Va-Va-Va-Vaio! Sony's Sexy Subnote

Ooh and ah now, but wait a few months to let competition run its course.

sony vaio 505gx
At a Glance
  • Sony Vaio 505GX

    PCWorld Rating

From all the oohing and ahing people are doing over the Sony Vaio 505GX, you’d think it was a newborn child instead of a first-of-its-kind subnotebook. The 505GX’s ultrathin and light design is indeed appealing, but its US$2699 price should give you pause.

When you’re done admiring the system’s sleek profile (less than an inch thick) and chic silver-and-purple decor, note the 10-inch-wide keyboard—the unit’s most important breakthrough feature. The cramped 9-inch keyboards on most subnotebooks, including the Hitachi VisionBook Traveler 3000 and the Mitsubishi Amity CN, make typing on them a painstaking chore. The extra inch on the 505GX creates a world of difference, giving you just enough room for touch-typing. Yet at 4.3 pounds (including floppy drive and AC adapter), the 505GX is a mere 3 ounces heavier than the Traveler or the Amity.

The Vaio 505GX is configured with a Pentium MMX-266 CPU (slow for a standard notebook but fast for a subnote), a 256K-byte secondary cache, 32M bytes of RAM, a 10.4-inch active-matrix screen, a 2.1G-byte hard drive, an internal 56K-bit-per-second K56flex modem, and Windows 98. (Its sibling, the 505G, comes with a PMMX-200 CPU for $1999.)

The 505GX won’t win any performance championships, but our shipping unit moved through the business applications in our PC WorldBench 98 suite at a decent clip and didn’t feel much slower than a conventional notebook. Although we haven’t tested any other PMMX-266-based notebook stocked with a modest 256K-byte secondary cache, the 505GX’s WorldBench 98 score of 103 fell about 13 percent short of the average for similarly configured notebooks that have a 512K-byte secondary cache—no surprise there. The system’s battery lasted for 4.7 hours in our tests, an adequate figure but hardly stellar.

Sony’s 505 series has redefined subnotebooks, but for a high price. And the optional CD-ROM drive you’ll need in order to load most software costs an additional $299. For roughly the same overall cost, you could get a fast, fully loaded Pentium II-266 notebook with a 13.3-inch screen. But as other vendors follow Sony’s lead (Sharp’s Actius A100 Ultra-Light, due next quarter, has a similar physical profile), the price of these ultrathin subnotebooks should drop. Our advice: Ooh and ah now, but wait a few months to let competition run its course.

This story, "Va-Va-Va-Vaio! Sony's Sexy Subnote" was originally published by TechHive.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Innovative subnotebook will be even more attractive once the price falls.


    • Super slim and light
    • Keyboard large enough for touch typing


    • High price
    • CD-ROM drive not included in base configuration
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