Monday, October 26, 2009

First Look: The World's Thinnest/Lightest Laptop

Until you have seen the new Sony Vaio X laptop, you haven't seen anything at all. This just blows your mind away. It will be delivered to consumers November 20, and you can pre-order it from Sony now.

This laptop is the thinnest, lightest and most battery-efficient thing on record. When you pick it up, you're asking: Where is the battery? It's so light you have to be careful to not throw it up in the air by mistake. With the small battery, it's 1.6 lbs. With the bigger battery, I think it's 2 lbs or slightly more. The battery life is 2.5 hours with the small battery, and 12 hours with the big battery. And yes, both batteries are included, so for a long flight you're covered for 14.5 hours even without a power cord.

This is a 2 GHz Atom with 2 meg RAM and a 128 gig SSD. The color is "gold" which sounds bad, but doesn't look bad at all in reality. It's a pale gold bordering on silver, but at a minimum it just doesn't look bad at all. For connectivity, it has 802.11n by Atheros and Gigabit Ethernet -- an amazing feat on a device this thin.

The screen is 11.1 inches, which is a little smaller than my normal minimum acceptance of 12 inches. The keyboard is 17mm pitch, which is also smaller than a typical 12 inch laptop. Not ideal, but not terrible either -- compared to other ultra-light netbooks.

The device oozes quality. It seems strong as a rock, similar to the MacBook Air. Yet it weighs essentially half of the MacBook Air. It's not as rounded as the MacBook Air, but with these dimensions and weight, it still makes the MacBook Air seem like a total hog from ancient pre-history. The keyboard feels high-quality, despite being a shade too small.

The price is $1,500, or $300 less than the MacBook Air with a similar 128 gig SSD. As is typical of these prices, they don't include 3-year warranty ($200) and Microsoft Outlook/Office ($450).

The best competition I have seen against the Sony Vaio X are, at the low end: the MSI L2100, which has a 12 inch screen and sells for $400. No SSD or ultra-thin or ultra-light, but still as small as any comfortable laptop has been otherwise. The keyboard is very good. On the high end, the Toshiba R600 is nearly as thin and light as the Sony Vaio X for $3,500, but that includes an industry-first gigantic 512 gig SSD and a faster non-Atom Intel dual-core processor. The weight is 2.5 lbs, battery life 7.5 hours, and it includes a 3 year warranty -- had better be, at that price!

Bottom line: The Sony Vaio X is an outrageously compelling laptop, unlike anything else. It's so thin and light, that one feels transformed to a future science fiction world just by touching it and lifting it up. Some people may find it too small or lacking in CPU power to be a primary office computer, but for everyone else it is only a matter of whether they can spend $1,500 (or $2,150 equipped with 3 year warranty and Microsoft Office).