Sony VAIO VGN-UX17GP
- Compact size and weight, Fingerprint reader, Dual Cameras, Full QWERTY keyboard, Native Wi-Fi
- Keyboard not raised, No optical drive
The VAIO VGN-UX17 is a revolutionary entry into the portable notebook space, offering a fully fledged Windows XP device that is small enough to fit into the palm of your hand. We'd like to see further developments, but it still should appeal to those looking for portability and full PC functionality.
Price$ 2,499.00 (AUD)
The smallest and lightest device to run a full install of Microsoft Windows XP, the Sony VAIO VGN-UX17 is truly a revolutionary entry into the computing market. This ultraportable PC offers a biometric fingerprint reader, video and still Motion Eye cameras and full support for all Windows XP compatible applications. The VAIO is ideal for users looking for a highly portable full function computer.
The best feature of the UX17 is its compact design and it's really hard to believe this is a fully fledged Windows XP machine. Its size has to be seen to be believed and even when slid open to expose the keyboard, the UX17 is tiny. When closed, it measures just 150.2mm x 95mm x 32.2mm. Best of all though, it weighs a mere 517g so it's easy to throw into your bag or purse without even noticing its presence.
Slide it open and the UX17 reveals a full 64-key QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard is a thoughtful addition and it is certainly useful if you are on the move, but the keys are not raised enough. This means it is somewhat difficult to register every press as they require a firm touch to activate. The UX17 can also be used like a tablet PC, thanks to the included stylus and touch screen. The stylus is hard to reach though, as it's placed in a strange location towards the middle of the back of the unit. It would have been best suited closer to the right edge of the device.
The design of the UX17 - large cylindrical edges and a sunken middle - makes it easy to hold in your hands. You'll need to use two hands at all times to operate it though, as it is difficult to balance with one. The unique design ensures the keyboard and all the controls are accommodated, while making it easy to grip with both hands. Our only complaint is that the UX17 can get uncomfortable to hold over long periods of use.
The UX17 includes a multi-pointer mouse with left and right click buttons. The buttons are on the left hand side of the unit, with the mouse on the right. Like most laptop mice, it's difficult to get used to, but on the whole fairly responsive. There is also a wireless and power switch on either side, as well as zoom in and out keys and a capture button on the top for taking photos and recording video.
Despite being such a small device, Sony has equipped the UX17 with an array of features. Two integrated cameras - one on the rear for taking photos and the other on the front for video conferencing - are included. The latter is a VGA (and also includes a built in microphone), while the rear has a 1.3 megapixel sensor. The 1.3 megapixel camera is fine for happy snaps, but the image quality produced isn't good enough for remotely serious photography. The video recording quality is also below average, with a significant lack of detail and crispness but for basic conferencing it should do the job.
One of the other most impressive features of the UX17 is the display. At 4.5 inches, it's fairly small but offers a resolution of 1024 x 600, which is great for most applications. The display is crisp and clear and has a fairly good viewing angle as well. Our only complaint is that at its highest resolution it's extremely small to read and navigate. Thankfully, you can hook up the UX17 to a monitor via a VGA input located on the dock. Because the UX17 is so small, a number of extra features such as a 10/100 LAN connector, three USB ports and an iLink port have been placed on the dock rather than the actual unit. You can also charge the unit using the dock, although the UX17 doesn't sit as firmly in its slot as we would have liked and can easily be rocked back and forth.
The UX17 ships standard with native 802.11a, b and g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0 and also offers a built-in fingerprint reader, just above the display. Sony includes Protector Suite QL software for the fingerprint scanner and this is very easy to set up and use. Just scan your finger four times to register it then attach it for use with a number of applications.
The device can also be used as a portable media player and Sony has included the VAIO Touch Launcher application to help facilitate this. From here you can access a number of the unit's features including Internet, email, music, photo, camera, Bluetooth, documents, Windows Media Player and handwriting. It also allows adjustment of system volume and display brightness.
Internally, the UX17 includes a 1.2GHz Intel Core Solo processor, 512MB of DDR2 memory, a 30GB hard drive and Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics. Although these specifications may not sound impressive, when you factor in the size of this unit they are more than adequate to do the job required. Our World Bench 5 score of 58 reflects this - what you are getting is a trade off in performance for size.
The biggest letdown of the UX17 is the fact that it has no optical drive, although this is to be expected for a unit of this size. According to Sony, the UX17 rates quite well in terms of battery life, with a quoted 3.5 hours. We found this figure is slightly inaccurate, as we had to charge the unit every three hours or so to maintain its power. Still, this is ok for such a small unit. This figure shrinks somewhat with moderate to heavy usage, such as using the media player or camera features.
Overall, the UX-17 is an exciting entry into the portable computing space, but it isn't without faults. Despite this, it will still appeal to anyone who is after a highly portable yet fully functional PC.
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