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Sony Vaio W Eco Series Review

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At CES 2010 Sony announced a refresh of its Vaio W notebooks and included in the new lineup is the Sony Vaio W Series Eco Netbook, or as Sony likes to call it a mini-notebook”. The model we have is the Sony Vaio W Eco Series VPCW212AX.

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The new green mini-notebook from Sony isn’t just calling itself green it is actually living up to the label with 20% of the lid and palmrest are made with recycled plastic made from CD or DVDs and it ships in a bag, instead of a box, made from 100% recycled plastic bottles. The green doesn’t stop there as Sony has also managed to keep mercury out of the LCD, switching to an electronic user manual and several other environmentally friendly features.

Like almost every green initiative and product there is a price premium to be paid with a starting price of $449 that rises past competing netbooks, even those with HD screens and HD accelerators; but when compared to the $480 that the mini-notebook cost at the beginning of February it’s a better deal.

The Sony Vaio W Eco series is available in 3 colors; Berry Pink, Navy Blue and Sugar White. The small device can also be configured with a Verizon Wireless Broadband connection starting at $599.

Hardware Tour:

Open:

Open

Palm area:

textured Vaio

Left Side:

left

Connections from Left to Right: Power, VGA, Mic, Headphone jack

Right Side

right

Connections from Left to Right: USB, USB, Ethernet, Kensington

Front

front

Connections from Left to Right: Wireless switch, Memory Stick Reader, SD Card reader, Power switch

Specifications:

The Sony Vaio W Series Eco that we reviewed has the following specifications:

  • Intel Atom N450 1.66GHz processor
  • 250GB hard drive
  • 1GB DDR2 RAM
  • Large Battery” rated at 7-8 hours
  • Windows 7 Starter
  • Motion Eye Webcam
  • Electro-static touchpad
  • Wifi b/g/n
  • A2DP Bluetooth
  • Memorystick slot
  • SD card slot
  • 2 USB ports
  • Mic in
  • Headphone out

Design

The Sony Vaio W Eco series is a pretty machine with green a green palmrest and silver chiclet style keyboard the Sugar White netbook we reviewed caught a few eyes. The trackpad design, with a geometric pattern that reminds us of a recycle symbol is also adds to the looks. We were a bit iffy on the large bezel, which would have made us happier with an 11” display, but overall the W Eco series is nice to look at.

angle

Some users may notice the lack of a 3rd USB port that seems to be the current netbook standard, but hooking up to a dock or a USB hub at home will provide most users with a way around this slight limitation.

It also felt pretty sturdy despite its light weight which gave us no qualms to take it everywhere we went. The only thing that stood out was a little battery wiggle; most noticeable when we held the notebook in hand and used it.

Keyboard and Mouse

keyboard

Overall the keyboard on the W Eco series is OK. It’s not the best keyboard I’ve used, but it’s far from the worst. I liked the key response, feel and separation which makes typing effortless; but even after a month I couldn’t adjust to the incredibly small right shift key which I use very often. If you don’t make use of the right shift key, or can work around this you shouldn’t have any trouble with the keyboard.

shiftkey

I was very happy with the trackpad on the W Eco series mini notebook. In addition to a responsive mousing surface that didn’t stick after extended use it has two separate mouse buttons which I really appreciate.

mousepad

Performance and Screen

As far as performance goes the Sony Vaio W is limited by the Intel Atom N450 and 1 GB of RAM; but so are the rest of the netbooks. I didn’t have any running standard netbook applications like word, Internet Explorer, Chrome, TweetDeck, Excel, Skype and more.

I didn’t have any trouble watching local HD video; but like many netbooks streaming in HD was a challenge at times. Playing an SNL clip on Hulu was watchable in SD and in HD, even at when expanded to full screen; though there were a few times when the video stuttered. YouTube in HD was a major challenge and basically unwatchable, but videos played fine in standard definition. So long as you don’t plan on using this as a dedicated video watching machine you should do alright for the occasional viral video or to catch up on a show while traveling.

The display on the Vaio W Eco series is what really drew me to the mini-notebook and ruined my ability to use most netbooks. While I wish the display would go just a little brighter the 1366 x 768 resolution was incredible. The extra screen space really transformed how I use a netbook. I could actually take advantage of the Windows 7 shortcuts to put two items next to each other for comparison and the ability to read a post without scrolling every 5 lines was great. One side effect of the increased resolution is that text appears smaller, but I didn’t run into any issues with the text size. The only other note on the display is that, like almost every notebook I review, I wish it would tilt back a few more degrees for more comfortable use on my lap.

One additional touch that I liked about the Vaio W Eco was that it didn’t come full of crapware; instead it already had the Google Chrome Browser and Evernote installed and ready to use.

Battery

The “large” battery which sticks out of the bottom of the Sony Vaio W Eco mini notebook is rated for up to 7 hours at Max brightness and up to 8 hours on default settings.

During my typical use I had the brightness turned all the way up with WiFi on and a few programs open and I was able to get in the 6 and a half hour range on a pretty consistent basis. Most to the time this meant a few Chrome windows open, Word, Norton (installed on the W Eco when purchased) and a few other random programs. I wasn’t watching videos or listening to a lot of music which would have put a bigger strain on the battery.

Heat and noise

Despite the sticker that warns users not to place this mini notebook in contact with your skin, I didn’t run into any heat issues that concerned me. There were a few times where the Sony Vaio W got warm, but it never got so warm that I needed to remove it or use a lapdesk.

For the most part the Vaio W Eco series runs quiet, even when the fan kicks on. But it’s not totally silent. I found that if I was in a quiet room with the W Eco series sitting next to me, I could hear a small tch-tch” coming from the hard drive area. Not something that will bother most users, but if you have a picky ear and work in very quiet environments this might annoy you. Personally I didn’t notice it enough to become a dealbreaker.

Conclusion

The Sony Vaio W is a capable netbook that gives users an attractive visual package with good specs, performance and battery life while offering a greener computing alternative. The higher price may be tough for some users to swallow, but it’s a premium paid for a green product and for what you get it isn’t a bad deal.

Personally I couldn’t get over the keyboard issue, but if you can handle the keyboard key sizes and the other minor issues the Sony Vaio W Eco Series is a well equipped machine that provides a green computing experience.

Josh Smith is a longtime mobile tech user, currently using a Droid as his primary smartphone. Josh is also an editor at Notebooks.com where he reviews notebooks and other mobile tech. Follow Josh on Twitter @Josh_Smith or email him Josh@Notebooks.com.

8 Comments

  1. jacy

    September 27, 2010 at 7:31 am

    aww this is so cute!

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