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The keys nearest the typer are housed in a chassis that’s about half a centimetre high, so how does it feel like there is more key travel than on some full size notebooks I’ve used? Sony has, quite simply performed a miracle with this keyboard, because despite the size limitations, it’s a joy to type on. Sony has even assured that the Return and Backspace keys are large, while the Ctrl key is where it’s supposed to be at the bottom left with the Fn key to the right of it. There’s even a correctly configured and positioned cursor key arrangement. When I first laid my hands on the keyboard I was afraid that the Spacebar was too small and that I’d find myself missing it. However, in practice, the Spacebar is fine despite its reduced dimensions.
To keep wasted space to a minimum, Sony hasn’t gone down the touchpad route and instead has placed a trackpoint device between the G, H and B keys. Having been used to the IBM TrackPoints it took a little while to get to grips with this one since it is set lower into the keyboard. That said, once I’d been using the X505VP for a while I had no problem manipulating the pointer, and my right index finger fell naturally into position whenever I needed it. The buttons for the trackpoint are located below the Spacebar, at the very edge of the chassis. Again, I initially thought that this would be a problem, thinking that my thumb could inadvertantly press the buttons when I was attempting to hit the Spacebar. However, in practice I didn’t hit the buttons by mistake once.
The final part of the ergonomic trilogy is the screen, and with a unit this small you’re never going to get the kind of high resolution display that’s common place in notebooks today, but that is a sacrifice that you’re obviously willing to make for the sake of ultimate portability. The screen measures 10.4in and sports a resolution of 1,024 x 768. This is more than adequate for a device this size, although considering the space surrounding the screen I can’t help but think that it could have been made just a little bit bigger. In use the display is as good as you’d get in any notebook – it’s bright and vibrant and exhibited even lighting across the whole surface. For those of you who may be thinking that the screen is too small to work at comfortably, don’t worry. I have used this notebook for hours on end without the slightest hint of eyestrain. The only issue I would mention is that you have to have every window running full screen, but then that’s a comment that could be leveled at any 1,024 x 768 display.
So, with a chassis this small what could Sony have possibly squeezed inside? Well, quite a lot actually. The heart of the X505VP is a 1.1GHz Pentium M processor. But this isn’t a standard Pentium M, this is the Ultra Low Voltage (ULV) variant that draws even less power than the standard Pentium M. The ULV chip was designed specifically for ultra-portable units like this, where longer battery life was more important than raw power. Even so, considering the duties that an ultra-portable notebook has to perform, this little chip should be more than adequate. Backing up the CPU is 512MB of DDR memory, which again is pretty impressive given the size of the machine. However, there are no spare SODIM slots, so the 512MB is your lot. But you’re not likely to be using a notebook like this for heavy duty applications, so 512MB should be fine for the lifetime of the unit. Graphics come courtesy of the Intel 855GM motherboard chipset, so that’s one less component that Sony had to worry about fitting in. The most amazing part of the core configuration is the hard disk, because I just can’t see where it possibly fits. Of course it is a 1.8in drive rather than the 2.5in units seen in most notebooks, but I’m still stunned at the fact that Sony has managed to fit one inside such a slim chassis.