Sony VAIO P Series (2nd gen) review

£799
Price when reviewed

The anti-aliasing is pretty good, too, which means the P Series is actually usable in this setting. If you want to head back to the default resolution then simply press the Change Resolution button again; for example if you want to admire a high-res photo.

Power

Editing such a photo won’t be such a joy, and that’s because an Atom processor sits inside. The 1.86GHz Z540 is near the top of Intel’s low-wattage CPU range, but even with 2GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD to help boost performance there’s no getting away from this machine’s limited performance. (The higher spec P Series includes a 2.13GHz Intel Atom Z560 and a 128GB SSD, but costs £1,020 exc VAT.)

On first loading up, the word “limited” may seem too kind. Sluggish, sloth-like and glacial are more likely to spring to mind. Which is why the first thing anyone should do is strip away some of the bloatware Sony installs. There’s an irritating floating launch bar, for instance, along with over 20 other VAIO-branded utilities of dubious use (although if you own a PlayStation 3 you might delight in using the P Series as a remote keyboard). Removing them almost cuts boot times in half: from 2mins 5secs to 1min 7secs.

Even in this streamlined form, though, it’s hardly a world-beater. Browsing media-rich websites, playing back video in BBC iPlayer and editing a handful of photos all push the limit of the P Series’ abilities. It also takes several seconds to resume from standby. But it isn’t unusable. When you’re working in Word, for example (and note that Office Starter will be included), it’s as fast and responsive as you need it to be.

We also found the keyboard to be reasonable most of the time. The only real annoyance is the trimmed full-stop key, which is 11mm wide compared to over 13mm for the character keys. This led to quite a few mistakes at first, although we did get used to it – begrudgingly – after a few hours. Arguably more annoying is the loud click the mouse buttons make, which will draw yet more attention to your endeavours in public places.

Portability

One area Sony couldn’t really improve on was the original P Series’ portability. This is the only fully fledged laptop we’ve seen that can slip into a jacket pocket – quite a feat. In reality, people are far more likely to chuck their P Series into a bag, and with the bright new colours Sony no doubt has handbags in mind too. At 624g it won’t weigh you down.

Sony VAIO P Series jacket pocket

The tiny chassis means there’s only room for a two-cell battery, but Sony has done some clever tweaking to ensure you get as much life out of the P Series as possible. The end result is 5hrs 17mins of usage under light use, compared to 3hrs 11mins from the original. Even under intense use it kept going for 2hrs 41mins.

With so many wireless radios inside the new P Series – GPS, 802.11bgn WLAN, Bluetooth plus a 7.2Mbits/sec 3G modem – you’ll be well-advised to switch off wireless using the single hardware switch on the left-hand side of the chassis. If you want to keep 3G running, and note an Orange SIM will be provided with 15 days of free access, then you can switch off individual radios using the VAIO Control software.

Elsewhere, connections are limited. There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack, two USB 2 ports, an SD card slot and a Memory Stick slot. If you want to connect to an external monitor you’ll need to use either a display adapter or a port replicator, both of which plug into the proprietary connector on the right-hand side and neither of which are bundled. The replicator is also necessary if you want to connect the P Series on a wired Ethernet connection.

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 245 x 120 x 19.8mm (WDH)
Weight 624g
Travelling weight 836g

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Atom Z540
RAM capacity 2.00GB
Memory type DDR2
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 1

Screen and video

Screen size 8.0in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,600
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1600 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel GMA 500
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 64GB
Hard disk usable capacity 53GB
Spindle speed N/A
Internal disk interface Parallel ATA
Hard disk SanDisk pSSD-P2
Optical disc technology None
Optical drive N/A
Battery capacity 2,500mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter yes
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch yes
Wireless key-combination switch no
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 2
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Trackpoint
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Speaker location Above keyboard
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 0.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 5hr 17min
Battery life, heavy use 2hr 41min
Overall application benchmark score 0.31
Office application benchmark score 0.31
2D graphics application benchmark score 0.33
Encoding application benchmark score 0.31
Multitasking application benchmark score 0.28
3D performance (crysis) low settings N/A
3D performance setting N/A

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition
Software supplied Microsoft Office Starter 2010

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