Computers / Hands-on Review

Sony VAIO Evens the Score


Twenty new Sony VAIO notebooks offer something for everyone. Besides wearing Sony's proven style on its lid, each VAIO is loaded with conveniences, several with advanced processors for maximum performance. Some are distinguished by their ability to transmit content wirelessly to an HDTV. There are vivid color choices, too.

 Unlike tablets, input and output roadblocks are non-issues. Each VAIO contains a SuperMulti DVD Burner or Blu-ray ROM with DVD burning, multiple USB ports, a Gigabit Ethernet jack plus VGA and HDMI outputs. Each also comes with an integrated webcam and microphone and slots for an ExpressCard, SD card and Memory Stick.These notebooks boot to the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium.

To start, the Sony EA Series VPCEA-44FX/BJ shines as an all-purpose computer. Featuring a 14-inch LED-backlit display, the 5.2-pound notebooks come with 4GB of RAM and Intel GMA-HD Graphics, Bluetooth and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity. Some models contain a 2.53 GHz Intel Core i3-380M processor with a 640GB hard drive; others a 2.4GHz Intel Core i3-370M processor and 500GB hard drive. The computers include three special function keys:

  • Web button that, assuming you're in a Wi-Fi hot spot, lets you get on the Internet without a full boot-up;
  • VAIO button for launching Media Gallery software to enjoy movies, photos and music;
  • Assist button for linking to VAIO Care for system maintenance and troubleshooting.

The Sony EA Series VPCEA-44FX/BJ embeds Intel's Wireless Display (WiDi) technology for wirelessly streaming content to your HDTV. (WiDi requires the Netgear PTV1000 Push2TV wireless adapter attached to the TV.)

And, if your personal rainbow extends beyond black, the EA Series offers the most color choices: Passion Purple, Hibiscus Pink, Glossy Pink, Sony Signature Gold Arabesque, Matte White or Glossy White. Even black isn't basic—it's either Matte Black, Glossy Black or a textured finish called Sony Signature Black Arabesque.

The Sony VAIO EB Series offers a larger screen (15.5 inches versus the EA's 14 inches), more keys (103 versus the EA's 83), Bluetooth and a little more weight (6 lb versus the EA's 5.2 lb). Also, the EB's included lithium-ion battery will provide power for up to 3.5 hours per charge, versus the EA's 5 hours. Otherwise, specifications are the same. New EB arrivals are available in matte black, brown and matte white.

Perhaps the most affordable notebook in the new VAIO lineup is the EE VPCEE42FX/BJ. Even at its entry-level price, the computer sports an ample 15.5-inch (LED-backlit) screen and 500GB hard drive. The black, 5.9-lb computer contains a 2.3 GHz AMD Athlon II Dual-Core P360 processor with 4GB of RAM and an AMD Mobility Radeon HD 4250 Graphics chip. The VAIO comes with Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit).

For maximum performance, the most powerful processor in our score-some belongs to the Sony VAIO F Series. Computers in the family include the VPCF13UFX in black or gray and the VPCF13YFK/B in black. Though all contain 1.73 GHz Intel Core i7-740QM Quad-Core processors, the former two come with 4GB of RAM and 500GB of hard-drive storage, and the latter one with 6GB of RAM and a 640GB hard drive. Also, the former include nVIDIA GeForce 310M 512MB GPUs while the latter a GeForce GT425M 1GB GPU.

All these F-Series models sport 16.4-inch (1600 x 900) CCFL-backlit displays and include Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity. The VPCF13YFK/B is also 802.11a- and dual-band 802.11n-compatible and has built-in support for WiMAX mobile broadband. Each weighs 6.4 lb and is distinguished by a backlit keyboard. An ambient light sensor adjusts both the keyboard and screen brightness.

The largest screen in our tidy twenty belongs to the VAIO EF VPCEF44FX/BI. Its 17.3-inch display (1600 x 900 pixels) is LED backlit. The screen width makes it possible to accommodate a full-size keyboard with a numeric keypad—not something you usually see on a notebook. Under the gunmetal black finish is a 2.5 GHz AMD Turion II Dual-Core P560 processor with 4GB of RAM, AMD Mobility Radeon HD 4250 Graphics and a 640GB hard drive. The 6.7-lb computer is 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi compatible.

Weighing just 4.4 pounds, each newly arrived  VAIO S-Series notebook lets you compute on an LED-backlit 13.3-inch display or wirelessly stream content to your HDTV using the Series' built-in Intel WiDi technology.  The trio incorporates Intel GMA HD Graphics, Bluetooth connectivity and 802.11a/b/g/n-compatible Wi-Fi. Two of the notebooks contain 2.5 GHz Intel Core i3-380M processors with 4GB of RAM and 320GB hard drives: the VAIO S VPCS132FX/B in black and the VAIO S VPC132FX/S in silver. The higher-performance VAIO S VPCS135FX/B contains a 2.66 GHz Intel Core i5-480M processor and a 500GB hard drive. It comes in black.