Sony's first attempt at using an Intel Atom processor for a small sized notebook (aka the Sony VAIO P) wasn't warmly received despite its small form factor and elegant design. This was due mostly to the VAIO P's sluggish user experience, no thanks to its Windows Vista OS. The price premium also put consumers off to the unit, while Sony's insistence that the P wasn't a netbook led to much eyebrow raising.
Thankfully, they have responded with a much more affordable and orthodox solution in the form of the Sony VAIO W, and we got our hands on a pretty pink version that left our female colleagues cooing in envy.
It's a VAIO
You'll note right from the start that with the VAIO W, Sony hasn't deviated from its usual VAIO design. It just got smaller. The external shell is curved gently around the edges that's reminiscent of the bigger VAIO notebooks. The build too feels pretty sturdy despite its plastic origins.
If you're wondering, the usual range of connectivity ports are also present on the VAIO W - two USB 2.0 ports, VGA out, LAN port and audio jacks. For the wireless, the W has both 802.11 b/g/n and A2DP Bluetooth built-in.
Opening the lid reveals a nicely laid out chiclet keyboard that should be familiar to VAIO fans. Typing on the unit was decent, though the keys felt small due to it being sized at 86 per cent of a standard keyboard. It actually felt like typing on the VAIO P however, so if you liked the P's keyboard, you'll probably like the W's. The trackpad was pretty smooth in both the response and feel.
Unlike most netbooks, Sony has chosen to include a higher resolution screen for the VAIO W while keeping to a 10.1-inch sized LCD panel. This translates to a higher 1366 x 768 screen resolution that does help to make things look better. The higher resolution feels less cramped on the desktop, which is always a good thing given the tiny nature of netbooks.
Performing a VAIO
On the performance side of things, you'll find that the VAIO W behaves exactly like every other netbook out in the market. That's a given, of course, as the units share similar specifications in the form of the Intel Atom processor and chipset. Therefore, it should be no surprise to find that in PCMark05, the Sony VAIO scored 1556 PCMarks for the system segment, which is pretty much the average.
Battery life testing showed that the unit almost reached the three hours that Sony claims. Our unit lasted for 2 hours 46 mins, a decent enough figure given its default 3-cell battery. Compared against recently reviewed 3-cell netbooks, the VAIO W comes out on top, beating its nearest competitor, the HP Mini 110 by about 18 minutes.
A VAIO Conclusion
Given the number of netbooks available in the market, we're glad to see that Sony has come out with a distinctive, albeit more conventional take in the form of the Sony VAIO W. The design of the unit is gorgeous with quite the polished feel. We particularly liked the higher resolution screen and the decent battery held up well in our test.
If you've always hankered for a Sony notebook but deterred by the price premium, then you will probably love the price tag of the VAIO W. Retailing at S$899, it's still a wee bit more expensive than other netbooks, but it's a worthy buy thanks to the quality of its build and design.