Sony wowed the crowds at CES this year when it unveiled the Vaio P-Series, a fully fledged netbook that could just about fit into your back pocket. As technically impressive as it is, the hefty price tag and several shortfalls means it struggles to live up to its shining entrance.
Size and weight; wide range of connectivity options; excellent keyboard; XMB.
Price tag; performance; high resolution display strains the eyes.
Sony has a habit of differentiating itself from the competition by creating unique devices, and the Vaio P-Series is no exception. Unveiled in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the tiny but fully functional device sits somewhere between a netbook and an ultra-portable laptop.
Measuring just 245mm wide, 120mm deep and 20mm high, the P-Series can just about fit into a back pocket, and will happily live inside a handbag, briefcase or small backpack. Even the power adaptor is not much bigger than a couple of matchboxes stacked together. It also weighs next to nothing, coming in at under 700g including the power adaptor and the LAN/VGA block.
Its tiny stature means that some functionality is limited, and it's supported by a connector port for attaching peripherals such as an optical drive. Because of the lack of space along the chassis, a LAN port and VGA port are set into a separate block that connects this way as well when required.
The P-Series includes just two USB ports, one on each side, and the right slot is positioned very close to the connector port which can make plugging and unplugging devices a little tricky. On the left is a power socket and a speaker jack. There is no microphone jack, but there is a built-in microphone and a USB microphone can be added if needed. The front houses the power slider, wireless switch, and SD and Sony Memory Stick Duo slots.
Sony has made sure that its leadership in display technology has been put to good use in the P-Series. Although the 8in screen is smaller than on most netbooks, the picture is crystal clear and packs in a resolution of 1,600 x 768. The downside is that this makes for a rather odd aspect ratio, and the icons are tiny. Even with perfect eyesight, you'll find yourself straining and turning the font size up a few notches when working on documents.
What the P-Series lacks in slots and sockets it makes up for in wireless connectivity, packing in the usual Wi-Fi and Bluetooth along with GPS and a 3G modem, so getting online should never be a problem. The SIM card slot lives behind the battery, which can be slightly annoying if you're using the same SIM card for different things and need to swap it out regularly.
As with most of Sony's Vaio laptops, the isolated keyboard is a pleasure to use. The keys are a decent size, nicely spaced and have a good tactile feel so typing at full speed is not a problem. It's a bit tricky, but you can even hold the device in your hands and type with your thumbs if you're stuck on a crowded train and need to get that all important email sent off or check directions to the meeting.
The full-sized keyboard means that there is no space left for a touchpad, so Sony has opted for a small 'joystick' nub nestled in the centre of the keyboard to handle controlling the pointer, with mouse buttons along the base. The little nub works quite nicely but can take some getting used to if you've never encountered one before. When combined with the high screen resolution, navigating can sometimes be tricky, so you'll probably want to invest in a small USB mouse if you do a lot of pointing and clicking.