Handling, design and build: quality plastics and a comfortable feel
Apart from the underside, the outside of this Vaio is all pink, but it's made from a combination of different materials. The wrist rest around the touchpad is completely smooth and in a rather attractive glossy pink, as is the back of the screen. Around the keyboard is matte plastic in pastel pink, which gradually fades in colour up to the top of the screen. The design works well and avoids dust and greasy fingerprints getting your laptop dirty. The finish and construction are both excellent.
The chiclet-style keyboard has small (15 mm square), flat keys which sit a little proud of the case. Typing is quiet and pleasant, with soft, responsive keys that are firm enough to bounce back well.
The multitouch touchpad sets a good example: it's matte to the touch, making fluid movements fast and accurate. Sony hasn't forgotten the two click buttons either, which are well made and of the advantage of responding well without making too much noise.
The webcam produces reasonable results. It misses out on detail and it really struggles if there isn't enough light in the room. However, the contrast and fluidity are both about average, and overexposed zones don't look burned out.
Apart from the fan which rolls along quietly the whole time, the laptop is relatively quiet. We've seen much better, especially with Apple's MacBooks. However, the cooling is effective, and doesn't ramp up suddenly as soon as you start to use it. The outside remains relatively cool, which bodes well for the durability of the components inside.
There's a full range of connectivity options, with VGA and HDMI video outputs; an Ethernet port; three USB 2.0 ports; FireWire; an SD card/Memory Stick card reader; an ExpressCard 34 slot and headphone and mic jacks.
Underneath, three panels open up to reveal the main components, including the RAM, hard drive and CPU/GPU. The battery is removable.
|Fan, VGA, HDMI, FireWire and two USB 2.0 ports
|Touchpad and click buttons
||ExpressCard, DVD writer, audio jacks, USB 2.0 and power
Processor Power: a real all-rounder
Windows 7 index: 5.3. Details: CPU 5.7 - Memory 6.3 - Graphics 4.9 – Gaming graphics 6.3 – Main hard drive 5.3.
The processor in this Sony laptop is a mid-range dual-core option. It scored 77 in our tests, while overall the laptop reached 85. You can compared that to our reference laptop, the Fujistu-Siemens Amilo Xi 3650 with its Intel Core 2 Duo T9400, which is indexed to 100. That means this laptop performed well, and it will be equally at home with office work as it will with editing photos or even editing, encoding and playing video.
Playing HD 1080p Blu-ray equivalent video doesn't give the processor any problems. That said, we still suggest you take advantage of the excellent decoding offered by the dedicated Nvidia graphs card. That rapidly reduces the amount of work the processor needs to do. To do so, you'll need decent software, like Power DVD 9 or Media Player Classic HC, as well as the right codecs. The energy consumption falls from 55.5 to 44.5 W, and the load on the CPU drops to just 10%, compared to 55% when the graphics card isn't helping out.
3D Gaming: recent titles with average details
Thanks to its Nvidia GeFore GT 230M graphics card, the Sony Vaio VPCCW1S1E can play recent 3D games. We could play Race Driver: GRID with the level of detail set to high, while first-person shooter games were more manageable with average details; that was the case with Crysis and Fallout 3 for instance. Less demanding tittles that use Valve's Source rendering engine like Half-Life 2 work with details set to high: that includes Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2 amongst others.
Audio Quality: not great
Once agin, the sound is far from exceptional--quite the opposite, in face. It lacks depth and sounds flat, with no bass and treble dominating to produce a dry, unpleasant listen. At least there's no feedback from the headphone jack.
Portability and Battery Life: average results
In our standard battery life test of looping video--WiFi turned off, headphones plugged in and brightness at 100 cd/m²--the Vaio only managed to last for 2 hours 10 minutes. That's a lot less impressive than the most impressive than the latest MacBook Pro or MacBook from Apple, but is just about enough for watching a film every now and again or working for a couple of hours. For comparison, the Dell Studio 15 managed 2 h 34 in the same test.
Its colours may be unusual, but the size is pretty average, weighing 2.4 kg with the charger, which is also standard. More mobile users will want to go for a more powerful, lighter laptop with better battery life, which usually have low power-consumption processors.