Sony Laptop Offers a Cingular EDGE

Sitting at Starbucks gets expensive. Taking your laptop to work by the hotel pool, only to learn that you must stay in your room is a pain. In short, the Wi-Fi wireless e-mail and Internet access that seemed so wonderful just a year or two ago now gets taken for granted &#151 and grumbled about whenever we’re on the road and out of range of a hotspot or unable to make a connection.

Moving into a room deep inside our office building and with a flickering two-bar connection, however, our throughput took a dive &#151 sites took minutes to load as test results fell to a snail-paced 10Kbps. By contrast, our Wi-Fi link delivered anything from 122Kbps to 896Kbps, averaging roughly 550Kbps.

Light and Long-Lasting
By any measure, the Vaio T350P is a pleasure instead of a burden in your briefcase: The system is a sleek 8.1- by 10.7-by 1.3-inches, and the notebook and AC adapter together weigh less than four pounds &#151 and this is, remember, a laptop with both a hard disk and DVD±RW drive, not a slim-line that requires an external optical drive.

The main compromise for this small size is a keyboard with no pitch and 17mm spacing instead of your desktop keyboard’s 19mm. The requisite precise typing takes some concentration for the first few hours, but then becomes comfortable, as does the two-button touchpad in the center of the not-very-big palm rest.

Mastering the Fn-key shifting to toggle the cursor arrows with Home, End, PgUp, and PgDn keys takes some practice, but at least the Delete key is properly positioned at the top right corner instead of being stashed somewhere else. Above the keyboard you’ll find play, pause, next-track and previous-track buttons for enjoying CDs or DVDs.

The system’s size also dictates a 10.6-inch-diagonal, wide-aspect-ratio screen. The display offers Sony’s contrast-boosting Xbrite technology (a glossy black instead of grayish LCD when the computer’s turned off) and ample brightness, although as usual we only liked the top two or three of the nine backlight settings.

Its 1,280 by 768 resolution makes icons and menu text a wee bit small for our aging eyes, but its sharp contrast and rich colors keep the screen headache-free for several-hours, if not all-day work sessions. Moreover, pressing the Fn and F10 keys toggles between full resolution and a rescaled if somewhat pixelated 1,024 by 600 closeup.

Speaking of several hours, the rear-mounted, rounded lithium-ion battery won us over with an honest four and a half hours’ runtime in real-world use, including some disk-intensive software installation and CD listening as well as wireless Web surfing.

Office-Caliber Performance
If you could open up the T350P, you’d find Intel’s ultra-low-voltage Pentium M 753 &#151 a 1.2GHz processor and 2MB of Level 2 cache &#151 as well as the 855GME chipset that provides the integrated graphics and the Pro/Wireless 2200GB Wi-Fi adapter that completes the Centrino trio.

Sony stirs in 512MB of DDR333 memory (a model with 1GB is $300 more) as well as a 60GB, 4,200-rpm hard disk and a DVD±RW drive with double-layer DVD+R support (a model with DVD-ROM/CD-RW is $250 less). The result is a notebook that can feel a touch sluggish when running on battery power with throttled-down CPU speed, but is certainly adequate for loading and running productivity applications if not demanding graphics, video or gaming fare.

Despite its small size, the T350P finds room for two USB 2.0 and one FireWire (what Sony calls i.Link) ports, along with VGA, Ethernet, and modem connectors; headphone and microphone jacks with volume and mute buttons; and a Type II PC Card slot plus a slot for Sony’s Memory Stick storage modules.

Along with Windows XP Professional SP2, Sony pre-installs its usual cornucopia of house-brand multimedia viewing/listening/mastering software, InterVideo WinDVD, Sonic RecordNow, Quicken 2005, Microsoft Works and trial versions of Microsoft Office, Norton Internet Security, and InterMute SpySubtract.

At $2,200, the Vaio T350P continues both Sony’s record of world-class design and its record of pricing a few hundred bucks above the impulse-buy or must-have line. But its good-to-go weight, size, and battery life will tempt many a business traveler, while its pioneering wireless-data-network as well as wireless-Ethernet connectivity &#151 at this writing, shared only by Sony’s new BX business-laptop line &#151 is potentially invaluable icing on the cake.


  • A three-pound flyweight with a nice screen, good battery life and roaming
    Cingular Wireless &#151 as well as Wi-Fi-hotspot access to e-mail and the Web


  • Slightly cramped keyboard; EDGE availability and speed varies; purchase price plus first year’s Cingular account equals a steep $3,080

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