The Sony Vaio P is a weird device. It’s much smaller than a netbook, but much better-equipped. It has wireless broadband access from Verizon, onboard GPS, a ThinkPad-style pointing stick, and an eye-straining high-resolution screen. It’s also incredibly expensive. So who exactly is the Vaio P for?
At just 9.8 inches across, 0.8 inches thick, and 4.8 inches deep, and weighing just one pound, five ounces, the Vaio P is made for mobility—it makes a 10-inch netbook look like a desktop replacement. Into those tiny dimensions Sony crams parts that—on paper—put your old Atom netbook to shame. The Vaio P uses a 2GHz Atom Z550 paired with the US15W chipset and GMA500 integrated graphics. By comparison, last year’s typical netbook used a 1.6GHz N280 on an Intel GSE945 chipset with GMA950 graphics. The Vaio P also ships with 2GB of DDR2/533 and a whopping 256GB Samsung MLC SSD, which itself is responsible for $700 of the Vaio P’s price tag. The full Windows 7 Professional OS is a welcome change from Windows XP—or worse, Windows 7 Starter.
The Vaio P’s eight-inch screen offers an eye-watering 1600x768 resolution. This is the first time we’ve ever seen a screen that was too sharp; reading text on it for more than a few minutes hurt our eyes.
The Vaio P's 1600x768 resolution is sharp--but you have to move in really close to appreciate it.
In fact, everything about the Vaio P is just a little too small. The chiclet-style QWERTY keyboard, though bigger than boards found on most MIDs and UMPCs, is still too small to type on comfortably, unless you have very nimble fingers. And the lack of a track pad hurts—the pointing stick, though reasonably sensitive, isn’t as precise. The speakers have zero low end at any volume; you’re much better off using the included headphones.
In our netbook benchmarks, the Vaio P fared about as well as we’d expect from a device with a faster CPU, more RAM, slower integrated graphics, and a smaller battery than our zero-point. It was 22 percent faster than the zero-point in our Photoshop benchmark and 50 percent faster in our MainConcept test, but 67 percent slower in Quake III, thanks to its crappier graphics chipset. Quake 4, which is unplayable on any non-Ion netbook, wouldn’t even run on the Vaio P. To our surprise, the Vaio P bested the Toshiba Satellite T115 ultrathin notebook from last month in MainConcept, though in nothing else. Battery life, at two hours, 24 minutes, is impressive only in light of the Vaio P’s size and the corresponding miniature battery.
So what do you make of a tiny, yet full-fledged computer with a screen that causes eyestrain, a keyboard that’s hard to type on, and a nearly $2,000 price tag? The Verizon-enabled 3G wireless data connection and turn-by-turn GPS (utilizing Microsoft Streets & Trips 2009), offer some clues. The Vaio P is for the ultimate road warrior: someone who values portability above all else. And we mean all else—battery life, usability, even money. But given that modern smartphones offer a more usable, albeit smaller, interface along with mobile data and turn-by-turn navigation, we’d warrant that even the hardiest road warrior would prefer the combination of a smartphone and an ultraportable that’s easier on the eyes and fingers. This leaves us with only one possible target demographic for the Vaio P: leprechauns. We can’t think of anyone else with the small fingers, sharp eyes, and pot o’ gold required to get the most out of this device.
Sony Vaio P VHN-P799L/Q
Windows 7; 2GB RAM; 256GB SSD; wireless broadband and GPS; incredibly portable.
Incredibly expensive; too tiny to use comfortably; no touch pad.
Sony Vaio P
2GHz Intel Atom Z550
8-inch 1600x768 TFT LCD
250GB Samsung MLC SSD
2 USB 2.0, headphone, SD, MemoryStick, 10/100 Ethernet, VGA (on expansion card)
802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, Verizon 3G
1lb, 5.3oz/1lb, 13oz
Sony Vaio P
Photoshop CS3 (sec)
Main Concept (mins)
Quake 3 (fps)
Quake 4 (fps)
Battery Life (mins)
Our zero-point netbook is a Lenovo IdeaPad S12 with a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270, 1GB of DDR2/667 RAM, a 160GB hard drive, Intel GMA950 integrated graphics chipset, and Windows XP Home SP3.