At first blush, this thing is just stunning. It's impossibly thin, light and "short," seemingly designed to merely accommodate a keyboard and a screen, nothing else. The glossy top along with the perimeter buttons, lights and ports are distinctly VAIO, which should probably tell you as much as you need to know about the aesthetics -- Sony isn't breaking a lot of new ground here design-wise.
The shiny lid is incredibly smudgable, but while the screen on the flip side is fairly glossy, it's not distractingly so, and the utterly sharp and bright screen LCD cuts through any glare that might occur -- still, you're in for a bit of trouble using this thing outdoors. And that resolution? It's pretty dang squint-inducing, but for some reason it's clear enough to actually be usable, and if it's not there are zoom in and out function keys to make the experience a bit easier on the eyes -- just make sure to get your glasses prescription checked before you drive yourself to blindness.
We found the keyboard a bit stiff at first, but it's been growing on us -- the hard button presses are somewhat reassuring. The layout is very natural, and we were touch typing in no time, something we can't say for a majority of our netbook experiences. The trackpoint-style pointer has grown on us as well, and we actually appreciate the subtleties of its movement as compared to a touchpad, since the high resolution screen requires some very specific mousing to be able to work with. We're also big fans of the mouse button layout, perfectly placed below the spacebar. If you're a real ninja, you can actually click with the trackpoint, but it's a bit sensitive, so we're still building up to it.
Unfortunately, as well as much of this seems laid out, we're still having a bit of trouble with the form factor. It's difficult to use on a lap or when lying down, and even when flat on a desk there's some awkwardness to the "shortness" of it all. There's no palm rest, so as thin as the laptop is, there's still a bit of a lift to the keyboard, which isn't exactly angled to meet our fingers.
More exciting is the incredibly small power brick, which can be attached to a small breakout box that has a VGA port and Ethernet, and plugs into a small proprietary port on the side.Performance
This is probably going to be the main pain point with this laptop. Windows Vista is a hefty load to bear, and even with a stripped down XP install or Linux distro, Atom is Atom -- all that sexiness doesn't make it go away. Perhaps the best illustration of this fact is Sony's own XMB, which has a dedicated shortcut button under the keyboard, is slow to load and choppy to use, ironic for an interface that runs just fine on a $200 PSP.
We've seen worse netbook web browsing experiences, but we certainly wouldn't call this "snappy." Scrolling is choppy, and pages take three or four times longer to load than on a "real" computer. It's better than smartphone browsing, but it doesn't seem like $900 worth of surfing.
Other aspects of the OS seem a little better -- Word launches pretty fast, and we haven't had any trouble hopping into connection utilities and connecting to WiFi and EV-DO. Sony's proprietary apps and utilities are, as always, the real killers (in the negative sense of the word), and we're guessing a clean install that lets us avoid those entirely is the safest way to avoid slowdowns and frustration. Our other thought here is that Window 7 -- well enough optimized -- could be the P's real killer app, so we'll be looking into that.Wrap-up
So yeah, it's not the netbook that will replace your laptop, not by a long shot, but there's some cool stuff happening here. $900 worth of cool things? That's your call.