Photokina Report: Review – Sony Vaio VPCW217

Over the next couple of days we will be wrapping up the last of the exciting things we saw at Photokina 2010. In addition we have a few products that we took out to review on our journey. One of these is the Sony Vaio VPCW217 Netbook.

Some of you may be asking why on earth a photographer would use a somewhat gutless netbook over a more powerful laptop when traveling? Here is my reasoning:

I have seen several photographers wanting to travel light, spending in excess of R5000.00 on portable hard drives with built in card readers and LCD screens to which they save the images on their memory cards with only the top models overing storage capacities of over 250GB. Having looked into that option, I became fascinated by Netbooks which for usually less money offered me a 10 inch screen over the 3-5 inch these storage drive offer, Hard drives of at least 160GB (most of the latest netbooks are much more) and the ability to do minor editing, blog posts etc while on the road. All of this in a package that weighs under 1kg.

Having gone through two or three netbooks over the last two years I was eager to give the Sony Vaio a try. As I don’t usually review laptops – though we are not opposed to doing more if you, the reader, would like us to – I will simply highlight what were my most favourite features of the Vaio W217


As I mentioned above, this is not the first netbook I have used extensively and in the past I have always found netbooks to all be very much the same. It was quite a surprise to me then that the image on this little Sony seemed crisper and all round more pleasing than any other netbook I have used to date. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is but the screen on this W217 is a pleasure to use.


Sony have tried to maintain their roomy keyboard DNA on this little netbook and it is greatly appreciated. Even when working late into the night – when I usually seem to miss the key I am aiming for – typing on this little machine was simple and I very seldom found myself typing gobbledygook.

Battery Life

The W217 has a 6 cell battery which compared to all the other netbooks I have owned provided fantastic battery life. Sony claim it provides up to 5 hours and I must admit that only once have I found myself falling short of power in a day and that was largely due to not letting the battery charge completely the night before.

There is a downside to having this longer life battery. It is a bit heavier – though hardly noticeably so – and an increase in size that can put one off. This battery which attaches at the bottom back of the unit creates a large ridge which raises the back up at an angle (see picture at beginning of article). While this is pleasant for typing on at a desk, it does make the shape a bit peculiar to pack.


The VPCW217 offers 3G in addition to Wireless and Bluetooth, making it perfect for work on the go. An important feature here is Sony’s own application which handles all connectivity options in one place. In the past (with my own netbooks) I have always had Windows managing the Wireless and a Vodafone or some other similar application manage the 3G side making for terribly long start up times and in some cases conflicting connections.


I really enjoyed my time with Sony’s Vaio VPCW217. It is in fact going to be a little hard to part with it soon. One has to remember that this is meant –  from a photographers point of view – to be a light, flexible system to store, manage and back up images while traveling. The only issue we had with this machine is that it is – like all my other netbooks – under powered for trying to play back full AVCHD video from cameras like the new Sony Alpha SLT-A55. While a year ago one wouldn’t expect a netbook to do so, there are a few new models from competitors being announced that claim to manage such a feat… but they just don’t look as sleek at the Vaio does.