Sony Micro PC Vaio VGN-UX1XN Review - Laptop alternative? Review


Another innovation, but one that’s less obvious, is the screen, which is backlit using LEDs instead of the standard cold cathode fluorescent lamp. This makes for a very evenly lit, bright screen and should also help battery life. IT managers will also be pleased to discover that the device also sports a TPM chip for secure storage of passwords, network keys and encryption keys.

It’s all very impressive stuff but the big question is, as with all UMPCs, does it make it a practical alternative to a laptop? With the UX1XN, Sony has got a lot right. The two chunky ‘grips’ on each side means it sits very nicely in your hands – a bit like a well-designed games console controller – and the main controls are placed such that you don’t have to tie your fingers in knots to access them.

Performance is perfectly acceptable. With 1GB of RAM and that super-quick 32GB solid state drive, the UX1XN is every bit as nippy and responsive you’d expect a competent laptop to be. It’s certainly a lot more responsive than the OQO was with XP and, hooked up to a desktop keyboard, mouse and monitor, it’ll pass muster as a desktop machine with room to spare (as long as you don’t expect to be able to play games on it).

The touchscreen is very accurate – much more so than the screen on the OQO and this makes entering text using Vista’s impressive handwriting recognition straightforward and practical, using the stylus which tucks into a slot on the rear. In fact I found myself using this method more often than not for text entry. While it’s not practical for writing your magnum opus on the move, it certainly is good enough for penning the odd email, jotting notes down and filling in online forms.

The main weakness with the Sony lies in the size of the screen – its resolution to be precise. At just 1024 x 600 you find that, all too often, dialog boxes are simply too large to fit on screen – with the result that OK and Next buttons often disappear and can’t be clicked – and that things get overcrowded very quickly, especially if you opt to use Vista’s handwriting recognition panel. It’s frustrating as just 168 extra vertical lines would result in a much more usable system.

The disk too, though an impressive showcase for solid state technology, is too small for a Windows Vista machine. After taking into account Sony’s recovery partition, you’re left with just 24GB. Take Vista‘s installation footprint from this (15GB minimum) and you’re left with a measly 9GB for your files, music and video.

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