Sony VAIO P-Series (VGN-P19VN/Q) review
Niggles aside, what Sony has managed to squeeze into such a tiny shell is truly impressive. The screen, for example, stretches a mere eight inches across, but despite its modest dimensions manages to pack in a native resolution of 1,600 x 768.
That’s enough to send any netbooks with delusions of grandeur skulking away with their low-resolution displays firmly shut, but it’s not quite as wonderful as it first sounds. It makes for a generous amount of desktop space, no argument there, but unless you’re glued to the screen it makes reading text very, very difficult, and precise cursor control trickier than it needs to be.
Image quality is good, however, with ample brightness, even colour reproduction and good contrast. And although the vibrant display would be superb for watching video, particularly that of an HD nature, the low-powered specification unfortunately puts paid to any such plans.
Indeed, building a laptop this small and light requires a complement of components that can survive without fans – a requirement that left Sony’s engineers turning to the netbook processor of choice, Intel’s Atom. To this end, Sony has partnered one of Intel’s Z-series Atoms with 2GB of DDR2 memory. The cheaper models in the range make do with the 1.33GHz Z520 processor and a mechanical 60GB hard drive while our top-end model goes one step further with a 128GB SSD and a 1.6GHz Atom.
This wouldn’t be the sprightliest of combinations at the best of times, but Microsoft’s Vista Business is about as far as is possible from being the ideal foil to such a partnership. The Real World benchmarks bear out such cynicism, with the Sony’s score 0.26 comparing unfavourably to the 0.44 of the Windows XP-powered Samsung NC10.
Graphical power is equally limited due to Intel’s GMA 500 chipset, which although theoretically capable of HD decoding, finds itself partnered with drivers barely capable of rendering YouTube or iPlayer content at a smooth frame rate.
If you can’t wait for Vista to stumble into life, then the Sony’s instant-on function comes as some consolation. Dab the Xross media button on the Sony’s front edge and 23 seconds later the Xross Media Bar springs into life, mimicking the interface on Sony’s PSP and PS3 consoles. It offers access to pictures, videos and music stored on the hard disk while also providing Firefox for internet duties, the Pidgin multi-client chat application, and Skype. It’s a perfect fit for such a compact device as it allows you to pull the P-series from a bag and quickly check a mail account or conduct a web search with the minimum of hassle. Had Sony partnered it with a more Atom-friendly OS such as Windows XP, or potentially the forthcoming Windows 7, the VGN-P19VN/Q might have made a touch more sense.
This limited performance does have its benefits when it comes to battery life, however. The VGN-P19VN/Q comes with two batteries, one that sits flush with the chassis and an extended one which raises the rear of the laptop. Sitting idle and with all the wireless radios turned off, the extended battery managed to keep the VGN-P19VN/Q going for an impressive 7hrs 18mins. Even thrashing the Sony with our heavy-usage test left that figure nearer the four-hour mark.
To P or not to P?
The P-Series’ novelty is both its greatest asset and, to an extent, its greatest flaw. In terms of size, weight and sheer ambition no other laptop can follow in its tiny footsteps, but the asking price means it has to stack up against some of the best laptops money can buy.
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||245 x 120 x 20mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Atom Z520|
|SODIMM sockets free||0|
|SODIMM sockets total||1|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,600|
|Resolution screen vertical||768|
|Resolution||1600 x 768|
|Graphics chipset||Intel GMA 500|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||1|
|Hard disk usable capacity||55GB|
|Internal disk interface||SATA|
|Optical disc technology||N/A|
|Replacement battery price ex VAT||£79|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£91|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||yes|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||yes|
|Wireless key-combination switch||yes|
|PC Card slots||0|
|USB ports (downstream)||2|
|PS/2 mouse port||no|
|9-pin serial ports||0|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||0|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||0|
|3.5mm audio jacks||2|
|SD card reader||no|
|Memory Stick reader||yes|
|MMC (multimedia card) reader||no|
|Smart Media reader||no|
|Compact Flash reader||no|
|Pointing device type||Trackpoint|
|Camera megapixel rating||0.3mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||3hr 11min|
|Overall application benchmark score||0.16|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium|
|OS family||Windows Vista|
|Software supplied||VAIO Recovery Utility|