Sony VAIO CW Series (VPCCW15FGW) notebook
A 14in Sony laptop for editing photos and home movies
- Good keyboard, useful preinstalled software, dedicated graphics card, good performance
- No eSATA, no full-sized ExpressCard/54 slot, we'd like to have 4GB of RAM instead of 3GB
The Sony VAIO CW Series (VPCCW15FGW) notebook is quite stylish and comfortable to use. We like its keyboard and also the software that comes preinstalled on it, but it could use better connectivity options such as eSATA and a full-sized ExpressCard/54 slot.
Price$ 1,799.00 (AUD)
If there is one overwhelming opinion about the Sony VAIO CW Series (VPCCW15FGW) notebook at PC World, it's that it should not be available in pink. Everyone who saw it in our Test Centre despised the colour, wishing instead for black or white (or even the champagne colour that adorns part of the base). The good news is that the CW Series is available in black or white and it's a fine notebook with plenty to offer.
The Sony VAIO CW Series (VPCCW15FGW) is a 2.4kg, 14in notebook with a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6600 CPU, 3GB of DDR3 SDRAM and it runs Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit edition. This is a solid configuration for all types of work, but we're disappointed that Sony stopped short of including 4GB of RAM for this model considering the operating system could use it all. However, you can easily upgrade it yourself down the line, as there are two memory slots, one with 2GB and one with 1GB. Sony offers another model with 4GB of RAM installed as standard (the VPCCW1AGG), which also has a more powerful graphics adapter, a faster CPU, and runs Windows 7 Professional, but it'll cost you an extra $500.
The VPCCW15FGW also includes a 320GB, 5400rpm hard drive, a DVD burner and an NVIDIA GeForce G210M graphics adapter with 256MB of GDDR3 memory. It has a fair gamut of ports around its edges, but it doesn't include eSATA or a full-sized ExpressCard/54 slot. Instead, you get three USB 2.0 ports for attaching external hard drives and other devices and an ExpressCard/34 slot, which can be used to install a 3G data card or a digital TV tuner, for example.
The lack of eSATA and a full-sized ExpressCard/54 slot, as well as the amount of RAM, are only minor blemishes and can be overcome easily. So unless you're a tech head — and if you're looking at a pink laptop, you're probably not — this shouldn't phase you. In fact, the VPCCW15FGW is aimed at users who are looking for an easy-to-use solution for managing and editing media files. It has both SD and Memory Stick PRO card readers, as well as software that can help manage and edit videos and photos. It includes a nifty little pop-down dock application that has shortcuts to that software. In many ways, it's a very Mac-like device.
VAIO Gate is a dock that sits at the top of the screen and gives you quick access to the system's preinstalled software.
The dock is called VAIO Gate and it includes a calendar function, a media gallery (which looks like it would be fun to use with a touch screen), as well as quick links to all the other VAIO software that's installed on the computer. This includes VAIO MovieStory, which allows you to piece together movies from different video files, and a DVD creation utility. If you own a Sony camcorder or digital stills camera, there are utilities installed that will allow you to transfer files off those devices quickly and import them into the appropriate editing programs (you can just use the card slots for the same purpose). The notebook also comes with an AVCHD player installed, so you can view videos shot with your high-definition camera if it uses that format (it's normally a pain to have to install the camera's software just to watch the movies you've shot).
Keyboard and screen
Using the Sony VAIO VPCCW15FGW is a joy; it has a full-sized keyboard with isolated keys that have plenty of travel. It feels very comfortable to use and there are no keys in awkward positions, nor any undersized ones. However, the gap between keys does take some adjustment. There are some shortcut buttons above the keyboard, including ones to launch a Web browser and the VAIO Media Gallery, and there is also a button for switching off the screen.
The glossy screen is reasonably bright, but reflections can be annoying. It has a native resolution of 1366x768; you can also use the notebook's HDMI port to plug in a bigger monitor or TV. For networking, you get Gigabit Ethernet, as well as dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi. Bluetooth is available for connecting phones and cordless peripherals.
While the marketing blurb for the VPCCW15FGW says that it's suitable for gaming, we won't go as far as endorsing it for that sort of activity. You can play games with it, as its score of 3495 in 3DMark06 can attest, but not the latest titles, and definitely not at lush detail levels. Its graphics performance is a third that of dedicated gaming laptops such as the ASUS G60J (but that notebook costs over $1000 more).
The 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU gives the VPCCW15FGW plenty of grunt for manipulating photos and piecing together movies, and it will be relatively swift when transcoding files. This was shown in the Blender 3D test, in which the VAIO recorded a time of 1min 23sec. With its speed and dual CPU cores, it will breeze through any office, Web, social-networking and communications tasks you throw its way.
The battery that ships with the VPCCW15FGW is listed on Sony's Web site as lasting for two hours. In our battery rundown test — during which we loop an Xvid-encoded video while power management is disabled, the wireless radio is enabled and the screen brightness is maximised — it lasted 2hr 4min. This is the only time we can think of that a manufacturer has actually been accurate with a laptop battery rating. You can get approximately 30-40min more if you implement a power management strategy.
We like the overall design and build of the VAIO VPCCW15FGW, as well as the fact that Sony has installed plenty of imaging and video editing software to get you up and running straight away. It performed swiftly in our tests and can be used for manipulating photos and videos as well as office and online tasks. Most importantly, it's comfortable to use. We wish it had more modern ports and an extra gigabyte of RAM, but for the average user these issues won't be deal breakers.
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