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BW Businessworld

Worth The Weight

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You know, it wasn't all that long ago when most PC manufacturers dismissed the netbook phenomena as "a race to the bottom". Turns out the bottom is the place to be, what with almost everyone launching their own version of the oft-repeated netbook-specification components. And while it may well be the last through the gates — there's no confirmed netbook news from the last bastion (Apple) yet — will the VAIO W, Sony's first real netbook offering, be the one to beat?
To be fair, Sony's tested these waters earlier this year with the ‘it's not a netbook' VAIO P. Certainly, the VAIO P's price (at over Rs. 60,000) kept it out of netbook waters. With the VAIO W's Rs 29,990 pricing, it's clear that Sony's looking at the premium end of the netbook market. To that end, Sony's made the effort to impart a sense of luxury to the W-series. It's available in berry pink, sugar white and cocoa brown, and looks like a scaled-down version of the company's mid-range laptops, which is a rather nice design inspiration to begin with. The bold VAIO logo on the lid, the isolated keyboard design, bright textured plastics and curved edges all give the W-series a distinctive sense of style and robustness. Sony's paid some attention to colour on the inside as well, with a textured wrist-rest that's a lighter version of the netbook's primary colour.
Now while Sony still shies away from using the term 'netbook' (this one is officially referred to as a 'mini notebook', the guys at Sony are the first to admit that it is one. After all, the Vaio W does boast of the familiar feature-list and specification that we have come to know as 'netbook spec' — an Intel Atom Processor N280 (1.66GHz), 1GB RAM, 160GB HDD, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Motion Eye webcam, a couple of USB ports. Then there are the goodies — draft-n wireless and Bluetooth. There's enough speed under the hood to cope with undemanding tasks — the usual web browsing, word processing and even web streaming will work reasonably well. Don't expect beautiful, smooth video though — with Intel's GMA 950 graphics chip in place, video playback was always fighting a losing battle and I found it stuttered with heavy encoded files.
The standout feature in the VAIO W is clearly its LED-backlit screen. At 10.1 inches, there's nothing unusual about the size, but it's miles ahead of the competition when it comes to detail. It's got a native resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, and while this may not sound all that great, it's among the sharpest I've seen on a panel of this size, and puts the 1024 x 600 pixel screens on most rivals to shame. No more excessive scrolling to view your documents in full — the higher resolution is great for daily use, with websites easily fitting onscreen, and the widescreen aspect ratio ideally suited to movie playback. Colour, brightness and contrast are also excellent, and while the screen is cramped as compared to a full-size laptop, it's just right to use for extended hours of web browsing. LED backlighting also offers excellent colour reproduction, although the glossy finish reflects a bit too much in bright conditions.

 Plugged In

Belkin Gold Surge ProtectorTalk about peace of mind. The ‘Superior' and ‘Gold' surge product lines from Belkin offer complete replacement for its high reliability surge protection devices and, in an industry first, also offers ‘connected device warranty' support equivalent to Rs 50,000 and Rs 100,000 for devices connected to its ‘Superior' and ‘Gold' surge product lines. What this means is that if the surge protectors are unable to protect your devices, Belkin reimburses you with the moolah (up to the prescribed limits)!
Price: Superior Series Rs 1,849, Gold Series Rs 1,923

Other than that, I liked the chiclet keyboard — it's 86 per cent full size so takes a little getting used to, but there's plenty of travel in the keys and the feel is decidedly premium. Also, along with a Memory Stick slot, you'll get an SD card slot. Overall, there a ‘complete' feel to the laptop, a product which is well sorted out straight from the start.
Which is why it is absolutely disappointing to see a measly 3-cell battery on this baby — with a claimed battery life of 2.5 hours, this is well below the netbook average of around 4 hours, and much below the 8-hour best of breed netbooks. A six-cell battery will be available soon, which should approximately double the battery life, but given the fact that many cheaper netbooks ship with six-cell batteries, this will hurt your wallet all the more. And with the competition being as tough as it is, this rather likeable netbook may need to go further for the money to get the attention it deserves.
Quick Specs:
Processor: Intel Atom Processor N280 (1.66 GHz)
Operating System: Windows XP Home Edition with Service Pack 3
Chipset: Mobile Intel 945GSE Express Chipset (667 MHz bus) with Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950
Memory: 1 GB DDR2 SDRAM
Hard Drive: 160 GB (Serial ATA, 5400 rpm) (no optical drive)
Display: 10.1" wide (WXGA: 1366 x 768) TFT colour display
Interfaces: 2 x USB 2.0, VGA display connector, Network (RJ-45) Connector, headphone, microphone, Memory Stick Slot, SD Memory Card Slot
Wireless: Integrated Wireless LAN IEEE 802.11b/g/Draft n, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
Camera: 640 x 480 pixels
Battery: VGP-BPS18  Lithium-ion battery: up to 2.5 hours of use
Included software: WinDVD for VAIO, VAIO Media Plus, VAIO Control Center, WebCam Companion, Magic-i Visual Effects, VAIO Recovery Utility, VAIO Update, Roxio Easy Media Creator, Adobe Reader 9
Dimensions (W x H x D): 267.8 x 27.5-32.4 x 179.6  mm
Weight: 1.19 kg (including the supplied battery)
Rating: 8/10
Price: Rs 29,990

 Larger Than Life

Nikon S1000pjPhones with projectors may be a bit much, but Nikon's latest Coolpix S1000pj takes a very sensible idea and implements it, for a change! Sporting a 12.1 megapixel sensor with ISO 6400 sensitivity mounted behind a 5x wide-angle zoom lens with five-way VR stabilisation, the LED-powered projector in the camera puts up a 40-inch image for slideshows complete with music, effects and transitions. Finally put an end to crowding behind those measly screens just to see some vacation photos, eh?
Price: $430