Wednesday, 8 February 2012


Despite all the tell-tale signs that point to one—an Atom processor, small screen, and an undersized keyboard—Sony refused to call the LifeStyle PC a netbook. So officially, the company never launched one. But after watching this diminutive category seduce one laptop manufacturer after another, Sony couldn't help but fall weak at the knees, too. This time, it admits that the VAIO VPC-W11XX ($500 direct) is a netbook, and although the beautifully done design and a 1,366-by-768 resolution are admirable netbook qualities, it fails to address all the other things that have made netbooks like the Toshiba mini NB205 and Asus EeePC 1000HE (both Editors' Choices) so successful. A severely undersized keyboard and a bloated price—that merely nets you a 3-cell battery—make this netbook hard to recommend.

Though made out of plastic, a white hue and a matted finish provide the perfect concoction for warding off finger prints and smudges. Netbooks with shiny finishes tend to get dirty very quickly, as evidenced by those of the Asus 1000HE and Acer Aspire One (D250-1165). The mini NB205 has a similar finish but adds texture, while the HP Mini 5101's aluminum top is both durable and scratch resistant. With additional color options for pink and brown, the W11XX is a good looking product that will appeal to a wide group of people. At 2.6 pounds, it may not seem as heavy as the 1000HE (3.2 lbs), NB205 (2.9 lbs), and Samsung N120 (12GBK) (2.9 lbs), but all of these systems come with standard 6-cell batteries; The Sony W11XX starts with a 3-cell battery, and a 6-cell option, unfortunately, is not available yet.
The W11XX's only exceptional feature is its 1,366-by-768 resolution, as it is something rarely found on a 10-inch widescreen. Every other netbook standardizes on a 10-inch widescreen and a 1,024-by-600 resolution. Some, like the HP 5101 and the Dell Inspiron Mini 10v (stay tuned for my review), have them as options, in which you pay an additional premium; the W11XX charges you a big premium off the bat. The 89% keyboard is a disappointment, since it was Sony that started the whole tiled keyboard phenomenon with the Sony VAIO VGN-X505ZP. It looks similar to the ones found in the 1000HE and the NB205, only it's a lot smaller and a lot harder to type on, especially if you have normal sized hands. The Samsung N120 (12GBK), NB205, and Lenovo IdeaPad S12, on the other hand, have full size keyboards, so you get a better typing experience. The mouse buttons and touchpad, however, are above average but still smaller than those ones found on the 1000HE and the NB205.
While two USB ports are sufficient for an average user, most netbooks default to three. The W11XX doesn't add a specialty feature like the HP Pavilion dv2-1030US did with HDMI or the Lenovo S12 did with an Express Card slot, so leaving out the third USB port was somewhat of a conundrum. It comes with VGA, an Ethernet port, and a Webcam, as well as Bluetooth and 802.11G Wi-Fi. Hard drive capacity doesn't stray far from the herd either, as the 160GB spinning drive matches the ones found in the 1000HE and the NB205.
The W11XX uses all the latest parts—at least, the latest for a netbook. The 1.67GHz Intel Atom N280 is the same ones found in the 1000HE and the NB205, though it doesn't gain you much of a performance advantage over other netbooks. The 1GB of memory and Intel integrated graphics is par for the course with every other netbook. And if the parts weren't indication enough, our video encoding results were consistent with those of the 1000HE and the NB205, scoring 4 minutes 28 seconds. The smaller battery places the W11XX at a disadvantage, though, as the 24Wh battery managed only 2 hours 24 minutes. Meanwhile, the 6-cell batteries found in the 1000HE and the NB205 netted between 6 to 8 hours of battery life.
A great looking design and a sweet resolution are the biggest wins for the Sony VAIO VPC-W11XX. Unfortunately, they are eclipsed by a below average keyboard, and a weak feature set. Worst of all, it's at least $100 more expensive than top-caliber netbooks like the Asus EeePC 1000HE and the Toshiba mini NB250, and that's tough to swallow.
BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS: Check out the test scores for the Sony VAIO VPC-W11XX
Spec Data
Type General Purpose, Ultraportable, Value, Netbook
Processor Name Intel Atom N280
Operating System MS Windows XP Home
Processor Speed 1.67 GHz
Weight 2.5 lb
Screen Size 10.1 inches
Screen Size Type Widescreen
Graphics Card Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950
Graphics Memory 128
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 160 GB
Rotation Speed 5400 rpm
Networking Options 802.11a/g
Primary Optical Drive External
Battery Type 24 Whr (Watt hours)
Tech Support 1 yeart parts and labor
MobileMark 2007 – Standard Battery Productivity Load (hrs:min) 2:20
MobileMark 2007- Performance score 68
SYSMARK 2007 - E-Learning 41
SYSMARK 2007 - Video Creation 40
SYSMARK 2007- Office Productivity 51
SYSMARK 2007 - 3D Modeling 31

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