Sony seems to be trying their hardest to get us to swing on over to using a Windows machine, sending us a variety of computers from their VAIO line that bucks the assumption that PCs can't hold their own in the industrial design department. We first saw the Sony VAIO P series mini-laptop at CES earlier this year, noticing the huge crowd around it before seeing the diminutive device itself. We had to push and squeeze through a throng of oggling admirers (we thought we were at the G4/Olivia Munn booth) to get our hands on one, and even back then we were impressed with the size and performance showcased. We got our hands on a test unit to play around for a few weeks to get a more detailed impression about this wee wonder...
Unlike similar sized netbooks, the Sony VAIO P is wider and shorter in size, with an 8" 1600x768 screen and just weighing in the vicinity of 1.4lbs. Despite its smaller size, what was impressive upon opening up the clutch purse sized laptop was how easy it was to type using the 82 key QWERTY keyboard; we were able to bust out instant messages, shoot off tweets and type in URLs with almost the same ease and speed as our full sized laptop. Very comfortable key strike and the spacing allows for quick typing with few mistakes, something that could not always be said about other netbook sized devices.
The display is gorgeous and bright, which was extremely useful considering the VAIO P is built for on-the-go use, with GPS/Microsoft Streets & Trips software and oh-so-wonderful mobile broadband service provided by Verizon. It's the sort of tech accessory you could bring on a short weekend (road)trip, maybe even a camping excursion if setting up base not too far from civilization. We took it up to Solvang from Los Angeles, and thanks to Verizon's great coverage and the more than adequate MS Streets & Trips apps, we were able to find our way around some new parts of Santa Barbara County with more detail than the iPhone we normally use. Partnered with Bluetooth and up to 4 hours of use time, this might be the perfect traveling laptop to throw into the backpack (we wished we were given the optional leather case though; we babied our test unit fearing any scratches like it was our own flesh and blood).
The laptop is also a looker. People were apt to ooh and ahh upon its appearance, and an extra exclamation and glassy eyed request to "touch it" in a tone that was both amusing and somewhat disturbing. The return of the nipple style pointing device was curiously something people enjoyed noting, despite its hit and miss usability. Sony does an awfully good job at making the argument that Windows machines don't have to be hit with the Dell industrial design ugly stick; we imagine if we wandered to the other team, we'd be batting for the VAIO lineup despite the price tag. Too bad we still don't love Windows Vista one darn bit (Vista worked smoothly, surprising on such a small machine, where most netbooks offer XP), but we did quite fancy these specs:
- Built-in MOTION EYE webcam
- 2GB RAM (up to 4GB)
- 256GB SSD
- Front Side Bus Speed : 533MHz
- Multimedia Card Reader : One Memory Stick Duo media slot with MagicGate functionality, One Secure Digital (SD memory card) media slot
- L2 Cache : 512kB
- Speed : 1.86GHz
The only knock against the Sony VAIO P is directly in relation to its inherent appeal. The small sized screen is sharp and bright, but using it for extended periods of time beyond an hour left our mid-30 something eyes crossed like a Jerry Lewis movie scene. If only they'd throw in a touchscreen option; it's small enough to be used in similar two-hand manner to a few smart phones. So while it's an able machine with great travel potential, the VAIO P is a complimentary machine, rather than a main workhorse option which should be obvious to anyone who works on a laptop. Because working on Photoshop on this machine could be done...but not advisable for the sake of personal health (that's what its BIG brother is for).
The P-series Lifestyle PC is aimed at the "fashionista" crowd, making it arguably an example of form over function. No, strike that...form over affordability, since the VAIO P isn't an ultra cheap netbook and thus shouldn't be categorized with similarly sized offerings. Coming in an outfit matching selection of garnet red, emerald green, onyx black, crystal white, and classic (matte) black, the P-series starts at $999 and scales up to $1999 for a 1.86GHz, solid state model. There's little argument that the VAIO P Series Lifestyle PC is anything but a luxury device, but what you get for that price is a machine that doesn't feel compromised in performance, style and function.