Tag Archive | "p"

Performance – Sony VAIO P

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DSC_0019 I’ve had the VAIO P for a few weeks now and it’s time to look at the performance of the unit. You may recall that this is the top-end model: 1.86GHz Atom CPU, 128GB SSD, 2GB of RAM, and running Windows Vista (see more detailed information on the Portal page). This particular configuration is only available in Japan at the moment, but can be bought from places like Dynamism.

The VAIO P runs Vista, which most people recognize to be quite the resource hog, and feel that it isn’t optimal for mobile computers because of limited resources. Luckily the VAIO P’s lightning fast SSD, 2GB of RAM, and 1.86GHz CPU, handle Vista pretty well. The OS itself is responsive and doesn’t show any signs of hanging. Even Windows Media Center, which runs a graphically complex GUI, runs acceptably on the VAIO P, even if it doesn have some slight issues with the VAIO P’s super-wide screen (more on that in the upcoming full software impressions section).

Video Playback

It amazes me how much more video content we see online these days, than compared to a few years ago. Back in the day, usually only small videos would be uploaded to the web, and playing them back often required downloading them then watching them. With many different Flash players out there today, we see lots and lots of video content, and video playback through Flash players is a big deal now, as it is often a frequent web activity. So let’s see how well the VAIO P can play back Flash video. Using an SD quality video from Gametrailers.com (which uses a pretty efficient Flash player), I saw full framerate playback with no issues. Below you can see the CPU usage while the video was playing:

sony vaio p flash video performanceUnfortunately, the VAIO P can’t handle the same video in 720p HD through Flash playback. The image below represents the CPU usage during Flash HD playback of the video. One thing to note is how the CPU graph on the left (representing the virtual second CPU from Hyperthreading) is a bit higher than the right. While the CPU isn’t being maxed out, the video playback was very choppy, to the point that I would call it unwatchable.
sony vaio p flash video performance HDFlash HD playback might not work to well, but 720p, h.264 encoded WMV, and similar formats play back without much issue in Windows Media Player. For some reason or another, videos were a bit choppy, and showed some horizontal tearing when using my preferred video player of choice, VLC. I would imagine this has something to do with VLC’s implementation in Vista, as I’m used to using the XP counterpart. The image below shows a 720p h.264 encoded video playing through Windows Media Player, and the resulting CPU usage.
h.264 video playback performance

HD playback performance is particularly important on the VAIO P because the screen can actually display the content. In most cases, we test HD video playback on netbooks simply for performance’s sake, however when you really think about it, it doesn’t always make sense to watch a 720p (1280×720) video on your netbook which only has a resolution of 1024×600. However, in the case of the VAIO P, the high res screen can really display full 720p content with 1:1 pixel mapping and even has room to spare. The VAIO P’s screen has a resoultion of 1600×768, which is even wider than the widescreen HD standard of 16:9. For comparison’s sake, 16:9 (standard widescreen format) breaks down to 1.78:1, while the VAIO P’s screen has an aspect ratio of 2.08:1, meaning that the screen is slightly more than twice as wide as the height.

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The perfect hinge strength (for me) [video]

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hinge So as I mention in the video, this was easier to explain with a video than writing it, so consider this a video post!

How about you dear readers; what is your preference on hinge strength and what advantages does it offer?

Is Lenovo working on a VAIO P-esque ultra portable?

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Engadget Chinese got shots from a ‘trusted source’ of a Lenovo ultra portable that seems awfully familiar to the shape of the VAIO P [Product page]. Additionally it looks to be styled after the special ThinkPad Reserve Edition notebook. I’m all for the light-weight and keyboard friendly form-factor of the VAIO P; if only we can bring the price down. Competition certainly has the tendency to make that happen so we’ll just have to wait and see if Lenovo is actually going to market this device, and if they are aiming for the same price range or not.

Stop by Engadget for additional images.

VAIO P ‘Instant Mode’ video demo

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I made a quick video demo of the VAIO P’s instant mode which is a sub-OS that boots you into an environment that offers some basic computing. Sony has had a similar media-capable mode in previous computers, but they haven’t added online functionality until the release of the VAIO P’s Instant Mode. With the VAIO P’s Instant Mode, you can access your media (photos, videos, music) and get some work done with a Mozilla based browser, Skype for VOIP, and Pidgin for instant messaging. Check out the video demo below:

Vaio P Instant Mode video demo

VAIO P ~ VAIO UX? A chat with Sony

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Not long ago, I theorized about the idea that the VAIO P could be a potential successor to the UX series. Both devices crammed premium hardware into a tiny space to make a true UMPC. It has been some time since Sony has updated the UX series, and they have yet to bring it into the Atom era; the release of the VAIO P seemed like it could be the re-embodiment of the UX series.

I recently had the please of chatting with two very nice guys from Sony US: Jon Piazza, Sr. Public Relations Strategist, and Eric Treski,Product Manager of the VAIO line, and specifically for the VAIO P series. Both were kind enough to answer some questions for me regarding the VAIO P and VAIO UX.

One of the first questions I proposed was the idea that the VAIO P is a sort of reincarnation of the VAIO UX line. Eric explained a bit about where the P and the UX came from.

The VAIO UX, which is a handheld ultra mobile PC was designed by Sony several years back, looked to put a tiny, but fully functional PC in someone’s hands. Eric told me however that Sony didn’t know exactly who would pick up the UX, but they knew they had something special. As for the VAIO P, Eric said that they put all of the history of the Sony ultra portables into the P, but this time they had a designated target customer. That customer is someone who wants to be connected all the time and is, as Sony calls it, “a style-conscious consumer”; that is to say: people who want to be seen with a sleek, expensive computer.

I asked about the unique aspect ratio of the screen, which is a somewhat odd 2.07:1 shape. Eric confirmed for me what I thought about the circumstances of the screen’s creation: I assumed that they created the smallest usable keyboard they could, and used that as the main footprint of the device. From that shape, the screen was designed to fit, which accounts for its uncommon aspect ratio. I asked for thoughts on the font being too small because of the high resolution and Eric said that the high resolution of the screen is somewhat a product of trying to stay away from netbook hardware. He explained that there were many netbook returns citing a lower resolution 1024×600 screen and Sony wanted to provide people with enough width to not have to scroll horizontally on web pages. The width is also just about wide enough to fit two windows side by side, which is why there is a hardware button dedicated to rearranging windows for the user. He also mentioned that many people might be unaware that they can adjust the DPI for a more favorable font size. 

If you’ll recall in my first post about the VAIO P and the VAIO UX, I mentioned that there were two ways to ask the question in the title of the post (“Is the VAIO P supposed to be the successor of the UX series?“) The first of which was to ask Sony if the P was supposed to be a kind of UX successor and the second way was asking if the P replaced the UX in terms of actual usage. From my chat with Jon and Eric, it sounded like the P was not necessarily meant to succeed the UX. It sounds more like a new ultra portable, in a different form factor, and for a different demographic. As for the second way the question could be asked; I’m still evaluating the VAIO P and should have an answer soon.

I was also interested in the health of the VAIO UX line. Sony hasn’t done anything with it in quite some time, and it isn’t currently featured on their website. Eric conceded that it was hard to answer the question involving the continuation of the VAIO UX series because Sony is always looking at a lot of different things, but not all of it gets through. From my interpretation of the answer, it sounds like the UX series isn’t discontinued, but they aren’t actively developing anything new for it right this moment. Here is to hoping that Sony’s next look into the UX line leads to an all new Atom based device. I feel like Sony has some untapped potential in the UX series, and a more consumer oriented device would be a huge hit. If we start to see smartphones turning into MIDs, I think Sony will realize that they could make a great device in this field that would be a sort of combination of the UX, Mylo, and old Clie UX series.

Eric also talked quite a bit about the ‘Instant Mode’ capability of the VAIO P. He noted that they have had similar sub-OS software on several other lines of their computers, but they may not have been targeted just right. It isn’t always in the interest of a business laptop user to be able to quickly boot the computer into a mode capable of playing back media. This time around, the VAIO P had the right target user to have a media based sub-OS, and they expanded on their previous concepts by adding online connectivity which they haven’t had in the sub-OS before the VAIO P. I haven’t been using it for too long, but I think that the Instant Mode idea is quite promising and Eric seems to think so to. He tells me that they are definitely getting good feedback from users and will continue to expand on the Instant Mode concept and hopefully make it available on other products in the future.

Initial Software Impressions — Sony VAIO P

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Even though in my experience, Windows XP always runs better than Vista on these type of mobile computers, the VAIO P handles Vista pretty well. The unit comes pre-installed with Windows Home Premium. I opened my unit to a nice clean slate, a perfect Vista install with no bloatware. I’m going to chalk that up to our pals at Dynamism, as Sony is notorious for sending out computers that need to be cleared of bloatware right out of the box (as happened with Jenn’s VAIO P).

Vista took several minutes to set it self up, as usual, as I powered on the VAIO P for the first time. After a fairly lengthy update session thanks to Microsoft, the VAIO P was ready to go. The first thing I generally do with a mobile unit, is go through the different settings and get everything set up so it feels right. I was excited when I found a program provided by Sony called the VAIO Control Center. The VCC lets you adjust a lot of system settings from one well organized page. The best part about this is that there is very little software overlap. That is to say that the VCC changes settings at their base level in the system and don’t get get overridden by other setting adjustments. For instance, the speed of the mouse can be adjusted right inside the VCC. Any changes to the mouse speed in the VCC will be reflected in the default Windows configuration. This is nice compared to some other devices that include their own configuration utilities but override system settings and vice-versa.

Another thing I like that relates to non-software overlap is the hardware buttons that control simple functions like volume and screen brightness. You’ll find these functions bound with an Fn modifier to the F-keys. Adjusting volume up or down using these keys changes the system volume in real-time. This helps keep everything simple, instead of having system volume be different than the volume that the hardware buttons control. The display of the changing levels (volume/brightness) is also very reserved. A very simple box pops up in the lower center of the screen and shows you what the current level is, and how you are adjusting it. There is no obnoxious fade in/fade out effect or any information that you don’t need. They are there when you need them, and gone when you don’t.

Vista is quite responsive. I would hope so given that this is the top end model of the VAIO P. Applications launch quickly and windows come up fast as well. Turning on Aero results is a very visible decrease in performance. Windows drag around the screen at a much slower framerate and the whole unit becomes sluggish. Aero off as I mentioned, feels fine. I would imagine that the particular processing that is needed to render Aero, is not the forte of the integrated graphics. Without a dedicated GPU, the CPU ends up doing the graphics work, and with a 1.86GHz clock, it is best to not ask too much of it is it is already powering Vista fairly well.

There are several pieces of software that Sony has provided that I just don’t get. For example, the ‘VAIO Music Box’ application is an extremely simple media player (too simple in my opinion). It can’t even be maximized, and really just sorts your media by the year it was released, album, or artist. The controls are pretty much limited to track forward/back and play/pause. The one interesting thing about the program is that there is a ‘Chorus Playback’ option which claims to playback only the chorus parts of your songs. This requires a separate application, the VAIO Content Analyzer, which analyzes your songs to identify the chorus parts. Luckily Sony thought to have the VAIO Content Analyzer, which would be constantly running your HDD as it scanned content, disable itself while you are on battery power. Thanks for the though Sony, but I really just don’t feel like it is worth it to begin with, so I’ll skip the content analyzer all together and use a more common media player.

Instant Mode

The VAIO P has a pre-OS that Sony refers to as ‘Instant Mode’. Pressing a hardware button on the unit next to the mouse buttons while the device is powered down will launch it into instant mode. We showed you a bit about Instant mode back when the VAIO P was announced at CES 09. The XMB (PSP or PS3 style interface) is still used a the GUI, and you have access to videos, music, images, an instant messenger, VOIP, and a web browser, all from instant mode. Considering Sony isn’t pushing this as a huge deal (at least from what I’ve seen), I’d say this is a decent attempt at an in-house pre-OS. We’ll get you plenty of detailed info on Instant Mode when we delve deeper into specifics in our long term software impressions piece, stay tuned.

See the VAIO P review roadmap here.

Sony VAIO P review roadmap

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I’ll be doing a review for the VAIO P [Portal page] which we recently received from Dynamism for testing. This will be in a rolling-review format as we’ve done with the HP Mini 1000 MIE. Here is a roadmap that I’ll stick to when covering the VAIO P, and each section of the review will be released incrementally over the next few weeks. The unboxing post is already up and linked. I’ll retroactively link in each section as they go up as well, so make this post your home for our VAIO P review as it progresses.

Review Roadmap

Sony VAIO P unboxing and first thoughts

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Today we got a VAIO P [Portal page] review unit from our friends at Dynamism. This is the high end model running a 1.86GHz Atom Z540 CPU, 2GB of RAM, Windows Vista, and a spacious 128GB of SSD storage. Have a look at the unboxing, and the first thoughts below that.


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First Thoughts

The VAIO P is impressively small. It is one thing to cram the necessary computer components into a device and make it run, but it is another entirely when you make a device that is tiny but actually usable. Despite all the marketing that tried to convince us that the VAIO P is pocketable, it is not. However, it is really light and thin. One might think that the keyboard would be hard to type on considering the initial footprint of the unit, and the fact that some key real estate was lost with the chiclet style keyboard, but it is incredibly usable. I have had no issue immediately typing like normal on the VAIO P. One thing that absolutely frustrates me though, is that the keyboard layout has a small right shift key. This is the biggest mistake they could have made after engineering a tiny but wonderful keyboard. I’ll map out my review for the VAIO P in the next few days and start laying down the content. I’m excited to use the VAIO P as I’ve enjoyed the VAIO UX180 [Portal page] for several years.

Is the VAIO P supposed to be the successor of the UX series?

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I wouldn’t be here right now if I didn’t pick up a VAIO UX180P [Portal page] a few years back. I’ve been a big fan of the UX series of ultra mobile PC from Sony for a long time. You’ve probably read on our site that the UX180 was my primary PC for nearly 4 years. I’ve built up a lot of respect for the unit since I’ve been using it for such a long time.

As great as the UX series might be, it definitely isn’t main stream. Since the initial release of the UX180, Sony has released incremental updates over the last few years (280, 380, 390) finally landing on the current top-of-the-line UX490. The UX490 [Portal page] is almost identical to the original UX180 in terms of aesthetics, but the insides have had some nice bumps in power and performance. The UX490 has a 32GB SSD, 1.2GHz Core 2 Solo, 1GB of RAM, and as far as I know, still claims the title of most powerful ultra mobile PC to date.

Though the UX490 might still be one of the highest performing UMPCs, it was released back in November… of 2007. It isn’t inconceivable for Sony to have some big gaps in model refreshes, but it has been quite a while now. That, and the fact that the VAIO UX series is pretty much gone from Sony’s site, make it seem like the VAIO UX line is done.

Enter the VAIO P [Portal page]. This ‘pocketable‘ computer has a pretty similar usability concept. Both the UX and the P are supposed to be relatively powerful, highly portable computers (that’s why we call them Ultra Mobile PCs), but their form-factors are inherently different. The UX is designed to be hand-held and thumb-typed. The P is supposed to be small and portable, but still retain its touch-typability, and probably won’t function very well as a hand-held device in the way that the UX does.

Regardless of the fact that the P is Atom based, both the P and the UX carry a premium price, so it is hard to say that Sony is really following the netbook trend instead of releasing a new UMPC. It almost seems as though the P is a successor of the UX, but simply with a different form-factor. The change in form factor would be a reason to switch the series denotation as well.

I think there are two ways to ask the question that is proposed in the title of this article. First of which, is asking if Sony intends for the P to succeed the UX. Second, is looking at whether the P replaces the UX in terms of usage. I’ve contacted someone at Sony and I’m hoping to get an answer to the first version of the question. As for the second… I should be able to answer that for you over the next few weeks.

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