Sony’s Vaio VGN-UX1XN is in many ways a remarkable machine. Weighing less than half a kilo and measuring 100.5mm high, 150.2mm wide and 38.2mm deep, it is amazing that the computer can pack in a keyboard, 1024 x 600 pixel display, Intel Core Solo 1.33GHz U1500 processor with 1GB of RAM, 32GB hard drive, fingerprint sensor, front and back facing cameras, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Ethernet. Oh, and it runs Windows Vista Business.
In many respects, then, this pocket Hercules is on a par with many a full-sized laptop computer. And the whole hardware design is lovely to look at.
But you can’t use the Vaio VGN-UX1XN in the way you would a laptop computer, and in the end, for all its great specifications and absolute ‘wow’ factor, we can’t help feeling it is little more than a very expensive gadget rather than a real computer.
For a start, the screen is small at just 4.5 diagonal inches, and its 600 pixels of height mean that some dialogue boxes drop off the bottom. It can be hard to read text, too, because everything is reproduced at tiny proportions when compared to the screen of a more usual laptop or desktop PC.
The keyboard is also a problem as it is too small to use at speed. You can use it two-fingered style for tapping out text, but you have to work at a fairly low rate. Still, we love the way it slides up from the underside of the casing.
Then there is the hard drive. It is solid state which means it is fast, battery efficient and robust. But it isn’t big enough by any stretch of the imagination at just 32GB. With Vista installed there is only 9.7GB of free space. You’ll be needing the Compact Flash and SD/MMC/Memory Stick card slots a lot.
And the battery life is poor. Sony quotes just 160 minutes and we found that if we maximised use for wireless Internet access, playing music and the like, the battery didn’t see us through an awfully long time.
You get a docking station that adds three USB ports to the one that is on the device itself, as well as the Ethernet connector, FireWire and an AV-out socket. You aren’t likely to want to carry this around as it simply adds to the bulk.
In the end we really like the Vaio VGN-UX1XN because it looks good and is just so, well, clever for such a small device. But if we were spending our own money we’d buy a nicely featured ultraportable laptop that weighs twice as much but is more ergonomic to use, and probably still have change for a weekend away somewhere nice.