Sony VAIO P-Series (VGN-P19VN/Q) review

£749
Price when reviewed

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.

Going slow

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?

it_photo_6431The 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

Warranty1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions245 x 120 x 20mm (WDH)
Weight618g
Travelling weight880g

Processor and memory

ProcessorIntel Atom Z520
RAM capacity2.00GB
Memory typeDDR2
SODIMM sockets free0
SODIMM sockets total1

Screen and video

Screen size9.0in
Resolution screen horizontal1,600
Resolution screen vertical768
Resolution1600 x 768
Graphics chipsetIntel GMA 500
VGA (D-SUB) outputs1
HDMI outputs0
S-Video outputs0
DVI-I outputs0
DVI-D outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0

Drives

Capacity60GB
Hard disk usable capacity55GB
Spindle speed4,200RPM
Internal disk interfaceSATA
Optical disc technologyN/A
Optical driveN/A
Battery capacity2,100mAh
Replacement battery price ex VAT£79
Replacement battery price inc VAT£91

Networking

Wired adapter speed1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a supportno
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportyes
Integrated 3G adapteryes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switchyes
Wireless key-combination switchyes
Modemno
ExpressCard34 slots0
ExpressCard54 slots0
PC Card slots0
USB ports (downstream)2
PS/2 mouse portno
9-pin serial ports0
Parallel ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
3.5mm audio jacks2
SD card readerno
Memory Stick readeryes
MMC (multimedia card) readerno
Smart Media readerno
Compact Flash readerno
xD-card readerno
Pointing device typeTrackpoint
Integrated microphone?yes
Integrated webcam?yes
Camera megapixel rating0.3mp
TPMno
Fingerprint readerno
Smartcard readerno
Carry caseno

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use3hr 11min
Overall application benchmark score0.16

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows Vista Home Premium
OS familyWindows Vista
Software suppliedVAIO Recovery Utility

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