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Sony's New Vaio PCG-TR1A: 12" Powerbook Killer? 452

Anonymous Howard writes "Sony has a hot new subnote on it's hand: the Vaio PCG-TR1A. This subnote is packed full of features: integrated camera (still and video), 10.6 inch bright wide-format screen, 900MHz Centrino, CD-RW/DVD Combo drive, 30GB drive, 802.11b, two usb ports, firewire, 3.11 pounds and a magnesium alloy case. The thing looks really cool. For me, it's the first subnote that actually gives me a viable option for purchase instead of a the Apple Powerbook 12". Read a article about it over at Designtechnica. Check out this forum thread that has good pics, other then the stock pics, next to a VPR Matrix 200A5."
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Sony's New Vaio PCG-TR1A: 12" Powerbook Killer?

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  • Interesting... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rura Penthe ( 154319 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @07:26PM (#6495015)
    Interesting that Apple's notebooks (and mp3 player) are now the standard others are compared against. A big shift since the 90s...
  • Battery Life. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Joseph Vigneau ( 514 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @07:27PM (#6495018)
    extra long battery life, estimated at 2.5 - 7 hours

    That's a pretty wide range...

  • 900MHz Centrino (Score:5, Interesting)

    by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @07:30PM (#6495033) Journal
    Sony used to use Transmeta chips in their subnotebooks. This can't be good news for TMTA. It's good that Linus could read the writing on the wall, but I feel bad for their other employees... facing unemployment in this economy. And, let's be honest, even if they do find work elsewhere, few companies have as much potential as Transmeta had.
  • Sony Notebook?? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by unixwin ( 569813 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @07:31PM (#6495043) Homepage
    Have you *EVER* tried to load a different OS (as in what did not come originally on the system) nto a Sony Notebook?? You will tear your hair and generally feel like throwing out the notebook... ou will find no drivers or support on their site or it, and contacting Sony will give you a response of "It did not come with that OS so we do ot support it"

    I am not talking about putting Linux/BSD or Solaris (what I am thinking??) ... just a Win2k or something.

    Plus their position/membership/stance on DMCA,RIAA et. all makes me want to spend my money elsewhere...
  • Linux support (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2003 @07:35PM (#6495072)
    12" Powerbook killer... err except that all Apple hardware is very well supported by linux... whereas the Centrino 802.11b isn't supported at all. So your fancy subnotebook is going to have an 802.11b card sticking out the side.

    Unless you want to run Windows that is, in which case you have bigger problems. :)
  • Price, price, price (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jon Abbott ( 723 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @07:42PM (#6495120) Homepage
    Apple's 12" Powerbook [apple.com] costs $1,600 ($1,400 for students), while the new Sony Vaio [designtechnica.com] is expected to cost around $2,000. Even with the cheaper price, the Apple laptop gives you 10GB more hard drive space, and a larger screen, and OS X as well. The only advantage I see is the weight difference, as the Sony weighs 32% less than the Apple. As long as you don't have trouble lifting 4.6 pounds, go for the Apple. :^)
  • Re:They're not. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jon Abbott ( 723 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @07:44PM (#6495130) Homepage
    Just the Mac-heads here do that.
    With story titles like "Powerbook Killer?", wouldn't you expect the Mac-heads to defend themselves?
  • Untapped Market? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by VidarJMD ( 680958 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @07:45PM (#6495132)
    It seems to me there is a largely untapped market for notebooks. As I shop for one I am looking for a small, lightweight system with a long lasting battery. What I am NOT looking for is a 1Ghz+ system. I do not want a laptop that replaces my desktop but instead one that accompanies it. 500MHz is plenty for something that I would use for word processing, listening to music, and browsing the web. As processor technology improves you'd thing the long battery life and other features would make a great combination with older processors but I never see that. The only choice is to buy an old laptop but it's big and bulky and usually used. On top of that the cost savings isn't enough to warrent such a device. Why don't I ever see something like this: Pentium III 500MHz 20GB Harddrive 128MB RAM 12 inch screen 4lbs or less And some crappy 4MB video for $500 I'd buy one in a heartbeat. I just want something portable yet more capable than a PDA. I don't want to replace my desktop.
  • PB 12" Killer? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bastard01 ( 532616 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @07:45PM (#6495134)
    Um, if I remember the benches [macspeedzone.com] for everyday use, there already was a 12" powerbook killer [apple.com]. Not much less performance, with the exception on altivec, and cheaper too.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SN74S181 ( 581549 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @07:47PM (#6495149)
    It's something that I don't understand.

    Unless you've bought into Apple's desktop systems, buying an Apple notebook means having to maintain two seperate sets of software to run on your systems.

    I look at the Powerbook and shake my head because I have too much fairly good and rather expensive Windows software. If I'm going to run a second software platform (which I do) I want it to be a free software platform. I'm not interested in investing lots of money in applications for yet another properietary OS.

    I guess if I had an unlimited amount of money to spend, the Powerbook would be worth considering. But then if I had an unlimited amount of money I would get an IBM PPC based laptop to run AIX and/or NetBSD on.

  • by danlor ( 309557 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @07:49PM (#6495159) Homepage
    Have you ever tried to call Sony's support desk? I have a pretty sweet little sony R505-ELK. It has been a really great machine, until I started loosing sectors. So I called them up to get a warentee replacement. They told me... and I quote... "That's only a couple megs! You have a 30 gig drive. That doesn't come close to meeting our criteria for failure." They went on to explain that they would not replace the drive until it was completely nonfunctional.

    So. Please keep this in mind before you make the leap. Dell and Apple have high support ratings for a reason. Your laptop WILL fail at some point. Make sure you pick a company that honors thier warentees. Although as of late, Dell has been getting pretty bad too.
  • Re:OSX On Sony? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SN74S181 ( 581549 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @07:51PM (#6495168)
    Actually, for lots of us, (one could say 'for the rest of us') OSX is the Powerbook killer. It might be a cool OS platform, but since all our Adobe apps, etc. are the Windows versions, etc. etc. the fact that the Powerbook only runs OSX kills it as an option. Where binary OS lockin is concerned, why switch from one lockin (Windows) to another (OSX)?

  • Re:900MHz Centrino (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dnaboy ( 569188 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @07:54PM (#6495189)
    Potential, true, but Transmeta was doomed long ago. With StrongARM processers in PocketPCs which run faster than the original Celerons (400MhZ Pocket PCs vs 300 on my old POS Compuke), way higher speed current generation celerons, and Centrino as a way of marketing a chip / board / etc combination, Intel pretty much has the low through high end (along with AMD) of the market covered.

    I know someone, had I not mentioned it, would instantly pipe in that all MhZs are not created equal (I'm a Mac nut- trust me I know), but I'm merely trying to say that there really is no niche for Transmeta anymore.

    Once again from your intellectual, moral, social, and emotional superior, [ezboard.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2003 @07:58PM (#6495214)
    I remember Apple laptop (the toilet seat model) owners drooled over my Sony Vaio (one of the super slim models) for years till the Powerbooks finally caught up. Apple has fantastic design aesthetics, but Sony's got it too.
  • by Tyrdium ( 670229 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @07:59PM (#6495228) Homepage
    How's the screen and keyboard? I drooled over the Actius MM10 for months, but when I went to Micro Center I immediately hated it. The 10" screen tries to pack in a resolution of 1024 x 768, and the keyboard is tiny. Heck, the thing is even missing one of the shift keys... Since most of what I do on a subnote is typing (since, given their power, they aren't decent for gaming), screen size and keyboard usability (and battery life) are some of the largest factors for me. My iBook has a great keyboard (the one on the 12" PB G4 is even better), an amazing screen, and a battery life of over four hours. The only thing I don't like about it is the lack of a PCMCIA slot and the fact that Apple tech repair keeps sending it back with problems (the thing is making this really annoying ticking noise, and the ethernet port is shot). The ethernet port wouldn't be such a big deal, except that it has no PCMCIA slot for me to plug an adapter into, there are no Mac drivers for any USB adapters, and they want 600ish bucks to get the motherboard replaced... Conclusion: Macs make great lightweight notebooks, but have a few design flaws. All in all, they're probably better than the new Sony laptop.
  • by markclong ( 575822 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:01PM (#6495238)
    I've got a 1.6 Ghz Intel Pentium-M (centrino is a marketing gimmick [pcworld.com]. It is the chipset, processor, and wireless LAN module not the processor). The processor is as fast as a 2.4 Ghz Pentium chip in every benchmark I can run. Centrino may be a gimmick but the Pentium-M processor delivers real performance and allows for decent battery life too.
  • Re:Untapped Market? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gmg ( 94371 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:04PM (#6495261) Homepage
    The specs that you mentioned are quite close to the old Toshiba Portege 1740ct. I recall that it came with a much smaller hard drive (6 or 10 gigs), but everything else is the same, including the crappy 4 meg trident cyblade video card. I dont recall battery life. Ran debian quite nicely though. Ironically, used 1740s are probably selling for less than $500 on the internet right now.
  • by macemoneta ( 154740 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:17PM (#6495330) Homepage
    I've just this weekend completed installation of muLinux [sunsite.dk] on an old 25MHz 486SX laptop with 8MB of RAM and a 500MB hard drive that I got for free (because the previous owner thought it was trash). It weights about 4 pounds, and has a TFT color 640x480 screen. I'm now browsing the web, reading email, and SSHing into my server with it. It's very usable.

    I have to wonder why so much perfectly good equipment goes to waste, while people lust after new machines, so that their CPU idle time can go from 99% to 99.5%. Especially among the ./ geeks, who probably have top end machines already.

    Seriously people, if you want to play a game, get a game console. If you want some REAL fun, install Linux with just a floppy drive. :-)

  • Re:Interesting... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:34PM (#6495434)
    I am a long time VB/C# developer

    I can see no reason why you would admit such a horrible thing unless you are a masochist looking to get laughed at and flamed by the slashbot hordes.

    What does being a VB/C# developer have to do with anything else in your post anyways??
  • Re:Untapped Market? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:43PM (#6495494)
    I just had the same discussion with my friend who is now in charge of buying for the aeronautical company he works for and he says he has yet to authorize a laptop upgrade....

    a Thinkpad running P3-900 with 256megs ram DOES NOT have to be replaced for people who basically run spreadsheet, powerpoint, browser, mail client.
    A few CAD program users but they never bitched. its the sales and marketing guys (surprise) who are always claiming that NOT having a Powerbook is affecting their work.

  • Re:A Question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by babbage ( 61057 ) <cdevers@NOSPAM.cis.usouthal.edu> on Monday July 21, 2003 @09:25PM (#6495714) Homepage Journal
    Also...is it really usable as an integrated camera?

    I think the point of this, as it is with Apple's new iSight [apple.com] camera, isn't for point & shoot photography, but for use as a webcam.

    Of course, the iSight seems to be a pretty high quality piece of glass, with a fast f/2.8 aperture, standard 50mm focal length, and capable of taking in 30 frames per second of 640x480 video. The only thing the iSight is missing, really is storage: aside from the Firewire cable, it has no capability to record anything, which makes it useless without the six foot tether to your computer.

    My guess is that Sony is thinking of the same sorts of usages that Apple has in mind for iSight. I doubt the quality is as good as Apple's product, but at the same time it should hopefully be better quality than the camera they're putting on PDAs like the NX-70V that I've got. That camera is fun to use (great for getting quick snapshots at times that I wouldn't have thought to bring a real camera with me, like the supermarket or subway), but the image quality is just terrible at a very hazy & low-contrast 320x480.

    Hopefully this laptop is somewhere in the middle between the iSight & the Clie. Sony's product page doesn't seem to have camera specs, but something like a 1 or 2 megapixel still camera & 30fps video camera would be good for recording images to your hard drive, while a capacity to put out possibly lower quality stills & video over the web would be pretty nice.

    Oh, and don't forget -- if it can do the webcam thing (which I think is natural for a laptop mounted camera), plan on it being a subscription service to unlock whatever proprietary software & hardware Sony put on there. They're notorious for that kind of thing.

  • Sony support (Score:5, Interesting)

    by weg ( 196564 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @09:46PM (#6495818)
    Since I've experienced Sony's so called "support" I've decided to never buy a Sony product again. My girl friend had problems with her Sony Vaio FX802, so we sent it in and it came back unrepaired. I had to beg them to pick it up again, btw. the hotline is not free in Austria, even if you still have warranty. This time I added a very detailed description on how to reproduce the error, however, the technician ignored it and called my girl friend to complain in a very harsh tone that the notebook was not defect. I talked to the technician and could convince him that it was in fact defect, and after 3 more weeks we got it back (they exchanged the motherboard). However, when putting it together again, they forgot the screw that fixates the DVD ROM... had to provide one myself. Facit: My girl friend bought a new notbook that was significantly more expensive than others, believing that Sony's support would be better than the support of no-name manufacturers. She ended up waiting 1.5 months for her notebook.. in the meantime, it had of course become significantly cheaper. I'm now thinking about buying an Apple Powerbook. Can anybody tell me about his experiences with Apple's support?
  • by pastafazou ( 648001 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @01:08AM (#6496778)
    Yes. Everyone plays catchup with Mac all the time. That's why Mac dominates the desktop market.
    Apple dominates the desktop publishing market. Apple and Avid dominate the pro-video editing market (and if you think Macs are overpriced, you won't believe what Avid charges). Apple is the single largest vendor of professional audio editing machines in the music business. The only market Apple doesn't have significant market share is in the low-end desktop market, which is used for word-processing, spreadsheets, and accounting software. Apple makes high-end machines with good margins to fuel their R&D. The low end of the desktop market is a cutthroat, bloody mess! Look at Compaq, Packard Bell, AST, NEC, and many others who lost their shirts. Dell is the only company doing well in it because they don't do the R&D thing.
    Not. They are too expensive and proprietary.
    Hmmm....I have an old 8500 with a PowerPC 604 CPU. I can upgrade this machine to a G3 or a G4. I also have an old Pentium II machine which can be upgraded to...a faster Pentium II, but not an AMD processor, nor a Pentium III or Pentium IV, because Intel's CPU slots are PROPRIETARY . Apple embraces more open standards than Microsoft or Intel. As far as the price, I think I get my money's worth and more from the various Macs I've owned. If price is the only consideration you have when purchasing, then you should be blasting Intel, praising AMD, blasting Windows, and praising OSS.
    Just because they have a few innovative products doesn't mean they are the benchmark.
    Apparently they are, since this article was about Sony's new 12" Powerbook Killer. There's quite a few articles that get posted about company X's 17" Powerbook killer or company Y's all-in-one like an iMac but it's Wintel blah blah blah.
    I cite the G5 as a neat system, but not innovative in the current market.
    Yeah, 'cause everyone is using a 64-bit CPU that's backwards compatible with 32-bit software, 1GHz frontside bus, PCI-X expansion slots, Firewire 800, Gigabit Ethernet, High-speed Wireless, and 16GB/s of bandwidth between the CPU's and the system controller.
    I do consider the iPod innovative, as well as most of their laptop's designs.
    Might as well mention the iMac, since it won so many design awards for being innovative. So, let's see...that's the laptops, the iPod, the iMac, and maybe, just maybe, the G5 desktop. Which is their entire product line.
    Look at processor speeds on desktop systems over the past few years. It's already a rather foggy memory the last time I looked at a Mac's specs and thought 'wow, the PC market really needs to play some catchup!'. The last one I was impressed with were the PowerPC clones, actually. They moved pretty quick compared to PC's of the same price. But that was like '94 or '95..
    This is total crap. The G3 kicked the Wintel machines butts. The G4 was where the PC world finally caught up. On launch, the G4 kicked the P3's that were shipping at the time. But Motorola was unable to deliver the speed bumps to keep up, and then the P4 was out and the G4 was left behind. The G4's vector processing engine is still far superior to anything Intel has, which is why it's been used for so many Blast implementations.
    In the case of laptops, I agree in this particular case, but as for other configurations forget it. For the price of a new G5 I could have a monster of a PC that would make the G5 look like last year's PC except for the pretty case that matches a cinema display. Is that worth the extra money? Nah, I'll stick with Lian Li cases for now.
    Maybe you should do a little more reading. The high end G5 beats the best PC you can build right now with dual Xeon CPU's, and by the time you add all the features the G5 has, the price comes out to within a couple of hundred bucks of the G5. Plus you get OS X. Plus the G5 is much quieter than a dual-CPU PC.
    Yeah, you can get a G5 with dual CPU's.. Whoopee. For that
  • by Nijika ( 525558 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @02:59AM (#6497207) Homepage Journal
    Uh, yeah. It looks like a Powerbook, and it's 12", this obviously spells DOOM for the whole line. Right. Anyway, like between September and November probably, we're going to see more G5 products being rolled out, and I wouldn't be surprised if there's a Powerbook in there.

    Killer? We haven't seen the tip of the iceberg yet. Come 2004 I'll be posting from my 64 bit notebook. I'm sure I won't take a second look at this Sony after today.

  • by bigfatlamer ( 149907 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @07:14AM (#6497851)
    I'm not sold on the editorial stance 'Powerbook Killer'

    Absolutely. Why not just say that it's finally some competition for the 12" PB as opposed to a PB Killer? As with all things, you make trade-offs buying one over the other.

    One thing the Vaio does have going for it is that it's more complete than any other Wintel notebook of it's size. You can get a number of other subnotebooks with decent sized screens, WiFi, etc., but they require external (USB in most cases) optical drives. Doubles the weight and decreases the portability dramatically.

    If I was looking for a Wintel notebook, this, in spite of being dramatically underpowered, esp. compared to the PB, I'd probably go with this Vaio. At the very least, it's the least ugly Wintel notebook out there.

  • by dootbran ( 467662 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @07:22AM (#6497871)

    >I also have an old Pentium II machine which can be upgraded to...a faster Pentium II, but not an AMD processor, nor a Pentium III or Pentium IV, because Intel's CPU slots are PROPRIETARY.

    BULLSHIT. You can drop in your choice of P II, P III, or C3 processor. If your motherboard is simply too crappy, well, it's not my fault you invested in PC Chips junk.

    Thats kinda harsh, I mean excuse me for not knowing that intel was 18 months from bringing out the P3 with a 100mhrfz fsb when I picked up my p2 233 back in the day. let alone the 133 mghfs bus 3 years down the line. I know that your all knowing magic hat told you what kind of upgrades where in the pipeline but not all of us can be so enlightened.

    And, more bullshit, yes, you can upgrade even your 486 motherboard to a P IV. It's called a PCI slot motherboard, and it's the same bullshit "upgrade" that Apple is feeding you. Except they pretend it's a good idea. It isn't.

    Actually apple doesn't feed any upgrades, at all! No cdr or dvdr upgrades ever. They do have easy access ram and sometimes HDD or PCI/AGP but as far as I know go they don't really handle CPU upgrades.

    Demand is the reason for this, not stupid Apple R&D. They are apparently good enough for some consumers. A new Mac is kinda expensive.

    >Apple embraces more open standards than Microsoft or Intel.

    LOL! Show me some Jaguar source code! Why did it take so long to get the iPod working on windows? Why did Apple put Appletalk on your old Mac? Why are all firewire ports I've seen called i.Link, S-400, or IEEE1394?

    First off, standards are not really equal to open source. Crap, the guy wasn't even mentioning oss in his argument, it says Microsoft, maybe you missed it because it was spelled wrong. I've been reading slashdot for a while and I guess that they changed their name to Micro$oft now. That is how everyone is writing it now...

    And who the hell knows why ieee1394 has seventeen different names. Pisses me off too, but it is part of a standard so I don't really see what the point is, at least the stuff is compatible even if its a tad confusing.

    >Apparently they are, since this article was about Sony's new 12" Powerbook Killer.

    Oh yeah, that 12" powerbook. It's so innovative to squeeze a bunch of high-tech into a small box!

    Yeah, uh.. this is way out of context. He actually said something more along the lines of the powerbooks being the benchmark for laptops, benchmarks aren't necessarily innovative they just kick ass.

    Look, if you want innovative, look at Gateway's Handbook. Now THAT'S innovative. Heck, I remember those being made back some time around '92 with 286 processors! Apple just dusted off some history books.

    And this is of course totally relevant because not only are Gateway computers totally sweet today but this particular model is so freaking awesome that kids are paying outrageous amounts of money on ebay for them. I'm sure some more patient individual could scape up even more innovative pieces of hardware from apple's past that would be a total indication of the companies total domination of the entire world today.

    >The G3 kicked the Wintel machines butts.

    Did it? Dollar for Dollar? MIPS to MIPS?

    Or was it just in specially optimized applications?

    This is just stupid, what the hell do you buy a computer for; to not run applications?? I know that my ibook was actually purchased for the reason of doing continual benchmarks and watching the result. Or maybe I just wanted to be able to browse the web, on an application written for my computer.

    Who cares if the performance of an real world application is a result of optimization. It may make yo

  • by rwhamann ( 598229 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @11:26AM (#6499634)
    Notebook backup to CD's or DVD's? I've never been enamored of backup's that require multiple peices of media. My notebok backup solution is my 20gb Archos, enough space to back up my 10gb notebook drive. Having said this, I'd still want the Powerbook over the VAIO, but for OS X, not the Superdrive.

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.