What do Jennifer Lopez, Charlie's Angels, Dawson's Creek, robot pet AIBO, Trinitron, Playstation, Walkman, Discman and VAIO have in common? It's a Sony!
In Japan's thriving market for mobile systems, where up to 50% of all computers sold are portable, it's no surprise that a company like Sony, with its heritage in engineering, entered the computer business a long time ago. Sony desktops PCs and notebooks all carry the VAIO brand, and every segment of notebooks is covered in a special VAIO series. The VAIO C1VN is a single-spindle solution with a 1024x480 display that Sony created to enter the sub-notebook market (~1kg/2.2lbs).
A nice feature is the built-in camera above the display.
The first C1 Picturebook X-Series used an Intel Pentium II 400MHz. In the V-Series this has been replaced with a Transmeta Crusoe TM5600 600MHz processor.
When it comes to CPU's, the names Intel and AMD normally spring to mind. In the notebook sector, Intel has a wide range of mobile CPUs available, but so far AMD has no Athlon/Duron solution that meets the thermal constraints of notebooks. In addition to these 2 big names, the VIA/Cyrix brand of value CPUs might also be familiar to many. However, Transmeta, a Santa Clara based company, is relatively unknown.
Transmeta's Crusoe TM5600 processor is much more then just a CPU.
The designers put a CPU core into the 474-pin BGA package, including Caches and Northbridge. The Transmeta chip supports 100-133MHz DDR SDRAM and 66-133MHz SDRAM, while the Sony C1V-Series implements 100MHz SDRAM only. Compared to x86 standards, the processor core is relatively simple and consumes little space. Inside, the processor works with up to 4 very long instruction words (VLIW) per clock cycle. The VLIW engine has two integer units, one floating-point unit, one load/store unit and a branch unit. The VLIW native instructions are generated by Code Morphing software dynamically from the x86 instructions.
The Code Morphing software is loaded from the Flash BIOS into the RAM. Together with the translation cache it consumes 8-16MB of memory. Sony has implemented a 16MB version that reduces the 128MB onboard memory. A Crusoe 64/128bit VLIW is called a module and contains up to four RISC like instructions, called atoms. All atoms within a molecule are executed in parallel. The molecule format determinates how atoms get routed to the functional unit. Modern x86 processors from Intel or AMD have a similar way of translating and transforming x86 instructions, but these are implemented in very complex hardware that is fast, and they also consume a lot of chip real estate and power.
The Transmeta method has the benefit of software upgrades and lower costs. For notebook maker there are other important features available. An additional north bridge is not needed, and the off the shelf Intel 82371MB Southbridge can be implemented for IO and EIDE.
LongRun for a long run
To ensure a long battery life, the Crusoe processor comes equipped with 'LongRun' Dynamic Power Management. The frequency can change in steps of 33MHz, the voltage changes in steps of 25mV, and there are up to 200frequency/voltage changes per second possible. Sony has implemented a minimum performance of 300MHz @ 1.3V and a maximum performance of 600MHz @ 1.6V.
LongRun power management monitors the application's performance needs continuously and determines how much processor power is needed. The success of this can be seen later in the benchmark results.
Sony C1VN, C1VE and C1VJ
Enough of this theoretical stuff - let's jump to the reality of the Sony C1V-Series. There are different names for the same notebook depending on the territory.
The specifications are the same, but the software preload is different.
- Manual focus for the built-in camera
- Power indicator
- Battery indicator; blinks when the battery is low; blinks twice in succession when charging
- HDD indicator
- iLink Connector. The Sony version of IEEE1394, a standard for other Sony products, such as its digital video cameras.
- 1x Type I/II PCMCIA slot. Sony is shipping with the C1VE a PCMCIA 56k modem
- Memory Stick, used in Sony products such as its MP3 player.
- CPU ventilation
Only the display hinges and the battery are visible.
- Video out with adapter cable
Yellow: Video RGB
Red & White: Audio
- Microphone In, Line In
- 1x USB
- DC power connector for the Sony 16V 2.5A power supply.
- VGA Out
- Jog dial for selecting applications. Some of you might know this feature from the Sony mobile phones, which lets you easily scroll up or down to select, for example, a program or the volume.
- Built in microphone
- Built in 1/6" CCD camera with 350,000 pixels
- Stereo Speaker
- Mouse keys
- Stick-type pointing device
- Sony Memory Stick indicator
- Num lock
- Caps lock
- Scroll lock
- Power switch
- capture bottom for the camera
- Jog dial
Upgrading the Memory
This is very easy.
Unlock and remove the battery first. Then remove the single screw at the bottom.
The memory module is for the 64MB, 140-pin Sony module PCGA MM 164
Upgrading the HDD
The HDD cannot be accessed externally. To replace it, you need to open up the notebook. We started by first removing the hinge covers and then moved to the bottom.
Five screws must be removed in order to be able to remove the top case of the notebook.
Push down the notches at the keyboard and then gently lift up the keyboard.
The metal shielding of the PCMCIA slot can be easily lifted. Four more screws to go before you can remove the top case.
Remove four more screws and then remove the cable across the HDD. You made it! Because space is limited you can only use a 2.5" HDD with a height of 9.5mm.
Remove the small screw located next to the disply and camera cable. This lets you take out the motherboard.
Upgrading the CPU
Sorry, but the CPU is soldered on the motherboard.
Due to the density of the notebook and the nature of the Transmeta TM5600 with its integrated north bridge, the CPU is surface mounted without a socket.
The motherboard is a real masterpiece. Both sides of the PCB are packed and no space is wasted.
||C1VE special memory socket
|Memory Size Tested
||128MB (16MB used by System)
||ATI Rage Mobility M1
||1 with adaptor
|VGA Out Max. Resolution
|VGA SVHS Out
||Headphone Out, Line In+Mic In
||PCMCIA 56k MC221 Discovery V.90
|Ext. PS/2 Keyboard
|Ext. PS/2 Mouse
|Ext. Serial Port
|Ext. Parallel Port
|Ext. Docking Port
||168g / 0.38lbs
||971g / 2.2lbs
W x D x H
|248mm x 152mm x 27mm
9.8" x 6.0" x 1.06"
||2 Backup CDs with WindoesME and Drivers
16V 100-240V extrenal AC-Adaptor
VGA adaptor cable
PCMCIA 56k modem with cable
||Version 1.0, Patch 4
|Quake III Arena
||Retail Version 1.11
command line = +set s_initsound 0 + set cd_nocd 1
Video Mode: 640 x 480 (Normal defaults)
|3d Mark 2000
||Build 335, Default Benchmark
|Mercedes Benz Truck Racing
||generic Direct3D, disable everything
|Hard Disk Benchmarks
|Office Applications Benchmark
||ZD WinBench 99 - Business Disk Winmark 1.2
|Highend Applications Benchmark
||ZD WinBench 99 - Highend Disk Winmark 1.2
|Low Level Benchmarks
||HD Tach 2.61
||ZD WinBench 99 - Disc Inspection Test
|ZD BatteryMark 4.0
||Power Options: disable all messages at 10% and 3%
||Divx311, Windows Media Player 7.0, fast6000_best_hq_640_384
||1024x768, 16 Bit
||Win98SE, Version 4.10.2222, Build 2222 A; Win2k, Version 5.00.2195
I also added a new battery run down test. The BatteryMark runs ~75% of the time with a 100% processor load. When playing an MPEG4 file, the CPU can save some time and energy.
Battery LongRun or Sprint
The BatteryMark runs with a very high CPU load. Transmeta's LongRun technology insures that applications requireing CPU power are not throttled by the power management.
When you compare the power needed for this battery time, the Transmeta design looks much better. The LongRun application reduces the power consumption of the Transmeta CPU considerably.
When playing MPEG4 movies, the LongRun Economy mode kicks in and keeps the system alive.
Quake III Arena
The integrated ATI Mobility allows playing games on the notebook to a certain and very limited extent. It's not a desktop Geforce2, but try to run a desktop PC at 12W.
The Quake 3 Arena results give already some idea of Crusoe's performance in comparison with a Pentium III. The C1V is clearly outperformed. However, this tiny Sony notebook is of course not designed for 3D-gaming anyway.
Mercedes Benz Truck Racing
We find a similar picture with the DirectX game. The influence of the CPU can be seen at maximum and minimum modes of the Transmeta CPU.
When you see the results, you might be shocked at first. Is it possible to work with such a slow device? For the answer, I asked Tom to make some Sysmark runs with Kate's 3-year old P6300 Notebook that's using a PentiumII 366MHz, a top performer of its time. You can see that even a notebook of the vintage is scoring better than the C1V. Still, the office application performance is sufficient enough for average use.
This hard drive benchmark shows that the low Sysmark score is partly due to the hard disk of the C1V. However, the 3-year old hard drive used in Kate's P6300 notebook is slower.
The IBM Deskstar HDD represents a desktop drive. The Hitachi drive of the C1V does not perform as well as the IBM Travelstar HDD found in the Asus L8400.
The access time of the C1V's Hitachy drive is slightly faster compared to the IBM Travelstar HDD.
Ziff's Business Disk Winmark shows devastatingly poor result for the C1V's Hitachi drive.
The Hitachi drive also proves to be a dud in the high-end test.
What I like
- The weight of <1kg, 2.2lbs in combination with the performance is impressive.
- The built-in camera is a great feature.
What I don't like
- The notebook arrived without any external drive such as a DVD/CD-ROM or a floppy drive. For a single spindle solution with a price of $2000, it should come with at least one external drive or a PCMCIA LAN card with drivers installed.
- For the same price you can get a full featured 2 or 3 spindle solution with much better performance.
The designers of the former Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha or Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Company (now called Sony) had the courage to try something new. The Pentium II CPU of the old C1 Picturebook had to be replaced, and Sony gave Transmeta's Crusoe an opportunity in the sub-notebook segment. Users of such a tiny mobile device use it to run their regular desktop software and check emails while away from the office. A PDA display is too tiny for most tasks, and a 3-spindle notebook is too heavy. When the mobile warrior returns to his/her office, the data is synched with the desktop PC. But there is a small problem to this. Unless you buy a PCMCIA network card you will have to use the PCMCIA modem to transfer the data. I sadly missed an infrared port.
When you unpack the Sony C1V notebook for the first time, you wonder, "How do I transfer my data with this?" There is no floppy drive, no DVD/CD and no LAN. Sony ships a PCMCIA 56k modem with the notebook, but have you ever tried installing Office via modem? Third party devices can be attached via PCMCIA or USB port, but how do I install the driver for the new device? My friend Gordon sent me a USB floppy drive from Mitsumi. This device was recognized by WindowsME and didn't require an additional driver. With this I was able to install a PCMCIA network card and the Pockey drive that Patrick reviewed recently. However for a price of $2000 there should be at least an external CD-ROM shipped with the unit. Maybe Sony speculates that users will simply buy the additional drive, especially if they want to have a chance of using the recovery CDs.
From an engineering point of view the C1V has an adorable design. The lid switch is underneath the hinge cover and a stable LCB back cover protects the display, but I sadly missed a latch to open the notebook.
When you take a look at the Sysmark results you wonder about the poor performance. There are two drawbacks in the system: the slow Hitachi HDD and the memory interface. Sony implemented the 100MHz SDRAM design, while the Transmeta TM5600 offers up to 133MHz DDR SDRAM (Marketing mode on: "266MHz DDR/PC2100"). Transmeta claims that this improves the performance of the CPU and the complete system. Unfortunately we were not able to change the memory to a different speed or technology. Information from Transmeta about its TM5600 is limited to a seven-page data sheet consisting mostly of marketing blurb and very little data. A small hint for Transmeta: have a look at: developer.intel.com You can find all data including errata of Intel products online.
A built-in camera and iLink are nice features, but don't try non-linear video processing with this underpowered system. It's a sub-notebook and not a high-end desktop PC.
The Sony C1V Series notebook is fast compared to a PDA and pretty poor compared to a 'real' notebook. Its price, however, is not in between the two, but in the midst of the notebook pricing scale.