Sony Vaio VGN-P15G (Intel Atom Z530 processor 1.6GHz, 2GB RAM)

Sony's upscale Atom-powered Lifestyle PC has the components of a cheaper machine, but the design of a more expensive one. The end result will be a useful travel PC for some and a conversation piece for others.


7.5
CNET Rating
4.5
User Rating

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Sony likes to keep its Vaio products aimed at mid- to high-end buyers — much like Apple does — and generally eschews the budget end of the market (although there are a handful of less expensive Vaios we've reviewed favourably).

When it comes to Intel Atom-powered systems, it's no different; Sony's entry into the very hot mini laptop category shares a lot with netbooks such as the Dell Mini 9 or Asus Eee PC, but clearly goes out of its way to avoid being lumped in with them (Sony doesn't even call the P-series a netbook).

Even with a widescreen, 8-inch, 1600x768 resolution display and reasonably usable full keyboard, the AU$2,299 P-series Lifestyle PC fits into roughly the same footprint as a standard white business envelope, and is less than 20mm thick. That makes it both an impressive engineering feat as well as a system that will work best for a highly specific group of users. While it can be a useful travel PC for those most concerned with size and weight, casual users may be put off by the tiny trackpoint navigation and bloated Windows Vista operating system. That said, next to the new MacBook, we've rarely had a laptop with more gawkers dropping by our labs to eyeball it.

Design
The P-series Lifestyle PC is one of the smallest laptops we've seen; it almost reminds us of a UMPC (such as Sony's own UX series), but with a traditional clamshell laptop design. Sony offers a variety of colours, including garnet red, emerald green, onyx black, crystal white and classic (matte) black, with matching accessories including a fitted leather case.

To fit a reasonably full-featured PC into a chassis this small, some sacrifices had to be made, and the lack of a standard touchpad (instead there's a ThinkPad-like pointing stick) keeps the P-series from being as useful as it could be. The pointing stick's sensitivity has to be jacked up to get across the widescreen easily, which makes fine control difficult.

The mouse buttons are relegated to tiny slivers at the front edge of the system. One can also optionally tap on the pointing stick for a left-click, although you'll invariably end up with a lot of false left-clicks that way. A middle mouse button for scrolling helps, as does an additional button to the right, which arranges your open windows side by side on the desktop. With the extra-wide 1600-pixel resolution, you can fit a couple of open browsers or document windows next to each other.

Features
The Linux-powered, instant-on environment resembles the menu used on Sony's PSP and PlayStation 3 game consoles, and provides for a decent web-surfing experience while helping to save battery life — which is important, as the default battery is small.

We spent most of our time in Windows Vista, currently the only operating system option available. With Vista, the P-series' 2GB of RAM is practically a minimum requirement, and the OS felt sluggish and hung frequently, even with the graphics options set to Vista Basic. Windows XP is currently the best match for Atom processors, and we've also had some success experimenting with Windows 7. Sony, as is its custom, includes plenty of its proprietary media and networking software, which you can choose to use, ignore or even uninstall.

The 8-inch, widescreen, LED-backlit display offers a 1600x768 native resolution, which is the highest we've seen in an Atom-powered laptop. Because of this, text and icons are small, and some may find them hard to read. A zoom button helps a bit, but if you have trouble with small on-screen text, the P-series will drive you mad.

Sadly, unlike the US and UK no mobile broadband is included, and Australians miss out on the GPS feature as well.

Performance and battery life
It would be wise not to expect too much in terms of raw performance from this system. Taken as a netbook, it falls behind systems with Windows XP, such as HP's new Mini 2140, in our benchmark tests. When looked at as an ultraportable laptop, it performs even worse, although it's an unfair fight against more expensive 11-inch systems with Intel's ULV dual-core processors.

With those caveats in mind, we were able to successfully surf the web and work on documents, much the same as any Atom-powered laptop. Online video streaming and DVD file playback were likewise smooth, and our biggest productivity problems stemmed from waiting for Vista menus to open and struggling with the pointing stick. As much as Sony wants to stay away from the netbook tag, the guiding principle remains the same: if you manage your expectations appropriately, the P-series works great. Expect it to do the same things as your full-size computer, and you'll be disappointed.

The Sony Vaio P-series Lifestyle PC ran for three hours, eight minutes on our video playback battery drain test using the included battery. An optional large-capacity battery is available which sticks out from the bottom of the system but runs a little more than five hours.

A cheaper version of the P-series, the P13GH, includes the slower Atom Z520 1.33GHz and a 60GB magnetic hard drive, and sells for AU$1,599.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo IdeaPad U110
1239
Sony Vaio VGN-TT17GN/X
1344
Toshiba Portege R500
1558
HP Mini 2140
4080
Sony Vaio P-series
5062


Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio VGN-TT17GN/X
319
Lenovo IdeaPad U110
336
Toshiba Portege R500
387
Sony Vaio P-series
881


Apple iTunes encoding test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo IdeaPad U110
246
Sony Vaio VGN-TT17GN/X
251
Toshiba Portege R500
324
HP Mini 2140
789
Sony Vaio P-series
962


Video playback battery drain test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
HP Mini 2140
301
Toshiba Portege R500
246
Sony Vaio VGN-TT17GN/X
232
Sony Vaio P-series
188
Lenovo IdeaPad U110
174

Sony Vaio P-series
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z530; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel GMA 500; Samsung 64GB SSD

HP Mini 2140
Windows XP Home SP2; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 224MB Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Sony Vaio VGN-TT17GN/X
Windows Vista Business SP1; 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 64MB Mobile Intel X4500; 128GB solid-state drive (x2)

Toshiba Portege R500
Windows Vista Business; 1.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7700; 2,048MB DDR3 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Mobile Intel 945GM; 128GB Toshiba solid-state drive

Lenovo IdeaPad U110
Windows Vista Home Premium; 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo L7500; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 120GB Toshiba 4,200rpm

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"Decided to buy one"

RoA posted a comment   

The Good:compactness, resolution

The Bad:vista, stupid nipple thing

Have wanted one of these for a long time. I eventually found one at barely more than a top range netbook with proper Windows 7 installed.
I think it is the size of the device that is the most important thing about it. It is certainly not to be used as an only computer. I will still be using my Touchsmart for work and I will still be using my macbook for leisure, but when out on the bicycle or taking a train journey this will be my laptop of choice.
Part of my desire to own one is that I do want to escape the house a lot more, another part is that I have a very weak back that can easily slip out of place carrying a 13" laptop. Without the combination of BOTH these factors I would only be interested in this device for its collectibility. This is certainly a stupid choice for using in the house but if you want to get out and about and cannot carry a large weight it is probably without parallel.

 

sonygirl posted a comment   

how do you put ant virus on the P15 if there is no disc drive???? any one help????

 

sn posted a reply   

1. Copyfiles onto a usb stick - borrow a full size machine from a friend.

2. Buy a standalone portable disk drive that is usb conmpatible

toji
2
Rating
 

toji posted a review   

The Good:looks good

The Bad:video playback

I road tested one at both the Sony store and Harvey Norman in Adelaide CBD and both failed to play full screen video (standard and hi def) using windows media player. Both sets of salesmen just stood there and shrugged their shoulders and said they could do nothing about it. Crap, the merchandise catalogue states it plays HD.

sanoy
6
Rating
 

sanoy posted a review   

Looks stunning. Excellent package. One slight problem...

dave1096
1
Rating
 

dave1096 posted a review   

Extremely Horrible. The Acer Aspire One is Much Better i terms of value, specs, price and design.

VAIOlogist
7
Rating
 

VAIOlogist posted a review   

Considering that this comparison of specs mentioned is actually based on the P13 model (which is the entry level machine) - SRP $1599

BC
5
Rating
 

BC posted a review   

Mochi, looks like you missed the bit where Australian machines won't have the GPS, or the built in mobile broadband and sim card slot.

Mochi
9
Rating
 

Mochi posted a review   

The Good:- GPS inbuilt
- Sim card slot
- looks amazing
- good 'show off peice'
- is capable of running windows 7 (its faster then vista on the machine)
- nice sized solid state drive

The Bad:- price
- screen may prove to be a bit to wide and not tall enough~ time will tell though
- in some videos i have seen of it the contrast and brightness on the screen have been set waaay too high. i hope this is adjustable.

i think its about time they made a really good looking netbook. the dell mini 9 was a close second, but it still didnt do it for me. this is amazing. im going to get one as soon as i have the cash

brian
3
Rating
 

brian posted a review   

"if you manage your expectations appropriately, the P-series works great"

I take it that's a nice way of saying if you expect and want a slow, over priced netbook with a bloated operating system and an infuriating nipple for a mouse then you'll be stoked with this machine.


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User Reviews / Comments  Sony Vaio VGN-P15G (Intel Atom Z530 processor 1.6GHz, 2GB RAM)

  • RoA

    RoA

    "Have wanted one of these for a long time. I eventually found one at barely more than a top range netbook with proper Windows 7 installed.
    I think it is the size of the device that is the m..."

  • sonygirl

    sonygirl

    "how do you put ant virus on the P15 if there is no disc drive???? any one help????"

  • toji

    toji

    Rating2

    "I road tested one at both the Sony store and Harvey Norman in Adelaide CBD and both failed to play full screen video (standard and hi def) using windows media player. Both sets of salesmen just sto..."

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