Sony VAIO P Series (2nd gen) review

11 May 2010

A clear improvement compared to the old P Series, with some neat design touches and a faster turn of pace, but there’s still much to criticise

Price when reviewed 
799
3

We found it difficult to find anything positive to say in our review of the first Sony P Series. It seemed Sony had taken the idea of miniaturisation too far, with its quest to shrink a laptop to the size of a keyboard forcing excessive sacrifices. The company, oddly, appears to have ignored us. It decided instead that the P Series just needed a few more tweaks and it would have a winner on its hands.

Certainly, it hasn’t been afraid to ring the changes, with the most immediately obvious being its styling. No longer subdued and professional, the new VAIO P Series shouts “look at me!” in its three most colourful incarnations: vivid green, pink and orange. If you’re a little more self-effacing, white and black versions are also on offer.

Sony bravely sent us the orange version for review, and to say it received a mixed reaction would be to lie. We struggled to find anyone who didn’t have some insult to hurl in the P Series’ direction. Most of the comments are unprintable, so let’s just say that people will notice what’s in your hands if you opt for orange.

Whichever colour you choose, there are some nice design touches to appreciate. Most manufacturers stick with a non-descript grey or black keyboard no matter what bright colours surround it, but Sony matches the keys’ colour to that of the casing – and it certainly adds to the design’s impact. We also like the way the trim curves around the side of the chassis when the P Series is closed.

Sony VAIO P Series keyboard

A more subtle change can be seen to either side of the screen. Sony’s designers realised that people often used their P Series to view documents or websites, and would hold the laptop with their thumbs resting on the screen edge. To make navigation easier, they’ve added a tiny touchpad (measuring 16mm x 16mm) to the right of the screen, with left- and right-click buttons to the left.

It’s a strange idea, and when sitting at a desk it seems pointless. To move the cursor from one side of the screen to the other takes three good swipes and quickly frustrates. When you’re out and about with the P Series it does work, however, particularly when you’re using the built-in GPS and trying to navigate the streets using Sony’s Location Search software (powered by Google Maps). That said, you’ll have to be patient while you wait for the GPS radio to get a fix, and walking along the street with a laptop open is a whole lot less discreet than with a smartphone.

Sony also includes a Digital Compass, so you should always know which way you’re facing when gazing at a map, but even more interesting is the accelerometer. This flips the P Series into portrait mode when you put it into a vertical position, which can be useful if you’re reading a web article with only a limited width. Sony appears to also think you can read books and digital magazines this way, but without a touchscreen – and at just 768 pixels wide – it isn’t a pleasurable experience.

Usability

We have mixed feelings about the screen itself too. As with the first P Series, squeezing 1,600 x 768 pixels into an 8in diagonal makes system text look tiny, and it isn’t helped by a slightly mottled display: Word documents, for example, look fuzzy. One big help, however, is the new Change Resolution button that sits to the right of the mouse buttons. Press this and within a second the resolution switches to 1,280 x 600.

Details

Price ex VAT £680
Price inc VAT £799
Overall rating 3
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 2
Performance 2

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 245 x 120 x 19.8mm (WDH)
Weight 624g
Travelling weight 836g

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Atom Z540
RAM capacity 2.00GB
Memory type DDR2
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 1

Screen and video

Screen size 8.0in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,600
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1600 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel GMA 500
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 64GB
Hard disk usable capacity 53GB
Spindle speed N/A
Internal disk interface Parallel ATA
Hard disk SanDisk pSSD-P2
Optical disc technology None
Optical drive N/A
Battery capacity 2,500mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter yes
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch yes
Wireless key-combination switch no
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 2
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Trackpoint
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Speaker location Above keyboard
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 0.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 5hr 17min
Battery life, heavy use 2hr 41min
Overall application benchmark score 0.31
Office application benchmark score 0.31
2D graphics application benchmark score 0.33
Encoding application benchmark score 0.31
Multitasking application benchmark score 0.28
3D performance (crysis) low settings N/A
3D performance setting N/A

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition
Software supplied Microsoft Office Starter 2010