If my experience is any indication of a trend, OEMs need to be very concerned about the impact of netbooks for businesses. Over the past several months, I’ve received inquiries from every single one of my business customers wanting to know about netbooks. They are pricing notebooks and are quickly coming to the conclusion that what they need can be met with a $400 netbook. In fact, as I write this, one of my customers has borrowed two of my netbooks (the Samsung NC10 and the HP Mini 1000) to try out during some meeetings. All they need to do is type in Word, check email, and browse the web – all things that a netbook excel at. Battery life, a comfortable keyboard, and light-weight are key factors. Another one of my customers is looking at netbooks to wheel around on an inventory management cart. Another just wants a few to throw in a pool of floater laptops for people who primarily use a desktop at work, but occassionally work from home or travel.
As part of evaluating some netbooks for my customers, I went out to Staples and picked up one of the $899 Sony Vaio P’s. The price was out of line for what my customers are looking for, but the keyboard, size, and specs looked attractive enough to investigate a little further as they matched up well with other netbooks. When I unboxed the Sony Vaio P, I thought I had entered mobility heaven. The P was small, feather light, and the keyboard was a dream to type on. I especially loved the track stick, which in my opinion, is a huge improvement over the trackpads / mouse buttons on other netbooks. However, my initial enthusiasm quickly faded away as I began to actually use the P.
I ran in to three main areas that caused me return the P to Staples within 24 hours: performance, price, and resolution.
The $899 Sony Vaio P I purchased at Staples had a 1.33 mhz processor, 2gb of RAM, and a standard 60 gb harddrive, and Windows Vista Home Basic. The initial out of box experience had 80+ running processes and utilizing 1 gb + of RAM with no “regular” applications running. Resuming from hibernation took at least minute, with a cold boot taking several minutes. Starting up Internet Explorer, Word, Chrome, etc found me double clicking the shortcut multiple times because it didn’t appear the application was loading; only to find out 15 – 30 seconds later multiple browser / application windows loading. While moving windows around the screen, I experienced a lot of window trail artifacts, similar to what you’d experience if you set the mouse pointer to have trails. I honestly felt like I had stepped back in time to the early 90’s with regards to performance. It was that frustrating. I know some of our readers well enough to know that you will ask if I installed Windows 7 on it. No I did not. Windows 7 isn’t out yet and I wouldn’t consider deploying Windows 7 for customers until it was released. I was evaluating the Sony Vaio P on what I could deploy right now.
As I mentioned earlier, the Sony Vaio P I picked up at Staples was $899 and came with Windows Vista Basic. In my opinion, the Vaio P is priced $500 too high. Compared to other netbooks I’ve used, there is absolutely nothing in the Sony Vaio P to warrant a $899 price tag, especially considering the specs. About the only thing you get extra is another gb of ram and a higher resolution screen. The P comes standard with a 4-cell battery which will net you about 2 hours of battery life. To get upwards of 4 hours, you’d need to seperately purchase a 6-cell battery. To get performance up to even being usable, one would have to look at the model with the a 64gb SSD drive. However, that ends up costing $1199, and still only has a 1.33 ghz processor. The Sony Vaio P is priced at least $500 too much.
I’m normally a high resolution kind-of-guy. I loved the 1400 x 1050 resolution in Toshiba’s M400 Tablet PC and Lenovo’s X61 Tablet PC. At work, I use an external monitor and I will tick the resolution up as high as it will go. However, squeezing 1600 x 768 on a 8″ screen was just too much for my eyes, and I knew my customers would hate it. Most of the time, I had to hold the Vaio P close to my face in order to read a web page, and even then my eyes strained to read the text. I know people struggle with constant scrolling with the 1024 x 600 resolution found in most netbooks, but I have to say, I’d rather deal with that problem than go blind trying to read a webpage on the Vaio P.
Needless to say, my quick analysis showed the Vaio P to be a non-winner for my customers needs. In addition to not meeting my customers needs, I would never consider the Vaio P for me, for members of my family, students, or suggest the Vaio P to friends of mine looking for an inexpensive ultra-mobile computer. The performance, price, and screen resolution issues are too glaring for it to be seriously considered. There are better choices out there in the MSI Wind, Samsung NC10, HP Mini 1000, and Asus 1000HE.