The Sony Vaio P: Too Slow and Too Pricey

sony_vaio_pIf 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.

17 Comments

  1. Frank

    04/07/2009 at 12:03 pm

    The Sony is as fast as any other netbook. (similar processor) It’s possible that it was loaded with bloatware, but after a few minutes spending to remove the programs and turning off not needed graphic gimmicks it should have been as fast as any other netbook. So the speed is the same.
    The resolution, well you just could have increased the DPI settings in Windows and everything would have become larger and better to read.
    In my opinion the Vaio P is the only real netbook, the rest is a small not useful notebook. The VAIO P is portable, fast, robust, stylish, has a great keyboard, …

    But I also have to admit that it’s too expensive compared with the rest and the battery life is too short.

    Reply

  2. Rob Bushway

    04/07/2009 at 12:05 pm

    I bumped the DPI up as well. It helped with the desktop, but not with browsing via Chrome, etc).

    Reply

  3. James Kendrick

    04/07/2009 at 1:07 pm

    The Japanese model I am evaluating with the 1.86 HGz Atom and the SSD is as fast as any netbook I’ve tried with XP. It’s expensive though. I recommend Firefox on the VAIO P due to how well CTRL-+ and CTRL- – works to zoom that high-res screen in and out. The mobility of the Sony is hard to believe but oh so nice.

    Reply

  4. Xavier

    04/07/2009 at 1:11 pm

    I like how the VAIO P looks and some of the extra features, but won’t be buying one anytime soon either.

    Two hours of battery life for such an expensive device is a deal breaker for me. You can get a lot of very nice machines for $899.

    Portability and affordability are two ‘must haves’ for any netbook.

    Reply

  5. Oliver

    04/07/2009 at 2:56 pm

    So I take it you didn’t like the P? ;)

    I actually was impressed with it at CES. I don’t know/recall what the processor speed was. But it certainly didn’t seem slower than, say, my HP 2133 (which isn’t exactly known for blazing speeds). The size/portability is just amazing. The screen looked usable. As a 3rd laptop (after my X60t and my Mini) it would be great for travel where the iPhone might be not enough but I don’t expect to do much on the computer. 2 hrs of battery life would be fine in that case. Sadly, “in these tough economic times” I won’t be spending $900+ on a 3rd computer.

    Reply

  6. benz145

    04/07/2009 at 3:49 pm

    I don’t think the comparison of the VAIO P to a netbook is a fair one.

    Reply

  7. Genghis Khent

    04/07/2009 at 3:51 pm

    Rob, I’m glad you didn’t pull any punches.

    I realize I might be comparing apples and oranges, but do you think you will reach the same basic conclusions with the upcoming OQO Model 2+?

    Reply

  8. Rob Bushway

    04/07/2009 at 3:54 pm

    @benz – I disagree wholeheartedly. Comparison to a netbook is relevant and fair, and totally within my analysis for my customers.

    @Genghis Khent – I’m not sure. I’m expecting the performance to be much better, and I don’t think people shopping for a netbook and those looking for an OQO are the same audience. The OQO targets those people who primarily work on their feet and need to type while standing / walking. I never had a problem with previous resolutions on the OQO, either. In fact, I liked it.

    Reply

  9. Jim

    04/07/2009 at 4:32 pm

    I have a P588 version–1.3 ghz but with the SSD. I tweaked Vista–largely with an automated tweaker and then cut down on start items. It is running pretty fast. Running vista better than my Fuji P1610 core solo processor did. I am takend with the keyboard and total portabiity. Of course I have only had it now 4 days . . . so we will see.

    Reply

  10. Genghis Khent

    04/07/2009 at 4:46 pm

    Rob, good point that the usage profile for the OQO is different. Though I think the OQO also targets those who would like a pocketable device. The Vaio P isn’t, notwithstanding that commercial with the model with the Vaio P in her back jeans pocket.

    Reply

  11. Kenrick

    04/07/2009 at 5:36 pm

    I’m pretty happy with my Vaio P, and I have the same model (1.33 Ghz, 60 Gb hard drive). I did pay for the larger battery and am able to go up to 6 hours on a single charge which lasts through a business day for me. I love the form factor, keyboard, portability, and the fact that it is totally silent (in contrast to my OQO 02). Is it worth the premium price? I dunno, but I do like the machine.

    I had to bump up the DPI and use zooming in various apps like Chrome or Firefox to see the text better. This does mean you have to do a lot more vertical scrolling since there just aren’t as many pixels in the vertical dimension if zooming is on.

    The machine is slow to boot, but once everything is loaded it seems pretty responsive. I did have to apply various optimizations to Vista. I normally leave mine in sleep mode (not hibernate) and it comes out of sleep and is usable in under 10 seconds. In my usage models lately I’m in a lot more meetings with tables so my OQO doesn’t get much action anymore.

    Reply

  12. Jim

    04/07/2009 at 8:00 pm

    My return from sleep is also very fast–fastest of anything I have worked on. It is the processor for sure that can slow things down–I put the task mgr cpu meter on my notification bar and I can look there—times when there are lags are the full processor usage. But those are pretty rare actually in my non-intensive–net, email, word, powerpoint, jott, ms money type usage world.

    Reply

  13. Jim

    04/07/2009 at 8:01 pm

    Also discovered a great idea with it–pu the task bar on the side. With the extra wide screen–you lose nothing–still get a full web page and all and only lose all that extra space around the pages. Works good in word too.

    Reply

  14. skeelee

    04/07/2009 at 8:53 pm

    Did some calculation and found that the screen of the P Vaio has a resolution of 199 pixels per inch. Of course it would be difficult to read.
    I suggest that the density of the screen pixels be included in reviews and also to come up with a maximum density beyond which it becomes too difficult to read, so that the readers are properly guided

    Reply

  15. HG

    04/07/2009 at 9:52 pm

    Rob that’s too bad you didn’t find the Sony P as useful as many others have. I had seen the Sony P and used it back in January in Las Vegas and really liked it. I finally did pick one up 2 weeks ago at the Sony Store. I have to say how crisp the screen is, and is very bright. You can have the screen set to the number 3 brightness and it’s very bright. When you increased the DPI did you also go and set your fonts to bold? This makes fonts much clearer in web browser, in programs, etc… you can view text very clear this way with no problem. Like James mentioned, if you use the Ctrl + or — you can zoom in and in addition to that you can use the F11 to get full screen web browsing. You can also use the Fn F9 or Fn F10 to zoom in when in other programs like Word, Excel, etc… works very nice. The keyboard as you know is excellent for the size of the device. I got the basic model and everything runs and opens without having to double click the browser to open it, or other programs. I have loaded Office 2007 Ultimate, Adobe Elements , and windows live sync. Regarding battery life I picked up the 4-cell battery got 30% off. If you use the Vaio Optimized you can get from 2.5 to 3 hrs of battery life, with WiFi and BT on, which is what I use and works great. If you turn off Wi-Fi you can get 3.25 hrs of battery life on the 2-Cell. With the 4-Cell like everyone else you can get up to 6 hrs and with Wi-Fi and BT on you could get 5 hrs. If you are only browsing and maybe working on Word and checking email you can actually set the settings to Vaio maximum battery and you’ll be amazed how much the battery lasts.

    Reply

  16. Steven

    04/08/2009 at 9:32 am

    At least you don’t have a strong opinion about it. haha

    Reply

  17. scoobie

    04/08/2009 at 6:46 pm

    I get your point Rob, especially on the price factor, but compared with the dull, dull netbook sector this is a breath of fresh air from Sony. This sites about portability and one thing for sure is this little pricey netbook from Sony is a lot more portable than most other netbooks out there.

    Reply

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