First thing’s first – if you’re expecting the Sony VAIO W-series to be a super-budget Acer Aspire One rival, you’ll be disappointed. It isn’t, but accept it for what it is – a pricey but highly portable netbook – and there’s a chance you may just get on.
The best thing about the VAIO W is its 10.1-inch screen, which is without a doubt the most impressive we’ve seen on a netbook so far. With a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution, image quality is incredibly crisp and smooth. LED backlighting also offers vivid colour reproduction, although the glossy finish frustrates and reflects in bright conditions. The higher resolution great for daily use, with websites easily fitting on screen, and the widescreen aspect ratio ideally suited to movie playback.
The extra real estate onscreen lulls you into thinking you’ll also be able to work with a couple of windows open, which can be a bad thing. With the now default Intel Atom N280 processor and 1024MB of memory in place, it’s simply not powerful enough to multi-task, slowing down to a crawl if you do run a couple of applications simultaneously. The most disappointing aspect of the VAIO W is its battery life, lasting for just under 3 hours between charges – considerably less than many of its rivals.
The design of the VAIO W is also highly successful, with a mini-me style that looks nearly identical to the company’s mid-range laptops. With an isolated keyboard design, bright textured plastics and curved edges, it’s stylish and of a high quality, with robust materials used throughout. The 1.2kg weight also makes it easy to take with you wherever you go.
The keyboard offers good usability, with decent spacing and keys that are large and responsive. As with many keyboards of this design, it features a very shallow keystroke, with the keys moving a minimal amount as you type. It’s easy to adjust to this, but it’s worth trying before you buy.
Sony has fitted mic and headphone jacks on the left-hand side of the VAIO W, along with a VGA-out port for hooking up external monitors. On the right-hand side you’ll find two USB ports and an Ethernet adapter, with an SD and Sony MS card reader on the front.
Wireless connectivity is provided via Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi, with the features list rounded off by a 160GB hard drive.
With a price that puts it at the top of the netbook market, the VAIO W had to be good. It is, but it could quite easily have been a lot better. Most disappointing is the battery life, and with rivals offering up to 8 or 9 hours between charges, it’s difficult to recommend this machine as a tool to work with when away from the office.
If you’re just after a netbook for the daily commute, however, and battery life or price isn’t an issue, then it’s easy to like the VAIO W. The screen is simply stunning, and the design puts most other netbooks to shame.