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Device Profile: Sharp’s Zaurus SL-5500 Linux PDA

Apr 5, 2002 — by Rick Lehrbaum — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 28 views

With the possible exception of TiVo, the Sharp Zaurus PDA represents the highest profile Linux-based consumer product from a major electronics manufacturer to hit retail sales channels. Unlike TiVo, however, Sharp is strongly promoting the presence of Linux in the Zaurus as a key selling-point, and is fostering the development of third-party software and hardware products for… the device.

The Zaurus SL-5500 PDA features an embedded Linux operating system supplemented by both Qt and Java based application environments. From a hardware perspective, the device is powered by a 206 MHz Intel StrongARM system-on-chip processor, equipped with a generous supply of both RAM and Flash storage memory. The physical user interface consists of a bright, full-color “quarter-VGA” LCD touch/display along with a built-in QWERTY keyboard (located behind a unique slide cover).

The Zaurus' graphical user interface — based primarily on Trolltech's Qtopia PDA software platform — is robust, easy-to-use, and visually appealing. Qtopia uses an embedded version of Trolltech's Qt GUI toolkit (called Qt/Embedded), which results in a look and feel reminiscent of the highly popular KDE Linux desktop environment, and which also makes it easy for developers to to port apps from the Linux desktop to the Zaurus. Additionally, the Zaurus comes with a second application software platform, Insignia's Jeode Java virtual machine, which should further accelerate the process of growing a large base apps for the device by enabling the Zaurus benefit from the emerging smartphone market, which is expected to make extensive use of Java-based apps.

Sharp intends to aggressively foster the emergence of an active user and developer community around the Zaurus and its Linux-based software platform. To support this effort, Sharp has launched, a Zaurus users/developers website which offers a wide range of resources including software downloads, specifications, accessories, wireless info, tips & tricks, documentation, registration, and much more.

Note: more (and larger) photos of the SL-5000D (early “Developer” version) are available here.

Here is a summary of the specifications of the new Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 Linux/Java PDA . . .


  • CPU — 206MHz Intel SA-1110 StrongARM system-on-chip processor
  • Memory — 64MB DRAM and 16MB Flash
  • Display — 3.5-inch 240 x 320-dot pixel (“quarter VGA”) reflective TFT 65,536 color LCD with touch panel support
  • Keyboard — front lighted QWERTY keyboard with a slide cover
  • Dual card slots
    • CompactFlash type II for memory or other peripheral expansion
    • Secure Digital (SD) card slot for secure memory storage or other peripheral expansion
  • I/O ports
    • IrDA 1.2
    • Serial port (via cradle)
    • USB (via cradle)
    • Stereo headset jack; includes audio input (mono)
  • Power source
    • Lithium ion battery (950 mAH)
    • Battery life: ~10 hr (backlight off) ; ~1 hr (backlight on)
    • Lithium battery preserves memory contents during battery low condition; additional battery preserves memory contents during battery change
  • Size — 2.9 x 5.4 x 0.7 in. (with keyboard hidden)
  • Weight — 6.8 oz.
  • Bundled accessories — USB connected cradle; AC adapter
  • Operating system — based on Lineo's Embedix Embedded Linux with Linux kernel 2.4.x
  • Java runtime environment — Insignia's Jeode PDA Edition (a Sun-authorized Virtual Machine that is compatible with the PersonalJava specification)
  • GUI — based on Trolltech's Qt/Embedded
  • BrowserOpera
  • Application software — based on Trolltech's Qtopia PDA suite; includes: productivity suite (todo list, calendar, calculator, address book, text editor), entertainment package (mpeg player, image viewer, games), Internet package (email client, web access), utilities (screen calibration, backlight control, app installer, network setup, I/O controls).

When can I get one? And for how much?

Sharp has begun shipping the Zaurus SL-5500 via both online and retail sales channels. The SL-5500 consumer edition includes 64MB of RAM memory (in contrast to the early “developer” model SL-5000, which had 32MB of RAM), along with 16MB of built-in Flash storage. Online pricing is currently around USD $499.

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