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Sony Vaio P11Z/R review

Barry de la Rosa
24 Apr 2009
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
783
inc VAT

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Specifications

8 in 1,600x768 display, 638g, 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z520, 2.00GB RAM, 60GB disk, Windows Vista Home Premium, Xross Media Bar

Sony has a reputation for designing novel little gadgets, and the P-Series is unlike any other laptop we've seen recently.

Like many other netbooks it uses an Intel Atom processor and has no optical drive, but it's far smaller and lighter than its rivals.

The P11Z/R is less than half the size and around half the weight of our favourite netbook, Samsung's NC10. It's common to describe laptops according to the size of their screen, but that doesn't tell the full story here. The P11Z/R's 8in widescreen LCD doesn't take up all the space available in the lid, and is more than twice as long as it is high, with a resolution of 1,600x768.

Although we'd never complain of having too high a resolution, the pixel size here is ludicrously small. There are some advantages: with a pixel density this high you won't be troubled by jagged edges in images, but then again you won't be able to read 10pt text easily, either. If you increase the size of the text, you'll quickly find that the screen height of 768 pixels doesn't give you much room for reading documents or web pages, meaning you'll have to do a lot of scrolling.

Its bizarre aspect ratio of 2.08:1 doesn't match either HD TV or typical Hollywood widescreen formats. It's a screen shape that's well suited to watching either TV programmes or movies, though, with only small black bars appearing. Disappointingly, the P11Z/R's processor and Intel GMA 500 graphics chipset aren't up to the task of playing smooth full-screen video from either iPlayer or YouTube, with lots of stuttering and dropped frames.

It's not only the graphics chipset that disappoints. The 1.33GHz Atom Z520 processor fared poorly compared to the 1.6GHz N270 chip found in most netbooks. Even with 2GB of RAM, the P11Z/R is noticeably slower in Windows Vista compared to other netbooks on which we've installed Vista. Given this, we're surprised that a Windows XP option isn't on offer. Battery life is very respectable, lasting four hours and 46 minutes in our light-use test. This is better than many full-sized netbooks weighing twice as much.

There are only two USB ports on the P11Z/R, along with two memory card slots, one each for SD and Memory Stick cards. There's a docking port, with the small dock included in the box adding a VGA output and an Ethernet port. There's built-in support for Bluetooth and Draft-N WiFi, and there's also a 3G broadband modem. This isn't locked to a specific network, so you can choose the mobile broadband package that suits you best. A GPS locator is also provided, so you can take full advantage of mapping services such as Google Maps.

The keyboard uses flat, separated keys. There's very little travel, and the keys are just small enough to make touch-typing uncomfortable. As the keyboard takes up all the available space, there isn't room for a touchpad. Instead, there's a touch stick with the buttons set on the edge of the case. The space bar is very close to these and, when typing, our thumbs often hit the buttons rather than the bar.

The P11Z/R is unlike any netbook we've seen before. It's a desirable piece of kit, but it's still hard to recommend. Its size and weight are impressive, but you're paying a huge premium for these, as most netbooks match or exceed its performance and features and cost around £500 less.

Basic Specifications

Rating***
ProcessorIntel Atom Z520
Processor clock speed1.33GHz
Memory2.00GB
Memory slots1
Memory slots free0
Maximum memory2GB
Size20x245x120mm
Weight638g
Pointing devicetouchstick
Power consumption standby0W
Power consumption idle8W
Power consumption active11W

Display

Viewable size8 in
Native resolution1,600x768
Graphics ProcessorIntel GMA 500
Graphics/video portsnone
Graphics Memory0MB

Storage

Total storage capacity60GB
Optical drive modelnone
Optical drive typeN/A

Ports and Expansion

USB ports2
Bluetoothyes
Wired network portsnone
Wireless networking support802.11n
PC Card slotsnone
ModemNo
Supported memory cardsSD, Memory Stick Pro/Duo
Other portsminijack audio output, docking station connecter w/ VGA, RJ-45

Miscellaneous

Carrying caseNo
Operating systemWindows Vista Home Premium, Xross Media Bar
Operating system restore optionrestore partition

Buying Information

Warrantyone year RTB
Price£783
Detailswww.sonystyle.co.uk
Supplierhttp://www.lambda-tek.com/componentshop