Sony's new Vaio P is a tiny notebook computer with an ultra-wide high-resolution screen.

Sony would have us believe its new tiddler-sized VAIO P-series notebooks are ultra portables, not netbooks. In our early trial spent with the range, we would agree that they're certainly more portable than even the smallest netbook. But they're also much more expensive.

There are three models to choose from, starting with the VGN-P11Z at £849, then the more business-oriented VGN-P19WN/Q at £969, and a faster VGN-P19VN/Q for £1368.

The first two versions share a specification that includes 1.33GHz Intel Atom processor and 60GB hard drive. To differentiate the business model it comes only in black, has Vista Business installed, and includes a port expander which adds ethernet and VGA video out.

The top model uses a 1.66GHz Atom with 128GB SSD for storage. All P-series notebooks include 2GB of RAM, an 8in ultra-wide 1600x768 glossy screen, and a port complement of two USB and a headphone socket.

There's a webcam and mic, and two card slots - one for an SD Card, the other for Sony's Memory Stick. They all include a 3G modem, only requiring a valid SIM card to get online wirelessly.

For mousing around there's an IBM-style pointy stick in the middle of the keyboard. And the small hi-res display means the tiniest screen fonts and Windows buttons you can imagine.

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At 245x120x20mm it's one of the smallest portable PCs you'll find, smaller than just about any computer running a traditional operating system. Think Psion organiser with Windows.

But then again, the P11Z is also conspicuously less powerful. Any compact computer must find the balance between weight, size, heat and battery life. Our hands-on showed that Sony has nailed the weight and heat issues. It never got hot, and at 638g the VAIO P is an extremely lightweight proposition. Performance did suffer though. Badly.

The problem's exacerbated by Sony's bewildering choice of operating system. Windows Vista is installed across the board, with no option to sidegrade to Windows XP. Sony had even downgraded the Aero interface to Basic, just to get video to play.

Ergonomics aren't great either. The keyboard has tiny keys with limited travel, making fast typing a no-no. And the trackpoint will not endear itself to those who welcome the more versatile trackpad.

NEXT PAGE: An earlier 'first look' from CES 2009 in Las Vegas...

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Sony's new Vaio P is a tiny notebook computer with ultra-wide screen.

It's a diminutive 638g miniaturised laptop with an 8in 1600-by-768 resolution screen. We were among the lucky few to get our hands on a pre-production evaluation unit from Sony. In the short time that we've used it so far, here's what we like and dislike about the P.

The Sony Vaio P scores points on its insanely small size. It's really tiny. In fact, its depth is only a hair longer than an iPhone 3g. It may be a little too small for some, but if you're looking for the ultimate in tiny notebooks, the Vaio P is up your alley.

The 8in screen packs in an extremely high resolution of 1600-by-768 pixels. Text and interface widgets are remarkably crisp on-screen, but very small. Also, mousing onscreen with the built-in trackpoint (it has no trackpad) can be a little cumbersome; we find ourselves having to lean in a little in order to mouse around the screen.

We haven't had it long enough to get a good read on possible eye strain problems, but if you struggle to see small text on typical notebook PCs as it is, you'd probably be better off looking at more conventional netbooks.

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We find the keyboard a bit small and it takes some getting used to, but the keyboard is usable. We found that the slight differences in layout between the Sony Vaio P's keyboard and a more typical notebook keyboard threw us off more than the keyboard's size.

Perhaps the best aspects of the Sony Vaio P are its integrated Verizon EVDO cellular broadband connection (US model) and its capability to fetch GPS data without an internet connection. The Vaio P's EVDO connection isn't quite as fast as a cable connection, but it's still pretty decent.

  • Nick Mediati, PC World

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Sony Vaio VGN-P11Z: Specs

  • Intel processor Z520/1.33GHz
  • Windows Vista Home Premium with Sony Vaio Xross Media Bar
  • 2GB 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM
  • 8in X-black LCD display
  • built-in WWAN
  • Bluetooth v2.1
  • 120x245x19.8mm
  • 638g
  • Intel processor Z520/1.33GHz
  • Windows Vista Home Premium with Sony Vaio Xross Media Bar
  • 2GB 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM
  • 8in X-black LCD display
  • built-in WWAN
  • Bluetooth v2.1
  • 120x245x19.8mm
  • 638g

OUR VERDICT

We tried an early sample, so will reserve judgement until we see a production version next month. Hopefully by then Sony will have found a way to quicken the P11’s tortoise performance.

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