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Posted on July 9th, 2009 by Tim Danton

First look: Sony’s VAIO netbook, the Mini W Series

Sony VAIO netbook: the Mini W SeriesThe long wait is over: finally, we have in our hands a Sony VAIO netbook. The Mini W Series is here, and we got our chance to try it out at a briefing in central London this afternoon.

Note: click here to read our full review of the Sony VAIO Mini W Series netbook

Its big selling point is undoubtedly the screen, with 1,366 x 768 pixels on show. It’s bright, and on first inspection it also looks sharp. Although at 10.1in it feels cramped compared to a full-size laptop, we’d be happy to work with this screen all day.

Sony has also made plenty of effort to give this netbook an element of luxury. It’s available in “berry pink, sugar white and cocoa brown”, and the model we had to hand was the sugar white version (white to everyone else in the world).

It won’t take your breath away with its style, but there’s no doubt the bold VAIO logo on the lid gives this netbook some immediate kudos. The chassis itself is plastic, but Sony gives it an element of styling with a mottled finish.

Sony VAIO Mini W Series netbookIt’s also chosen, a little predictably, to go for the Scrabble-style keyboard – the same one, in fact, as the Sony P Series. I have mixed feelings about this. Hunt-and-peck typists will be able to hit keys without worrying about accidentally bumping the wrong one, but touch typists will find their pace restricted.

Compared to the keyboard on a top-quality netbook like the Samsung N110, it’s only average in terms of using it. Style-wise, though, it undoubtedly looks good.

And there’s no doubting that Sony packs the Mini W Series with all the technological goodies you might expect. There’s draft-n wireless (a hardware switch is conveniently located at the front), Bluetooth and Intel’s faster N280 processor.

Accompanied by 1GB of RAM, this 1.66GHz single-core chip will bring enough speed to cope with undemanding tasks: web browsing, word processing and even streaming iPlayer content worked reasonably well.

The Sony VAIO Mini W netbook features two memory card slotsDon’t expect beautiful, smooth video though: with Intel’s GMA 950 graphics chip in place, there’s no great aid in place for video playback and we found it stuttered. Digital camera enthusiasts will appreciate the presence of an SD card slot (note, though, this doesn’t appear to support SDHC cards) as well as Sony’s traditional Memory Stick Duo slot.

Battery life isn’t great as standard. Sony is initially bundling the Mini W Series with a three-cell battery, and it officially quotes a life of around three hours. An extended battery will be made available “soon”, but there’s no price for this yet.

And price could yet prove to be the Mini W Series’ biggest stumbling point. We’ve been told that it will sell for around £399 inc VAT from Sony outlets, and probably less elsewhere, which puts it squarely against the very best netbooks on the market.

That competition is tough. The Mini W Series big selling factor is undoubtedly that screen, and the Sony VAIO brand name, but we’ll have to put it through our barrage of performance, battery and quality tests before giving our definitive verdict.

Nevertheless, this is a fine first stab at a netbook by Sony, and a promising sign of things to come.

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10 Responses to “ First look: Sony’s VAIO netbook, the Mini W Series ”

  1. simbr Says:
    July 9th, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Have they intentionally crippled this? The TZ ultraportables have better battery life despite being smaller (I think?) and having a better processor. WWAN also appearse to be lacking here.

     
  2. Ian Says:
    July 9th, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    @simbr

    You’ve completely missed the point. You’re comparing a tue ultra-portable laptop with a netbook, no different to comparing Apples and Oranges and saying that as the Orange isn’t a Granny Smith, it’s not good enough!

    This will probably sell in the region of £400. The TZ sells for over £1,000. And the TZ is a discontunied model, replaced by the TT.

    The TT has an 11.1″ screen but the same resolution. Battery life is the major sticking point for the W series but I’d quite happily take being able to buy 2 W series and have £200 left over.

     
  3. Primeras impresiones de de la netbook Sony Vaio mini W | Un Poco Geek Says:
    July 10th, 2009 at 4:56 am

    [...] obvio) Los muchachos de PC Pro pudieron hacerse con una de las nuevas netbook de Sony y nos tiran sus primeras impresiones sobre la [...]

     
  4. R.P.Infinity Says:
    July 10th, 2009 at 7:07 am

    Is it just me, or does it LOOK huge? I know it’s a 10 incher, but for some reason – to me – it looks more like a 12 inch laptop. Odd.

     
  5. Tim Danton Says:
    July 10th, 2009 at 9:15 am

    @ R.P.Infinity – probably just my odd photography. It’s very much standard netbook size.

     
  6. simbr Says:
    July 10th, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    @Ian
    The point is that Sony are familiar with squeezing the most life out of a battery and with wireless broadband modules, and since there are also Netbooks with double the battery life (NC10) and with build-in HSDPA (multiple) there’s no excuse – unless they were trying not to cannibalise sales of their own more expensive models.
    Is the keyboard on this worse than the normal Sony scrabble keyboard? Those normally get more favourable comments in PCPro from what I recall and even Engadget has commented on it.

     
  7. Tim Danton Says:
    July 10th, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    @simbr – the keyboard is smaller than most Sony tile-style keyboards, and that brings some issues. We’ve just received our full review sample so I’ll be playing with it over the weekend, and (providing all our tests complete in time) we’ll have a proper review up early next week.

     
  8. Ralph Hardwick Says:
    July 13th, 2009 at 10:12 am

    I appreciate that the scrabble keyboard is smaller than normal but I disagree that the type of keyboard slows down touch typists. I have a scrabble keyboard on my Vaio FW laptop and while it took a few hours to get used to it (as it does with any new keyboard) I am just as fast at touch typing on it now as with any other keyboard. It was actually one of the reasons I chose the laptop.

     
  9. Geoff Says:
    July 21st, 2009 at 2:21 am

    can you confirm if this has a matte or glossy display?

     
  10. Tim Danton Says:
    July 21st, 2009 at 9:18 am

    @Geoff It’s a glossy display – we’ve now done the full review, which you can read here:

    http://www.pcpro.co.uk/reviews/261835/sony-vaio-mini-w-series.html

     

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