Sony Vaio W

Attempting to create a premium-priced version of a netbook, Sony has added an HD display to the Vaio W. It's an attractive step-up package, but the internal components are the same as are in cheaper models.

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Sony's first foray in to the world of Atom-powered laptops was the Vaio P-series Lifestyle PC, which sported a unique miniaturised design (about the same footprint as a standard business envelope), but was hampered by input issues (no touch pad), and the use of Windows Vista as its OS.

At the time of that product's release, Sony was adamant that despite the Atom processor and small size, it was most definitely not a netbook. The new Vaio W, on the other hand, is very clearly a netbook, with Windows XP, a 10-inch display, and a familiar netbook form factor.

While the AU$999 price may cause some sticker shock, as the base components aren't too much different from what you'd find in an AU$699-$799 netbook, Sony is hoping the inclusion of a 1366x768 high-definition display is enough to push the Vaio W over the line into the elusive "premium netbook" category — perhaps the holy grail of PC makers looking to escape the price-cutting wars at the lower end of the netbook biz.

If the hi-res display is worth the AU$200 (or more) premium to you, then the Vaio W is one of the nicer overall netbook packages out there, but the same basic combo of an Intel Atom N280 CPU, 1GB of RAM, 160GB hard drive, and Windows XP is definitely available for less. Dell's less snazzy-looking Mini 10 can be outfitted with a similar hi-def display for significantly less.

While not the thinnest or lightest 10-inch netbook around, the Sony Vaio W offers a solid, well-constructed chassis that feels sturdier than some of the less expensive netbooks we've seen. Our unit was decked out in an all-over pink colour scheme, from a rich, darker pink on the lid, to a pale pink on the patterned keyboard tray, to a subtle pink cross-hatch on the touch-pad surface. If pink's not your colour, brown and white versions are available as well.

With the recent (and welcome) trend toward oversized keys on netbooks — relatively speaking, of course — we were a little surprised by how diminutive the keyboard on the Vaio W felt. It looks and feels like a shrunk-down clone of the standard Vaio laptop keyboard, with flat-topped, widely spaced keys. But this leaves the individual keys smaller than we'd like, and the Function, Tab and right shift keys are especially tiny.

Sony includes its custom Media Plus software for organising and playing media files. It's a well-done app, but we're usually wary of investing the time to learn a proprietary software package that's only used on one brand of laptops.

The real star here is the 10.1-inch widescreen LED display. It has a 1366x768 native resolution, which is higher than the netbook standard of 1024x600. We've also seen this higher resolution on a couple of 11.6-inch netbooks, such as the Asus Eee PC 1101HA.

While it's arguably a better fit on those 11-inch screens, it also works nearly as well on the smaller 10-inch display, and we didn't find text or icons too small to see. Of course, your mileage with HD video files with a netbook's anaemic video capabilities may vary; we were able to load up HD versions of TV show episodes on Hulu, but they stuttered in full-screen mode.

Being a Sony Vaio, it's not surprising that there's a second media card slot for the proprietary Memory Stick format. And being at the top end of the netbook price scale, it's also not surprising to find Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi included (but not HDMI, as found on the similarly priced Dell Mini 10).

With an Intel Atom N280 CPU, the Vaio W is a bit zippier than netbooks with the N270 version of the Atom (or the even slower Z520 version). The difference isn't major, but in a system with little processing head-space as it is, every little bit counts. We found the Vaio W perfectly usable for basic netbook tasks, from web surfing to email to working on office docs — and it's much easier to use than Sony's P-series non-netbook.

The Sony Vaio W ran for two hours and 19 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included three-cell battery. That's disappointing for a netbook, especially as these are systems designed for on-the-road use. Our battery drain test is especially gruelling, so you can expect somewhat longer life from casual web surfing and office use.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio W
Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2

Jalbum photo conversion test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2
Sony Vaio W

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2
Sony Vaio W

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2
Sony Vaio W

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Basems posted a review   

I've got a Sony Vaio VGNSR16GNS and the screen has gone (half blurred) without any reason..
The Adapter also has become faulty (no power) without any bad use

What is worse the customer service for the warranty is EXTREMELY BAD..behind the long maintenance time (over 3 weeks), the Sony Center (SonyCentral in Sydney)customer service representative as well as the third party service providers was so rude...
Never Buy Sony Vaio
You can contact me if you need to confirm my experience with Sony Vaio

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User Reviews / Comments  Sony Vaio W

  • Basems



    "I've got a Sony Vaio VGNSR16GNS and the screen has gone (half blurred) without any reason..
    The Adapter also has become faulty (no power) without any bad use

    What is worse the..."

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