Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 1st Nov 2016 22:08 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Never have I wanted a computer as much as the Sony VAIO P.

Never have I been so wrong.

Sony introduced the VAIO P at CES 2009, the height of the netbook boom, and its stunning design soared high above all competitors racing to the bottom. Look at your laptop; now imagine that the bottom half was nothing but the keyboard, and the top half was dominated by an ultrawide high-resolution screen. That's the VAIO P. It is screamingly beautiful even today.

If I could wave a magic wand and bring just one dead form factor back to life, it would be the small, (almost-)pocket clamshell. I have a Psion Series 3, and its size, shape, and keyboard would, in a modern incarnation running, say, Android, be a great, much more capable alternative to a modern tablet. Sure, you can lug around an unwieldy external Bluetooth keyboard, but I'd much rather have an integrated, clamshell solution.

Too bad nobody else would buy it.

Order by: Score:
Link?
by Vanders on Tue 1st Nov 2016 22:20 UTC
Vanders
Member since:
2005-07-06

Thom you seem to have missed out a link. That's just a quote with no context or link to anything to provide context.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Link?
by Cabalist on Tue 1st Nov 2016 22:51 UTC in reply to "Link?"
Cabalist Member since:
2016-11-01

Just to feed the impatient people me (like me). Here it is until Thom updates:

http://www.theverge.com/2016/10/30/13473970/sony-vaio-p-2016-review...

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Link?
by drcoldfoot on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 18:41 UTC in reply to "RE: Link?"
drcoldfoot Member since:
2006-08-25

That girl has no Butt. Of course she can attempt to fit the Vaio in her back pocket.

Edited 2016-11-02 18:51 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Link?
by puenktchen on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 19:45 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Link?"
puenktchen Member since:
2007-07-27

I have no butt either, but that Vaio is the same size as a newton message pad. I just tried it, no chance. At least not with a levis 501.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Kroc
by Kroc on Tue 1st Nov 2016 22:24 UTC
Kroc
Member since:
2005-11-10

The article link appears missing.

Windows Vista is/was one of the worst operating systems ever released. It made any machine that could run XP brilliantly crawl to a halt. It could take five minutes to shut down for no apparant reason. It was painfully slow at release on even the highest spec available in 2006. It was hostile, complicated and naggy. The "protected media path" killed performance even when not using any media and at the time of the launch there existed no hardware at all that could play a blu-ray because there were few-to-none screens with HDCP and exactly zero graphics cards with HDCP.

And then manufacturers would put it on netbooks with Atoms and 1 GB of RAM.

The VAIO P was killed by Vista. It was an awesome hardware design and I am in the camp that really desires a competant ultra-mobile. The hardware is totally there now.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment by Kroc
by PartTimeZombie on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 02:26 UTC in reply to "Comment by Kroc"
PartTimeZombie Member since:
2015-07-30

The Vaio P was also killed by the poor manufacturing quality. We had 4 of them at a previous job, and the hinges broke on all four, repaired under warranty and broke again.
We just gave up and sent them off for recycling. Typical Sony.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by Kroc
by Phucked on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 22:46 UTC in reply to "Comment by Kroc"
Phucked Member since:
2008-09-24

I quite liked Vista ran better and was way better looking than XP at the time. Windows 7 was just a SP for Vista IMO. Don't get the hate Vista got it ran fast on anything made from 2003/2004 on with at least a Pentuim 4 or Amd Athlon XP, runs well with Intel Atoms in my experience. Heck I would take Vista over WIndows 8/8.1 any day.

Reply Score: 2

HP Mini 2133
by Shinto on Tue 1st Nov 2016 22:56 UTC
Shinto
Member since:
2007-10-16

Early on in the Netbook craze, I bought an HP Mini 2133. It was the base model, with a 1.0 GHz Via C7-M processor and SuSE Linux. Even at the time, which was pre-Atom, this thing was achingly slow compared to its contemporaries. The C7 and Chrome9 video processors haven't aged well, to be sure, yet I can't bear to part with the HP Mini because of its fantastic form factor. It's not as compact as the VAIO P, but still unlike anything you'll find today.

I love the keyboard, the high-resolution display, the touchpad (yes, even with the side buttons), and the overall size of the machine. It's currently running Ubuntu 14.04 with the i3 window manager, and I use it mostly for terminal work, because that's all it can handle, really. You don't browse the modern Web with a 1 GHz Via C7-M.

Like the author of the Verge article, I would love to have something just like it but with modern hardware.

If you're after something (vaguely) similar to the Series 3, Thom, the new GPD Win is the closest I've seen: http://www.gpd.hk/gpdwin.asp

Reply Score: 3

RE: HP Mini 2133
by Kroc on Tue 1st Nov 2016 23:04 UTC in reply to "HP Mini 2133"
Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

I travel for work, so I carry a small laptop with me and for a few years that laptop was an eee-901 https://www.asus.com/Notebooks/Eee_PC_901/ This is one of the only 9" netbooks (they very quickly went to a minimum 10") and so it was very portable with pretty decent hardware and with the software stripped down as I do, it even ran well. It's been great to me, but the never-ending bloat of the 'Web has meant that the Atom processor just can't handle a browser any more.

We're going backwards, I swear.

Reply Score: 3

RE: HP Mini 2133
by Kroc on Tue 1st Nov 2016 23:06 UTC in reply to "HP Mini 2133"
Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

The GPD WIN is vapourware for now. There are only CGI renders on that page. It is what I'm looking for, but I'll wait for hands-on reviews; I doubt it's nearly as powerful as their claiming and battery life isn't going to be steller.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: HP Mini 2133
by vengefultacos on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 12:18 UTC in reply to "RE: HP Mini 2133"
vengefultacos Member since:
2016-11-02

Nope, not vaporware. It's in the process of shipping to its Indiegogo backers: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/gpd-win-intel-z8700-win-10-os-gam... . And it's been on limited sale from several sites for a few weeks (which has pissed those of us who backed the campaign to no end... they stated we'd get it first).

I had (actually still have) a Fujitsu u810. It was kinda useful, aside from jaw-droppingly bad design decisions around the keyboard (the arrow keys and Tab key had to be accessed by holding down a Fn key). It also had a noisy fan whose outlet blew it on your hand as you held the unit. But it runs OKish with Linux installed on it. Sadly, all of its non-standard hardware (such as the function buttons, screen rotation, and whatnot) aren't supported on anything other XP.

That said, it was nice for commuting via bus, where you have limited space. Can't wait to get my GPD Win for the same use.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: HP Mini 2133
by henderson101 on Thu 3rd Nov 2016 14:12 UTC in reply to "RE: HP Mini 2133"
henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

The GPD WIN is vapourware for now.


Really? http://www.osnews.com/permalink?636478 <-- looks like a real product to me, though it isn't overly great.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: HP Mini 2133
by Amaeth on Thu 3rd Nov 2016 23:07 UTC in reply to "RE: HP Mini 2133"
Amaeth Member since:
2016-11-03

Err, definately not vaporware. My GPD Win got delivered couple of days ago, and so far it seems to work pretty well

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: HP Mini 2133
by darknexus on Fri 4th Nov 2016 11:56 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: HP Mini 2133"
darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

Feel like maybe putting up a review for the curious? ;)

Reply Score: 2

RE: HP Mini 2133
by Vanders on Tue 1st Nov 2016 23:19 UTC in reply to "HP Mini 2133"
Vanders Member since:
2005-07-06

At a previous job we had HP Mini's running Ubuntu as on-call/datacenter laptops. They were perfect for that task, but I admit it's probably too small a market for HP to expend too much effort on it.

Reply Score: 3

Cramit
Member since:
2005-07-07

I always lusted over the p series from Fujitsu. I think the last gen was the p1630.

http://www.tabletpcreview.com/tabletreview/fujitsu-lifebook-p1630-r...

Reply Score: 1

Comment by smashIt
by smashIt on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 00:12 UTC
smashIt
Member since:
2005-07-06

I have a Psion Series 3, and its size, shape, and keyboard would, in a modern incarnation running, say, Android


please no android crap
make it an updated series 5 with win 10 and a 1080p display

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by smashIt
by owczi on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 02:23 UTC in reply to "Comment by smashIt"
owczi Member since:
2009-11-04

What, you mean running Symbian? Or EPOC?

But I would take a modern 5MX any time, agreed.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by smashIt
by REM2000 on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 08:04 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by smashIt"
REM2000 Member since:
2006-07-25

I agree i was going to post the same thing, i would take a 5MX as the keyboard was gorgeous for such a small device.

I dont think you could run EPOC on it anymore, im not sure what i would run, probably have to be Windows to take advantage of the keyboard however without a good pointing device and the screen being pretty small (thus making touch a bit haphazard) im not sure that would work either.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by ssokolow
by ssokolow on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 01:59 UTC
ssokolow
Member since:
2010-01-21

'e's not quite dead yet!

(Sorry. Couldn't find a YouTube clip of that particular line from Monty Python.)

I'm waiting for the Pyra.

https://pyra-handheld.com/

I have the older 600MHz revision of their previous creation (the OpenPandora) and I've been very impressed with both the device and the community.

http://openpandora.org/

They've managed to do very impressive things with an 800x480 LCD and a 600MHz CPU with software overclock (mine's stable up to 800MHz without overvolting).

They specifically chose an ARM chip where the 3D blob is both X11-compatible and purely userspace, so they're still releasing updates, including for the kernel, long after Texas Instruments stopped supporting their chip.

Letting the analog sticks do double-duty as an analogue to a microjoystick mouse (left stick for motion, cardinal directions on the right stick for mouse buttons) is surprisingly comfortable and they intentionally chose a resistive touch screen for their superior precision and the ability to use your fingernail as a "no need to keep pulling it out and putting it back in" stylus.

...and the community has accomplished some pretty impressive things for the Pandora, such as:

1. An SDL port that gets quite a performance boost out of the chip's hardware overlay scaling without the game seeing any ABI changes.

2. A libGL that translates OpenGL to OpenGL ES internally.

3. A Mupen64Plus port optimized enough to comfortably play a surprising number of my Retrode-dumped N64 games at 800MHz overclock, and manually-assisted static recompilation of certain especially fondly-remembered closed-source games like Albion and Starcraft to make them run as native ARM+SDL binaries.

In fact, the reason the Pyra will have four shoulder buttons (Ctrl, Alt, Shift, and X11-visible Fn for efficient non-game thumb-typing) rather than two like the Pandora is because one community member (Askarus) modded his Pandora and proved that it was a viable design.

Edited 2016-11-02 02:05 UTC

Reply Score: 10

RE: Comment by ssokolow
by Kochise on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 10:08 UTC in reply to "Comment by ssokolow"
Kochise Member since:
2006-03-03

My Lord, the prices are too damn high : https://www.dragonbox.de/en/45-pyra

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by ssokolow
by ssokolow on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 11:36 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by ssokolow"
ssokolow Member since:
2010-01-21

My Lord, the prices are too damn high : https://www.dragonbox.de/en/45-pyra


Sadly, that's one of the downsides of making a product without big economies of scale and with atypical requirements like "must have X11-compatible drivers" that constrain the selection of suitable parts.

It's already been discussed to hell and back on the forums.

My OpenPandora cost me about the same as the most entry-level Pyra back when I bought it years ago and I'll still be saving for at least that on the Pyra.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by ssokolow
by phoenix on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 15:36 UTC in reply to "Comment by ssokolow"
phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

I'm waiting for the Pyra.

https://pyra-handheld.com/


Damn! That's a pretty cool system. If they came out with a CPU board with a quad-core ARMv8 SoC, it would be an instant buy. Although a dual-core ARMv7 SoC should be good enough for terminals and SSH.

It's on the watch list now. Thanks!

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by ssokolow
by ssokolow on Thu 3rd Nov 2016 04:10 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by ssokolow"
ssokolow Member since:
2010-01-21

Damn! That's a pretty cool system. If they came out with a CPU board with a quad-core ARMv8 SoC, it would be an instant buy. Although a dual-core ARMv7 SoC should be good enough for terminals and SSH.


Even as a comic understatement, that's a bit much.

You'd be surprised how un-crippled a well-tuned OS has made my single-core Pandora (the older 600MHz version that I can only overclock to 800MHz) with 512MiB of RAM.

Sure, Firefox struggles with JavaScript and I need to transcode videos bigger than 480p but, aside from that, the main thing limiting what I do with it tends to just be that some types of tasks really aren't comfortable for me unless I'm sitting at a desk.

(eg. Even on a 15"+ laptop, I wouldn't find OpenTTD comfortable with a microjoystick mouse, touchpad, or trackball and, regardless of the form factor, I need a quiet, isolated room to get into the right mindset for writing.)

Reply Score: 2

Still using mine
by zetsurin on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 04:48 UTC
zetsurin
Member since:
2006-06-13

Funny timing, I was just re-installing a fresh Windows 7 on mine. I've also replaced the mini pci wifi module with a crystal hd one for better video playback. If you are careful about what you run, it's quite usable. It's my travel laptop, so not a fulltime device. It really is quite stunning.

I actually have two of them: one hdd based model, and one ssd model. The former isnt particularly useful but the latter is still OK.

Edited 2016-11-02 04:49 UTC

Reply Score: 3

I'd Be Right Behind You In Line
by Pro-Competition on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 05:18 UTC
Pro-Competition
Member since:
2007-08-20

Too bad nobody else would buy it.


I sure would! I'd be standing right behind you in line.

And, like the author of the article, I really, really wanted a Sony VAIO P. But the reviews were not positive, so I didn't get one either.

But I would (will) spend money on one of those designs mentioned above in the comments if they become real.

Reply Score: 2

ssokolow Member since:
2010-01-21

But I would (will) spend money on one of those designs mentioned above in the comments if they become real.


Well, the Pyra is coming along very well and the progress reports and community involvement in the forums put the kickstarters I've backed to shame.

(I was actually the one who brought up the issues with baseband OSes, resulting in a decision to have the power controller drive the WWAN LED, just in case the baseband processor has the ability to ignore its enable/disable pin. It's an internal pre-3.0 USB device, so DMA attacks shouldn't be an issue, but the LED should help to mitigate the potential for tracking based on IMEI in SIM-less "emergency calls only" situations.)

Even if you decide not to buy it, the status updates on the ins and outs of designing and producing a niche hardware device are a ton of fun to read.

https://pyra-handheld.com/boards/forums/pyra-news.250/

Edited 2016-11-02 07:08 UTC

Reply Score: 5

Psion 3
by siraf72 on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 06:51 UTC
siraf72
Member since:
2006-02-22

I had me one of those. T'was beautiful.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Psion 3
by Kochise on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 10:02 UTC in reply to "Psion 3"
Kochise Member since:
2006-03-03

Clamshell-like Android netbooks do exists : http://www.hongkongeek.com/en/147-netbook-and-accessories

7" with built-in wifi and bluetooth :

http://www.hongkongeek.com/en/netbook-and-accessories/8295-netbook-...

An updated version with a A80 processor and touch screen would be cool.

Reply Score: 2

Sharp IQ9000
by yerverluvinunclebert on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 09:30 UTC
yerverluvinunclebert
Member since:
2014-05-03

The Sharp IQ9000 was a competitor to the Psion and it was superior in many respects. A fantastic and much more hardy device (no more splitting cables) it never received the popularity it deserved in the UK. I did a comparison of the two devices for supporting Mars Confectionery's chocolate manufacturing software and the IQ won hands down. We went for the Psion though as the machine was much more available in the UK with more software written for the thing.

Reply Score: 1

I don't get it
by puenktchen on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 12:37 UTC
puenktchen
Member since:
2007-07-27

While I have a weak spot for those ultramobile devices and actually own some historic stuff like the Atari Portfolio I don't see how this form factor could still be useful today, even more capable as a modern tablet as Thom thinks. Either you have a really small device like the Psion 3 which only gives you a tiny keyboard which isn't any better than using the virtual keyboards of tablets (or even big phones). Or you have a full sized keyboard like the Vaio P or the Psion Netbook or Apples eMate but your device will be about the same size like a modern ultrabook.

I'd rather buy a big phone and add a foldable keyboard. I used those long time ago with my pda and rather liked the combination, not unwieldy at all. Next step in size would be a small tablet with external keyboard or even clamshell like case with keyboard or a small notebook. But both again are about the same size and weight.

Edited 2016-11-02 12:38 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE: I don't get it
by Antartica_ on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 16:19 UTC in reply to "I don't get it"
Antartica_ Member since:
2012-12-28

One alternative would be a small device with a foldable keyboard (as in the IBM butterfly keyboards).

In fact, there is such a device, although is not a pocket computer; it is more like an instant-on dumb electronic typewriter:

KING JIM's "Pomera DM10"
http://www.kingjim.co.jp/pomera/dm10/

Some reviewers say that it is somewhat thick, so it is not as pocketable as one would think. As a matter of fact, for the current version (DM100) they have changed the form-factor to one similar to the one of the VAIO-P.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: I don't get it
by ssokolow on Thu 3rd Nov 2016 04:17 UTC in reply to "RE: I don't get it"
ssokolow Member since:
2010-01-21

One alternative would be a small device with a foldable keyboard (as in the IBM butterfly keyboards).

In fact, there is such a device, although is not a pocket computer; it is more like an instant-on dumb electronic typewriter:

KING JIM's "Pomera DM10"
http://www.kingjim.co.jp/pomera/dm10/

Some reviewers say that it is somewhat thick, so it is not as pocketable as one would think. As a matter of fact, for the current version (DM100) they have changed the form-factor to one similar to the one of the VAIO-P.


That looks similar to what you get when you combine your smartphone with the Jorno folding bluetooth keyboard.

https://jornostore.com/

Once I've got some cash to spare, I want to pick one of those up to complement my travel mouse.

(Heck, once I've got a Pyra, its 1080p HDMI output support would allow me to have a desktop surrogate in any hotel room.)

Reply Score: 3

Gramsci
by Tony Swash on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 13:06 UTC
Tony Swash
Member since:
2009-08-22

post by mistake -now deleted ;)

Edited 2016-11-02 13:07 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Harmattan
by adkilla on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 15:38 UTC
adkilla
Member since:
2005-07-07

And I'm just here sitting with my Nokia N950:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_N950

Reply Score: 4

RE: Harmattan
by drcouzelis on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 16:54 UTC in reply to "Harmattan"
drcouzelis Member since:
2010-01-11

I was waiting for someone to mention something from the Nokia tablet family! ;)

Despite being a great smart phone, my Nokia N900 also felt very much like a very capable portable computer: an X server on top of a Linux kernel, GNU, SSH with X forwarding, true multitasking, a physical keyboard, all in a case that easily fit in my pocket.

Reply Score: 4

Plenty of market for clamshells
by CaptainN- on Wed 2nd Nov 2016 22:19 UTC
CaptainN-
Member since:
2005-07-07

I think there's plenty of market for clamshell form factors, in the professional space. People who do actual work on there devices, vs. people who play games, and casually browse (tablets).

Chromebooks are the right idea, they just need all the convenience of the Play store - I think that's what people like about portables more than the form factor. They are safe - don't get viruses, it's clear how to install and remove things, and they are generally fast enough for anything most users would want to do. Chromebooks with Android (and proper mouse/keyboard support) would be quite lovely. So would iOS in a small clamshell running on Apple's ARM arch.

Reply Score: 3

Thom -> maybe this is for you?
by henderson101 on Thu 3rd Nov 2016 09:03 UTC
henderson101
Member since:
2006-05-30

Just saw this review:

GPD WIN Review - Portable Handheld Windows PC -
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7C51mkucrnc

And thought - wow, this is a little like that think Thom was pining after.

Another review:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6wa5yyEzeA

Reply Score: 2

puenktchen Member since:
2007-07-27



He's attaching a full keyboard to it - I wonder why. ;)

And the first reviewer is using it for gaming only.

Actually I don't see either of them using the keyboard of the device. I'm not sure if this is really the device Thom is dreaming of - at least not in practice.

Reply Score: 2

henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

I'm not sure if this is really the device Thom is dreaming of - at least not in practice.


If he'd said "Psion Series 5", I'd have agreed. But he said Series 3. The Series 3 had a chicklet keyboard. I used to use Psion hardware in a previous job, though they were industrial Psion Workabouts. They were a condensed Series 3 in a wand style configuration, which a similar chicklet keyboard. They were pretty durable, but they weren't really great to use for typing on etc. The Series 3 had the advantage of a more spread out keyboard, but the software was very similar.

Reply Score: 2

Calmshells:-)
by PaxD75 on Thu 3rd Nov 2016 13:54 UTC
PaxD75
Member since:
2012-03-31

> If I could wave a magic wand and bring just one dead form factor back to life, it would be the small, (almost-)pocket clamshell. I have a Psion Series 3,

You aren't alone! This was always my favorite form-factor and would even consider it on a smartphone (if, when closed, the back side of the panel had an e-ink display to deal with calls & music).

Previously owned (in no particular order): NEC MobilePro 780 (on the large size,yes), Sharp Wizard OZ-770, HP 200LX, Sharp Zaurus and the Psion Series 5mx. A couple of more lesser known brands - having a hard time remembering their names now.

I missed out on the Jornada 720 which I drooled over for the longest time. Even on ebay, years later, it was one of the most sought after devices and outside my price range re: price/functionality.

Reply Score: 1

Brilliance haunted by FUD
by doubledensity on Sun 6th Nov 2016 21:46 UTC
doubledensity
Member since:
2016-11-06

The parent article is off a bit in that it didn’t review the last generation of the Vaio-P (P11 series), nor the most powerful models released — the VGN-P799L and VPCP118KX. Being that the review is talking about the history of an entire product line it is unfortunate that it leaves out the most refined releases.

I have been a dedicated Vaio P fanatic since August of 2010 when I purchased mine, and and still use it regularly to this day. Articles like this make me sad because so many potential users who I think would love the P and the form factor get discouraged because of unfair or uniformed reviews. The VPCP118KX has a 2 GHz Atom Z550 and a 256 GB SSD and solved many (all?) of the performance concerns of the previous models. It runs Windows 8.1 and Slackware dual-boot for me and continues to be a workhorse.

My favorite thing about the P, beyond being dependable, portable and versatile is that it is still fun to use. The keyboard is peerless for its size, and being able to get work done or hack on a project anywhere anytime is addictive and liberating. As a platform it is always inspiring me, and has gone above and beyond anything I could have expected when I bought it. If you like the HPC form factor you owe it to yourself to give a Vaio P a chance and judge for yourself.

https://esupport.sony.com/US/p/model-home.pl?mdl=VPCP118KX

Reply Score: 1