Sony has introduced the Vaio VPCF11S1E as "Ideal for HD Home Cinema", with "cinema-style surround sound". According to Sony, its Full HD "Premium" panel and Blu-Ray player, make it ideal for video, while its quad core Intel Core i7 and graphics card promise "powerful performance" and "efficient multimedia creation".
Made of dark matte plastic (inside) and black matte plastic out, the overall coherence and quality of manufacturing immediately impresses. The Sony Vaio VPCF11S1E has the advantage of being sober and resistant to finger marks. The wrist rest is textured so as to reduce sweat and stay clean. We might have had better quality plastic on this part, as the texture isn't very easy on the eye or to the touch.
The keyboard uses small separated keys (15 x 15 mm), like all other recent Sony laptops. There's a number pad on the right, which is practical. Keying is soft and comfortable with firm responsive keys.
The touchpad is situated just under the space bar and slightly to the left to avoid errors while typing. It has a smooth, matte finish and a good glide with satisfactory precision (although we've seen better). Just underneath, the left and right click buttons are well assembled and responsive.
The webcam produces a high quality image. Contrast is good, colours are faithful and the image is fluid.
The fan is unfortunately noisy most of the time, apart from during office doc work when it is quieter and more regular. During heavier tasks, the fan really asserts itself, especially during gaming. You'll need to stick some headphones on and turn the volume levels up (don't damage your ears though!) if you don't want to hear it at all.
Connectivity covers all the bases. VGA and HDMI, one RJ45 (Ethernet Gigabit), 3 USB 2.0 ports one of which is an e-SATA combo, a FireWire, an SD card reader and a Memory Stick, an ExpressCard 34 port, a headphone (with S/PDIF) and a mic socket. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are also included.
We like the Blu-Ray player/DVD rewriter combo that allows you to view your favourite films straight on the Full HD screen, or on your TV thanks to the HDMI out.
Under the PC, 2 panels give access to the RAM (4 + 2 GB) and hard drive.
|Sony Vaio VPCF11S1E from above
||Headphones, mic, 2 USB 2.0s, Blu-Ray player/DVD rewriter
|Power socket, RJ45, VGA, HDMI, e-SATA/USB, ExpressCard 34, FireWire
||Touchpad and clicks
Processing: great performance thanks to its quad-core Core i7 processor
With an impressive CPU index of 135, the Sony Vaio VPCF11S1E is at ease under any conditions. From office doc work to video editing, photo retouching and gaming, nothing troubles it. This is all down to the quad-core Intel Core i7-720QM processor which has been working wonders for the last few months in high-end laptops. In comparison our reference machine, the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 (equipped with an Intel Core 100 Duo T9400) scores 100 on the index.
The only let down is the hard drive which we would have liked to see do better than 5400 rpm. It is nevertheless possible to configure the VPCF11S1E with an SSD or a faster hard drive (7200 rpm) at the online Sony store.
High definition video playback (HD 1080p, Blu-Ray equivalent) can be handled without the slightest problem, either with the processor or the graphics card. We do advise you to use the graphics solution to free up the processor. You will then need appropriate video playback software such as Power DVD 9 or Media Player Classic HC.
3D gaming: recent titles and demanding Full HD
With its NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M graphics card (mid-end model), the Sony Vaio VPCF11S1E can handle recent titles with satisfactory fluidity. Performance is however limited and the most demanding games (such as Crysis) aren't fluid in native resolution (1920 x 1080). Best to make do with less demanding titles in terms of graphics performance and which can run at average/high settings. Here you can count those games that use the Source engine (Half-Life 2, L4D, TF2 and so on) or racing games such as Race Driver GRID for example.
Audio: good sound though we prefer the headphones out
This isn't the news story of the year, but the sound you get from the small speakers on this Vaio is really ok, in particular when Dolby improvement features (Home Theater v3) are activated. Although this software processing suffocates the sound a bit, it does give extra depth. That said, we still advise you to use the headphones out in most cases. It offers very good results and also runs in S/PDIF mode if you want to link up to an amp for example.
Mobility, battery life: hardly enough to view a film
In spite of the 5000 mAh battery, the Sony Vaio VPCF11S1E is limited to 1h48 video playback (Wi-Fi disactivated, headphones plugged in and brightness at 100 cd/m²). It no doubt pays the price of having such a high performance processor as the less powerful VPCF11M1E manages 2h21 with a smaller battery.
At 3.1 Kg, this isn't the sort of laptop you'd choose for frequent travelling. Its 16.4 inch screen makes it adaptable to home or the office and you can take it with you if you're going on a trip (in the car preferably).