We last saw the Sony VAIO P a few months back, when it was first launched, and back then we were certainly impressed with the unit, though slightly none too pleased with its sluggish performance. This time, it’s back, and clad in bright orange, so let’s see if there are any changes besides the color.
Besides removing the glossy looks of the first VAIO P and adding vibrant colors to the mix, Sony has also added some hardware tweaks to make using this "not-netbook" easier. First up is the addition of a touchpad and its buttons at the right and left of the screen respectively, which makes for easier navigation.
Sony calls this new feature a mobile nav grip and we found ourselves using the touchpad more compared to the trackpoint. Sadly, we found our thumb always drifting out of the touch area and having to constantly readjust. Still, it’s a pretty nice implementation as opposed to a touch screen, which given the small 8-inch high resolution (1600 x 768) screen, would be terribly difficult unless you have toothpick-sized fingers.
Other new features include an accelerometer, which allows you to use the notebook in portrait mode, like an eBook reader, along with a feature that allows a user to “flick” through pictures and documents by shaking the notebook either left or right. We didn’t find this particularly useful, but your mileage may vary.
Gone from the new VAIO P is the previous quick start feature that uses Sony’s Xross Media Bar (XMB) that’s also found on its PlayStation lineup. In its place, comes a Splashtop OS for you to access the web quickly. Then again, it took about 20ish seconds last time for the XMB to boot up, and the VAIO P with Windows 7 Home Premium takes about the same time, which is probably why Sony decided to remove that feature altogether and replace it with the quicker Splashtop.
Performance wise, we found the VAIO P to be quite smooth, definitely much better than the previous iteration that was using Windows Vista. Windows 7 probably plays a big part in the unit's improved boot time, but having a faster Intel Atom Z540 running at 1.86GHz helps a lot.
On benchmarks like PCMark Vantage, we’re seeing scores that are pretty much in the netbook class at 1308 PCMarks. And while it uses an SSD, it doesn’t seem any faster than a normal 5400RPM HDD; on HD Tach, we’re seeing slower burst and read speeds. Copying speeds seem fine on the whole, though our real world test of copying a bunch of files showed that the SSD on the VAIO P was still slower.
As for the battery life, Sony rates the VAIO P at 4 to 4.5 hours, and our video looping test showed it lasting around 187 minutes, or just over 3 hours. That’s pretty decent, and with its light and portable build, makes the VAIO P a notebook that’s definitely easy to carry around.
While we do like the matte surface, the hideous orange color maybe isn’t just the right one for the VAIO P. The white and black version both look good though, so avoid the orange version if it ain't your color. On the whole, the improvements made to the VAIO P impressed us but the hefty starting price of S$1599 leaves us seriously considering giving this a miss instead.