Sony's Netbook entry

09th August 2009
Sony's Netbook entry
The Sony Vaio W mini notebook has come to India

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