I've just sat down with Sony's shiny, immaculately-designed new ultra-netbook (ahem, sorry, 'portable PC'), the diminutive and featherweight Vaio P-series, for an hour or three on a rather pleasant train journey, so l'll give you my first impressions of the gadget that rocked CES in Vegas this year.
Does the Vaio P-series punch above its weight? Or is it all fur coat and no knickers?
For the laptop aesthete at least, the design of the 'just larger than a standard office envelope'-sized Vaio P-series has already seduced you, even before you have removed the cheeky-looking little business toy from its leather and suede pouch. Cost of said animal-skin laptop cover? £89.99 extra. Ouch!
And yes, let's get that little niggle out of the way first. Being British, we love to gripe about how the cost of, well, everything is going through the roof. And it is too. There is no getting around it. The price point of Sony's porta-PC-du-jour has been set phenomenally high.
To the average Joe in PC World, the P-series' price tag of £850 will seem nothing less than astronomical. And while that's not the target market, it's certainly going to confuse a number of Vaio fans and loyal fanboys (it's $899 in the US, when did we hit 'parity' with the dollar?). With the ongoing financial crisis, that's a firm, no-nonsense slap in the face from Sony, isn't it?
Well. No. No, it's not. If it were, then why, after a matter of minutes playing with Sony's new business toy, are we considering - actually considering - how we might justify finding £850 to buy one when they launch in the UK early in February?
This isn't a netbook
It's because, in Sony's opinion, the Vaio-P isn't a netbook. The product guys physically wince at the mere mention of the term. They see those comparisons as null and void. Netbooks are small, affordable computers than you can use to surf the web while you are out and about to 'consume' news and media. Whereas laptops, proper laptops, are computers that you can use to 'produce' stuff on - videos, music, websites, blogs, novels, 30-page PowerPoint epics and other thrilling bits and bobs.
Got it yet? Well, while we have to admit to not being entirely convinced by this particular PR line, the real clue is in our description of the device as a 'business toy'. For us, the Sony Vaio P-series does everything that we've wanted every other netbook to do. It also does it notably better than everybody else has done (to date) and then squeezes it all into something that looks like an oversized Nintendo DS. It's lighting fast, cute as a button and a joy to play with. A bit like Jodie Kidd. If she were a computer.
Hell, you could even play emulated DS games on it and really pretend that it was an oversized DS, although that would be stupid and largely pointless (Google: 'Zelda: Phantom Hourglass for PC'…)
Redefines work as fun
The P-series makes working on the train an actual joy. No need for clumsy laptops to take up the limited table space and annoy your neighbours. When you pull the mini Vaio out of your man-bag, all you receive are snatched glares of pure, bilious-green gadget-envy. Oh yes!
You didn't get that with your Eee PC and you certainly don't get it with the ubiquitous iPhone any more. Sony unashamedly goes for the 'aspirational early adopter' for good reason. Its toys are massively covetable. F*ck the expense, this is a cool new toy that everybody else wants!