Vaio W series Mini notebook banks on near-HD display
Finally, Sony has unveiled its own entry into the ultra small, notebook category that the industry is calling the NetBook.
The way it has evolved, this form factor usually comes with 7 inch to 10 inch displays -- and being powered mostly, by Intel's Atom chip, it would be underpowered as a full fledged laptop PC. Yet by ditching the optical drive -- that is, the DVD writer/ player -- most manufacturers have gone beyond last year's tentative models and are able to offer at least a full PC OS like Windows XP and also throw in a reasonably sized hard disk drive rather than palm off a teeny weeny Flash based storage module.
Sony's offering that is available in India this week, is the Vaio W Series, powered by the 1.66 GHZ Atom N 280; with 1 GB RAM; a 160 GB hard disk drive; integrated graphics and a 10 inch screen.
The keyboard is generously spaced for this class of portable PC and so is the touch pad -- a typical Sony value addition, where it is difficult to distinguish one make from another, because of very similar basic specs.
There is a built-in 640 by 380 pixel camera -- almost standard in Net books other than the entry level, because Skype-type video calls is a basic application dermanded by customers.
Another way Sony has tried to go beyond the processor and size- imposed limitations, is to beef up the display to 1366 by 768 which when compared with the 1024 by 600 resolution commonly sported by Netbooks, makes for a far better picture quality. The 16: 9 aspect ratio shows , Sony has the movie-mad user in mind.
As far as we could see, this is the main plus point that Sony has offered, to justify what we think is, the somewhat stiff asking price of Rs 29,990 for the Vaio W. We are of course comparing the basic specs ( and the modest battery time of 2.5 hours) with what the branded competition will offer in India.
But we do realise that the Sony Vaio series to the company's loyal customers, is somewhat similar the Mac is to Apple fans: a symbol and a statement for which they are prepared to pay a premium. Maybe we should also mention that the software they throw in -- including their own Media Plus utility - is something that most NetBook makers would not provide in their less pricier models.
However in a no-compromise offering like the Vaio, we are suprised to find the defaulty RAM memory is just 1 GB: To get the value out of the near- HD screen by playing media rich content or games, one would almost certainly have to upgrade to 2 GB at least, from Day One. We would have expected Sony to have done this in the default package. We would also have expected that for a model loaded with Windows XP just 3 months before the next edition, Windows 7, is due, Sony might have built in an attractive upgrade option for the buyer.
In summary: not an aggressvely competitive Net Book; but it will not disappoint those already sold on Sony's distinctive Vaio brand.
Sony Official launch video features on our Tech in Video slot this week only
-- Anand Parthasarathy/ Bangalore Aug 10 2009