Though Sony disdains the name "netbook", it's really hard to categorize the Vaio P Series otherwise. It's a very small notebook, or personal computing device as Sony refers to it, and it makes the Acer Aspire One look large. However, it's much larger than the Fujitsu U810 and U820 (our review of the U820 is coming soon), and is thus far more usable for extended periods of time.
The Vaio P ships with Vista-- no Windows XP option as with most other Intel Atom powered netbooks. We've got the Vaio P588 with a 64 gig solid state drive (SSD). This makes a world of difference in performance compared to the P model with a conventional hard drive. Vista is usable. Even better? The Vaio P with Windows 7!
We installed the Windows 7 beta (build 7000) and it runs beautifully on the P. We could have done an upgrade install but opted for a clean slate and did a clean install. Generally Sony uses a lot of fancy hardware that requires custom drivers, but most hardware worked fine with the stock Windows 7 beta drivers. That said, we did download and install every driver from the Sony Vaio P driver download page after Windows 7 installed. If you own a P and want to play with Windows 7 beta, you can grab those drivers here: http://esupport.sony.com/US/perl/swu-list.pl?mdl=VGN-P588E/Q®ion_id=1 . But don't bother with the Intel graphics driver-- it will only install on Vista. Why not use those recovery DVDs you burned? They throw an error message when you try to run application and driver recovery under Windows 7.
After downloading and installing the Sony Vista drivers, the Verizon EVDO module works, the webcam works, WiFi and Bluetooth work (occasionally WiFi doesn't work and a reboot fixes that), the Fn keys work and Xross instant-on works. Since we're using build 7000, the Intel GMA500 graphics drivers were weak and there's a bug with the window manager, so no Aero. We hear that later builds, available from torrents, enable Aero on the P series.
Here's our video demoing Windows 7 with the full suite of drivers to show performance, multi-tasking and more. We also take a walk around the unit, visually compare to to a few other netbooks and UMPCs and give the XrossMediaBar instant-on features a test (especially the web browser, IM client and Skype).
Here's the video:
Quick Specs: 2nd generation Atom CPU running at 1.3GHz 2 gigs RAM 64 gig SSD Intel GMA500 graphics Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR WiFi 802.11b/g/n Verizon EVDO with GPS SD and Memory Stick Duo slots 2 USB ports, gigabit Ethernet, VGA port Price: $1199 Also available for $899 with a conventional 60 gig hard drive and $1,499 for the 128 gig SSD version
-------------------- Lisa Gade Editor in Chief, MobileTechReview