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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

The anti-aliasing is pretty good, too, which means the P Series is actually usable in this setting. If you want to head back to the default resolution then simply press the Change Resolution button again; for example if you want to admire a high-res photo.

Power

Editing such a photo won’t be such a joy, and that’s because an Atom processor sits inside. The 1.86GHz Z540 is near the top of Intel’s low-wattage CPU range, but even with 2GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD to help boost performance there’s no getting away from this machine’s limited performance. (The higher spec P Series includes a 2.13GHz Intel Atom Z560 and a 128GB SSD, but costs £1,020 exc VAT.)

On first loading up, the word “limited” may seem too kind. Sluggish, sloth-like and glacial are more likely to spring to mind. Which is why the first thing anyone should do is strip away some of the bloatware Sony installs. There’s an irritating floating launch bar, for instance, along with over 20 other VAIO-branded utilities of dubious use (although if you own a PlayStation 3 you might delight in using the P Series as a remote keyboard). Removing them almost cuts boot times in half: from 2mins 5secs to 1min 7secs.

Even in this streamlined form, though, it’s hardly a world-beater. Browsing media-rich websites, playing back video in BBC iPlayer and editing a handful of photos all push the limit of the P Series’ abilities. It also takes several seconds to resume from standby. But it isn’t unusable. When you’re working in Word, for example (and note that Office Starter will be included), it’s as fast and responsive as you need it to be.

We also found the keyboard to be reasonable most of the time. The only real annoyance is the trimmed full-stop key, which is 11mm wide compared to over 13mm for the character keys. This led to quite a few mistakes at first, although we did get used to it – begrudgingly – after a few hours. Arguably more annoying is the loud click the mouse buttons make, which will draw yet more attention to your endeavours in public places.

Portability

One area Sony couldn’t really improve on was the original P Series’ portability. This is the only fully fledged laptop we’ve seen that can slip into a jacket pocket – quite a feat. In reality, people are far more likely to chuck their P Series into a bag, and with the bright new colours Sony no doubt has handbags in mind too. At 624g it won’t weigh you down.

Sony VAIO P Series jacket pocket

The tiny chassis means there’s only room for a two-cell battery, but Sony has done some clever tweaking to ensure you get as much life out of the P Series as possible. The end result is 5hrs 17mins of usage under light use, compared to 3hrs 11mins from the original. Even under intense use it kept going for 2hrs 41mins.

With so many wireless radios inside the new P Series – GPS, 802.11bgn WLAN, Bluetooth plus a 7.2Mbits/sec 3G modem – you’ll be well-advised to switch off wireless using the single hardware switch on the left-hand side of the chassis. If you want to keep 3G running, and note an Orange SIM will be provided with 15 days of free access, then you can switch off individual radios using the VAIO Control software.

Elsewhere, connections are limited. There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack, two USB 2 ports, an SD card slot and a Memory Stick slot. If you want to connect to an external monitor you’ll need to use either a display adapter or a port replicator, both of which plug into the proprietary connector on the right-hand side and neither of which are bundled. The replicator is also necessary if you want to connect the P Series on a wired Ethernet connection.

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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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