ISony's been busy refreshing its Vaio range recently, and the latest to undergo the Changing Laptops treatment is the T1 - a new series of ultra-portables. It weighs less than 1.5 kilograms and its longest length is a mere 27 centimetres.
It's more portable than the King James Bible, and in build quality is just about as robust. But the interesting thing is Sony is promoting the T1's entertainment features - the XGA resolution widescreen, wireless networking, and multi-format DVD writer - as much as its business credentials. Few ultraportables have lived up to the expectations of larger desktop replacement laptops; does the T1 do anything to narrow the gap?
Aside the deep red or blue colour finish, the most striking thing about the T1 is its screen. The 10.6-inch widescreen LCD adopts Sony's new X-black display technology, otherwise known as the ONYX black panel or In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology. It's made from three panel, rather than four panel, technology - but the main thing to note is that the placement of the panels gives a greater amount of light output, so the viewed image is much brighter than on earlier LCDs. The perceived image is a breakthrough in quality
The actual resolution hasn't increased, but it looks more detailed, crisp and the colours are brighter and better saturated. Our Whole Ten Yards test DVD looked simply stunning, drenched in light and over-bright colours. DVD playback is smooth, and the T1 even handles high definition Windows Media Video files like they were flick-book animations.
The screen's glossy finish makes it look a million dollars, although it shows up smears and is far too reflective. Nevertheless, X-black technology - which is already instilled on several Vaios - currently offers the finest pictures, overall, for mobile entertainment.
Sound from the built-in speakers, incidentally, is quiet, a little tinny, and generally pretty useless for anything more than Windows sound effects. Also, unlike several laptops now, it can't play CDs without powering up Windows first.
The T1 ticks all the right boxes under the connectivity heading on our score sheet. Using Intel's Centrino Pentium M processor, the Vaio of course has the now mandatory built-in 802.11b/g wireless networking, as well as a 100Mbps Ethernet connection, a 56Kbps modem, and Bluetooth.
There are iLink, VGA and audio-out connections, but there's no video-out to hook up your TV. 512MB RAM and a 40GB hard drive round off the specifications. It's a very usable machine with little functionality and performance compromised for the small form factor. Most impressive of all, though, is the battery life. Sony claims seven hours, and we found it to be pretty close to this. Six hours of relatively demanding use is not out of the question.
On the whole, this is a robust, reliable and compelling little number. Its entertainment credentials do not convince us, though. Sure, it's great for playing back DVDs but that's about it. There are many cheaper laptops that offer much more, but then few are as portable as the T1.
And, good looking it might be, but it doesn't quite have the sophistication of the Vaio X505. This is still a workhorse first, entertainment machine a distant second.