There’s particular standard among some notebooks much like there is in mobile phones — a race to the bottom; the lowest possible weight and size, that is.

And on a mobile phone, which is fast becoming a multimedia tool, that’s a good thing. But there’s a reason we do all our emailing, writing, accounting and design on PCs and not mobile phones; usability is a big consideration in the smaller-is-better race.

And some of the smallest laptop computers are plainly ridiculous — you couldn’t type comfortably on them if you had the hands of a five year old. More like oversized calculators, you’re certain to suffer eyestrain, RSI and slipped discs within hours of hunching over one trying to work.

Some members of the sleek and stylish VAIO family from Sony are guilty of this transgression, but they seem to have found a happy medium with the S28GP.

It’s as small as you’d want to go for any application — don’t buy it for gaming or graphics-heavy work. For one thing — and besides only having a 13 inch screen — the 1.6GHz Pentium M is great for office applications, but counting on it for high end creative work or entertainment will give you a bad case of the stares while you wait. And even if you do, the sound system is fine for the requisite beeps and tings of Microsoft Office, but don’t expect a fully immersive experience if you try and play Doom 3 on it.

Your typing fingers don’t feel much effect of being too cramped, but you wouldn’t want the keyboard any smaller. All the keys you’re used to on a desktop-bound PC keyboard are there which is a small miracle on any notebook, so for writing letters or doing your taxes, you’d be hard pressed to find a cooler and more capable little machine.

Not priced to appeal to the average uni student who wants to chuck it in a rucksack, it more suits the travelling executive. Laid over the top of an average sized notebook, you lose at least an inch off the width but over two inches off the height — when it’s folded open and you’re working, it doesn’t stand up in front of you like the Pillars of Heracles. So if you’re trying to work on a long plane flight and the guy in front pushes his backrest right down so it’s nearly in your lap, the S28GP will give you a precious few extra inches to work in.

The addition of the new Super Shine View screen technology that will soon be standard on notebook screens gives it an extra kick, shining brightly with higher contrast than you’re used to. The net result is a more comfortable experience reading off screen despite the comparatively small dimensions.

It’s fairly light as far as features — at least compared to many of the other notebooks that have been coming out over the past year. Single network, firewire and USB ports hidden behind tiny flip open catches lend an even slicker look to the magnesium alloy casing. And it is a great looking machine in its gleaming silver shell.

Wireless LAN is built in, as is a modem and a DVD burner. There’s a slew of software that comes with it, including Adobe Premiere from some vendors (although how you’d edit digital video on it is beyond us). The battery seemed to live for 3.5-4 hours through normal use although the advertised length is 5 hours; if you aren’t playing a CD or running too many programs at once you might get that long out of it.

In a race where Sony holds a respectable place against competitors like NEC who are keeping everyone on their toes, the VAIO VGNS28GP is a great buy if you have the budget and don’t try to push it further than it wants to go.

Price: $3999

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