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1.5-pound mini-laptop boots Linux fast

Jan 9, 2009 — by Jonathan Angel — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 104 views

Sony announced a mini-laptop that weighs 1.4 pounds and is just 4.7 inches deep. Shipped with Vista and a fast-booting Linux Xross environment, the “Vaio P” (VGN-P) includes a 1.33GHz Atom processor, eight-inch, 2GB of RAM, GPS, a cellular modem, and 8-inch 1600 x 768 screen.

(Click here for a larger view of Sony's Vaio P)

Introducing the Vaio P at this week's CES (Consumer Electronics Show), Sony representatives reportedly pleaded with journalists to call the device a “lifestyle PC,” not a netbook. Whether that's just marketing, or has something to do with the cease-and-desist letters that Netbook Pro copyright holder Psion is said to have been sending out, we can't say — but at just 9.65 x 4.72 x 0.7 inches, the Vaio P is dwarfed by any netbook we can think of.

Sony's little Vaio P
(Click to enlarge)

Offered in glossy black, red, white, and green finishes, the Vaio P has an eight-inch display (above) that is LED-backlit and manages to squeeze in 1600 x 768 pixels. The screen might not be ideal for would-be fashionistas who need reading glasses, but the device usefully sports a hardware button which, when pressed, automatically tiles open application windows (shades of Windows 1.0). Also featured is a keyboard (below), described as 87 percent of full-size, along with an integral pointing stick.

The Vaio P's keyboard saves space by using a pointing stick
(Click to enlarge)

The Vaio P uses Intel's 1.33GHz Atom Z520 and SCH US15W companion chip, fully exploiting the latter's new-found ability to handle up to 2GB of RAM. For mass storage, it comes with either a 4200rpm, 60GB hard disk drive, or an SSD, offered in either 64GB or 128GB versions.

Wired interfaces include a headphone jack, two USB ports, and a connector that — with a supplied adapter — offers VGA output and 10/100 Ethernet. As for wireless, there's 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 with stereo audio streaming, and an integrated tri-band (850/1900/2100 MHz) HSPA (high speed packet access) cellular modem, said to be compatible with the Verizon network. The device also boasts GPS, with an undisclosed chipset.

Like netbooks — or should we say mini-laptops? — the device comes with a webcam, plus a memory card reader that accepts SD, MMC, and Memory Stick media. A standard three-cell battery is claimed to operate the device for about three hours, while an optional six-cell battery doubles this, adding to the little system's depth by an unspecified amount.

Finally, while the Vaio P ships with Windows Vista Home Premium installed, it also offers an alternative. A small button located next to the power button boots the device into a Linux-based environment called Xross (pronounced “cross”). Xross reportedly loads within about 20 seconds, providing access to email, web browsing, music playback, a Skype VoIP client, and instant messaging.

Since the VGN-P has not shipped yet, Sony has not yet published Xross source code. However, it may be similar to the InstantMode 1.22 Linux stack used in VGN-TX Vaio devices.

Sony lists the following key features and specifications for the Vaio P:

  • Processor — 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z520 processor
  • Memory — 2GB of DDR2 RAM (non-expandable)
  • Display — LED-backlit dislay with 1600 x 768 pixel resolution
  • Keyboard — “87 percent” keyboard, with integral pointing stick
  • Storage — 60GB hard disk drive, 64GB SSD, or 128GB SSD
  • Wireless:
    • WAN — Integrated tri-band (850/1900/2100 MHz) HSPA (high speed packet access) cellular modem
    • WLAN — 802.11b/g/n
    • PAN — Bluetooth 2.1
    • GPS

  • Other I/O:
    • 10/100 Ethernet (via included dongle)
    • VGA output (via dongle)
    • Headphone jack
    • 2 x USB

  • Battery type — Lithium-ion, available in three-cell and six-cell versions (capacities not specified, but said to last three and six hours, respectively)
  • Dimensions — 9.65 x 4.72 x 0.78 inches
  • Weight — 1.5 pounds

Further information

According to Sony, the Vaio P VGN-P is orderable now, and units will begin to ship next month. The device costs approximately $900 with a 60GB hard disk drive, $1200 with a 64GB SSD, and $1500 with a 128GB SSD. More information may be found on the company's website, here.

Meanwhile, impressions of the device and additional photographs — including some comparing it to netbooks and notebook computers — are available on the website, here.

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