Review An ultra-portable notebook is a wonderful thing, especially for someone in my line of work. When you're regularly globetrotting, covering technology expos and product launches, you need to have a notebook with you in order to write up your stories. But you don't want something big and heavy weighing you down, especially on those long days wandering the crowded halls of a trade show. I'm always pleased to see a new slim notebook appear on my desk, especially when it's just in time for a foreign jaunt, writes Riyad Emeran.
By chance, Sony delivered its new Vaio VGN-T2XP just a few days before I had to jet off to Taipei for Computex 2005. For me, there's no better way to test an ultra-portable notebook than to take it out in the field. Carrying it around for a few days and knocking out thousands of words of copy gives you a real feel for what the customer will be experiencing.
My favourite machine for duties like this is the IBM ThinkPad X40, but I have to say that after using Sony's new baby for a few days, my affection is starting to shift. The T2XP really is a fantastic solution for the business traveller, but it has also got all those consumer-focused features that Sony loves to throw in.
Let's start with the most obvious factors first: the Vaio VGN-T2XP is small, very small. It's not quite as svelte and as light as the Samsung Q30, but it does pack far more of a punch than its Korean competitor. Don't get me wrong, I love the Q30, but in the end the lack of a PC Card slot made it an unsuitable proposition for me, since I wouldn't be able to use my Vodafone 3G data card. Not only does the T2XP have a PC Card slot, it also has an integrated DVD writer.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. As with all notebooks, there are three factors I consider to be paramount to an acceptable working environment: a good screen, keyboard and pointing device. Looking at the screen first, there's no doubt that Sony has pushed the boat out. The 10.6in widescreen display is a superb example, and the Xblack coating makes it ideal for watching movies while you're on the move. The resolution of 1280 x 768 gives you far more desktop real estate than most non-widescreen ultra-portable notebooks, which usually sport a native resolution of 1024 x 768. The image produced is bright and the colours vibrant, while the increased reflectivity from the Xblack coating didn't seem to cause me any problems no matter what lighting environment I used the T2XP in.
Next up is the keyboard, and there have obviously been compromises here because of the reduced physical dimensions of the chassis. OK, so this little Vaio isn't ever going to have a keyboard as good as a ThinkPad X40, but it is nonetheless very impressive. The key size is reduced, so you may want to try one out before you buy if you have large hands. I had no problem typing at speed on the T2XP, but then I do have pretty small hands. That said, what really impressed me was that Sony has kept pretty good continuity with the relative key sizes, compared to a regular keyboard. The Shift, Caps, Tab, Return, and Backspace keys are all large, and the Ctrl key is located at the bottom left, just where it's meant to be.