X
CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Sony Vaio W Imperial Lime review: Sony Vaio W Imperial Lime

The Vaio W Imperial Lime is an affordable netbook, especially for the specs inside, and doubly so for a Sony. The screen resolution is the real clincher here, although the abysmal battery life lets it down, as does the keyboard layout.

Craig Simms Special to CNET News
Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.
Craig Simms
3 min read

Sony has taken quite some time to understand that netbooks are meant to be cheap devices, with Sony's senior vice president Mike Abary claiming in 2009 that they were "a race to the bottom".

7.9

Sony Vaio W Imperial Lime

The Good

1366x768 resolution screen. 802.11n. Great price.

The Bad

Poor keyboard layout. Default battery is incredibly weak.

The Bottom Line

The Vaio W Imperial Lime is an affordable netbook, especially for the specs inside, and doubly so for a Sony. The screen resolution is the real clincher here, although the abysmal battery life lets it down, as does the keyboard layout.

Consequently, we've seen a bunch of "not netbooks" from the Sony stable, from its overpriced Vaio P, to its overpriced Vaio X, to its initial overpriced Vaio W. Fast forward to today and we have a new Atom chip, a massive price drop and a suddenly much more attractive unit.

AU$599 gets you a 1366x768 resolution, an Atom N470 CPU @ 1.83GHz, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a 320GB hard drive and if you're so inclined, a limited edition Billabong designed lid. The screen itself is a blessing, making other 1024x600 netbooks feel unwieldy by comparison — the extra vertical real estate in particular making all the difference.

It's not completely decked out though — you still get 100Mb Ethernet instead of gigabit, there's only 1GB RAM included (that is also next to impossible to replace without some crazy chassis surgery), and the rather feisty Windows 7 Starter Edition is installed as well. This is an operating system so cut down you can't even customise your own wallpaper, and is sadly what you'll find on most netbooks these days. If you've got the option to go to Home Premium, do it.

Otherwise, there are two USB ports, VGA out, headphone and microphone jacks, an SD card reader and that cursed thing that turns up on all Sony products, the Memory Stick slot. We'd have much preferred another USB port, like the Samsung N220 offers.

Speaking of the N220, the Vaio W also has island-style keys for its keyboard, but the typing experience is nowhere near as enjoyable as on its Samsung equivalent. It's likely the fact that Samsung has made the most of the space, running the keyboard from edge to edge, whereas Sony has rather large borders on either side. This equates to a tiny shift key on the right-hand side, and equally useless tab and caps lock keys on the left. There's also a massive "1" key, showing Sony really hasn't thought about its layout at all.

The response from the keys feels a little soft and mushy at first, but you soon adjust. The touch pad (although not multi-touch) is much better and responds well, and the buttons beneath are excellent.

Performance

We don't expect much performance-wise out of netbooks — but what we do expect is a good battery life. Here the Vaio W Billabong sadly didn't deliver; turning off all power-saving features, setting screen brightness and volume to maximum and playing back an XviD file, it lasted a paltry one hour, 51 minutes and 36 seconds (about three hours short of the competition). This is due to the 2100mAh battery that the unit comes with by default — for better battery life, ensure to pick up the VGPBPL18 battery, giving you 5200mAh instead. Unfortunately, this is an additional AU$219; we'd much prefer that Sony included this battery by default.

The Vaio W Imperial Lime is an affordable netbook, especially for the specs inside, and doubly so for a Sony. The screen resolution is the real clincher here, although the abysmal battery life lets it down, as does the keyboard layout. Ultimately, this is an AU$738 netbook when you factor in the cost of a decent battery — at that price we'd start looking at full-sized notebooks, but if you need portable, high res and under AU$800 laptop, the Sony Vaio W may be an option.