Handling, design and build: a nice finish with good choice of materials
Sony machines are usually well thought out and nicely finished. The W12 lives up to this rep with a high quality finish. The plastic is all matte, which we very much approve of. The plastic surface around the keyboard has a coating that resists marks and is agreeable to the touch. The screen hinges feel solid.
The keyboard has small flat keys (13.5 x 12 mm). Typing is supple and comfortable with soft keys that react well. However, the size of the keys won’t necessarily work for those with big fingers.
The multi-touch touchpad has a fluid, rapid and precise glide. While we’ve seen better, this one is already pretty good. The right and left clicks are responsive and not too noisy.
The webcam image is very average. It lacks sharpness and only just gives enough fluidity. Colours are rather pale, which is probably due to a lack of luminosity. Avoid using it in too dark a place if you want to be able to be seen by the person you’re talking to.
Although it has a standard configuration that gives out little heat, the Sony Vaio W12 comes with a rather noisy fan. While it’s quiet in idle, the fan accelerates after a few minutes of use and tends to remain at a high level for quite a while. This is a shame as it would have been easy enough to install a quieter fan for such a configuration.
Connectivity is relatively poor, with just 2 USB 2.0 ports, a VGA, a headphones socket, a mic, an RJ45, an SD memory card reader and another for the proprietary Sony Memory Stick format. It also has Wi-Fi b/g/n and Bluetooth.
Underneath, there’s a panel for access to the machine’s hard drive. The rest is unfortunately inaccessible unless you take it apart. We would at least have liked to be able to access the RAM. The machine we tested seems however to have been a pre-series, which may explain this.
|Lid of the W12
||2 USB 2.0s, RJ45, anti-theft
|Charger, power connector, fan, VGA, mic, headphones
||Touchpad and clicks
Processing: mainly office docs
Intel Atom performance levels are no secret. These processors are sufficient for handling office documents and internet use and can also take care of other operations such as photo work and video editing and encoding, as long as you’re patient (processing takes between 3 and 6 times as long). The Atom N280 that is used here scores 20 on our index, compared to 100 for our reference machine, the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 (equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400).
You won’t be able to play HD 1080p (Blu-Ray equivalent) on this machine but will have to make do with DVD type videos or compressed DivXs.
3D gaming: old, undemanding titles
Generally speaking, gaming on netbooks is only for real enthusiasts willing to put up with highly compromised quality. Only models with ATI or NVIDIA ION graphics chips can handle a few recent games and even then as long as the CPU doesn’t cut down performance too much (a single core Intel Atom is insufficient).
Audio: go for the headphones out if you can
Audio on netbooks often falls rather short and this is again the case with this Sony Vaio W12 that struggles to give anything half decent out of its built-in front speakers. Treble dominates and the absence of bass is very noticeable. Opt for the headphones out if you can – it gives a relatively clean sound.
Mobility, battery life: the battery sticks out quite a way, but for a reason!
The battery won’t go unnoticed! The battery sticks out underneath the machine and is also rather heavy. While this is neither very attractive, nor particularly practical, you have to say that battery life doesn’t disappoint. With films (brightness at 100 Cd/m², Wi-Fi disactivated and headphones plugged in) it gave 5h33 playing time. This is equivalent to the Samsung N140, although it's down on the Toshiba NB200 (6H10). The MSI Wind U115 is still the best out there with between 7 and 9h52.
In spite of the large battery, the Sony Vaio W12 doesn’t weigh too much overall thanks to its very compact power adaptor (see photo above). This is something we appreciate as it’s all too often neglected, though obviously indispensable for transporting your machine around.