Throwback Thursdays: The Sony P Series Laptop

Throwback Thursdays: The Sony P Series Laptop

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This is a notebook that does require some introduction. They didn’t sell very well and in the 4 years since the first model came out I’ve only seen a single one in the wild. The P series was small, tiny even, featuring a wide but short display and not much more than a keyboard. No touchpad, you have to use a trackpoint to make your way around Windows.

It came at an awkward time. Netbooks were all the rage but their lack of power was frustrating to say the least and tablets, while definitely and interesting concept, were still a year away from being commercially viable.  The age of ultra portable notebooks hadn’t dawned yet, either. If you did want something with a moderately sized screen and a full size keyboard your only choice was an “ultraportable” laptop. Sure they were portable but they were expensive, low on power, and short on battery life.

Sony knew all this but pushed forth, building one of the smallest notebooks ever. It makes netbooks look big and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen clutch purses bigger than it. Trust me, this thing was TINY. It looked good though, with lots of colours to choose from and a pretty good display to match. The second generation even had an accelerometer to let you use the notebook vertically and the screen would rotate accordingly. Sweet stuff.

But Was It Any Good?

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Here’s the problem: the thing was expensive. $900 was the original sticker price for the P Series and the 2nd generation brought that down to a slightly more affordable $800. I don’t remember how much it was sold for in Malta but it was I do remember that it was some crazy figure.  This is Malta after all.

Reviewers did praise the keyboard though, which makes sense. They appreciated the trackpoint and it’s high sensitivity too. Paul Miller (The Verge, then at Engadget) said:

 we actually appreciate the subtleties of its movement as compared to a touchpad, since the high resolution screen requires some very specific mousing to be able to work with … If you’re a real ninja, you can actually click with the trackpoint, but it’s a bit sensitive, so we’re still building up to it. (Engadget)

Performance was alright, if one keeps in mind that the device launched with Vista.   The P series would have been much better off sticking to XP. Vista was tough enough on Intel Core processors, let alone a tiny Atom CPU.

The trouble is that there comes a time when small is too small. You couldn’t properly use it on your lap, for instance, or while lying down. I’d imagine using it on a desk would be a little awkward too – it doesn’t have any palm rests at all.

The Legacy of the Sony P Series Laptop

Honestly? There isn’t much of a legacy.  Netbooks have all but died out but in the 3 years of success they had nobody tried to go down Sony’s road and shrink their notebooks down to such an extreme size.  The P series wasn’t all that practical and it was too expensive to ever become anything more than a niche product, a gadget more than a tool.

Tablets may be to blame for its demise.  The Nexus 7, especially the 2013 model, has proven that small tablets are great for both media consumption and production. I’ve worked on full-sized Excel worksheets during Accounts class on my 2012 Nexus 7 and I was keeping up with others just fine. Sure my fingers hurt a little and it was a little cramped, but it wasn’t as bad as one would think.

The P series has fallen into the technological ether where other crazy ideas go when they’ve been forgotten.  This Sony notebook is one of those things we lust after pretty badly but don’t buy, even if we can afford to do so.

That’s it for this week folks. Click through the gallery below for some more images of the Sony P series and do check out last weeks Throwback Thursday if you missed it, the Nokia 3310! Oh, and enjoy Santa Maria!

Images taken from Engadget

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