The Sony VAIO P Series
The Debut Sony Mini Laptop
At last, a Sony mini laptop is here, the Sony VAIO P Series. Although not in the form some originally expected, the Sony VAIO P series has all the size and weight credentials that a netbook should have (just be careful not to call it a netbook or Sony will be upset - It's a 'Lifestyle PC').
These things weigh a minuscule 638g (just over 1 pound), that’s around two thirds the weight of the original netbook; the Asus Eee PC 701! Like the heavenly thin MacBook Air, the P-series is also under 2cm thick at 19.8mm and only slightly larger than an office envelope.
The LED backlit screen, 8 inches across and in a wide-screen format, has a surprisingly high 1600x768 resolution (compared to 1024x600 for your everyday netbook). At that resolution, it’s unlikely you’ll ever need much side-scrolling again, since most web pages aren’t that wide. Battery life is stated as 4 hours for the standard model, or 8 for the large capacity battery – enough for a full days work.
My jaw hit the deck when I saw how much SSD drive storage some models of the P series are offering – up to 128GB and even 256GB in the USA. SSD or Solid State Storage requires no moving parts and is thus very durable. But it’s very expensive to produce a large SSD which has meant most netbooks have had around 16GB tops. Hard drive versions of the Sony VAIO P Series are also available offering 60GBs storage.
Sony has incorporated some really clever extra features. Firstly, a GPS which needs no internet connection (in the USA and Canada only – more of that later), Windows Vista – a first for a computer this small and an array of connectivity options; Wireless LAN 3G Broadband, 802.11n LAN and Bluetooth so you’re connected wherever there’s mobile phone signal.
Other more standard features like the ‘Motion Eye’ webcam and microphone are also included, not to forget the Sony ‘xross media bar’, common with the PlayStation 3 and Bravia HDTV range.
All the Sony Vaio P Series range come with a flavour of Windows Vista apart from the P21SW which has been announced by Sony UK which has windows XP. We can't see any announcement of this model or variant in the USA at the moment.
The inclusion of Vista is an interesting choice as Vista can tax the hardware of desktop machines let alone laptops or netbooks. While most netbooks haven’t strayed above 1GB of RAM the new Sony has 2GB which is no doubt because of the Vista requirements and a fact borne out by the fact that the newer XP version has only 1GB.
Processing power is a bit on the light side since the the original line up of the P series only come with a 1.33GHz Atom Z530 from Intel. Newer models step this up to the Atom Z530 running at 1.6g and makes up a bit of ground in the performance stakes.
The Sony VAIO P Series is a bit of a mix. They are gorgeous looking, stylish and ultra compact but we feel that for many people they have just gone a bit too far with the size reduction and compromised some of the usability you need from a netbook pc. However if you need the smallest, lightest most stylish netbook on the planet, you won't be using it for hours on end and the cost isn't your primary concern then there is nothing that can touch it.
The Sony VAIO P Series is available for around £670 in the UK and $1000 in the USA. (August 2009)
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