After teasing us with the sleek but useless Vaio P, Sony went back to the drawing board for the launch of Windows 7 to design an impossibly thin and light notebook unhindered by the many, many flaws of its predecessor: the Vaio X. Though it rides on netbook hardware like the P, a speedier CPU and larger, more usable form factor put this model head and shoulders above it. Unfortunately, the price moves accordingly to $1,300, making the Vaio X a truly amazing toy for those who can manage to afford one.
It’s hard to overstate just how light and tiny Sony’s new Wunderkind truly is. It measures half an inch thick, and weighs 1.5 pounds. This is a notebook you can flip around like a magazine, lift from the corner with a thumb and two fingers, and probably send into the stratosphere with a dozen or so balloons. If the MacBook Air can cut a cake, the Vaio X can probably perform minor surgery.
Don’t take that to mean that the Vaio X feels insubstantial. Sony has called upon the wonder of carbon fiber to give the notebook stiffness and rigidity totally out of proportion to its weight. We were able to wring a bit of flex out of it by intentionally grabbing two corners and giving it a twist, but the small size of the machine and impossibly light weight means that it never really encounters this sort of stress during every day handling. We only batted an eye when adjusting the screen with one hand from the side, which made us wish it had a little more reinforcement.
Fond as Sony is of glossy paintjobs, our carbon-fiber review unit came decked out in stealthy matte black from head to toe – an arrangement we much prefer. Although it doesn’t offer the durable rubbery feel of say, a ThinkPad, it shakes off fingerprints and other marring all the same.
When you’re designing a notebook as thin as some of the connectors that will plug into it, you have to get a little creative. Sony engineers rose to the occasion. The VGA connector on the right, for instance, matches the height of the notebook almost identically, and therefore isn’t even shielded in from all sides: The bottom edge has been left bare and sits flush with the bottom of the notebook. Along the same lines, the right-hand Ethernet port literally snaps open like a jaw to accommodate the standard connector, which would be too fat to fit without this python-like adaptation. Sony also provides two USB ports, a headphone jack, and a power jack on the left-hand side. We really wish Sony had managed to move one of the USB jacks to the right; both to accommodate for right-handed travel mice, and to prevent the overlapping problems you might encounter when connecting oversized accessories like thumb drives or mini camcorders. Up front, you’ll find both an SD card reader and a slot for Sony’s Memory Stick Duo cards.
As with the Vaio P, Sony would prefer to gloss over any similarities between its premium Vaio X and those $400 toys we call “netbooks,” but the fact remains: The basic underpinnings are the same. The Vaio X uses the Z550 variant of Intel’s Atom, which runs at 2.0GHz, (in contrast to the 1.6GHz usually found in vanilla netbooks), Intel’s GMA 500 integrated graphics, and 2GB of RAM. As you might expect, Sony has opted for an SSD hard drive rather than the spinning variety, which puts capacity at 64GB in the base model and up to 128GB through upgrades.