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back to article Sony Vaio P netbook

Sony manages to conjure up some lovely pieces of kit, but it also has a tendency to slap outrageous price tags on them. And this was no more apparent than when it launched the Vaio P-Series last year. Sony Vaio P Series Sony’s Vaio P: small, light, but darned expensive Small and sexy, the original P-Series was designed to …

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FAIL

battery

'nuff said

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£800

Ay carramba!

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Ugly ugly ugly

That has to be the ugliest laptop that I have ever seen.

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Grenade

Original PictureBook C1F reinvented for the new age

I have one of the original C1Fs somewhere in the loft (I fried the recharge schematics trying to get it to work with the later C1 (the transmeta one) batteries.

Even the overall system design is the same. As the picturebook was crippled by its horrible Neomagic video adapter this one is crippled by Intel GMA so you get only a fraction of the UE expected from the CPU. It also has the similarly unusable aspect ratio. As the picturebook had 1024x480 this one has 1280x600/1600x768

Let me guess, in 2 years there will be no batteries, no spare parts, no driver support and nothing else of the like. You have to go and buy another fashion item.

Welcome to the world of Sony. No thank you, I will stick with my Lenovo 10e. It may be fugly, but it "just werks" with Debian on it.

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Thanks

Thank you for testing the Vaio P with Ubuntu - you've probably saved a number of Reg readers some grief.

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Linux on the P

FWIW, the current status of common distros with the GMA 500 graphics:

Ubuntu 8.04 through 9.10 - you'll be fine with a few forum threads, it's pretty well developed.

Ubuntu 10.04 - still being worked on, but looking hopeful.

Fedora 11 - add RPM Fusion repo and install xorg-x11-drv-psb package.

Fedora 12, 13 - see Ubuntu 10.04, it's in progress and depending on the same fixes.

Mandriva 2009.1, 2010.0 - should work out of the box.

Mandriva 2010.1 - I think in much the same status as F12/F13 and Ubuntu 10.04.

Forum thread to look at for Ubuntu is http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1229345 .

I'd bet the trackpad issue is the same as on several recent Sonys, the fix is to add kernel parameter 'i8042.nopnp' . The patch to fix this is working its way upstream, see https://patchwork.kernel.org/patch/89139/ . If that is the issue, someone should probably let upstream know more than just the Z1 is affected...

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Anonymous Coward

ugly, slow, pitiful battery life and...

too many vowels in its name, who the hell is going to buy this piece of sh1t?

all of a sudden, sonytards make mactards look the most sensible of people.

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Silver badge
Unhappy

VGN-P720, Cdn$540 w. coupon

Sony Canada has had the P720 on sale for $600. And with a 'good attendance' coupon, you can knock off another $60 or so. Mine lacks 3G and GPS, but I have an iPhone so I can Tether via Bluetooth onto the 'net without paying yet-another monthly fee. It's amazing how much farting around MS Windows needs to do before the PC eventually turns its full attention to the human user. It's best to turn it on just before supper, and let it grind away for 15 minutes while you eat.

It's obviously MS's fault, but the damn thing seems to need about an hour a week of updates, installations, and reboots. I've seen military aircraft with better flight-to-maintenance time ratios.

One huge disappointment is when I tried to play an HD TV show from the hard drive. Even using VLC (presumed to be efficient), it choked. Perhaps I've not got everything setup correctly. The screen is lovely, too bad I (apparently) can't watch HD video.

Overall it's well worthwhile at the price I paid.

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Try MediaPlayerClassic

VLC uses CPU rendering whereas MPC will hook into the GMA graphics and use some of that grunt to render.

I have the same problem with 1080P encodes on my media center, the dual core amd 2.0GHz chip isn't up to smoothly rendering the file in VLC but when using MPC the ATi3850 I have stuffed in the box makes no deal out of it.

Also try running MSCONFIG and removing some of the pointless crap on startup. If it has an SSD look at an optimisation guide for SSD's aswell as there's a ton of crap running to aid HDD's that have a negative impact on an SSD.

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For a moment there...

I read the price as £800!

Oh, wait... WHAT!!??!!

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Alert

I'm waiting for....

... the Viliv n5 - see http://www.dynamism.com/notebooks/viliv-n5.shtml

a windows pc you CAN fit in your pocket (if they ever launch it...)

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My eyes!

Laptops, notebooks, netbooks, palmtops should be black, white or some shade inbetween.

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Bronze badge
Jobs Horns

Close

... But far too expensive and not good enough to justify the pricetag!

Get yerself an Asus 1005HA-H for £250. Still getting about 9hrs battery from mine and it's under 1.5Kg in mass. Absolutely top machine, great for long-haul flights and daily commuting.

Ok so it's slightly larger than the P Series, but 1/3rd of the price and actually usable as your main machine.

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more convenient reference for Ubuntu

More convenient than the forum thread - https://wiki.ubuntu.com/HardwareSupportComponentsVideoCardsPoulsbo/

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AY CARUMBA

Looks like sony is licking the DS DESIGN again.

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WTF?

that makes clones look like a good idea

800 pounds for a netbook?

if i really wanted one of those and i don't.

i'll wait a month and get it for $250 (yes you read that correctly) in Shenzhen.

Ok, it'll say AVIO instead of VAIO who cares.?

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Stop

Nope

The original P has been out for months and you can't buy a knock off version of it.

Sony is still capable of real top-end engineering, and its high-end systems like the P and Z are custom designs made in Japan; there's no template for cheap unauthorized clones in the Chinese manufacturing business, because the original isn't made there.

Not that this means the P is what you actually *want*, but it's an undeniably impressive bit of engineering and not something that can easily be knocked off by any idiot with a factory...

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Flame

Netbook? Really?

So, unless you're from Psion, a netbook is a small, cheap, low-powered laptop with a low-res screen. The Vaio P doesn't have the traditional netbook form-factor and it's got a (significantly) above-average screen compared with netbooks. Unsurprisingly, this comes at a premium (especially since the cost of the panel isn't shared among every manufacturer on the planet), so it's not cheap. So why are we calling it a netbook? The article eventually points out that it's not one, but that doesn't really excuse putting "netbook" in the review title. It's not like Sony claim it's a netbook.

By all means rant about whether it's value for money, but starting out by calling it a netbook necessarily puts it on a back foot. If you started by calling it a subnotebook, you could describe it as "cheaper than average and a bit slow". Since "subnotebook" seems to have disappeared from the technical vocabulary, I'd like to remind you that they're very small, premium notebooks, typically compromising functionality in favour of size. This is exactly what a Vaio P is. However, every manufacturer who has traditionally made subnotebooks is now on the back foot, because everyone compared their premium models with the Eee PC. The Eee was "good enough" for a lot of users (especially those like me, used to second-hand Librettos), but that doesn't mean you can ignore every corner that it cut; it was never *that* small, and it was more compromised than true subnotebooks.

If I was in the market for a new laptop, the screen is the first thing I go for, with a portability second. For me, a Vaio P is a very tempting proposition (but not in pink), although I can't deny I'd like it to be a bit cheaper and to have a slightly smoother linux install process. If you're not a resolution addict like me, I'm sure it looks over-priced compared with an original EeePC, because you have no interest in the premium features it offers. Reviewers who don't like high resolution screens (*some* people are comfortable closer to the screen than others) killed the 15.4" WUXGA laptop market; criticising a netbook whose USP is that it has a high-resolution screen for having a high-resolution screen seems unduly harsh. People who want a Vaio P presumably want it because of the screen, not in spite of it (unless they're both idiots and fashion victims).

The Vaio P is in a niche of its own. There are plenty of things to criticise about it, but please don't compare apples to, er, apricots.

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It's a netbook

"The VPCP11S1E might be small and have an Atom processor, but it’s most definitely not a netbook."

I beg to differ. You can't define a product on its price alone. If a 17" gaming laptop is sold for £199, does it suddenly become a netbook?

This is a netbook, even though Sony seems to expect you to pony up 4 times the usual price of one.

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Not just price

Sony aren't above over-charging for the same kit you can get elsewhere, so please don't take this as a defence of the company's pricing in general, but...

The Vaio P isn't a netbook because it's not a cheap subnotebook - that's what a netbook is; it's a market segment that was defined when someone realised you could make a cheap subnotebook with low-end components and sell it to people who'd been buying used subnotebooks off ebay. If you take the "cheap" away from a netbook, that's a subnotebook. At that point, you either have a "hopelessly overpriced for what it is" subnotebook, or a subnotebook that has some features that justifies its premium over netbooks. In order to be cheap, netbooks necessarily cut corners compared with "full" laptops - don't cut the corners and you don't get the cheap.

As it happens, the Vaio P has a couple of features that distinguish it from netbooks - it's smaller than most (at least in some dimensions) and it's got a much better-than-average screen (if what you want is pixels). If you don't care about these, you can ignore them - in which case you'd be right in treating it as an overpriced netbook, and deciding not to buy it. Equally, if you don't have a reason to have a 17" screen, a high performance processor and decent graphics, you could consider a big gaming laptop to be a really poor option if what you really want is a netbook; it'll do the job, but you're paying for features you don't want.

If you treat the Vaio P as a subnotebook, it can be considered to be reasonably-priced but slow compared with the traditional market segment (to be fair, I've not been tracking it, but historically subnotebooks haven't been as far behind the regular notebook performance curve as an Atom system would be). If you don't need more performance, other subnotebooks are over-priced; if you do need more performance, the Vaio P is compromised.

Netbooks are:

1) Cheap. This means that people reviewing premium subnotebooks and describing them as "over-priced netbooks" are missing the point.

2) Small (subnotebooks). That means that people reviewing cheap 14" laptops and describing them as "really big netbooks" are missing the point.

This means netbooks don't get premium components (hence usually an Atom or, at one point, a Via C3) and don't get full-sized screens and keyboards. Add components that cost money, like the Vaio P's screen, and you can't be surprised when the price goes up. Yes, more than I'd like, but I'd not expect it to be free. You really can't fairly ignore the premium components and complain about the price, any more than you can complain that a Pagani Zonda is a desparately overpriced Nissan Micra. What you can do is decide that you don't want the premium components that are offered, and accept that you're looking at a niche product for which you happen not to be the target market. You can only be critical if it's of no interest to *anyone*.

What you can do is complain that the Vaio P has an odd mix of components - maybe people who are prepared to pay a large premium for the screen would like to pay a small premium and get better performance as well. Or you could complain that Sony should have looked at a Libretto and put the mouse buttons on the back of the lid so you could use the track pad one-handed.

You could say that Sony have taken a netbook and added features that nobody could possibly want, in return for doubling the price. From the knowledge that I'd be prepared to pay a premium for one, and some vague belief that occasionally Sony does some market research (between screwing PS3 customers), I'd say that Sony might have decided that the market segment existed before spending a few million tooling up to make the Vaio P. If you believe that the Vaio P means that Sony make over-priced netbooks, that's ignoring the Vaio M, which actually *is* a netbook. It's also much cheaper.

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Performance

"What you can do is complain that the Vaio P has an odd mix of components - maybe people who are prepared to pay a large premium for the screen would like to pay a small premium and get better performance as well."

I'm sure Sony would've made that possible if they could, but it's not terribly practical. The Atom has one big thing with two consequences going for it in this form factor: TDP (power consumption). It's very light on power. This means it generates very little heat - which is important as something as small as the P has very limited heat dispersion capabilities - and is light on the battery. Obviously, given the size of the system, the P's battery is tiny. Even with the Atom CPU the battery life is crap; the stock battery gives me barely 80 minutes. With something more powerful it wouldn't ever be practical to use the thing without a power cord.

(Have to admit, though, the above doesn't excuse the appalling performance of *both* the stock hard disk and SSD options. The hard disk in the original P is a very slow 4200RPM implementation. The SSD in the original P was pretty crappy performing for an SSD, and bizarrely was connected with some kind of janky IDE->SATA converter, IIRC. No idea why Sony made that decision. I'm not sure if the SSD in the second-gen P is any better, but the benchmarks don't look great. Sony's certainly capable of sourcing good SSDs as the SSD in the Z is stonkingly fast, so yeah, color me confused.)

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title

One of the key component of a netbook is portability and that means battery life (as well as form factor). That's why they have (relatively) poor processors. But this gets under 2 hours?

I like the design and don't find it ugly, but with that battery (and the ludicrous pricetag) this is a major fail.

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Battery

You can get an extended life battery which sticks out of the bottom a bit, makes it weigh a bit more, and gets it up past 3 hours. I keep that one in my P almost full-time now. It's still very light and small. But yeah, the stock battery is pretty inconvenient for anything beyond a quick website check.

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Silver badge

Why, oh, WHY AGAIN THE GARBAGE Atom CPU instead of a nice CULV?

Seriously: WHY??????

With a similarly clocked CULV one could actually WATCH A FLASH VIDEO, UNLIKE ON THE JUNK PAIR of Intel ATOM + Intel GMA garbage, let alone Atom is such a craptastic piece it cannot even run W7 properly.

Stupid, stupid Sony - three thumbs down.

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Anonymous Coward

MovieOS

This'll look great in some hollywood blockbuster where it'll inexplicably will sport a 3d holodisplay.

As to price, well, sony has had lots of models in that form factor and at that price point before. Whether they're painting themselves horribly outdated or simply continuing a good niche, the sales figures will have to tell.

Something irks me though: It sports 802.11n, but what bands? I'd expect at least 2.4GHz AND 5GHz for that price, but the review doesn't say.

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Silver badge

Colour

Does it come in any shade of sane?

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