Sony's Vaio P: Slim and sexy, but don't call it a 'netbook'

Never mind the tiny physical footprint of the Vaio P, if you ask Sony, they will tell you they have never made a netbook. If you ask me, however, I'll tell you they just did.

View images of the Sony Vaio P


Why does Sony regard its smallest Vaio as a notebook and not a netbook? They have endowed the tiny (9.65" x .78" x 4.72") machine with a 1.33 GHz Intel processor, has 2GB of DDR2 SDRAM, Windows Vista Home Premium or 32-bit Home Basic and up to 128GB of flash memory or 60GB HDD. Representatives I spoke to this evening classified a netbook as a device that's encumbered by a processor too slow to handle a full desktop or notebook OS (and therefore derives much of its value from its connectivity).

After handling the Vaio P, I would beg to differ. I would say a netbook is any computer that demands a substantial adjustment of the user's computing technique to accomplish a task. This could happen because of a slower processor, but it could just as easily happen because of limited screen real estate or an awkward physical interface like a cramped keyboard or oddly-placed mouse buttons. Whether Sony likes it or not, the tiny form factor of the Vaio P forces the user to adjust.

Firstly, the size of the screen: though it's 8 inches across and extremely dense in pixels, the odd dimensions change the workspace substantially. Second, the keyboard is problematic. It is absolutely rock solid and responsive, but the placement of the pointing stick cuts into the size of the G, B, and H keys and necessitates some alertness when typing quickly.

To shrink down the unit to about the thickness of an issue of The Economist (or Guns and Ammo, if you're so inclined), the ethernet port and VGA out have been removed from the chassis and placed on the unit's charging dock. This means if you use a wired connection or external monitor, you have to carry around an extra block of plastic that is independent from the power cord/charger components. The Vaio P also has two USB ports, one less than most netbooks.

Netbook or not, the Vaio P is undeniably elegant, with an instant on feature that utilizes Sony's trademark XMB interface, integrated A2DP bluetooth, integrated mobile broadband connectivity, and GPS. For $899, there is a lot of computer rolled in that miniscule frame.

View images of the Sony Vaio P

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