Toybox: Sony Vaio pocket-companion cute but expensive

Not a work-horse machine but for the occasional email it may work just fine

Sony’s ultraportable Vaio VGN-P15G arrived at my desk last week.

Measuring 245 by 20 by 120 mm, and weighing in at 599 grams, it resembles a slightly larger than normal pencil case. It would easily slip into your bag or even your pocket.

My review unit has a 64GB solid-state drive powered by Intel’s Atom Z520 processors, running at 1.33 GHz. It’s got 2GB of RAM and ships with Windows Vista Home Premium. Models with a 60GB hard drive are also available.

The 1600x768 LED display is just over 7 inches wide. Sony says it is an 8-inch screen and this is true if measured diagonally.

The Vaio P-series comes in a in a range of glossy colours — red, green, black and white.

The VGN-P15 has a built-in webcam, as well as noise-cancelling technology and included headphones (only with the VGN-P15G model). Unfortunately, the headphones had disappeared somewhere along the way before I got my review unit so I don’t know what they are like.

The tiny machine also has built-in wireless LAN 802.11b/g/Draft n and Bluetooth. It sports two USB ports, a SD card slot, a memory card slot and a display port.

To sum up its advantages, the VGN-P15 is cute and lightweight with a nice colour range. It also gets extra points for its surprisingly small charger.

One of its features, “instant mode”, enables a quick boot up into Sony’s Xross Media Bar interface and access to music, video, photos and the web — without having to wait for Vista to boot. The webcam, located in the top right-hand corner of the panel, is also pretty cool.

On the downside, sacrificing the mouse pad to save space, to me, was a mistake – I found the stick pointer difficult and annoying to use. I also found the keyboard quite difficult to type on. Sure, it is not meant to be a power-user work machine, though for the occasional email or jotting numbers down while out in the field it may work just fine. But I felt like I spent more time trying to do things on the VGN-P15 and getting annoyed when it didn’t work, rather than actually using it.

As expected with a lightweight machine like this, battery life is short. Sony claims you can get up to three hours of use out of it, but I think that would require sticking to low-power tasks.

In my opinion — as cute and light as it is — with a recommended retail price of $2,299.95, the VGN-P15G is quite expensive for what it offers.

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