Sony Vaio M Atom 2.0 netbook
If you can't beat 'em...
Though its not something I have commented on directly before, Windows 7 Starter does run rather more briskly on the new Pine Trail netbooks, but if you want things to move with even more smoothly, then more Ram certainly helps. However, the Sony spec has the Vaio M down as having a maximum memory of 1GB, which is what it's supplied with.
Closed book: no Ram upgrade path that we could find easily
Naturally, a bit of tinkering was in order to see if I could customise the spec at all with a Ram upgrade. I removed all the screws on the underside of the unit but couldn't even get the case off. I can only assume it is glued, as well as screwed in place, which would make a Ram upgrade effectively impossible, even assuming the memory module isn't soldered in place.
In an effort to save a few quid, Sony has dispensed with the Vaio W's chiclet keyboard and fitted a more standard design which, while acceptable, is not up to the standards currently being set by Samsung with the likes of the N140. The keys themselves are just a little too shallow in profile, their travel is a little too short and the base is not as solid as I have come to expect. In fact, it looks and feels very similar to the keyboard fitted to the original Acer Aspire One, which was fine on a machine released two years ago and costing £200 but the game has moved on.
The track pad combination is traditional in layout with two separate click bars, rather than the combined one-piece bar favoured by Samsung or the built-into-the-pad design that Dell prefers. Both click bars have a positive and firm action while the pleasantly rough surfaced Synaptics pad supports such basic multi-touch functions as pinch-to-zoom and horizontal and vertical scrolling. Incidentally, the images here of the Vaio M show a US pattern keyboard not the British layout of our review machine.
As standard, the Vaio M comes with a 6-cell battery rated at 3,600mAh which falls well shy of the 5,900mAh shoved up the backside of the the Samsung N220 or even the 4,400mAh unit in the Acer Aspire One 532. Subjected to our usual netbook SD H.264 VLC video-loop test the Vaio's battery lasted for only 175 minutes. Yet, in day-to-day use, it proved easy enough to get 4 hours from a charge. Frankly, that is just not good enough when machines like the N220 can manage more than 8 hours of regular use on a charge.
No bulbous battery pack, but the reduced capacity impacts on the unplugged usage time
Before I leave matters power related, even when the processor is under a light load, the Vaio M's fan was always spinning and its not the quietest either. Obviously, it makes more noise than the Dell Mini 10 which doesn't have a fan at all, but it is also noticeably louder than the N140 and lacks the Samsung's low power silent-running option.