Sony VAIO E Series VPCEH17FG laptop

Sony VAIO E Series VPCEH17FG review: A 15.6in laptop that looks good and feels great to use

Sony VAIO E Series VPCEH17FG
  • Sony VAIO E Series VPCEH17FG
  • Sony VAIO E Series VPCEH17FG
  • Sony VAIO E Series VPCEH17FG
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5

Pros

  • Nice finish
  • Good screen
  • Comfortable to use

Cons

  • No USB 3.0
  • Relatively small hard drive

Bottom Line

The Sony VAIO E Series is perfect for home users or students who want an entry-level 15.6in laptop that's more refined than most. Its screen and keyboard are among the best in their class and laptop looks and feels good overall. We just wish it had USB 3.0 and a larger hard drive.

Would you buy this?

The 15.6in, 2.4kg Sony VAIO E Series VPCEH17FG has a name that's hard to remember at the best of times, but the notebook itself is far from forgettable. It has a diamond-patterned, dull finish with a 3D texture that feels soft and very smooth under hand. It also looks quite elegant and it makes a nice change from most flat-surfaced, polished finishes that we've seen recently.

The great look and feel that's supplied by the E Series doesn't start and end at the finish either: the 1366x768 screen is one of the best in its class and the chiclet keyboard is solid, it has a regulation number pad, and it's an absolute pleasure to type on. But let's get back to the screen. It has a glossy finish that is not as glossy as other laptops we've seen with glossy screens, and reflections didn't bother us too much while we used it in an office environment. Furthermore, its colour reproduction and horizontal viewing angles are much better than we've seen on other laptops priced at or below $799. Like most laptop screens though, its vertical viewing angles are far from great.

There is perhaps one small change that we'd make to the design of this laptop to improve its user comfort, and that would be to move the touchpad a little more to the right in order to provide more room for the left palmrest — it felt a little too cramped at times. The touchpad itself is 76x47mm and it has tiny little bumps that give it a somewhat ticklish texture. The bumps seem to be a little smaller than the ones we experienced on the E Series VPCEB36FG late last year and we didn't experience nearly as many problems with the responsiveness. The touchpad doesn't support the flicks gesture though, which is one that we've become used to on other laptops recently.

On the inside, the E Series has an Intel Core i3-2330M CPU and 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM, and graphics are handled by the CPU (Intel HD 3000). The weak link in the configuration is the hard drive, which is only 320GB in size and which has a spin speed of 5400rpm. Even though this is an entry-level laptop, a larger capacity hard drive would come in handy. This is a letdown when you consider that other low-cost models, such as Dell's Inspiron 15R N5110 come with a 500GB hard drive.

In our performance tests, the E Series produced expected results. It recorded 55sec in our Blender 3D rendering test, 1min 6sec in our iTunes MP3 encoding test, and 1hr 9min in our AutoGordianKnot DVD-to-Xvid transcoding test. We haven't tested another notebook with the 2.2GHz Core-i3-2330M CPU yet, but comparing it to the aforementioned Dell 15R, which was tested with a 2.1GHz Core-i3-2310M CPU, the Sony's results scale nicely. However, the Sony's hard drive transfer rate was a disappointing 25.85 megabytes per second (MBps) — the Dell recorded 29.85MBps in this test. In 3DMark06, it scored 3314, so don't expect this laptop to be any good at running the latest games.

As for connectivity and other features, the Sony VAIO E Series has a basic offering: four USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet, a DVD burner, a webcam; SD and MS Pro DUO memory card slots; separate headphone and microphone ports; Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi (Atheros AR9285). There is no USB 3.0 and the Wi-Fi module isn't great — it only connected to our 802.11n network at 54 megabits per second. We'd like it if Sony used a better class of wireless card in this model considering its price point, and USB 3.0 would be a nice addition, too. If you want USB 3.0 in a mainstream Sony notebook, you have to choose the C Series, F Series or S Series. Considering vendors such as Dell already offer USB 3.0 for mainstream notebooks, the E Series is a little underdone.

But it's not all about USB 3.0 and many of you probably won't care about that feature. The E Series is definitely a nice notebook and what you pay for is a very good user experience. The screen is above-average, the keyboard is very comfortable and the touchpad isn't bad either. Its battery could use a little more juice: it lasted just under three hours in our rundown test, which is about 30min less than we're used to seeing from 15.6in mainstream notebooks. All up though, it's a notebook that should suit home users and students who want something that looks nice and that's comfortable to use.

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