I called the new Sony P Series Vaio a netbook when discussing its release at Sony’s pressconference yesterday, but Sony itself has specifically avoided calling it a by that name. Initially, I chalked this linguistic differentiation up to typical Sony PR snobbery, but after handlingit first hand, I must admit that it’s really nothing like any other netbook on the market right now.
When Sony said it would fit in a jacket pocket, they weren’t kidding. Though it’s rather long, the P Series has barely any depth to it, and the Sony booth rep who showed it off to me literally drew it out of an inside suit pocket to make a point. Will execs carry these around in their Hickey Freeman suit pockets like cell phones? Probably not, but the point is clear enough.
To shrink it down to these dimensions, Sony did away with all the space below a typical notebook keyboard where a touchpad would go, and instead used a ThinkPad-style mini joystick planted between the keys for pointing. Given that netbook touchpads are typically too tiny to be of much use anyway, this makes little difference in usability, but the space saved is dramatic. Lengthwise, Sony intentionally kept it to longer to preserve the usability of the keyboard.
While I can make do holding my 3-pound Lenovo ThinkPad with one hand and typing with another for a brief stint, pulling the same act with the P Series almost felt like the natural way to use it. Its weight is truly so negligible that you could probably pull if off all day long if you were so inclined.
Finally, the 8-inch 1600 x 768 pixel screen looks truly phenomenal. I’ve always been a fan of pixel density over sheer size, and in this case Sony has skipped the larger LCD for a small one with tightly packed pixels that produce incredibly smooth, defined images. The extreme width even makes it perfectly appropriate for Web browsing without side scrolling.
So I’ll concede on the netbook title. Not only is $900 way too much for anything dubbed a Netbook, Sony has legitimately engineered its way out of that category as well. I can’t wait to put more time in with one later, but for now: Bravo.