Sony VAIO P Series VPC-P111KX/W - Atom Z530 1.6 GHz (Review)
The new Vaio P is certainly well built. A crisp, matte cover in a variety of colors curves underneath and continues to the keyboard deck, showing off a neat paperclip-shaped color swirl when the lid is closed. Ours was hot pink, and it was pink inside, outside, and on the underside, like a bright beacon in a coffee shop. The other colors--green, orange, black, or white--would likely be less of an eyesore.
To its credit, the P is solid to the touch. It folds into a compact clutch/book shape that lies flat. Inside, the elongated shape suits the keyboard better than it does the screen. Simply put, the Vaio P's dimensions mimic those of the compact keyboard. It's no surprise that the shrunken raised keys actually feel decent to type on, although they're mushier than on normal-size Vaios.
The real problem lies below the keyboard: the first Vaio P lacked a touch pad, opting to use a tiny trackpoint instead. The tiny rubber nubbin is present in this new version, too, and is extremely hard to use without losing your patience, especially when looking at the Vaio P's microminiature screen resolution. Sony obviously agrees, because the new Vaio P also adds a tiny optical touch pad in the most awkward of places: to the right of the screen itself.
The idea behind this placement was to offer browsing capabilities when standing, as if holding a laptop-shaped device in a nonseated position was a perfectly natural concept. Admittedly, the optical pad works much better than the trackpoint (it also allows tap-to-click, and discrete buttons are located on the left of the screen), but thumb-navigating when standing is far less sensible than whipping out a smartphone. In today's age of mobile Web browsing, no one would use the Vaio P standing up. And seated, the optical pad is largely useless.
A few extra discrete-function buttons on the bottom edge launch the Web browser, Vaio assist, and a media menu, much like on some full-size Vaios we've seen. Volume buttons--a far more useful concept in a mobile device--are relegated to function key combo presses.
The Vaio P's 8-inch screen is ultrawide and surprisingly high-res: 1,600x768 native pixel resolution, which trumps the average for this screen size significantly. We applaud the effort, but on a small screen Windows 7 becomes myopia-inducing at this resolution. Thankfully, one of the dedicated buttons on the bottom flips over to a much more readable 1,280x600-pixel screen resolution. The screen's colors and brightness are decent even under bright light, but super wide-screen aspect ratios turn most Web browsers and other programs into thin strips, hedged in by toolbars. The only good use we could see would be for movies.
Speaking of which, the Vaio P can play video files about as well as any Atom Netbook, which isn't a surprise since this ultramobile PC packs an Atom Z550 processor. Streaming video is a mixed affair: small-window YouTube and Hulu videos play well, albeit in tiny postage-stamp squares, but full-screen streams get choppy. The experience is a hair better than the average Netbook, but it doesn't deliver consistently smooth video. The built-in speakers function, but are hardly usable in noisy environments.
The Vaio P does have a Webcam, placed on the side of the screen. It also has a few neat features and tricks up its sleeve: an accelerometer will auto-orient the screen from landscape to portrait, a useful trick for e-reading, though the open clamshell shape of the P doesn't lend itself wonderfully to such a function. GPS is also built in, as well as mobile broadband optional upgrades in higher-end configurations (ours had Verizon service).