Sony VAIO PCG-C1XA

Cybercode recognition, integrated digital camera, 1024 x 480 display.

The C1’s design fills out a form factor that offers the high resolution of a standard notebook screen while offering an extra compact form factor as a result of its sawn-off dimensions — it’s only half the height of a normal screen and measures 8.9 inches diagonally (207 x 97mm). The keyboard is consequently larger than you would find on a similar cut-down ultra portables. The 1024 x 480 screen resolution lets you get more information onscreen and is ideal for word processing. But Sony doesn’t specialise in word processors, so the C1 is packed with nifty extras.

Most noticeable when you open the C1’s lid is the Motion Eye, watching and waiting. The built-in still/video camera is not just for picture taking and video-conferencing; it’s also an interactive tool that recognises cybercode. A cybercode image is about the size of a postage stamp and looks a bit like a crossword that hasn’t yet been completed. When you hold it in front of the Motion Eye it triggers the C1 into an action that you have pre-programmed, such as launching an application or video message. The camera has a 0.4 megapixel resolution, and can capture 640 x 480 JPEG movies at 30fps.

The mouse pointer is controlled with a trackpoint stick built into the keyboard, and a Jog Wheel located on the right-hand side brings a range of additional functions and menu shortcuts to your fingers. It gives you the full range of the VAIO’s functions in a flash.

This unit isn’t designed for demanding applications, but its mobile PII-400 has a 256KB on-chip L2 cache and there’s 64MB of RAM installed. It runs a full version of Windows 98 and in PC WorldBench 2000 it scored 87. This is plenty for a small form factor device performing only light processing duties.

The floppy attaches via USB and is included in the price, and Sony offers a PC Card CD-ROM as an optional extra. There’s no modem installed, so you will need to connect via the USB or PC Card ports. A display connector lets you connect a bundled adapter to run a CRT monitor from the C1 to present larger images onscreen. A FireWire connector is also integrated, so you can connect digital imaging devices or even other VAIOs.

When closed the C1’s dimensions are 249 x 31 x 155mm, and alone it weighs just 1kg. Add the AC adapter and it weighs 1.3kg; 1.6kg with a floppy.

Running on battery power the C1 lasted about an hour with all power- saving options disabled. Two long-life battery options are available (up to four hours, and up to 8 hours in vendor estimates; standard battery life is estimated at up to 2.5 hours).

We tested a prerelease model — the final version may differ slightly. The estimated price of $5185 isn’t unreasonable considering the functionality of the system above a standard notebook’s. It will appeal to gadget enthusiasts and executives who need videocon-ferencing capabilities.

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Peter Kane

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