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Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. This latest VAIO from Sony is, without a shadow of a doubt, the coolest notebook computer ever. It’s that simple. This is the kind of product that just stops people in their tracks when they see it. Pull this out of your bag in an aiport departure lounge, and your fellow passengers will turn green with envy, and shamefully hide their own big and heavy notebooks under the nearest chair.
Everyone that I showed the X505VP to just couldn’t take their eyes or their hands off it. I eventually had to take it home with me so that I could write this review, since every time I left it unattended in the office, someone couldn’t help picking it up and fondling it. It’s not surprising though; this notebook just begs to be picked up, touched and admired.
At it’s shallowest point the X505VP is only 11mm high when closed, while at the other end it’s still a svelte 21mm high. But it’s not just the height that’s impressive, the full dimensions are 256 x 208 x 11-21mm (WxDxH) and the weight is an unbelievable 822g. In reality, the VAIO X505VP is smaller and lighter than, well, than a notebook. And when I say notebook I mean a pad with pages of paper in it. I never thought it would be possible, but you can now carry a notebook computer around with you that is actually more convenient than a pad of paper and a pen. Of course the pad of paper won’t run out of battery power, but you’d be hard pushed to pick up your emails with it.
To help produce a notebook of such amazing weight and size characteristics, Sony has invested in some pretty exotic materials. With the inner chassis made from magnesium alloy and the outer panels constucted from moulded carbon fibre, the X505VP is light, but still very rigid. As a keen mountain biker I’m well aware of the impressive weight/strength and stiffness ratio of these materials, so I’m confident that despite it’s lightness, this little notebook should be very robust indeed. In fact, if Sony had thrown in some titanium, there’d be hardcore mountain bikers queueing up for these machines just to match their bikes.
In my opinion the most important aspect of a notebook is ergonomic usability. The points at which you interact with a notebook are paramount to a productive relationship with the device, so the screen, keyboard and pointing device all have to be of a high enough standard to ensure ease of use, instead of consistent frustration.
When I first saw the X505VP I figured that the keyboard would have to be apalling to get it to fit inside such a small chassis, and upon opening the device up and seeing the keyboard that initial opinion was reinforced. All the keys look more like buttons. In fact, the keyboard looks like something you may have found on an early PDA, where just having all the keys there was the important part, not whether it was possible to type comfortably or not. With some trepidation I fired up Word and tried typing on the keyboard. It was at this point that I realised my assumption about keyboard quality could not have been more missplaced. It’s true that the keys are small, but they are perfectly spaced and I found it possible to type at pretty much full speed without too much practice. Amazingly there is a decent amount of travel in the keys, although I can’t for the life of me figure out how Sony has achieved this.