Sony FDL-22 Handheld Color Television (1998)

           

The Sony FDL-22 Watchman features a 2.2-inch color LCD screen and is one of the last handheld TVs made by that company. It was introduced in 1998, twelve years after my black and white FD-10A Watchman, which was one of the first Sony handhelds. It's interesting to compare the two.

  

Despite different profiles, the two Watchmen are very similar in size and weight. The FDL-22 is more ergonomic, tapering down from the top, which holds its batteries as well as the screen. It's about 1/2 inch wider than the FD-10A at the top, and about 1/4 inch shorter. Mine came with an adapter which can plug into a car's cigarette lighter.

The FDL-22 receives VHF channels 2-13 and UHF channels 14-69. It has no input for an external video source, so it will receive only static in most places. These screen photos were taken from satellite TV which I relay through the house with a home transmitter.

These pics will give you a general idea what life with an LCD is like. They were taken in a dimly lit room; the slight bluish glare is from a skylight.

     

The Sony renders pretty accurate colors, but as with every early LCD, the viewing angle has to be just right, and the image is grainier than the picture tube on a direct-view TV.

With only four controls, the color Watchman is very simple to operate.

The previous photo shows the big green slide switch with positions for Off, VHF, and UHF. Little black thumbwheels let you adjust the sound volume and screen brightness.

The FDL-22's tuner is automatic and all-electronic. When you switch to VHF, it scans for VHF channels and stops at the first one it can receive. On the left side of the case is a switch with + and - signs, which lets you scan up or down for other channels.

The groovy ergonomic case fits your hand nicely but the TV won't stand on a table or tummy unless you rest it on a sandbag or pillow. My other handhelds have a pop-out leg that lets you stand the television on a flat surface.

Perhaps you wondered why this TV doesn't have the usual metal telescoping antenna. Sony put the antenna in the long, flexible neck lanyard.

This solved a couple of problems. A long metal whip antenna is ungainly as well as fragile. If you're sitting in a car or a stadium seat, the angle for best reception may not be the most comfortable or convenient.

The lanyard antenna can be looped around your neck or draped whichever way works best. Since the human body also acts as an antenna of sorts, the combination of the two can be interesting. As with all handheld TVs, this one works best with a strong local signal.

If you pay more than a few bucks for an FDL-22, you're paying too much. Now that analog broadcasting has ceased, handheld TVs are basically curiosities. Others in my collection include a Sony FD-10A, Panasonic TR-101P, and Epson ET-10. Introduced in 1984, the Epson was the first handheld LCD color television.

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