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Sony VAIO W111XX review: Sony VAIO W111XX

Sony VAIO W111XX

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Dan Ackerman
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Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times

5 min read

Sony's first foray in to the world of Atom-powered laptops was the Vaio P-series Lifestyle PC, which sported a unique miniaturized design (about the same footprint as a standard business envelope), but was hampered by input issues (no touch pad), and the use of Windows Vista as its OS.

sony-vaio-w-series-vpc-w111xx-t-atom-n280-1-66-ghz-win-xp-home-1-gb-ram-160-gb-hdd-10-1-wide-1366-x-768-hd-intel-gma-950-brown.jpg
6.7

Sony VAIO W111XX

The Good

High-res display; cool color combos; typical high-quality Sony construction and design.

The Bad

Poor battery life; better display adds a $100 premium; smallish keyboard; loud fan.

The Bottom Line

Attempting to create a premium-priced version of a Netbook, Sony has added an HD display to the Vaio W. It's an attractive step-up package, but the internal components are the same as are in cheaper models.

At the time of that product's release, Sony was adamant that despite the Atom processor and small size, it was most definitely not a Netbook. The new Vaio W, on the other hand, is very clearly a Netbook, with Windows XP, a 10-inch display, and a familiar Netbook form factor.

While the $499 price may cause some sticker shock, as the base components aren't too much different from what you'd find in a $299-$399 Netbook, Sony is hoping the inclusion of a 1,366x768 high-definition display is enough to push the Vaio W over the line into the elusive "premium Netbook" category--perhaps the holy grail of PC makers looking to escape the price-cutting wars at the lower end of the Netbook biz.

If the hi-res display is worth a $100 (or more) premium to you, than the Vaio W is one of the nicer overall Netbook packages out there, but the same basic combo of an Intel Atom N280 CPU, 1GB of RAM, 160GB hard drive, and Windows XP is definitely available for less. Dell's less snazzy-looking Mini 10 can also be outfitted with a similar hi-def display for around the same price, and offers more configuration flexibility.

Price as reviewed $499
Processor 1.6GHz Intel Atom N280
Memory 1GB, 533MHz DDR2
Hard drive 160GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Mobile Intel 945GM Express
Graphics Intel GMA 950 (integrated)
Operating System Windows XP Home SP3
Dimensions (WD) 10.6 inches wide by 7.3 inches deep
Height 0.8-1.0 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 10.1 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 2.5/3.0 pounds
Category Netbook

While not the thinnest or lightest 10-inch Netbook around, the Sony Vaio W offers a solid, well-constructed chassis that feels sturdier than some of the less expensive Netbooks we've seen. Our unit was decked out in an all-over pink color scheme, from a rich, darker pink on the lid, to a pale pink on the patterned keyboard tray, to a subtle pink crosshatch on the touch-pad surface. If pink's not your color, brown and white versions are available as well.

With the recent (and welcome) trend toward oversized keys on Netbooks--relatively speaking, of course--we were a little surprised by how diminutive the keyboard on the Vaio W felt. It looks and feels like a shrunk-down clone of the standard Vaio laptop keyboard, with flat-topped, widely spaced keys. But this leaves the individual keys smaller than we'd like, and the Function, Tab, and right shift keys are especially tiny.

Sony includes its custom Media Plus software for organizing and playing media files. It's a well-done app, but we're usually wary of investing the time to learn a proprietary software package that's only used on one brand of laptops.

The real star here is the 10.1-inch wide-screen LED display. It has a 1,366x768 native resolution, which is higher than the Netbook standard of 1,024x600. We've also seen this higher resolution on a couple of 11.6-inch Netbooks, such as the Asus Eee PC 1101HA.

While it's arguably a better fit on those 11-inch screens, it also works nearly as well on the smaller 10-inch display, and we didn't find text or icons too small to see. Of course, your mileage with HD video files with a Netbook's anemic video capabilities may vary; we were able to load up HD versions of TV show episodes on Hulu, but they stuttered in full-screen mode.

  Sony Vaio W Average for category [Netbook]
Video VGA VGA
Audio headphone/microphone jacks headphone/microphone jacks
Data 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader, Memory Stick reader 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Expansion None None
Networking Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None None

Being a Sony Vaio, it's not surprising that there's a second media card slot for the proprietary Memory Stick format. And being at the top end of the Netbook price scale, it's also not surprising to find Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi included (but not HDMI, as found on the similarly priced Dell Mini 10).

With an Intel Atom N280 CPU, the Vaio W is a bit zippier than Netbooks with the N270 version of the Atom (or the even slower Z520 version). The difference isn't major, but in a system with little processing headspace as it is, every little bit counts. We found the Vaio W perfectly usable for basic Netbook tasks, from Web surfing to e-mail to working on office docs--and it's much easier to use than Sony's P-series non-Netbook.

Juice box
Sony Vaio W  
Off (watts) 0.36
Sleep (watts) 0.6
Idle (watts) 7.52
Load (watts) 17.09
Raw (annual kWh) 26.37
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $2.99

The Sony Vaio W ran for 2 hours and 19 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included three-cell battery. That's disappointing for a Netbook, especially as these are systems designed for on-the-road use. Our battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect somewhat longer life from casual Web surfing and office use.

Sony includes an industry-standard, one-year, parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Upgrading to a three-year plan is an extra $169. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, and a well-designed support site with a knowledge base and driver downloads.

Multimedia Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio W
3589 

Jalbum photo conversion test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

Sony Vaio W
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 128MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Toshiba 5400rpm

Lenovo Ideapad S10-2
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Western Digital 5400rpm

Asus Eee PC 1005HA
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 224MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Hitachi 5400rpm

Acer Aspire One AOD250
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 224MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Seagate 5400rpm

HP Mini 5101
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 224MB (Shared) Mobile Int

sony-vaio-w-series-vpc-w111xx-t-atom-n280-1-66-ghz-win-xp-home-1-gb-ram-160-gb-hdd-10-1-wide-1366-x-768-hd-intel-gma-950-brown.jpg
6.7

Sony VAIO W111XX

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7Battery 5Support 7
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