The Vaio P is not a netbook—or so Sony insists you believe. The company has gone to great pains to stress exactly how and why this new ultraportable is a premium “pocket style PC”, and not just one of the dozen or more models of low-powered low-cost netbooks that every other major computer manufacturer has introduced in the past year, most of which look practically the same.
The Vaio P certainly doesn’t look anything like the raft of dinky plastic pastel-colored devices we’ve seen so far. The emphasis here is clearly on aesthetics and portability, with a super-slim rectangular design and high-quality glossy paint finish, this is one very flauntable computer.
Look and Feel
The unique shape and construction allow you to slip a Vaio P into pretty much any coat or trouser pocket. It’s easy to imagine carrying a Vaio P around anywhere, since it will also fit quite unobtrusively in a handbag or briefcase. It’s less than 2 cm thin, and only slightly wider and deeper than a standard business envelope.
Externally, apart from the glossy paint, you’ll notice the perfectly rounded corners and smooth lines. Even the underside is free of stickers and labels, and not a single screw is visible. Thankfully, the battery is removable. Around the edges you’ll find the power and Wi-Fi switches, two USB ports, an earphones socket, a custom port for expansion, and one slot each for SDHC and Memory Stick
cards—pretty limiting, but manageable.
Opening the lid reveals the biggest advantage of the rectangular design—a large, roomy keyboard. The keys are well placed and spaced, except for the miniscule right [Shift] key that’s quite easy to miss and the cramped arrow key cluster. Unfortunately, they’re a bit too mushy and shallow to type on, and since there’s no room for a wrist rest, the lower lip where the cursor buttons sit slightly obstructs the entire lower row.
The trackpoint device instead of a regular touchpad will take some getting used to, but it’s well positioned and you can tap it lightly to register a click. Above the keyboard lie two slots for the speakers, which quite frankly, are tinny and awful. A mic is embedded in the lower left corner, to go with the integrated VGA webcam.
And at last, we come to the screen. Eight inches is pretty normal for a netbook-class device, but this one throws all the usual rules of size and proportion right out the window, with a crazy resolution of 1600 x 768—over twice as wide as it is tall. That kind of horizontal resolution is greater than most 19-inch desktop monitors! Sure, you can claim the device plays HD video at native resolution, but the tiny screen size means all those pixels are crammed into almost no space at all. Icons and buttons are miniscule, and even regular text on screen is impossibly tiny.
Even worse, a huge portion of the screen is wasted on empty horizontal toolbars and menu bars when windows are maximized. Don’t even try using any Microsoft Office 2007 programs here—we found ourselves crouching over the Vaio P while using it just to read a simple Web page, leaning forward and straining our eyes uncomfortably to make out what was what. This effectively rules out using it for serious work for any extended period of time.