Sony have entered the netbook market with their new W Series.
Sony are not new to making small laptops, I had the really nice SRX41P back when I worked for the Western Colleges Consortium, and currently have been playing with the P series.
However one thing you could always say about Sony VAIO small laptops was though they were small in size, they were big in price. The SRX41P was nearly £2000, whilst current small models are nearly as expensive.
However the W series is going to be much cheaper, currently $500 in the US, UK pricing has yet to be announced, but I would guess it would be in the £400 mark.
It’s not a netbook that is going to be a real powerhouse. Running Windows XP, 1GB of RAM and a 160GB HDD it’s no different to a lot of netbooks in the market. It has a 10.1″ screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio.
As well as the ubiquitous Sony Memory Stick Duo slot there is also (like the P series) a SD card slot. Alas like a lot of netbooks it only has a two hour battery life.
It doesn’t look a lot different to other netbooks (well except you can get it in pink) but Sony is a brand that a lot of people trust and therefore I expect it might sell quite well to people who like Sony stuff, get the feeling that they may be disappointed.
Does make you wonder though if Apple will now take the plunge and enter the netbook market?
One of the nice things about my job and working on the MoLeNET programme is the fact that I can try out new pieces of equipment and wonder about their impact on our learners and learning.
I have written (and spoken) about the new breed of micro-laptops that surfaced last year starting wirth the Asus EeePC. Since then the number and type of micro-laptops have blossomed. So much so that the original 7″ Asus EeePC is now no longer available. Asus have improved upon their original concept and others have copied them. The Asus 901 for example has the same form factor as the first model, but now has a 8.9″ screen which does make a difference in how usable it is.
One micro-laptop which I did like was the HP 2133 which came with the bigger 8.9″ screen and importantly a 90% size keyboard. Though I liked the Asus EeePC the keybvoard was rather too small for me and I know others found it difficult to type large amounts of text on it. The HP 2133 was well suited to those who found the smaller micro-laptops too much of a microscopic size. However no point in recommending the HP 2133 as HP have decided to withdraw that model. Their replacement, the HP 2140 has a similar form factor to the 2133, included the nice keyboard, but now has a10.1″ screen. You have to ask is it a micro-laptop or is really no longer that form factor and more a subnotebook now?
One factor common to both of these was the linux operating system used instead of Windows. The Xandros on the Asus is very easy and simple to use, whilst the Suse Desktop OS used on the HP 2133 allowed more flexibiloity in installing software, not impossible on the Asus, just easier.
More recently I have been using a totallt different type of micro-laptop, the Sony VAIO P Series. In many ways this couldn’t be more different. It runs WIndows Vista. It has an 8″ (20.3cm) widescreen screen with a 1600×768 screen resolution. One aspect I do like about it is that it has a Apple’esque nearly full size keyboard which works for typiing for me. This blog entry for example was written on it.
As well as wireless and Bluetooth it also supports HDSPA. remove the battery insert your 3G SIM card and using a simple application, adjust the setrtings use the VAIO with a 3G connection without having to worry about plugging in a dongle or tethering to a phone as a modem.
It also looks like Sony have been listening to their customers and as well as a Memory Stick slot the VAIO also has a SD card slot. Considering how much use I now make of SD cards with cameras, mp3 recorders and sharing files, the SD card slot is very welcome.
The one thing which everyone comments on is the size and weight, it weighs very little and is only 24.5 by 12 cm.
Such a small device has to make compromises and the screen resolution and size means that some people may have difficulty with the Vista interface.
Battery life is pretty good and you can purchase an extended battery which will last twice as long. I am currently getting about 2 hours out of the standard battery.
So why wouldn’t everyone get one?
Well the price of course!
The VAIO UX1XN UMPC which came out in 2007 cost nerly £2000. The TX series of micro-laptops from Sony cost about £1400.
The P series is about £850 though you can spend more and get the model with the SSD drive. So for the price of one P series you could get three Auss EeePCs.
I have always been disappointed with the battery life. My original intention was to use the UX1XN as my main conference computer, my first attempt was at the JISC digitisation conference in Cardiff back in 2007.
It’s small enough to be unintrusive, unlike a laptop which can be a bit of a barrier, it has two cameras which enable me to send images to Flickr or take short video clips, and the keyboard is usable unlike the fiddly mobile phone type split keyboard of the Q1 Ultra. You can also use it without needing to put it on the table or on your lap which makes it ideal in the conference hall or break-out room environment.
However as I said at the beginning the battery life is the downer, I only really get about an hour and half from it, and this means that it won’t last the day at a conference.
So recently I ordered the extended battery for it, which should make it usable and hopefully last the day at a meeting or a conference.
I have therefore been practicing using the keyboard, which is quite thumbs orientated, and have managed to get a reasonable speed using it.
I wouldn’t want to write a long blog entry (like this one) on it, but for entering URLs or posting tweets or jaiku postings, I think it will work just fine.
Now of course what works well in the conference means that it would work equally well in the classroom or lecture theatre or workshop as a communication tool for learners.
Alas Sony no longer produce the UX1XN in the UK and though available from some suppliers still, generally you would need to get another UMPC if you were going to provide them to learners.
The BBC reporting from CES in Las Vegas after talking to the likes of Intel says
The desktop PC’s days of dominance could be numbered as laptops and ultra-mobile PCs begin to reap the benefit of ever greater, and more efficient, computing power.
Are we going to see the end of the desktop PC?
Given a choice I much prefer a desktop over an ultra mobile PC (umpc) for what I would call working (you know writing blog entries, abstracts, reports, long e-mails, etc…)
However when it comes to browsing, video, audio, I am quite happy with a mobile device.
I do like the Sony VAIO UX1XN as it comes (as standard) with a docking station which allows you to use it both as an umpc on the move, then when back in the office, slide it into the docking station and connected to a keyboard, mouse and (large) monitor I have my desktop.
So is the UMPC (and laptops) the future of computing, from the consumers’ perspective (and thus our learners) I think it certainly is.
The Guardian has reviewed the Sony VAIO UX1XN and found that though a wonderment of design, it is somewhat fiddly to use.
But delightful though this notebook is to look at and hold, it’s too flawed to be anything other than a novelty.
The review also mentions issues with the keyboard and the tablet input, which I both agree with.
… there’s the first disappointment – the keyboard. You wouldn’t want to do much more than tap out an email on it, as the size of the keys make it no good for touch-typing. Double-thumb input is feasible, but the tiny keys make it hard to be accurate.
The touchscreen is a nightmare. Fiddly to calibrate, it failed to retain its settings and eventually refused even to acknowledge that it was in fact a touchscreen. So I resorted to the pointing device.
I still think it is useful and not as flawed as the review makes out, and the more I use it, the more uses I find for it.
Back in August I mentioned how much cheaper the Sony VAIO UX1XN was getting.
When the Sony VAIO UX1XN was released in the UK it commanded a £2,000 price tag. Last month (July) I noticed my local Sony Centre had reduced the price to £1,600. Still expensive, but 20% off is quite a reduction. On Amazon now you can get the UX1XN for just £1,199 which considering the features of the UX1XN (the cameras, flash hdd) makes the UX1XN seem like a reasonable proposition.
Well there has been another price drop.
Sony are now selling the UX1XN for £999, whilst Amazon(through a third party) have it for £899. This is now cheaper than the Samsung Q1 Ultra (the one with the 32GB SSD Hard Drive).
I suspect there will be new UX VAIO soon, but when I don’t know, in the meantime the UX1XN is now getting to be reasonable value for money.
I do like the UX1XN (well apart from Vista blue screening on my way too often), I find it a very neat useful device at meetings and conferences.
A few reviews of the Fujitsu LifeBook U810 Tablet PC have emerged.
This is another one of those UMPC (ultra mobile personal computer) devices which started arriving last year but are now making waves, especially in the mobile learning world. Unlike traditional PDA devices, these usually run a full version of Windows and with appropriate connections can be used with a “normal” monitor, keyboard and mouse, and used as an UMPC when out and about.
Compared to the Samsung Q1 and the Sony UX1XN (which I have used) the battery life on the U810 is much more impressive, over five hours.
I am slightly sceptical Fujitsu devices, I used a p1510 LifeBook Tablet PC in a previous job and was not overly impressed in the main as it got very very hot (and had a poor battery life).
Certainly we are now seeing a lot more UMPC formats now.
I am guessing I had quite high expectations about Sony’s UX1XN. I do like the UMPC format and I also like the Tablet PC edition of Windows XP. So with all the bells and whistles (two cameras, flash hdd, etc) I was really looking forward to getting my hands on it and seeing how it would pan out.
The keyboard is taking some getting use to, it is quite small, and I guess if you use a Treo or similar smartphone you would find it quite familiar. The only other UMPC I have used is the Samsung Q1 and that didn’t have an integral keyboard, but a USB one which you attached and as a result the Q1 was quite bulky (it also had a much larger 7″ screen compared to the 4.5″ UX1 screen). I am suspecting that I may well get a USB (or Bluetooth) keyboard for the UX1 if I am going to do any serious typing on it. What I am missing is the Tablet PC interface, I was under the impression that Tablet PC was an integral part of Vista, but I can’t seem to find the text input that you have under Windows XP (post a comment if you know how I can access it). I quite like using stylus input, but at the moment I don’t seem to be able to do that, however I have only had the UX1 for just over a day so it may just be that I can’t find it yet.
EDIT: I’ve found it! I’ve found the Tablet PC Text input and it works. Excellent. However if I try and use it with the Sony built-in “zoom” function I can blue screen the device, less good.
The camera(s) are also going to get some getting use to. The photographs I tried to take today were very blurred, but I suspect the dark conference room I was in was a large factor in that. The photographs I had taken yesterday were much better.
It is quite nippy though considering the low voltage (hence slow) processor, but I suspect the 1GB of RAM is also helping. One of the issues I had with the Q1 (and the HP TC1100 for that matter) was the lack of RAM. Windows (and Windows Vista especially) needs a lot of RAM.
I do like the form factor and it is a very neat and small laptop. I haven’t had a chance to really try out the battery life (another thing I found that I didn’t like with the Samsung Q1) so it will be interesting to see how that works out in the real world.
Still early days really.
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