So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Sony VAIO E Series (VPCEB36FG) notebook
Sony VAIO E Series (VPCEB36FG) review: A 15.5in notebook with a Full HD screen
- Full HD screen, excellent keyboard, well built, ExpressCard/34 slot, good performance
- Terrible touchpad, annoying preinstalled software, no Blu-ray drive
The Sony VAIO E Series (VPCEB36FG) notebook has a 15.5in Full HD screen and is solidly built. It performed well in our tests and it's very comfortable to type on for long periods of time. However, it has an awful touchpad and it doesn't ship with a Blu-ray drive, which would help you take advantage of the Full HD screen.
Price$ 1,399.00 (AUD)
The aqua colour of the Sony VAIO E Series (VPCEB36FG) may not be appealing to many people, but don't fret: it's also available in white, red, black and green. It's a 15.5in notebook that has many things going for it; it feels very well built, it has a Full HD screen and its keyboard is excellent. However, it doesn't run a top-end Core i7 or mid-range Core i5 CPU. Instead it's available with an Intel Core i3 CPU, which seems a little mismatched against the Full HD screen.
VAIO E Series: Specifications and performance
The Sony VAIO E Series is a notebook that's designed for multimedia tasks, and, despite the entry-level Core i3-370M CPU, it possesses plenty of grunt to get things done. The CPU has two cores and Hyper-Threading (for a total of four virtual cores) and it runs at 2.4GHz. This speed is handy when it comes to creating MP3s and encoding video files. Coupled with 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM, a 5400rpm, 500GB hard drive and an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 graphics adapter, the E Series will easily handle most tasks, and its graphics card gives it some gaming prowess, too.
In our Blender 3D rendering and iTunes MP3 encoding tests, the VAIO E Series recorded times of 1min 2sec and 1min 12sec, respectively. These are very good times compared to other notebooks using the same CPU, such as the Medion Akoya P6624. In our Xvid encoding test, the VAIO took 1hr 12min to turn our DVD file into a 1.5GB Xvid file, which is also a relatively fast time. Basically, you'll have no issues with the performance of this notebook — it will perform as expected.
For gaming, its Radeon HD 5650 graphics adapter will run many games quite well at mid-range image quality and resolution settings, but it won't be able to run a lot of games smoothly at the native Full HD resolution of the screen. The adapter recorded a score of 6125 in 3DMark06, which shows that it's just as capable as some self-proclaimed gaming laptops, such as the much more expensive ASUS G51J 3D gaming notebook. We did have some issues with the graphics adapter when playing videos though. All of our videos stuttered as they played back; we had to manually update the ATI Catalyst driver in order to remedy this.
VAIO E Series: Full HD screen and physical features
As the screen has a 1920x1080 resolution, high-definition movies will look great on it. However, standard-definition content will look a little too blotchy and pixelated — you'll have to sit a fair way back from the screen in order to mask some of these blemishes, and because the screen is glossy you might get annoyed by reflections. The notebook doesn't ship with a Blu-ray drive, so any high-definition content you watch will have to be downloaded from the Internet or created by you from a digital still or video camera.
The VAIO E Series feels very sturdy and its keyboard is excellent. It has perfectly laid out chiclet-style keys and even includes a full-sized number pad. The keys feel crisp and they are very comfortable to hit. Unfortunately, the touchpad is one of the worst we've ever used. It has little bumps that feel terrible, and its responsiveness was poor. It was also very hard to get two-finger pinch and rotate gestures to work. If you'll be using the VAIO E Series as a desktop replacement rather then a mobile notebook, then you'll definitely want to plug in a mouse.
Around the edges of the VAIO E Seires, you'll find a built-in DVD burner, four USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port (shared with a USB port), Gigabit Ethernet, VGA, HDMI, and headphone and microphone ports. Annoyingly, the headphone and microphone ports are located on the front, which is inconvenient when you want to use the notebook on your lap. The VAIO E Series has more slots than most notebooks in its class: Not only do you get an SD card slot, you also get a separate MemoryStick Duo slot and an ExpressCard/34 slot. We love the inclusion of the ExpressCard slot as it means a digital TV tuner or other expansion card can be installed without wasting one of the USB ports. You also get a webcam, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
VAIO E Series: Battery life
Despite the notebook's 15.5in size and its 2.7kg weight, it's actually not too uncomfortable to use on your lap for short periods of time. You could relatively easily transport it to and from work or a classroom in a backpack. However, you won't be able to use it while away from an outlet for too long — it lasted only 1hr 38min in our battery test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video. This isn't a good result, but it's similar to what we've seen from 15in laptops such as the Samsung R590-JS02AU.
VAIO E Series: Preinstalled software
The software that ships with the VAIO E Series includes McAfee Security Centre, which can be extremely annoying with its pop-up messages, and VAIO Gate, which is a dock that sits at the top of the screen and allows you to launch many of the multimedia applications that are installed. The dock's main function is to get in the way when you accidentally mouse over it. You might want to uninstall these applications if you want a better overall computing experience.
What we do like is the inclusion of a version of Splashtop, which is a separate operating system to Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) that allows you to just browse the Web and nothing else — it can be invoked by pressing the WEB shortcut button above the keyboard when the notebook is off. It's useful for basic browsing.
Overall, the Sony VAIO E Series is a well-rounded notebook. We like its build quality and the way it feels, but we wish it had a better touchpad. It can be used for office work, multimedia tasks and a little bit of gaming. We wish it came with a slightly more powerful CPU and a Blu-ray drive to take advantage of the Full HD screen, but if you want those features you can always opt for the slightly more expensive VAIO E Series VPCEB37FG model.
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