The mystery of the Sony VAIO P series has been resolved. Sony is calls it a Lifestyle PC, but it is really one of the smallest and lightest Netbooks to date.
The P series weighs 1.4 pounds with the standard battery. It is about the size of a business envelope measuring 11 inches wide by 7.9 inches deep and only 0.9 inches thick. Aside from its size and weight, what makes the P series unusual is ultra-wide screen, an 8-inch LED-backlit display with a high resolution of 1600 x 768 pixels.
The starting specs of the P series--Intel Atom processor, 2GB of memory, 60GB hard drive--sure look like those of a Netbook. But Sony argues it has the features of a full-fledged ultraportable. It's true that it has some nice features including a relatively large keyboard, integrated wireless WAN (Verizon) and GPS. It also comes with Windows Vista, not Windows XP like many netbooks.
But like other subnotes, the P series also has some real limitations. Even on the highest quality display, the text and graphics are much smaller on a screen of this size and resolution. If you want to connect it to an external display or wired Ethernet, you need a $60 adapter. Like most netbooks and the smallest ultraportables, it doesn't have an internal DVD drive, though you can purchase an external USB drive. And the performance of Atom-based systems falls well short of Core 2-based ultraportables.
Interestingly the P series uses a 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z520, rather than the faster 1.6Hz Intel Atom N270 found in most netbooks. The Z series was really designed for MIDs, but the P series is so small that the chip's low power requirements (only 2 watts TDP) make it a better fit. Sony says it will get up to four hours of battery life.
The P series starts at $900 with the Z520, 2GB of memory and a 60GB hard drive. There will always be some willing to pay a premium for the thinnest and lightest laptop, but given its limitations the P series is likely to be a niche product. The P series will be available on Sony's site later this month and in stores in early February.