Both laptops are Pentium-M Dothan laptops, so I didn't expect much change here. Performance on both laptops are excellent and speedy.
Again, expected both laptops to be the same. I actually wanted to pull a 512MB SoDIMM from my Asus M6BNE (which had 2x512MB) into the S360, but the S360 uses a MicroDIMM module. Annoying, had to order a hard-to-find MicroDIMM for the S360. But performance-wise, I should expect to see the regular performance increase going from 512MB to 1024MB in Windows XP.
Not much to say here. The Sony S360 comes with a crappy 4200rpm hard drive, but you can put any hard drive you want in both the S360 and the M6BNE. Having said that, I have put a Hitachi 7200rpm 60GB HD in the S360, and it's a nice improvement. A little more annoying to get to the hard drive to swap it out, but it's something you will only need to do once. The 80GB 4200rpm hard drive that came with the Sony is going to be destined for a USB hard drive enclosure.
I loved the size of the M6BNE's keyboard. Nice, full keys. Placement of some keys are a little funky (they switch the Ctrl and the Fn keys, ala Compaq), but it's a nice, full size keyboard. Having said that, I was expecting the S360's keyboard to be cramped, or have tiny keys. I was surprised by the size and feel of its full-sized keys. Very nice keyboard, nice stroke on the keys, nice key size. Only complaint is that they had to relegate some keys to Fn-key combinations, like Home, End, PgUp, PgDn. Slightly annoying, since I use End and Home all the time, and they have two blank keys next to the up arrow.
Nothing to write home about. Plastic touch-pad from Alps, recessed into the chassis. Two long, thin, silver keys provide accent to the case. Having the touchpad be in 16:10 ratio was a nice touch.
Software / Drivers:
I'm a kind of person that will reformat a machine and put a clean install of Windows XP the minute I get the laptop in my hands. The Asus M6BNE definitely wins in this department. Sony doesn't provide very much driver support on their website (like, no video driver, no modem driver), instead telling you to rely on their "recovery CD" option, which pre-loads your machine to all of that Sony garbage. Got around the video driver problem by using Omega drivers, but I still don't have a 56K modem driver. Asus definitely wins in this department.
Both the S360 and the Asus M6BNE have extra keys (like auto-launching Internet explorer, etc). The Asus M6BNE has more keys (because of a larger chassis), though I never used most of them. In fact, those Media Play keys on the side annoyed me more than anything by launching Microsoft Media Player whenever I picked my laptop up from that side and accidentally hit them. So, the functionality and usefulness of the keys on both laptops is equivalent, but the Asus M6BNE wins again, because of poor driver support on the Sony S360.
Screen / Video:
Okay, so this is what you all really wanted to hear about. Both laptops come with a Mobility Radeon 9700 64MB GPU, so the performance is expected to be similar. And it was. Nothing to write home about here.
However, where you really see a difference is the screen. The Sony S360 comes with a black-glass XBrite screen, the Asus M6BNE comes with a regular LCD with matte finish. Some people love the black-glass screens, other people hate them. I, for one, love them. In case you have never seen an LCD with a black glass cover, I can say that you will probably be astounded by the lovely contrast and brightness you can get from such a screen. While 2" smaller diagonally, I don't "feel" the size difference. The screen on the S360 is BEAUTIFUL.
Both screens are WXGA (1280x800), so the S360 will have higher pixel density than the M6BNE. This makes the text look sharper, and a little clearer (though slightly smaller). The screen is also brighter, with better contrast, and probably plays a big part on better battery life (because it's smaller). And for some reason, when doing pixel interpolation (ie, stretching a 1024x768 image to 1280x800 pixels), I notice a lot less with the S360's screen. Don't know how it works, but I'm glad it does, because it looks great. Clear winner in the screen depatment is the Sony S360. Absolutely stunning screen.
M6BNE lasts 3 hours on a battery, S360 lasts 4 hours. Extra battery life is probably due to smaller LCD screen. Plus, the Sony S360 batteries are smaller and lighter, so they take less space in my travel briefcase.
Sound and Speakers:
The M6BNE has 4 speakers. The Sony S360 has 2 speakers. Both have integrted audio, but the S360 speakers are far superior to the M6BNE speakers. Much louder, clearer, sharper trebles.
I often use very sensitive, low-impedance earphones from the headphone port, and the S360 sounds better in this department as well. Less internal notebook noise (the faint electrical humming you hear when your hard drive is being accessed, etc).
Aesthetics, size, and weight:
When I bought my M6BNE, I wanted something that looked a little sharper than the standard plastic Dell / IBM look. The M6BNE was nice, and I loved it. Until I saw the Sony S360.
The Sony S360 has a latchless design, keeping it shut using spring force. It's rounded edges just "feels" better in your hand carrying around. It's also got a nice black finish with a chrome VAIO logo on the outside. I have had many people look at my Asus M6BNE, wonder who made it, and think that it is some cheap non-mainstream Taiwanese manufacturer (how could they ever think that?). The Sony, they know as a Sony, and they know you pay a premium for Sony style. When you're in software sales, it never hurts if your customers think you can afford expensive toys.
The Asus M6BNE is around 6.5lbs, the Sony S360 is around 4.2lbs. Again, this makes the S360 "feel" better in your hand when you're carrying it around, since you can carry it easily, and with no strain. The M6BNE is also much larger, and it barely fit in my laptop briefcase, while the Sony S360 has no problems whatsoever. Add on top of that, the S360 has smaller batteries. The Sony S360 is much more travel-friendly than the M6BNE.
Retail, the M6BNE will cost around $1600. Retail, the S360 cost around $1800, but I bought it for $1550 after rebates. However, you will pay more for accessories.
I spent an extra $380 on Asus M6BNE accessories (extra battery, extra AC adapter, extra stick of 512MB RAM, 7200rpm hard drive). I spent an extra $800 on S360 accessories (extra battery, extra AC adapter, port replicator (the port placement on the S360 does not make it easy to constantly un/plug devices when I'm at home), extra stick of 512MB memory, 7200rpm hard drive). So even if you get a nice deal on the S360, you pay a premium for the accessories.
I couldn't be happier with the S360. All of the power of my M6BNE (both processing, and gaming capabilities), with a much better screen that is 2" shorter and 2lbs lighter.
Let's see how much free image hosting I can get before I hit the quota.
Bird's Eye Shot:
Side view shot, to compare thickness:
LCDs open, to compare size: