Sony VAIO Mini W Series review
A stylish netbook with a stellar, high-resolution screen, but it all comes at a considerable premium
Review Date: 15 Jul 2009
Reviewed By: Tim Danton
Price when reviewed: £347 (£399 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
So, the last big name has fallen. HP gave out in April 2008, and both Dell and Toshiba's resistance crumbled by the autumn. But it's taken Sony until the middle of 2009 to produce what it confesses to be a netbook, the VAIO Mini W Series. It still argues that the P Series, despite its Atom processor and microscopic dimensions, was nothing of the sort. It certainly wasn't priced as such, with even the cheapest version selling for over £600 exc VAT, whereas the W Series is expected to retail for £347 exc VAT on its release.
This mini-laptop follows more of the rules of netbook making. The Intel Atom processor has 1GB of RAM for company, Windows XP Home is the operating system of choice, and aside from the sizeable VAIO logo on its lid, the Mini W Series looks like a conventional netbook.
But, Sony being Sony, it couldn't possibly follow the formula to the tee. Chief among the differences is the screen. Yes, it's 10.1in diagonally across, but Sony packs in 1,366 x 768 pixels and opts for LED-backlighting, too.
The high resolution means that onscreen text is smaller than other netbooks, but in return spreadsheets, Word documents and web browsing benefit from much more space. If you've become accustomed to the cramped, 1,024 x 600 desktop of the average netbook, the Sony feels incredibly spacious by comparison.
Few will complain about the screen's quality, either. That LED-backlight makes for an impressively bright display, and although it isn't as vibrant as the best Sony displays, colours are accurate and there's no odd caste or grain to spoil white backgrounds. Viewing angles are also reasonable; the only possible annoyance is the reflection due to the glossy finish.
We're also fans of the styling, though of the three colours Sony offers - brown, white and pink - we feel the brown looks the best. The white is too reminiscent of old-style MacBooks, the pink too obviously designed to appeal to a certain sector of the population. Some within the PC Pro office were less taken by the cross-hatched finish to the touchpad, but in reality its responsive nature and generous size are far more important.
Which leads us to the most contentious point of this netbook: the keyboard. There's absolutely no disputing its style. It looks great as part of the classy overall package, and lends the W Series an air of a far more costly machine. However, if typing is part of your regular working life then it's vital you think carefully before parting with your cash, because it's irritating on a number of levels.
First, the keys have very little travel. It makes typing an odd experience, and even though we used the W Series over the course of several days, we never felt happy typing on it. Our experience wasn't helped by some odd key placement. Worst of all is the right Shift key, which is so slim we kept hitting the neighbouring backslash key, and the spacebar is also smaller than we'd like.
These sacrifices wouldn't be necessary if Sony had used the full width of the chassis, but - partly, no doubt, due to economy of scale - it's plumped for precisely the same keyboard as the P Series.
We also found one other irritation in daily use: the fan. Even if we were typing away in Word, its low monotone kept us company. It's fine in an office, but if you're sitting in a quiet room at night you might find the hum annoying.
You do at least get one of Intel's faster Atom processors as compensation. The N280 is a single-core chip but it runs at 1.66GHz, and that proved enough to push the W Series to 0.43 in our benchmarks, which is among the fastest we've seen from a netbook.
- Microsoft to announce Windows 9 on 30 September
- Motorola Moto X+1 press photos leaked online
- Microsoft working on Miracast Dongle streaming hardware
- Diaspora: we can't stop spread of beheading videos
- Sony Xperia Z3 specs leak online
- iPhone 6 and iPhone 6L pictures leak online
- Bug hunters paid to target Oculus Rift
- Meet the "scarecrows" and "snipers" slaying Twitter spam
- Google gets one million DMCA piracy takedowns a day
- What's on this week's PC Pro podcast?
- 20 years of PC Pro: our greatest review mistakes
- 20 years of PC Pro: our first A-List
- Wikipedia's "right to be forgotten" protest hits the wrong note
- 3D printing hits the high street for plastic selfies
- 20 years of PC Pro: What amazed us in our first issue
- How Google Glass ruined my lunch hour
- Smartphone battery packs: can a USB power pack beat the festival battery blues?
- Windows Easy Transfer – not so "easy" in Windows 8.1
- Formula 1: what a difference virtualisation makes
- Office of the future: comfy chairs and tablets everywhere
- How to format a USB drive on a Mac or Windows
- What’s the best 4G network in the UK?
- How to set up a wireless hotspot for your business: give customers free or paid for internet access
- How to download YouTube videos: save YouTube videos to your iPhone, iPad, laptop or Android device
- How to access iCloud on a PC
- Nexus 5 vs Moto G 4G (2014 model)
- Chromecast vs Roku Streaming Stick vs Apple TV: what's the best TV streaming device?
- The 8 best small tablets of 2014: what's the best compact tablet?
- How to edit PDFs: make change to a PDF
- Building a patently better future
- 10 ways to make your business more secure
- Top five VoIP mistakes
- How to add in-app purchasing to an iPhone, Android or Windows app
- Remote-control ransomware: TeamViewer and software hardball
- Why laptops with serial ports matter to the Internet of Things
- Make your mobile battery last longer
- Small steps into handling Big Data
- Nexus 5: does it really run stock Android?
- How to get broadband to a garden office
- How to write your company's IT security policy