with Japanese character recognition software.

Sony Vaio U70 with cradle and keyboard

Driving the U70 is a 1GHz Ultra-low Voltage Pentium M and Intel's i855GM integrated chipset - so yes, it's a Centrino machine. And, indeed, we find the machine has an 802.11g Wi-Fi adaptor built in. It also has a 20GB hard drive and 512MB of memory. There's a USB 2.0 port, and CompactFlash and MemoryStick Pro ports for expansion.

The unit is powered by a slimline Lithium Polymer battery capable of providing around two-and-a-half hours' operating time. Japanese consumers will be able to up that to 5.5 hours, courtesy of an alternative, 'extended' battery. But it added 145g to the weight.

The U70 will ship on 29 May for around ¥210,000 ($1871). Sony will also offer a lower spec. model, the U50, for ¥179,000 ($1595), which contains just 256MB of memory and a 900MHz ULV Celeron processor. It ships with Windows XP Home Edition.

In March, Sony launched the Librié 1000-EP, arguably the world's first true electronic book. Based on E-Ink's non-volatile display technology, the device is intended - unlike the U70 - to be solely used as a tool for reading text. ®

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