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Sony VAIO P Series (2nd gen) review

Verdict

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

Review Date: 11 May 2010

Reviewed By: Tim Danton

Price when reviewed: £680 (£799 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
3 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
2 stars out of 6

Performance
2 stars out of 6

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.

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User comments

Shame... There's potential there, but it would need a mic in and a camera for Skype. And it does cost twice as much as it should. Maybe P3 then.

By Josefov on 12 May 2010

And people slag off the iPad

What is this for folks.

I remember the Toshiba Libretto that whilst chunkier was in some ways a better package for the time, or for that matter one of Psion net book type machines.

By kaneclem on 12 May 2010

It might well be amazing...

...but I will never know because even looking at a picture of it makes me feel ill.

By strangefish2 on 12 May 2010

Reasons to have one

I have the original P. I bought it when sony was offering a 150GBP cashback. After replacing Vista with W7 - I use it most days.
I used to take my laptop everywhere as I offer 24x7 support for my clients. I mean on holiday etc. I now leave my laptop somewhere and remote into it from my P with wifi / 3G.

I use it as a news / web / emial reader instead of booting up my laptop. I am using it now to write this at the breakfast table.

Definately not for everyone, but has niche useage.

Also - has a camera.
I like the new features, especially the small trackpad. at 600+ it is a real luxury @ 450 it is better. I would like the 2Ghz one but that is just silly money.

Use it to remote onto another machine (using it as a thin client) and it is great and having the high res, even though the text is small is a bonus.

By jason_jac2 on 13 May 2010

Forgot to mention

+ SD card reader is good - I have a 4GB SD card in all the time and use as backup when I leave the machine.

- 3G SIM card - you have to take the battery out, which is a PITA if you are sharing the SIM with your Dongle for your laptop.

? wonder on the performance of V1 vs V2 of P as I find disk lag to be a problem, wondered if SSD made a difference.

By jason_jac2 on 13 May 2010

RE: Reasons to have one

I fully agree with jason_jac2. RDC (thin client) is way to go.

I have already mentioned it in my extended comment on vaio-P 1st gen review.

http://www.pcpro.co.uk/reviews/laptops/248277/sony
-vaio-p-series-vgn-p19vn-q

By stasi47 on 13 May 2010

An extra pro

I heard the luminous paint-job removes the need for a screen backlight :)

By Arcavexx on 14 May 2010

Design Flop

I think the title says it all... but ORANGE? (does that tie into a certain UK carriers possible deal for this being a mobile broadband laptop?)

By willdamien on 14 May 2010

I'm also one of the few people that owns (and loves) the original P Series. Mine's a Japanese import, so higher spec. than most UK machines. You do need good eyesight to use it, but in terms of pocketable computing it's hard to beat.

By PaulOckenden on 15 May 2010

UMPC's: Viliv N5 vs UMID Mbook SE

Please could you do a head to head review of the two best genuinely pocketable UMPC's on the market: The Viliv N5 and the UMID Mbookb SE edition. They are both dangerously close to being modern interpretations of a "Super" Psion 5. Even now the Psion STILL has the best keyboard on the market for a UMPC of it's size (which incidentally is perfect - to pocket) and is only really let down by it's Screen and OS in a perfect world. I'm tempted by the UMID MbookSE - but NOT in white...

By dennisisloaded on 13 May 2011

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