Sony Vaio P Review

When Sony told me they had a Vaio P ready to send out to me, I was more excited about it than any other device I’ve tested in a while. Having converted to the netbook faithful with an HP Mini 1000 a few months ago, I was looking forward to trying out Sony’s attempt.

Sony Vaio P Review

The design really does trump every other netbook on the market, and is extremely reminiscent of their PictureBook series of ultraultraportables from a few years ago. It is thinner than my Mini 1000, not to mention less wide and deep. It doesn’t even make it to 700g! This thing is seriously light, and seriously portable. Have you seen the ads of the girl with the P in her back pocket? It really is that slim. I tried it, and it works (though admittedly, looks better on the girl in the ad :P)

Open up the display and you’re greeted by a very-widescreen and a keyboard that isn’t as small as you were expecting.

Sony Vaio P Review

The display is only 8” wide, but packs a whopping 1600×768 display, easily besting every netbook on the market, including the HP 2133/2140. The display is stunning, and with that high-resoltuion it is extremely sharp too. Windows comes set at 144dpi by default (normal PC’s are set at 96dpi), and after dropping it back to 96dpi, I was ready to go blind. 144dpi makes things a little too big (and screen real estate a bit too small), and have ended up setting it on 120dpi.

The problem with a display this wide is that most activities don’t need a screen with such a crazy horizontal to vertical ratio. Word documents have great borders around them, as do websites and photos. Only anamorphic widescreen movies can take advantage of this width, and admittedly they do look damned good!

In my opinion, the keyboard on a netbook really makes or breaks it, since portable websurfing and document creation is really what these units are all about. Fortunately, the P doesn’t disappoint, including a fabulous keyboard that makes use of even square millimetre of the available space. While the keys aren’t full sized, they are tic-tacs either, and I haven’t had any trouble typing up documents (including this one) on it. The keys have a solid feel and good feedback, and for the most part are where you expect them to be.

Sony Vaio P Review

To give the keyboard the most room possible, there is no touchpad. Instead, Sony have returned to the faithful old track-stick in between the G, H and B keys. Back when I had a Toshiba laptop (many years ago now) I was a fan of the track-stick, but when I bought my first Dell and transitioned to the touchpad I switched sides. Using the track-stick feels a bit weird, but after a few days of use I’ve gotten the hang of it again, just takes practise. I think it is a worthy trade-off, since it keeps the size down considerably.

Sony Vaio P Review

Sony Vaio P Review

Port selection is sparse, almost to the level of the MacBook Air! On the left is an AC plug, USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack, on the right is another USB port and a dock connector, and on the front is an SD slot, MS slot, a wireless on/off switch and the power switch.

Sony Vaio P Review

One of the coolest things about the P is the looks that it gets when you pull it out just about anywhere (whether it be in your back pocket on in a bag). As I sit here in the coffee shop writing this, I can hear the couple at the table next to me chatting with each other about how cool and tiny it looks. It’s not the first time either. I’ve only had this thing for 4 days and everytime I’ve pulled it out (be it at uni, at the coffee shop or at a friends place) I’ve been asked about it at least once, and had people pass the table staring at it. The only other unit that elicited such interest was the HTC Shift.

Sony Vaio P Review

So the hardware is cool, as you can see from the photos, but how does it perform? Well the P has been inflicted with an OS that was never designed to run on consumer-grade hardware, the flop known as Vista. To be honest, Vista isn’t that bad when running on good hardware with plenty of RAM, but the P doesn’t have a Core 2 Duo, it’s stuck with Atom. Whilst Atom runs Windows XP and 7 brilliantly, it just isn’t up to the task of offering a smooth Vista experience. I recently had the opportunity to test Sony’s $5000 top-of-the-line beast, the Z27, which had a Core 2 Duo 2.53Ghz Processor, 4GB RAM and Windows Vista 64-bit edition and it was silky smooth.

It is the opposite on the P. It is slow to switch between windows, flash and picture-laden sites take a long time to load (and are sluggish to use) even on a good connection, and it takes a long time to cold-boot or resume from hibernate (I’ve since disabled hibernation). It’s 64GB SSD and 2GB just can’t help it. Somehow it gets a WEI (Windows Experience Index) of 3.0, shows how reliable of an indicator that is…

Sony Vaio P Review

Since Sony include a recovery partition on their notebooks, I decided to wipe Vista and give Windows 7 a try. It took under 30mins to install off a USB drive, and everything except the graphics card and one unknown device was recognised. The graphics card was easily fixed using Windows Update, but the unknown device remains, and I’m not 100% sure what it is since nothing seems to be missing from the system.

Performance of Windows 7 is leaps and bounds ahead of Vista. Programs open quickly and smoothly, changing windows works well, and I was even able to play the 1080p Star Trek trailer I downloaded without any hickups whatsoever (see for yourself in the video above)! If you buy a Vaio P, load Windows 7, it is just better.

I think the battery life suffers due to Vista as well, as I’ve noticed a marked improvement in battery performance on notebooks loaded with Vista that I’ve loaded with Windows 7 Rc1 (7100). Vista just suckles on the CPU to run, chewing the power, and as such the P’s battery life on the stock battery isn’t much over 2hrs. I haven’t had Windows 7 on it long enough to test it’s battery performance, but based on experience it will probably at 30-50% more runtime.

I’ve been leaving the issue of price till last, since I feel it’s the only other issue the P faces. Here in Australia the RRP is around $1400 (edit: see below), which is twice the price of other netbooks (such as the Mini 1000 I bought), and I’m not going to argue whether it is overpriced or not. Personally, I’d be willing to swallow the price, since it is so small and light, runs Windows 7 like a dream, has the best screen of any netbook, and simply looks so damned cool!!

I’ve only had the P for 4 days, but I am facing a serious dilemma: do I buy one? The more I use it, the more I’m moving to the answer: yes.

Specifications of the unit I tested (the VGN-P15G) can be found here to avoid any confusion:

Edit 2009-05-25: I just realised I made an error above regarding the price. $1400 is the RRP of the base 1.33Ghz model with 60GB drive. The model I have is the 1.6Ghz SSD model, which has a whopping price tag of $2100!! In short, it’s too much.

About the Author

Mitchell Oke
Mitchell is a video producer and director working with Australia's leading motoring news sites and car companies. He's always on the go with a camera in hand. With a Bachelor of Creative Technology (Digital Video Production), Mitchell's worked for News Limited, and as a freelancer for many years.
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  • Nice review Mitchell. Price seems to be the deal breaker.

  • Yeah the price is the biggest issue with this thing, it is just fantastic everywhere else (well, except for Vista I suppose) but the price tag will be the issue for most, considering the amount of other well-equiped netbooks out there, and the idea that it is a cheap companion for your regular PC.

  • Raymond Ser

    I was seriously considering getting one of these in the UK – they have the 1.86 Ghz, 128 GB SSD version there – but at almost AU$2400, the price was… unrealistically high. And given that Windows 7 is expected to cost AU$300-400 or higher… Ouch! I got a MB Air instead, but I’m still contemplating getting a Vaio P when it comes bundled with Windows 7. There’s just something about that form factor…

  • mchinsky

    I agree. But at least it shows whats possible and will likely be an affordable mainstream option in a year or so. These ultra high resolution displays definitely have issues for anybody other than a 20 year old 10-10 vision fighter jockey. The OS’s needs to have better scalability all across so that fonts are still readable, but you can use the extra pixels for things like video.

    I actually opted for a lower resolution screen when I upgrade my old Thinkpad T40 for a T61. You just can’t read these screens comfortably.

    These form factors scream for touchscreens with gestures. Again, ideally a keyboard that can flip around 180 and it becomes a pure tablet, but flips back when you need to do serious typing.

    I’m sure apple is going to attack the tablet aspect, but knowing them, it will be no keyboard so we’ll have to wait and see how this all shakes out.

  • clingeek

    Hi Mitchell. Please tell me, have you installed Windows 7 on your HP 1000? If so, is it working as well as it does on the Sony? Best regards!

  • Hey mate,

    Yes I have installed Windows 7 on my Mini 1000, and apart from a brief stint on OS X, it has been running on it since I bought it. Originally had build 7000 on it, which worked really well, and have since upgraded it (reinstall) to build 7100 and it’s great.

    Perhaps more helpfully, my sister’s Mini 1000 (her only laptop) is currently running build 7000 and she loves it. Takes it to uni to type out class notes and work on a assignments, and she says it’s great.

    Build 7100 is running great on the P, got Aero working no problem, all drivers loaded. Disabled Aero since it wasn’t really necessary and probably just sucks power.

  • Drew Guttadore

    Well done mate! I really look forward to getting a P someday with Win 7 on it, I’ll wait until then as I really don’t need yet another machine.. I’m bumping my Dell Mini 9 to 64g SSD and might do the Win 7 conversion to it. We’ll see.. 🙂

  • MicroZealous

    Gotta say, I for one am a little disappointed in this review. Maybe they ship you something different down under – but this really doesn’t seem like you reviewed the shipping version of a Vaio P.

    You left out 2 key features of the Vaio P that separate this machine from the basic sub $500 netbooks that are everywhere.

    1. The notebook ships w/ a 3g wireless card from Verizon – granted, it’s an extra expense – and because it’s CDMA its probably not available in your part of the woods – but still would be good to mention for readers.

    2. It comes with an integrated GPS chip and functionality that really differentiates this machine from others.

    I suspect that the unrecognized component that you don’t have a driver for is either the GPS or 3G card. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to restore to Vista and see what you have missed.

    Alternatively, if you can find the Vista driver on the Sony site, I would take a shot at installing it, as most Vista drivers are compatible under Win 7.

    Not trying to nitpick – just been looking at these closely and was surprised to see the feature omission.

    Be Well

  • You got it right first go, they do ship us something different down here. The unit I tested does not include 3G or GPS, which apart from being a great shame, is pretty poor considering the price.

    There was no 3G showing in Vista before I loaded Windows 7 (believe me, I looked), and the SIM slot is blanked off under the battery. I am a great advocate for integrated 3G, particularly in machines like this that are awesomely portable, but require a dongle to get online.

    And GPS? Personally, I don’t see the point of GPS in a laptop but to each their own!

    You can check the specs on the unit I reviewed here:

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