After the ludicrously pricey Vaio P and the more modest but still-too-expensive Vaio W, Sony has learned at last that the reason people like netbooks is because they're cheap. Its latest low-power 10in portable blog machine is in far more favourable monetary territory than its predecessors.

Third time is clearly a charm. It doesn't just compete with similarly specced netbooks, it actually undercuts the likes of the Toshiba NB305 and the HP Mini 210 by a few quid.

Pine Trail powered

In terms of design and build quality, the Vaio M feels almost identical to the outgoing Vaio W. That's no bad thing, as the latter machine was well received for being well put together and tough enough to take a battering in the bottom of your bag.

The key difference between the two, and the reason Sony has been able to reduce the price to something acceptable, is that this is one of the new breed of netbooks powered by Intel's Pine Trail revision of the Atom processor.

The Atom N450 has both a traditional CPU and a graphics accelerator in one silicon package, making it much cheaper to produce, while at the same time marginally increasing performance over the older two chip design.


Disappointing battery

It's also, theoretically, more power efficient. We've seen some Pine Trail netbooks, like the Samsung N220, put in eight and a half hours of web browsing before needing a recharge.

The Vaio M, however, falls far short of this, lasting less than four hours in our standard test. Given that the battery doesn't appear to be a smaller capacity than those found in other Pine Trail netbooks, there's no reason it should be such a relatively poor performer.

Just another netbook

Even if the battery life were up to the high standards of its peers, there's little to distinguish the Vaio M from other netbooks. The Toshiba NB305 has a better screen, the Samsung N220 has a secondary HD video acceleration chip and the Asus 1005PE is thinner and has 500GB of online storage for free.

The Vaio M has some interesting software, like the RSS feed-reading dock, but nothing that really distinguishes it. It doesn't even have the traditional Sony Firewire port built in.


It's not a bad netbook at all, but given the huge amount of choice out there, not one that's easy to recommend either.


Stuff says... 

Sony VAIO M review

Well built, but has a disappointing battery life compared to its netbook rivals