Recite after us: The Sony Vaio P is not a netbook. No really, it isn’t. At least, that’s what Sony wants us to believe. The Japanese superfirm has been at pains to point out its dinky laptop is not to be popped into the same pigeonhole as an Asus Eee PC or MSI Wind. It needn’t have worried though, the Vaio P is clearly in a class of its own. First class. With a price tag to go with it.
Don’t be mistaken though. In this case first class doesn’t mean extra legroom and enough space to swing an over-stuffed cat. The Sony Vaio P is the smallest laptop we’ve ever seen.
Inside its dinky frame is an 8-inch screen, Atom 1.33 GHz processor, 1 or 2GB of RAM and the option of a 60GB HDD or 128GB SSD. There’s also Wi-Fi and Bluetooth inside, despite the whole shebang being slim enough to slip into a jacket pocket.
But despite its diminutive proportions the Vaio P remains powerful. There’s a super-crisp 1600×768 resolution screen and an instant-on feature that lets you play music and videos using the same XrossMediaBar interface as the PlayStation 3, and without waiting for Windows to chug into life. But it’s Windows that’s the Vaio P’s main failing point.
In its eagerness to distance the Vaio P from the netbook rabble, Sony has shoehorned Windows Vista onboard its tiny laptop. The result is severe sluggishness and repeated crashes and freezes. Install Windows XP or Windows 7 on a Vaio P and you’re in business, but you’ll have to spend a while staring at the Windows Vista hourglass beforehand.
Another problem we found with the Vaio P: its lack of trackpad makes scrolling around the screen a pain. Sony has opted for a rubberised nipple in the centre of the keyboard, but combined with its titchy screen, it conspires to send the cursor skittering out of view with the tiniest prod.
And then there’s that wallet-worrying price tag. The Sony Vaio P starts at £700. Yes. £700 for a PC quite capable of being lost behind a sofa cushion. That’s a lot of cash to stump up for a computer packing a default operating system that simply doesn’t suit it, no matter how jaw-dropping it may be.
Overall, it’s hard to recommend the Sony Vaio P as a serious purchase. It feels like an exercise in design panache and technical wizardry, rather than a device for every day use. We struggled to get any serious work done using the tiny screen and keyboard, even when Windows Vista behaved itself.
Beautiful, yes. Admirable, certainly. Worth your wonga? Not in a million years.