We managed to be among the very first to snag a coveted Sony Vaio Lifestyle PC, so here are a couple of in-the-wild photos, plus some first hands-on impressions.
Despite the small overall size, we found the keyboard fairly easy to use. At first, the lack of a touchpad worried us, but the trackpoint was fast and responsive, and after 15 minutes or so, we got fairly used to navigating with it--a very light tap on the pointing stick will give you a left mouse click. We're still not entirely sold, however, and still think a touchpad is better for many tasks.
The 1,600x768 screen has a higher resolution than many 15-inch laptops. Some initial attempts at online video streaming played fine, and the built-in Verizon-powered mobile broadband worked as advertised.
Even with Vista as the operating system, the Vaio seemed to run about as well as any Intel Atom system with XP we've used (2GB of RAM and an SSD hard drive help). With Windows 7, purportedly excellent for Netbooks, it would probably fly (relatively speaking).
It's hard to convey just how small this thing actually is. In the photos below, you'll see it positively dwarfed by an HP Mini 1000.… Read more
Much like Apple, Sony likes to keep its Vaio products aimed at mid-to-high-end buyers and generally eschews the budget end of the market (although there are actually a handful of sub-$600 Vaios we've reviewed fairly favorably).
When it comes to Netbooks, it's no different; Sony's entry into the very hot minilaptop category shares a lot with Netbooks such as the Dell Mini 9 or Asus Eee PC, but clearly goes out of its way to avoid being lumped in with them.
The P-series Lifestyle PC is one of the smallest laptops we've seen; it is almost similar to a UMPC, but with a traditional clamshell laptop design. The widescreen 8-inch 1600x768 display and tiny keyboard make for a form factor that has roughly the same footprint as a standard white business envelope, and is less than 1-inch thick, weighing 1.4 pounds.
To fit a reasonably full-featured PC into a chassis this small, some sacrifices had to be made, and we're worried the lack of a standard touch pad (instead there's a ThinkPad-like pointing stick), will keep this new system from being as useful as it could be. It does, however, include a 3G mobile broadband antenna, 802.11n Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth, with mobile broadband service provided by Verizon.
Like several other laptops we've seen recently, there's a pre-Windows instant-on operating system, which uses the familiar Sony cross-media bar menu found on the PlayStation 3 and handheld PSP consoles. Once you boot into Windows, instead of the XP variety found on most Netbooks, it has Vista, although the 2GB of RAM (up to 4GB capacity) should help it run smoothly.
Sony told us it was planning on marketing this almost clutch-size laptop specifically to women, but we didn't take them seriously until we saw these lines in the official press release:
"Designed for the fashionista in all of us, it's the ideal companion..." "The spacing between keys has also been engineered to help reduce typing mistakes making it perfect for long fingernails."
The P-series Lifestyle PC will retail for about $900, and options include solid state (up to 128GB) or standard hard drives and a variety of colors, including garnet red, emerald green, onyx black, crystal white, and classic (matte) black, with matching accessories including a fitted leather case. More photos are after the jump. … Read more
CES 2009 is fast approaching, and rumors of new laptops are everywhere. This week though, the focus is on Sony.
Though enterprising news outlets have dug up hints at new products from the likes of Dell and Lenovo weeks before the big gadget exhibition, Sony is outing itself as having a new portable PC that will "change the way you think about laptops." A clock counting down the days and hours until January 9, when the new product is scheduled to appear, popped up on Sony's New Zealand site, as pointed out over the weekend by Engadget.
Putting the teaser in context of the photo of the oddly-shaped Sony device that popped up on the FCC's Web site two weeks ago, it certainly seems likely that this will be a notebook unlike what others are offering.
But the question is, will it be a Netbook? Sony has been conspicuously absent from the Netbook market among its Windows-wielding brethren. (Apple has held out too, but it's not price-matching with other PC makers.)
Netbooks have taken off in the past 12 months, moving from a quirky offering from Asus to the form factor that's giving the PC industry a whiff of hope. All the major manufacturers are on board, and it's paying off now since the price tags are cheaper than standard notebooks. However, how it will hurt them in the long run (dragging down average prices of notebooks, cannibalizing lower-end laptop models) is still to be determined.
The argument for Sony keeping out of the low-end fray is certainly there. Sony--like Apple--fancies itself a maker of luxury devices and is loath to get into price wars with the likes of Dell and HP. (Of course, it didn't want to wrestle with the lower-tier Vizio and Westinghouse in LCD TVs either, but the reality of the HDTV market forced Sony's hand.)