Sony Vaio P-series netbook (VGN-P11Z/R)

Written by Tim Smalley

April 8, 2009 | 11:21

Tags: #atom #battery #evaluation #fail #life #lifestyle #netbook #notebook #performance #p-series #review #silverthorne #sub-notebook

Companies: #epic #sony #test #vaio

Keyboard & Trackpoint

The P11Z/R’s elongated proportions have allowed Sony to integrate a decent sized keyboard. Surprisingly, it's more comfortable to type on than many other similar sized keyboards, such as the one used by Asus on the Eee PC 901. Unlike the Eee PC 901's, the P11Z/R’s keys are well spaced, making it surprisingly easy to use – I was able to type at decent speed with no sign of finger cramp.

The keys use chiclet styling like most other Sony Vaio notebooks, but they don’t feel quite as positive as, say, they do on the TZ’s keyboard. It also lacks that luscious clickiness associated with the ThinkPad keyboards, and it can sometimes feel like you’re typing on a kitchen table and not a keyboard.

It’s not terrible though, as typing for long periods of time at a decent speed is still very possible, providing you don’t come across a rather annoying problem that really sums up the P-series in a nutshell.

There were often times where what was being displayed on screen lagged behind what you were actually typing – by quite some margin. This happened in both web forms – especially in Gmail and Twitter – and in Microsoft Word 2007 in particularly long documents.

Sony Vaio P-series netbook (VGN-P11Z/R) Keyboard & Trackpoint Sony Vaio P-series netbook (VGN-P11Z/R) Keyboard & Trackpoint

It’s hard to identify exactly what the cause of this is, but it’s a culmination of quite a few choices Sony has made. Putting things into perspective, this is a netbook based on Intel’s Atom processor, but in order to squeeze everything into such a svelte form factor, the clock speed has been reduced to 1.33GHz (and Sony has used a low-power Z-series Atom processor to further reduce power consumption and heat).

Couple that with Windows Vista – even though the P11Z/R has 2GB of RAM – and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Had Sony opted for Windows XP, we’d probably not see these problems with typing lag because there’d be less operating system overhead for the low-end hardware to handle.

The P-series’ proportions mean that there’s no room for a trackpad; instead, Sony has implemented a trackpoint or ‘nipple’. This will appease ThinkPad users in particular, but it may serve to alienate just about everyone else as most other notebook manufacturers exclusively use trackpads these days.

Sony Vaio P-series netbook (VGN-P11Z/R) Keyboard & Trackpoint Sony Vaio P-series netbook (VGN-P11Z/R) Keyboard & Trackpoint

The trackpoint itself is responsive and works well and we saw no noticeable lag when moving the pointer around the screen. The mouse buttons are located on the bottom edge below the spacebar and although they look like they might be slightly uncomfortable, they’re actually just fine – the right and left buttons are in a good position to press when you’re using the trackpoint, but the middle mouse button isn’t quite as comfortable.

The buttons do have a satisfying depression and click when you press them, so accidental button presses are unlikely to occur when typing. To the right of the trackpoint buttons, there are another couple of buttons – one has a book icon on it and the other has a dotted cross for Sony's embedded XMB (Xross Media Bar) operating system.
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