Friday, April 17, 2009

My new portable

Recently, I wrote about my trials and tribulations in attempting to get reliable, affordable mobile internet access. During my research, I saw that T-Mobile is offering Sony's new P-series along with five gigabytes of traffic via WWAN (a SIM card) within Germany for just under 40 euros a month. I was interested in that unit anyway, so I thought I would take a look at it. Off the shelf, the machine costs 1,000 euros, but T-Mobile sells it for 600 if you sign up for their mobile internet package for 24 months. In other words, for around 1,560 euros you get the tiny laptop/UMPC/netbook (or whatever you want to call it) and 24 months of mobile surfing.

The folks at the shop had no idea about the machine and even gave me inaccurate information, which no longer surprises me. But they did tell me I could return everything within seven days (or 14 -- they were actually not even sure about that) and get my money back if I was not satisfied -- no questions asked.

I will not be taking the unit back. In fact, I have been hoping for such a deal for several years now. The laptop has a pretty decent keyboard, but I have managed to install Dragon NaturallySpeaking on it, and it works quite well. I will not be using the device to work from my office, but rather to proofread the work of colleagues when I am on vacation or on one of my annual bike trips. This week, I have had it with me and have used it for more than 30 minutes at a time and found it to be quite a pleasure.

One thing that few reviews mention is the "instant-on" Linux operating system. I was especially interested in this aspect because it takes so long for these slow netbooks to boot Windows, especially Vista, which this unit runs on. Online reviews explained that the embedded Linux OS allows you to quickly boot and open a browser to check e-mails, etc., which is exactly what I wanted, but it turns out that WWAN is not actually accessible via Linux. In other words, if you want to boot quickly and go online from Linux, you have to have access to a WLAN. Of course, the whole purpose of WWAN is being able to go online from anywhere without having to look for a WLAN, so I will probably not be using the instant-on Linux OS.

Fortunately, the machine boots almost immediately from the save-to-RAM mode and within about two minutes from save-to-disk. I can live with that. So when I am on my trips, I'll flip this baby out, order some food and drink, and by the time I have settled in, the machine will be ready to go.

I highly recommend the Sony P-series to anyone who does not want the performance compromises of (even larger, incidentally) netbooks (Eee PC and all the rest), wants something that will literally (!) fit into your back pocket, but cannot imagine dealing with the tiny screens and keyboards of PDAs for more than a few minutes.

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