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Sony is making another foray into the Vaio range.market with the Vaio M-series VPCM12M1E/P. With an Intel Atom N470 CPU and 1GB of RAM, its specs won't set your pulse racing, but it's reasonably priced, at around £300, and you'll get the big, bright screen that's associated with the
With its pleasingly rounded corners and sturdy frame, this machine looks very much like a scaled-down, mid-range laptop, avoiding the cheap, flimsy appearance that afflicts some netbooks. It weighs a pretty average 1.4kg -- about the same as a bag and a half of sugar -- so, while it's hardly feather-light, it's certainly dainty enough to chuck in a backpack and forget about.
The display is far from average though. Sony packs some pretty tasty screens into its machines, and this model is no exception, offering a 10.1-inch, LED-backlit display with a maximum resolution of 1,024x600 pixels. The backlighting helps to make the screen far brighter and crisper than those you'd usually find on competing netbooks. We were also impressed with the extremely wide horizontal viewing angle, which mitigates the difficulty involved in crowding people around the modestly sized screen.
Bear in mind that, because this machine is rather low on processing power, you won't be able to use the tasty screen for any serious gaming. High-definition, 720p video didn't play very smoothly when we tested it out either.
The VPCM12M1E/P offers a pretty comprehensive set of ports for a device of its size. There's a VGA out, an Ethernet port, an SD card slot, and three USB ports on the right-hand side. A 3.5mm headphone jack and microphone socket are located on the front, and a 0.3-megapixel webcam is mounted above the screen. This netbook also supports 802.11b/g/n wireless connectivity.
This M-series netbook ditches the signature Vaio keyboard with isolated keys. Instead, it has a keyboard that reminds us of those on some older Dell Inspiron machines. That's no bad thing, however -- the keys themselves are large, and offer sufficient travel so that typing at speed is comfortable. We were also happy to see a big return key.
We were less impressed with the trackpad. Netbooks aren't exactly known for their large, responsive trackpads, and sacrifices must be made to keep these mini laptops as small as possible. But Sony's offering is just slightly too unresponsive, with a considerably large dead zone around each edge.