The 8-inch Sony VAIO P Series Lifestyle netbook returns with a refresh to the original series models. This ultraportable netbook packs a more powerful processor than the last version (but still maintains an Intel Atom), Windows 7 Home Premium instead of Vista, a larger solid state drive with SATA (all the refreshed models have SSDs now), longer-lasting standard battery life, a touchpad built into the screen, a display switch option (switches much like a tablet or smartphone), a few other new features, and more--if you’re willing to pay the high price tag. Sony has made no change to the overall size, so it can still fit in your back pocket. We have tested this refresh against our benchmarks and will show you how it matches up to the older version and up to other netbooks in the market in terms of performance and design.
Our Sony Vaio P (refresh) features the following specifications:
Build and Design
Along with the new Sony VAIO P comes a new look. It’s still the same size and the lid still has round edges, but the actual casing has been improved to feature a non-glossy finish, meaning no obvious fingerprint smudges get left behind on the outside. The screen is still glossy, though; so expect some fingerprints and the inevitable reflections of light. This netbook still has the "fashionable" feel to it because of the sleek outer design, even without the glossy casing. The colors available at the moment of this review on Sony’s online store are only pink and black, but our model is white.
On the downside, it’s still built with an Intel Atom; but on the upside, the Atom is significantly improved with speed and cache size – last time the model we reviewed featured a 1.33GHz, Z520 Atom and our refreshed model features a Z550 Atom at 2.00GHz, 512 KB cache.
Ports and Features
Just like the last version, this netbook series features more ports than most larger notebooks. It comes equipped with two USB 2.0 ports, one headphone jack, an SD card slot, a MagicGate HG Duo memory stick slot, and an expansion port. The expansion bay came included with the old version, but it is now being sold separately for around $60. It features external display and LAN/Ethernet out and hooks directly into the A/C adapter for easy portability.
Screen and Speakers
The new VAIO P again has a vibrant, glossy, 8-inch LED backlit display that is easy to love if set on a fairly high brightness. The native screen resolution is an impressive 1600 x 768, but you can set it to the lower resolutions of 1280 x 600, 1024 x 768, or 800 x 600 if you have trouble reading text on the small screen. You can still use the magnifier tool to enlarge your desktop 25% bigger by pressing the "fn" and "F10" keys simultaneously. Since the screen is glossy the netbook reflects both indoor and outdoor light, but those reflections aren't too problematic in terms of visibility.
Horizontal viewing angles are very good, only appearing somewhat washeded out at drastic angles; but vertical viewing angles appear more than just somewhat washed out or inverted on the top and bottom when viewed from those respective angles. Even so, watching a film or TV show with someone should not be hindered by the angles.
New to this edition of the VAIO P is the ability to change the screen orientation (just like most smartphones can do now) by moving the netbook on its side. The orientation will switch from landscape mode to portrait mode within one or two seconds. This is handy for people who wish to use the netbook for reading documents or even full-sized ebooks in portrait mode instead of landscape. And, because the netbook weighs a mere 1.3 pounds, it isn’t cumbersome for most people to pick it up and read with it on its side as if it were a book.
The built-in speakers are still quite weak, but bearable, in this version of the VAIO P. The two speakers are less than a centimeter in length and are located directly above the keys on the left and right sides. The audio is Intel High Definition Audio. Even with the volume set at 100% the speakers do not get very "loud" -- only bearable. Even so, most people will be able to hear spoken words if watching a movie or TV show if the volume is set at 100%, but external speakers will be in order if you want to really enjoy a film on the Vaio P with someone else.
With this version of the VAIO P Sony has included “noise canceling” headphones in an effort to make up for the lack of built-in audio quality that the speakers have to offer.
Not much has changed to the keyboard from the original VAIO P, except for the addition of a couple new quick launch buttons and a nice little touchpad with mouse-click buttons on the left side of the screen. The chassis is still very thin in size so there isn’t enough room for the keyboard to flex under the weight of typing hands. Hunt-and-peck typists and home row typists should both be fairly satisfied at the size and spacing of the keyboard/keys, but for some, an external keyboard may be in order. There is still a tiny bit of space in between each of the keys like before—a new concept to some; but this will help most people grow more accustomed to using a small keyboard.
As mentioned, there are new additions to this keyboard. Sony added (or changed) the three keys to the right of the three mouse-click buttons: from the left to the right they are “assist” key, "change resolution key," and "web launch" key. If pressed, the assist key will launch a Sony Care program, an all-in-one application that allows you to maintain the health of your netbook and resolve any known issues with it as well.
Sony has added another cool feature--a small built-in touchpad located on the bottom right corner of the screen and a pair of two-click mouse buttons located on the bottom left corner of the screen. Although this feature is arguably neat, it might not be utilized by some because of the location and size of the touchpad. When using the tiny touchpad you may find it is more of a chore than using the tiny trackpoint located in the center of the keyboard, not only because of its location, but because it is so small. It will invariably require you lift your finger up and then put it back down quite frequently in order to move the cursor where it needs to go on the screen. If you plan on using this as a home or office netbook quite a lot, you might want to plan on using a normal mouse as well.
It’s also worth mentioning that pressing down on the trackpoint is like clicking the left button on a mouse; a useful feature in and of itself. So, really, you have three left-click mouse buttons built into this model—four if you include pressing down on the touchpad another left-click option—regardless, it’s nice to have options.
Performance and Benchmarks While the latest version of the Sony VAIO P is a step up from the original, there's only so far you can go with an Intel Atom processor when it comes to performance. Windows 7 is a great operating system but the Atom processor isn't the snappiest option for this type of device. Even with the speed boost from the
While the latest version of the Sony VAIO P is a step up from the original, there's only so far you can go with an Intel Atom processor when it comes to performance. Windows 7 is a great operating system but the Atom processor isn't the snappiest option for this type of device. Even with the speed boost from the256GB solid state drive in our review sample, the VAIO P lags when opening various windows or launching applications and streaming HD video simply isn't a very good experience.
Still, we're talking about a slim netbook you can fit inside a large pocket. The VAIO P has enough muscle to get work done while traveling ... just don't expect to do that work very fast. Overall, performance is a little disappointing compared to some of the newer 11-inch netbook alternatives such as the 11-inch MacBook Air or the updated HP Pavilion dm1z.
wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
PCMark Vantage measures overall system performance (high scores mean better performance):
3DMark06 measures overall graphics performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test:
Heat and Noise
Sony has improved the cooling slightly in this refresh of the VAIO P. Sony maintained passive cooling for the VAIO P and we recorded temperature drops for most of the hotspots recorded during our test; but some of them were very slight. The netbook ran our 3D graphics and CPU benchmarking software for 20 minutes without stopping and here are the temperatures that were recorded (listed in degrees Fahrenheit):
Since it is still passively cooled and all of the models now feature a SATA SSD, there was hardly any noise whatsoever. In fact, in order to hear any noise during the test I had to put the bottom of the netbook up to my ears.
Our model comes with a 4-cell standard Li-ion 2500 mAh battery pack with 19Wh. It was tested in our labs on the “balanced” battery profile, 70% screen brightness, wireless on, and a webpage was set to refresh every 60 seconds. The Sony VAIO P second generation stayed on for 4 hours and 20 minutes, which is significantly higher than the 2 hours and 39 minutes that the 4-cell battery pack the original VAIO P was able to deliver in our test (keeping in mind that the testing method was slightly different last time). Lowering the screen brightness or turning wireless off will allow the battery to deliver even more life.
Battery life test results (higher scores mean better battery life):
Sony offers an extended life battery that has been tested in their own labs to last up to eight hours on maximum screen brightness and up to nine hours on "default power settings."
While some would welcome the better processor speeds and cache, new touchpad, and display orientation; others would not think these options were worth sending their old VAIO P in or buying the refresh altogether. Whether or not this redesign is worth the higher price tag or not is up to individual taste and preference. This refresh has improved the processing speed and cache size but stuck with the Intel Atom, greatly improved the standard battery life, added a touchpad and an orientation and display switch option, improved the outer casing style, and more—all the while keeping the ultraportability of the prior version.