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Fabien Pionneau Published on February 5, 2010
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  • CPU Intel Atom N270 (1.6 GHz)
  • Graphics chipset Intel GMA 950
  • RAM 1 GB
  • Screen 10.1 inches, 1366 x 768 pixels
  • Storage space 1.6E-7 GB
  • Optical drive No
Sony has taken quite some time to get stuck in to the netbook market. With plenty of competition out there, an impressive showing is needed to mark yourself out from other models. The Sony Vaio VPCW12S1E/W promises an exemplary finish and studied design that aims to please in spite of a rather standard configuration. Sony is setting store by its X-Black screen, which it is clearly bigging up in the marketing blurb.

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.

Sony Vaio W12

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.

ASRock G22 webcamThe 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.

Sony Vaio W12 Sony Vaio W12
Lid of the W12

2 USB 2.0s, RJ45, anti-theft

Sony Vaio W12 Sony Vaio W12
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.
The screen

Sony has got into the habit of sticking glossy screens (“X-Black”) on its laptops. So you get plenty refelections, which is a shame for a netbook that is supposed to be able to handle a variety of conditions, including sunlight.

Unusually for a 10.1 inch screen you get a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution, a nice alternative to the usual 1024 x 600 pixels.

We’ve still got the standard TN type screen however, with a response time equivalent to a 5 ms model. Viewing angles from above and below are therefore narrow, alongside responsiveness that’s sufficient for working on office documents and viewing films.

Default colours are poor, with a Delta E of 11.9 and a very marked colorimetric shift towards blues.
Contrast is also bad, with a ratio of just 222:1. We measured black levels at 0.90 Cd/m², for whites at 199.3 Cd/m².

To correct the colours download a calibration profile.


  • Exemplary finish
  • Good choice of materials
  • Good battery life: 5h33
  • Nice touchpad and comfortable keyboard


  • Noisy
  • The battery sticks out
  • Disappointing “X-Black” screen!
  • Limited performance
  • Poor audio


A nice looker this W12, however looks aren’t everything and it’s a shame that Sony didn’t go for better components. Moreover, the 6-cell battery sticks out quite a bit, which may be problematic when carrying it around.
3 Sony Vaio VPCW12S1E DigitalVersus 2010-02-05 00:00:00
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