One week with the Sony Vaio P

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Since it's now been a full week since the Sony Vaio P came into and began dominating my gadget life (and this site), I think it's time to share some of my thoughts and early impressions on the Atom-based mini notebook. It's clear from the amount I've already written and tweeted that I can't get enough of the P, but that doesn't mean I think it's perfect.

Even though it may seem like it sometimes, I'm really not so head-over-heels in love with the device that I can't see its flaws or understand why it's not receiving rave reviews across the board. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, even if they're somewhat uninformed (for the last time: the Atom processor used in the P is not the same as the one in netbooks).

I'm really taking my time getting to know the P. Even though it's already been a week and I've been using it as often as I can, there's still a lot I haven't done or tested. For example, I haven't even turned on the GPS or looked at the Instant Mode (xross media bar). These are two compelling/unique features, I know, but I haven't had the desire or the need to check them out yet. I will eventually (and you'll know when I do), but during this first week I've been happy to carry out my usual computing routine, just do what I normally do, on my new P.

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That, then, would be my main assessment. One of the reasons I can't stop using the Vaio P is because I don't have to. There's nothing I need to do in my everyday life that I can't do on the P. Unlike with my UMPCs, I don't ever have to "save" certain tasks (e.g., long articles and emails) for the Vaio TZ, my primary computer. Why? Because the Vaio P has an amazing keyboard.

I spend the majority of my day typing, so I usually split my time between consuming information on a UMPC and creating it on my TZ. Yes, a UMPC is capable enough for me to get all of my work done, but if I'm at home (and I usually am) and the TZ is right there, it doesn't make sense to set up a Bluetooth keyboard and look at 5- to 7-inch screen. I generally enjoy using multiple devices throughout the day and like to give my TZ a break, but when there's a lot of work to do, my UMPCs are neglected. Since getting the Vaio P, however, it's actually been the TZ that's been wondering where I've been.

The only advantage the TZ has over the P for me is its larger screen (11.1" vs 8"), and though the extra inches and lower resolution are easier on my eyes for extended periods, looking at the P's display (with the help of Firefox's full-page zoom) is comfortable for several hours. And by the time my eyes are beginning to feel fatigued, it's time for a break anyway.

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Another reason I can't stop using the Vaio P is because I don't want to. I know it's very long and there's a lot of wasted space around the screen, but my god, I am seriously smitten with its design. I look at it and I immediately want to touch it. It's freakishly light (it feels like an empty shell), glossy (fingerprints are an issue, but wiping them away is just one more reason to touch the device!), and it just makes me happy. I've always been a sucker for design, though, and will overlook all kinds of shortcomings because of it (no wonder the HTC Shift and Willcom D4 are my favorite UMPCs, eh?).

So yes, even a fangirl like me is aware that the Vaio P has shortcomings. The most commonly cited ones are price and power. I've also seen gripes about the screen resolution, battery life, and mouse pointer, but cost and performance are the two main ones.

Here's my take on all of the complaints.

Is the Vaio P, which ranges between $900 and $1500 in the US, expensive? Yes, compared to the $500 netbooks most people insist on pitting it against, the P is expensive. But come on, now. Since when did "Sony" and "cheap" belong together? The Vaio brand is a premium one. And you pay for it. Simple as that. Does a $1500 Louis Vuitton purse hold your belongings any better than a $50 Nine West bag or even a $300 Coach one? No. But Louis Vuitton is Louis Vuitton. Same thing here. Whether a brand alone justifies the cost is up for you to decide, but it does for me. I'm materialistic, though, so to each his own.

I've already talked about performance and benchmarks, so you know the Vista/1.33GHz Atom Z520 processor combination doesn't bother me. Of course, my computing needs are basic and I probably spend more than 90% of my time in nothing but Firefox, which doesn't require a whole lot to run well. In truth, once I'm in Firefox, I don't notice any difference in terms of performance between the P, my TZ, or any of my UMPCs.

As for the screen resolution, Sony just seems to have always been a fan of high ones. I guess I'm sort of used to it. The UX Micro PC series, for example, have 4.5-inch screens with 1024 x 600 res; the TZ has an 11.1-inch screen with 1366 x 768 res; and the P has an 8-inch screen with 1600 x 768. In terms of eye comfort, I'd rank them like this: TZ -> P -> UX. I use the full-page zoom feature in Firefox on most sites so that I can see them from a normal laptop-like viewing distance and to reduce the amount of white space around the pages (most are optimized and fixed for 1024 x 600/768 resolutions).

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Battery life isn't impressive, but it's an improvement for me because so many of my UMPCs are two-hour devices. I haven't done any formal drain tests yet, but I'm getting just under 3 hours of browsing time over WiFi (balanced power plan, mid-brightness, all other wireless radios off) on the P. I also ordered the extended battery, which should arrive today.

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And last but not least, the fuzzy mouse pointer. Some people swear by the trackstick and applaud its inclusion on the P, while others absolutely detest it. Me? I like it. It allows the unit to be smaller than it would have been if it had a traditional touchpad, it's easy to use, and its speed and functions (single- and double-click) are customizable. I don't use touchpads like most people, though, so that could be why I took to the pointer with ease. I assume both controls are designed for one-handed use, but I use two: my right finger for the touchpad or pointer and my left finger for the mouse buttons.

So that's where I stand with the Vaio P after one week of daily use. It won't please everyone, but it pleases me.

See more Sony Vaio P features and reviews.

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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