Sony's M-Series looks great and has an excellent display and webcam, but it narrowly misses the mark. While it offers good value for money for a premium netbook, other 10.1in models offer just that little bit more at a similar price point. Samsung's NB30, Asus' EEC PC, Toshiba's brilliant NB305 and even MSI's U160 all fare slightly better. Of course, what you won't get if you opt for something else is the pleasure of owning a Sony Vaio. If you've been waiting for Sony to make its Vaio range more affordable, look no further. For anyone else looking for the best budget 10.1in netbook, shop around first.
Sony brand at low price; excellent display; good webcam; great design.
Poor battery life; no chiclet keyboard; average performance.
Intel Atom N470 1.83GHz, Windows 7 Starter (32-bit), 1GB DDR2 SDRAM (667 MHz), 250GB (5400RPM) hard drive, 1GB Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3150, 10.1in LED backlit display, 16:10 1,024 x 600 LCD display, three USB, VGA, WLAN 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, 1.3Kg, 260 x 180 x 33mm (W x D x H).
Sony has been making ultra-mobile Vaio laptops for years, and they were always very expensive affairs. Rarely could you pay less than £1,000, and half that price went towards the privilege of owning a Vaio.
Sony still pumps out expensive ultra-mobile Vaios like its Z-Series, which cost over £2,000. However, with netbooks now hitting maturity, Sony wants to see its Vaio range take a piece of the budget netbook market.
Enter the Vaio M Series, Sony's attempt to take on the very competitive 10.1in form factor. It's a surprisingly modest affair, with a great display and not bad value for money. But it doesn't do the Vaio range justice, and doesn't stand out enough in an crowded market.
Our review model, the Vaio VPCM12M1E, is described as a mini notebook, but don't be fooled. It's a netbook through and through. At 1.4kg it's much heavier than competitive models, but it feels very solid so it's a good contender for mobile environments.
Sony is offering the M Series with a black or white lid. Our review unit came with a matte white lid, and there's no denying that it looks reassuringly stylish with Sony's big Vaio sign branded on the back.
Sony also maintains the matte white finish over the inside of the screen, so it doesn't look like a last-minute paint job. It looks like a design decision that was fully integrated from inception.
As much as we like the design, the matte finish on a white background isn't really practical for a travelling netbook. Our unit didn't show any signs of fingerprints, but we're sure that prolonged use would show up marks too easily. It's only an aesthetic point, but opt for the black version if you want a clean finish.