Originally dubbed a "Lifestyle PC," Sony's Vaio P was an odd hybrid of Netbook and UMPC. Sony went out of its way to not call the original version a "Netbook," but its Intel Atom processor and small size made it hard to consider it anything but that. We ended up admiring the design and ingenuity that went into creating this envelope-size machine, but balked at its anemic performance and awkward input tools. At the time, we said, "Sony's upscale Atom-powered Lifestyle PC has the components of a cheaper machine but the design of a more expensive one."
We got a sneak peek last week at the newly revamped Vaio P, and it offers some interesting updates. Chief among them are an accelerometer for tabletlike screen rotating, and a tiny touch pad positioned along the right side of the display (equally diminutive mouse buttons sit along the right side).
The idea is that you can hold the device in two hands and surf using your thumbs. We tried it out in a brief hands-on test, and found it much easier than the tiny trackpoint that's a holdover from the original Vaio P, but precise pointing could take some getting used to. The other new addition, the accelerometer, deftly flipped the display 90 degrees when we turned the entire unit on its side, useful for reading e-books, for example.
This model has a similar 8-inch ultrawide-screen 1,600x768-pixel display to the first Vaio P, and again uses a processor from the Intel Atom family. The new design is similar, but slicker, looking more like a colorful smartphone than a shrunken-down laptop. Available colors include orange, pink, green, white, and black.
We're all in favor of inventive new laptop designs, and the Vaio P is certainly one of the most portable ways to get the full Windows 7 experience we can think of. But with such a small size (and small keyboard), the target is clearly on on-the-go Web surfing and media playback, and in an era of iPads and Android phones, that's becoming a very crowded market.
The new Sony Vaio P is available to preorder now. It starts at $800, which is about $100 less than the original version.