Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Sony P-series Lifestyle PC: Just don't call it a Netbook

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Much like Apple, Sony likes to keep its Vaio products aimed at mid-to-high-end buyers and generally eschews the budget end of the market (although there are actually a handful of sub-$600 Vaios we've reviewed fairly favorably).

When it comes to Netbooks, it's no different; Sony's entry into the very hot minilaptop category shares a lot with Netbooks such as the Dell Mini 9 or Asus Eee PC, but clearly goes out of its way to avoid being lumped in with them.

The P-series Lifestyle PC is one of the smallest laptops we've seen; it is almost similar to a UMPC, but with a traditional clamshell laptop design. The widescreen 8-inch 1600x768 display and tiny keyboard make for a form factor that has roughly the same footprint as a standard white business envelope, and is less than 1-inch thick, weighing 1.4 pounds.

To fit a reasonably full-featured PC into a chassis this small, some sacrifices had to be made, and we're worried the lack of a standard touch pad (instead there's a ThinkPad-like pointing stick), will keep this new system from being as useful as it could be. It does, however, include a 3G mobile broadband antenna, 802.11n Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth, with mobile broadband service provided by Verizon.

Like several other laptops we've seen recently, there's a pre-Windows instant-on operating system, which uses the familiar Sony cross-media bar menu found on the PlayStation 3 and handheld PSP consoles. Once you boot into Windows, instead of the XP variety found on most Netbooks, it has Vista, although the 2GB of RAM (up to 4GB capacity) should help it run smoothly.

Sony told us it was planning on marketing this almost clutch-size laptop specifically to women, but we didn't take them seriously until we saw these lines in the official press release:

"Designed for the fashionista in all of us, it's the ideal companion..." "The spacing between keys has also been engineered to help reduce typing mistakes making it perfect for long fingernails."

The P-series Lifestyle PC will retail for about $900, and options include solid state (up to 128GB) or standard hard drives and a variety of colors, including garnet red, emerald green, onyx black, crystal white, and classic (matte) black, with matching accessories including a fitted leather case. More photos are after the jump.

New York native Dan Ackerman, a former radio DJ turned journalist, has written about technology and music for publications including Spin, Blender, The Hollywood Reporter, and USA Today. He hosts the weekly Digital City podcast and the New York edition of Editors' Office Hours. Dan's new album, Tales Out of Night School, is available now. E-mail Dan.

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