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Sony Vaio U70P Wi-Fi micro PC

Smaller than a laptop, bigger than a PDA - the perfect PC size?

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TrustedReviews.comPreview Sony is a company that never ceases to amaze me. Every time I think that it can't produce another groundbreaking product, it does just that. When I looked at the Sony Vaio X505 ultra-slim notebook earlier this year, I was amazed at how small and light it was, while remaining a usable mobile tool. But with the Vaio Type U, Sony has created a mobile computer that makes even the X505 look big, writes Riyad Emeran.

The Type U is about the size of that ill-fated PDA pioneer, Apple's Newton MessagePad. Its exact dimensions are 16.7 x 11 x 2.8cm, with a weight of 550g. However, whereas a PDA is a device that's designed to do some of what a PC can do, the Vaio Type U actually is a PC. Despite the small dimensions, there's a complete set of PC components hiding inside that brushed silver and black chassis.

Sony Vaio U70 with 'fin' stylus and remote control

For starters, there's a 1GHz Intel Pentium M CPU backed up by 512MB of RAM, although the integrated graphics use will use a minimum of 8MB of that. There's a 20GB hard disk, which is small by modern notebook standards, but you've got to remember how much Sony has had to squeeze into such a small casing.

Dominating the front of the Type U is the 5in TFT screen. With a resolution of 800 x 600, it's a little low by notebook standards but very high by PDA standards. The screen is bright and vibrant, and the viewing angle is surprisingly good, considering that the device is going to be directly in front of you when you're using it. The screen is also touch-sensitive which is pretty handy.

Pointer control comes courtesy of a thumb stick that brings back memories of the Toshiba Libretto, which used a similar device imbedded in its lid. Pressing the thumb stick inwards is equivalent to pressing the left mouse button, while at the top left corner of the fascia is a group of three buttons that represent the left and right mouse buttons, along with a scroll-lock button. The latter is particularly useful when you're scrolling through web pages. Above the thumb stick is a four-way rocker pad that serves as your cursor keys, while there's a button in the centre that selects the highlighted option.

The bottom right corner also houses three buttons. One of these controls the brightness of the backlight, another takes you into a hardware set-up menu populated with volume control, brightness, mute etc. The third button fires up a rather strange handwriting recognition/text entry utility that I couldn't quite get the hang of. Now, before you think that I shouldn't be reviewing a PC if I can't figure out the applications, let me point out that the Type U is only available in Japan, so everything on this device, including Windows XP, is Japanese.

The final two buttons are in the bottom left corner, and are labelled Zoom and Rotate. The Zoom button will change the resolution of the screen - you can drop it down to 640 x 480, or push it up to 1024 x 768, 1280 x 1024 or 1600 x 1200. Of course the higher resolutions present you with a virtual desktop that you have to scroll around. The Rotate button spins the display into a portrait format, which can be very handy when you're reading a long document.

On the left side of the chassis is the power switch, a hold switch to stop any buttons being pressed inadvertently, and a headphone socket. The headphone socket also accepts a Sony type remote control and thankfully one is supplied in the box, complete with backlit display. On the right is a single USB port, a hardware switch for the integrated 802.11b wireless adapter and a control+alt+del button - absolutely imperative for any Windows-based device.

Sony Vaio U70

On the top you'll find a standby button, a MemoryStick slot and a CompactFlash slot. It's good to see that Sony is giving you the option of using a different memory card format from it's own MemoryStick. Here you'll also find a couple of clips that hold the battery in place - the battery takes up the whole back of the device.

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