Sony's low power, high-class pocket PC is an ambitious attempt to redefine portable computing. Just don't call it a netbook, okay?
Ever noticed that extravagantly wealthy movie characters have those extra-long wallets, just to keep their notes pristine and crease-free? When pulled from a tailored coat with the mandatory leather gloves, it leaves you in no doubt that they’re a highly minted individual.
Sliding a Sony P-Series out of a jacket has exactly the same feel and significance. Its improbably slim chassis and mica-flecked casing instantly mark you as a man or woman of wealth and taste. It’s ludicrously likeable, one of the few computers able to elicit gasps of speechless envy from onlookers.
Not just a pretty face
Good looks alone can't justify an £850 price tag, mind, and while 'value' isn't in the P-Series' lexicon, it's a comprehensive collection of everything a portable PC should have.
On the networking front there's Wireless-N, 3G and Bluetooth, while cabled ethernet is through a combined RJ45/VGA adaptor to keep the chassis size down.
It's even capable, like the iPhone, of accessing GPS data from the cell network. There's no bundled software for turn-by-turn navigation, but it certainly adds a dimension to Google Maps.
Sony gets the basics right too. The keyboard, for example, is an example to all other mini-notebooks of how it should be done. It's large and, although the low profile keys don't feel very responsive, easy to type on.
The unusually proportioned screen doesn’t have the best dimensions for web and document viewing, being very long and low, but it is obscenely high resolution for a machine of this size. The 8in diagonal contains a massive 1600x768 pixels, and while tight viewing angles can make the backlight look occasionally patchy, it's very bright and sharp.
If you're worried about text being too small, you can increase the font DPI in the Windows control panel. The only real issue is that to earn its narrow lines the P-Series has forgone the luxury of a mousepad, and stabbing at tiny icons with the oversensitive cursor nipple can be more frustrating than making a pixel perfect jump in an early 2D platformer.
Just too slow
There is one more compromise that's harder to bear, though. The tiny size means no processor fans, and that means Sony has fallen back on a 1.33Ghz Atom CPU that's slower than the one found in a typical netbook. Worse, it's been coupled with the most demanding operating system currently available - Windows Vista - and enough bloatware to cripple a fully-specced dual core laptop.
Not even the P-Series' gorgeous looks can blind you to the frustrating inconvenience of a three-minute boot and complete system hang every time you open a new window.
There's a quick boot option into a Linux-powered version of Sony's XrossMedia Bar controller, familiar from the PSP and PS3, but even this chugs a little when web browsing or playing back video thanks to the slow CPU. And don't even try watching the kinds of HD content that screen was made for unless you're a stop-frame animation fan.
Like the giant pocketbook, then, the P-Series suggests entrance into a higher world of sophistication and power, but most of us will want something with a little more practical purpose. Love it, lust after it, but think carefully before you actually buy one.
Sony P Series review
More beauty than brains, the P-Series is just too slow to be your constant companion