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Sony Vaio P Review




A lot has been said about Sony’s own version of the ultraportable, the Vaio P. In the last week that I’ve been carrying it around, I’ve now realized why Sony wanted to shift the attention away from the usual netbook craze. Check out my review of the Sony Vaio P after the jump.

Carrying around a Sony Vaio P for a week has caught a lot of people’s attention. In this day and age of netbooks, it’s hard to grab attention to a “me too” product. This could be  one of the reasons why Sony didn’t want to call the Vaio P a netbook. It also goes without saying that it also allowed them to make the price point totally off from what usual netbook buyers would expect.

What’s in the box? Intel Atom Z530 1.6GHz, 2GB DDR2 533MHz RAM, 64GB Samsung SSD, 8″ display screen @ 1600×768 pixels, WiFi 802.11n, Bluetooth, 2 USB, SD card slot, Memory Stick Duo slot,  1.3MP webcam, integrated Intel GMA500 graphics card (max shared memory: 768MB), Microsoft Windows Vista Home.

sony vaio p
Screen Real Estate. The biggest screen resolution I’ve ever seen on a netbook, the Vaio P’s 1600×768 pixel resolution is unmatched by anyone (most common is 1024×600 pixels). The display is sharp and crisp; the colors are vivid as well and it’s no surprise since Sony is already a top player in LCD technology. I think this is one of the premium Sony fans will be paying for when they buy a Vaio P (same as when you get a Bravia TV).

The drawback though is that the aspect ratio is not standard — which  means, if you scale down the resolution to 1024×768, 800×600 or 640×480, the screen is already distorted. Users are stuck at the highest resolution and for some people this could be a disadvantage since icons, text and buttons are also much smaller. I noticed that I often move the device closer to my eyes than usual (of course, you can manually adjust icon magnification and text sizes but that’s a hassle) that I tend to slouch forward every time I type.
sony vaio p

Size and Form Factor. The Vaio P’s size and form factor is its biggest advantage among the rest. It’s 9.6″ in length, 4.7″ in width and just 0.78″ thin — that’s almost as thin as the 0.76″ Macbook Air. Its weight is also almost half that of regular netbooks at 1.4lbs (0.635kg). No other netbook currently in the market can match that, not even the earlier 7″ Eee PC.

The approach with the form factor was simple — drop the section for the palm rest and bring the pointing device up, smack at the center of the keyboard. The size of the keyboard itself is enough and the chicklet-style keys are very well spaced to make typing fairly easy and comfortable. The peripheral keys are slightly smaller though.

sony vaio p
Pointing Device
. The Vaio P features a trackpoint (a nipple mouse or pointing stick) instead of the usual trackpad which is similar to the ones commonly used in IBM ThinkPads. The pointing stick also accepts single and double click mouse actions. IMO, this is its biggest drawback. It’s too sensitive and hard to manage. I wonder, what happens if that soft pointer wears out? Can owners easily get a replacement? It would have been better if they went with a small solid-steel trackball in there.

The mouse buttons are a little thin and placed at the edge of the keyboard (where they usually are) but because I’m very used to the trackpad placement/position, I often mistake the space bar as the left  button. Because of this new orientation, it takes some time to get used to.

sony vaio p

Performance. The unit I reviewed is a prototype but it’s powered by an Intel Atom Z530 with 2GB of RAM and 64GB drive. It’s a bit slow compared to the other netbooks I’ve reviewed before although that could be attributed to the fact that the Vaio P is running Windows Vista Home and not XP. The graphics chip is an Intel GMA500 and plays videos just fine, even in full screen.

My concern is more with the heat dissipation. The core temp sits around 49 degrees centigrade on CPU idle but goes as high as 64 degrees at full CPU usage.  The Vaio P doesn’t have any exhaust fan inside (Intel Atom Z5xx are generally for embedded systems that don’t require them) but there’s a small ventillation grill on the left side, where most of the heat is coming from. {Check out the difference between an Atom Z530 and the N270}

sony vaio p

Battery Life. Sony claims 4 hours on standard battery and 8 hours on the extended one. The standard battery on the unit I have doesn’t even break 3 hours on constant WiFi use. Better than most but fell short of the promise (either that or the 4-hour claim doesn’t involve using WiFi). Sony installed a couple of apps so users can tweak and improve battery performance.

Bonus Points. The Sony Vaio P gets bonus points for the ff:

  • Instant On Mode. The Vaio P uses the same XMB interface (Xross Media Bar similar to the one in PSP) with the instant-on mode which you can use to get quick access to a media player, IM (Pidgen) and a browser (Firefox) without booting into Windows Vista.
  • Sony In-Ear Headphones. An accessory you won’t normally see when buying a laptop.
  • Card slots for Memory Stick Pro and SD/MMC Card; 2 USB ports, I/O port for a separate LAN and VGA adaptor, an a dedicated switch for WiFi/Bluetooth.

What’s missing?

Well, for the price tag of the Sony Vaio P, I would have expected the built-in GPS and 3G modem to go along with it. Apparently, other SKUs of the Vaio P marketed in the US and Europe have these features (locked to Verizon) but not the ones sold in the Philippines. A leather sleeve/pouch would also have been nice to go along with it (Sony is selling these accessories separately).

Conclusion.

What makes the Vaio P different from the other netbooks? Not much, really. The idea is more of a marketing move rather than economics — had Sony made a regular netbook, it would be hard pressed to carve its own niche this late in the game and compete against the dozens of existing players. That, plus the fact that Sony doesn’t want its brand to be labeled as cheap. 

What Sony is targetting is the high-end market — the select few who puts a premium on portability and very particular with style. This segment is still up and coming so there’s more likelihood of success (Asus has also moved into this segment with their stylish  and pricey S101). If they’re able to market and sell an 11.1″ Vaio T for Php119k, I think they can do better with a Php50k ultraportable. This is the same strategy and mentality that separated the under-powered and overpriced Macbook Air from all the rest of the regular 13-inch laptops (and everybody’s copying the MacAir nowadays).

It becomes obvious that the Sony Vaio P wasn’t made for everybody but don’t we all wish they should’ve dropped the price tag a little lower? 

Would I buy a Vaio P?  I actually almost did. Last month, when I was in Singapore for the Nokia event, I was about to buy one at the Suntec City for a discounted cash price of Php42k (subtract 8% GST and that’s down to Php38.5k) but unfortunately the ATM didn’t dispense my cash withdrawal (I have yet to check with my bank if I was credited back from that failed transaction).



Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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34 Responses

  1. william says:

    great review!
    Sony is really marketing it to a different market, if i had the money i would probably buy this too!(but i want them to lower the price) its ultra portable and easier to store in your bag or something.. it’s really just for a quick work when you are out.

  2. TechPinas says:

    Great review! :) I personally call the Vaio P a ‘kapricho’ gadget. Hehe.

    On the pointing stick:

    I’ve always been a big fan the Thinkpad pointing stick (The Legendary Trackpoint) largely because of the precision that I get with it ~ And of course, due to its kindness to the wrist.

    For a while I thought it’s a good idea to bring it down to the netbook category — but now, I guess, if a pointing stick is not made by the Thinkpad team then it’d be best to just leave them out.

    Thanks for the review. :)

  3. Jhay says:

    What can we expect? It’s a Sony, it’s definitely not for everybody. ;)

  4. Char says:

    I agree with Jhay. I always wanted to buy the first Sony Vaio… I ended buying HP pavilion…. hehehe

    There’s another IT show here in Singapore on March 12 – 15, 2009.

    Maybe this will be offered at lower price… coz this Sony Vaio P now has been in ads for couple of weeks now…

    http://www.chareyes.com/blog/?p=270

  5. Obed says:

    Ok, after your review I don’w want to have one, thanks Sir Abe.

    aloofkid.wordpress.com

  6. John Ray Cabrera says:

    i will give it an A+ for the build quality and craftsmanship.

    But given my high refractive error, I’d better shift my choices into other 10.2inchers. I just couldn’t see any letters in the P series when typing in the Notepad.

    But it is just astronomically priced. Maybe because Sony has this insane mentality that “whatever they build, people will buy.”

  7. calvin says:

    nice review abel. nice shots din. sony is known talaga for its expensive price. until they will really realize that not a lot of people these days wants to pay more for something just for the looks. good thing they’re slashing of PS3 prices.

  8. Pink says:

    Wow great review.. now I’m sure my friend is not getting one na.. lol

  9. vince says:

    Well, I would say that sony viao is really an excellent laptop, always above compared to others. Pero ang problema, hindi lang sa specs at features…LALO NA SA PRESYO.

    For me, I really don’t need a laptop as expensive as this. If I will only use my laptop for blogging purposes and office works, and not even for gaming, I will prefer to buy a cheaper one because it will not really be that wise especially in times of economic crisis… That’s luxury for ordinary people like me. :) It’s just my opinion…

    http://www.wsmuniversity.blogspot.com

  10. vince says:

    by the way, I like the look of this notebook.

  11. Andre Marcelo-Tanner says:

    wait for the Nvidia Ion ! :)

  12. BrianB says:

    The S101, frankly, looks a lot cooler and more useful.

  13. Graphire says:

    But Sony insists that this is not to be classified as a netbook.. a stylebook is more appropriate though. great review.

  14. kasimo says:

    Wonderful ! very good info. keep it up.

  15. I have an asus eeepc which works well as a umpc, but i’m so ashamed to bring it out in client meetings because everybody knows how cheap it is.

    two weeks ago I bought the sony vaio p and immediately used it in meetings. It never failed to strike a conversation, a client even asked her IT guy to get her one for personal use so she could ditch her macbook.

    So far, the vaio p is not as functional as full laptop or a desktop because of its size and processor speed. But since I’m always away from my desk, I like lugging the vaio p along anywhere I go because it is so light I don’t even notice that I have it in my bag.

    So the verdict is this, the vaio p is not for everyone. It’s only for those who need a simple laptop and who dont’ want to look cheap.

  16. One thing I like about Sony is their cutting-edge design; what I detest is the outrageous prices they set for their products.

  17. Nice!

    Btw, do you think the GPS thing would work should someone would try to buy abroad and carry it back to Philippines?

  18. dani says:

    i wish i can have 1

  19. GPS/Wireless WAN – if your network supports it.
    But if you ask me, I’d rid myself from it.

    Just got myself an ownermade,

    256SSD, 2.0Ghz Atom 550

    minus the GPS/WWAN.

  20. life is unfair. how come we can’t have those 2.0Ghz processor in our vaio and that 256SSD Hard disk.

    I just bought one on SM, but they say they only have 1.33Ghz and 64GB SSD. sad, but i love vaio.

    just watching this video make me drool. the boot time is really fast, when in my vaio,it is almost 1 minute, same windows 7

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8PcHdBz_Ik

  21. Jazzeline says:

    It looks great but I think it can only be used for internet browsing and they removed the support for 3G, bad move for them. This would be great in browsing the internet using 3g without usb dongle.

  22. E says:

    i still dont like the P series… too slow and too small. I like vaio Z series, but still i cannot purchase it… too expensive, around 100k here in the Philippines… i like its style and performance… hopefuly i could get one someday…

  23. anne says:

    i have asus eeepc.. it was cheap then.. what the nicest thing about it was it helps a lot to me.. so i think i dont need that super pricey notebook just to show other people i hav 1.. whew!

  24. Ricky Lebuna says:

    Attention Sony Philippines; I purchase sony vaio Model VGN-SR43G/P last 17 October 2009 but the said unit not functional normally, it seems their is aproblem when built this unit. I feel depress about my Laptop condition. So after one week I return back this unit to electroworld Mall of Asia outlet. According to computer technician they will send the unit to sony center. So it means you sell a sony vaio product w/out quality? I purchase in a high cost to expect a good performance but I fail my expectation.Is not a good Idea to send back in sony center to rectify the problem. Take note it is only one week since I purchase this item.

  25. unknown says:

    so sweeeeeeeeet…

  26. shylde says:

    i really like them, sony vaio laptops. i want to have one, it looks great, cool, beautiful designs (not to mention they’re the kind of laptops you can boast to your friends) suitable for a college student like me. last year (june 1) i asked my pops(dad) to buy me one, i’ve told him i’ll be needing one. we hopped malls and malls to find the exact sony vaio laptop model i really wanted (dreamed of, rather), well, we found a fair few but in high prices, so we keep looking but all are the same, amounting 100k..so i was forced to choose toshiba..but i really want that sony vaio laptop..hope someday i’ll have one.

  27. ashigakari says:

    It only cost roughly 15k php in a Japan Surplus shop in Pasig, near Karangalan gate 5. I just bought mine.

  28. Hello there, I can’t fully grasp the right way to add your web-site in my feed reader. Is it possible to assist me, please

  29. khondker says:

    Hi

    This is Khondker from Bangladesh. My father bought me a Sony( Vaio -VGN SR43G) from Malaysia. It was working fine for 4 months. But now a problem has appeared. The problem is – When I switch on or power my laptop. It starts. The power indicator light remains green .But my Lcd screen appears black. It doesn’t has brightness or light. I reinstalled my system, but no progress. At the time of booting, my screen shows light for 1 second, after that it remains black. If I plug other external monitor it shows the screen there properly. But my laptop screen remains black.

    I shut down my laptop for 2 months. Last night when I plugged my laptop to the ac power my lcd display was back for above than 20 seconds. So I thought may be it is a problem of software not hardware. Now can you tell me where could I find display or graphics or any power supply driver for my laptop. Details are: Model: VGN-SR43G…. OS: Windows vista (Home Edition) 32bit.
    Processor: Intel

    Khondker (Bangladesh)
    E-mail:[email protected]

  30. GaryS says:

    This close to Xmas, I wonder how firm the prices will remain?

  31. techihunt says:

    Undoubtedly, the actual VAIO P’s long and slim type factor continues to be one of the most unique looking devices in the ether.

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