Sony VAIO P Review: It’s Not a Netbook, It’s a Lifestyle PC

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Quick Overview:

Please note that in the above video I state that the VAIO P will start at $800 and be available June 8th, but Sony’s site has recently listed the price for this model at $899.99 and a shipping date of “on or about 6/25/2010″ which is a change since I made the video back in late May.

Since the introduction of the first VAIO P last year, Sony has insisted that the VAIO P is not a netbook. No sir. It’s a “Lifestyle PC.” What’s a “Lifestyle PC,” you ask? I’m not sure but somehow the Sony VAIO P seems to fit perfectly.

For starters, netbooks generally cost under $500, feature 10- to 12-inch screens with relatively low resolutions, and function similarly to standard laptops. The newest VAIO P, on the other hand, starts at $900, features a small screen with a huge resolution, and functions somewhere in between a UMPC and a standard laptop. It doesn’t really function similarly to a phone aside from the built-in accelerometer and the fact that it’s small.

The lifestyle angle, in my opinion, is twofold. First, you need to have a certain lifestyle to pay $900 for a device like this. Second, you need to have the kind of lifestyle that necessitates a device that functions somewhat along the lines of an actual computer while being small enough to fit snugly inside the interior pocket of a blazer. The VAIO P replaces neither cell phone nor laptop but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a fun machine with which to travel.

Fun, yes. Work, not really. I left my laptop at home for a long weekend away and while I was able to get a fair amount of work done with the VAIO P, it’s not an ideal computing experience if you need to actually do anything important. But “lifestyle” and “work” aren’t necessarily supposed to go together that well.

The Hardware

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The VAIO P is an impressive feat of engineering. Somehow crammed inside a device measuring 9.6” wide by 4.72” long by 0.78” thick and weighing just 1.3 pounds, you’ve got the innards of a Windows PC.

There’s a 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z530 CPU, 2GB of RAM, 128GB solid state drive, 8-inch 1600×768 screen, webcam, two USB ports, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connectivity, SD and MemoryStick card slots, and Windows 7 Home Premium.

The thing just doesn’t look like a computer. It looks like a small organizer or one of those old clamshell PDAs that people used to carry. While Steve Jobs has been heard to say that the iPod Nano is impossibly small, the Sony VAIO P is truly impossibly small given what’s inside.

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Overall performance is decent but not spectacular. Sony’s made a valiant attempt to stuff as much power into as small a package as possible but there’s a reason that in this day and age, devices like the iPad don’t run a full-blown operating system–interface fluidity and battery life take a huge hit.

The overall feeling of using the VAIO P is like, “Cool, I’m surfing the full web. It’s a little slow and this screen is tiny, but I’m surfing the full web. I’m watching a movie. It’s a little jittery and the battery’s about to die but this thing fits in my jacket pocket and I didn’t have to download the movie through some weird store.” You have to make peace with the fact that everything is pretty scaled back; the tradeoff being that you’re carrying around a machine that’s about as easy to pocket as a DVD case and runs Windows 7 Home Premium.

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