Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sony VAIO FW Review - VAIO FW 270j

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Welcome to our full review on the Sony VAIO FW-270j. This multimedia powerhouse sports a glossy and HD-ready 16.4” display, complete with 16:9 aspect ratio. It easily handles HD input/output via the standard Blu-ray player and HDMI port. It also features an Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 2.26GHz to go along with an ample 4GB RAM and 320GB HDD. Though a little heavy and short on battery life, the FW-270j is reasonably priced for its capabilities and will meet most (if not all) your multimedia needs with style.

* Beautiful and bright HD display
* Blu-ray & HDMI
* Runs coolly and quietly
* Sleek minimalist design

* Misleading 1080p sticker on front
* All the other stickers too – they’re ugly
* Speakers could be better
* Matte lid is rough to the touch

Welcome to our full review on the Sony VAIO FW-270j. This multimedia powerhouse sports a glossy and HD-ready 16.4” display, complete with 16:9 aspect ratio. It easily handles HD input/output via the standard Blu-ray player and HDMI port. It also features an Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 2.26GHz to go along with an ample 4GB RAM and 320GB HDD. Though a little heavy and short on battery life, the FW-270j is reasonably priced for its capabilities and will meet most (if not all) your multimedia needs with style.

Case look and feel

Sony is known for putting a little emphasis on style, and the FW-270j is no exception. The minimalist design features a sleek silver chassis. The webcam peers out at you from its reflective gray housing, but that is virtually the only thing marring the fluid silver. Below the display on either side there are large hinges, the rightmost hinge sporting a glowing green band which lights up when the computer is on. In between the hinges lies the large speaker bay and some small media control buttons, colored silver of course. The keyboard is given a generous border, and aside from a small VAIO logo and a few unsightly stickers there is nothing but a well camouflaged trackpad on the large palmrest. One stylistic choice that disagreed with us however was the lid. It’s black with a large silver VAIO logo in the middle, which is fine, but we can’t understand why Sony chose to abandon the sleek look by giving it a grainy matte finish which was uncomfortable to the touch.

Size & Weight
For a 16.4” laptop the Fw-270j is actually fairly compact, measuring just 1.1” thick at the tip and 1.5” at the hinge. The overall dimensions of 15.1 x 10.3 x 1.1-1.5” are reasonable for the form factor. The weight is 6.4lbs, which is respectable for a laptop of that size. However, while it wasn’t overly cumbersome in the end, we still thought twice about carrying the laptop with us when we first decided to carry it outside the house. We imagine this is a laptop you won’t mind moving when you need to, but that you won’t bother moving very far when you don’t.

Keyboard and Mouse
After typing on the keyboard for an extended period of time, we would rate it as excellent on looks and decent on performance. The black pebble design reminds us of Macs, and is certainly a stylistic plus that fits in well with the minimalist decor. The keyboard lacked a numeric pad despite ample real estate, but compensated slightly by spacing out the keys so much. The stroke of 2mm isn’t bad, but it falls short of some of the nicer keyboards we’ve tested lately like those on the ThinkPad series. The keys were quiet under our fingers. We also liked the trackpad, with a smooth touch that remained comfortable during continued usage.

Display Quality
Despite feeling slightly miffed by the “Full HD 1080p” sticker on the front, the glossy 1600x900 LCD was bright and clear. Just to clarify, 1600x900 is HD-friendly but it’s only 720p (Sony explains that it’s only 1080p “when connected to a compatible HDTV”, which basically means you can use it as a Blu-ray player). The back lighting was very bright on maximum settings, which helped fight off the glare of the glossy screen. The large display has excellent horizontal viewing angles, making it possible for multiple people to easily watch a video at the same time. The vertical angles aren’t quite as good, but are still decent.

The FW270j isn’t overloaded with ports, but it’ll do everything most laptops do and thanks to an HDMI port, a few things most can’t. As for connectivity options, nothing like a WWAN here but 802.11a/b/g/n and Bluetooth make connecting a breeze.

The back of the laptop is empty of ports, as it’s reserved for the display sliding back on its hinge.

The left side contains the power jack and an exhaust fan, followed by the Ethernet and modem ports. Next comes your high end connectivity, with VGA followed by HDMI followed by i.LINK S400 (aka mini FireWire). Last of all, there’s an ExpressCard/34 slot.

The right side is pretty simple, with your inconspicuous unlabeled Blu-ray player followed by all 3 USB ports.

The front features a battery light and a system activity light, followed by a wireless switch, multi-card reader, and eventually by audio in/out as well.

The FW270j already comes with the max 4GB RAM (all usable on 64bit Vista) and a 320GB HDD, although you can upgrade as high as 400GB. One thing that you might want to upgrade if you plan on doing some heavy HD work is the processor, which can range as high as a 2.80Ghz T9600 Core 2 Duo. But there isn’t much of a point in going too crazy, since there’s no option to get a dedicated GPU in there (at least on this model).

The FW270j is a laptop that is clearly designed for multimedia enjoyment, and to that end the Blu-ray drive, HDMI port and high end display prove a valuable tandem. Next to the set of media control buttons, there is also a button labeled “AV Mode” which calls up Sony’s built in media playing software.
There is also a programmable shortcut button on the other side of the media control buttons, and an integrated webcam. Sony packs this laptop with software that will help you take your pictures and turn them into a movie or any other sort of presentation. You can even use it as a security camera of sorts which will only film when the camera detects motion.

One thing we didn’t like that much was the internal speaker. The volume got pretty loud, but the quality of sound failed to impress. For a computer designed to play media, we were expecting more.

Performance and Conclusion
As an HD video friendly laptop we expected this computer to be able to handle our tests, but to be hurt by the lack of a dedicated GPU. For a detailed explanation of our testing method, see here
Windows Vista Experience Score
Processor 5.2
Memory 5.9
Graphics 4.1
Gaming Graphics 3.8
Primary Hard Disk 5.4

An overall score of 3.8 seems fairly low, until you realize this computer actually got very high marks on everything but graphics/gaming graphics. That’s to be expected without a dedicated GPU, but as long as you aren’t a gamer you probably won’t notice that much.
PCMark Vantage Pro
Asus G50-X1 3935
Alienware M15x 3767
HP HDX16 3320
ThinkPad X301 3308
VAIO FW270j 3235

The FW270j trails gaming laptops such as the G50 and M15x in this test, but compares fairly well with ultraportables like the X301 and other multimedia notebooks like the HDX16

3DmarkVantage: NA

We were unable to run 3DmarkVantage on this laptop. Although it can run a 1600x900 resolution, it could not generate the 1280x1024 resolution the benchmark required.
Worldbench 6
Alienware M15x 104
ThinkPad T400 91
Toshiba Satellite E-10 583
HP HDX 16 80
VAIO FW270j 74

Although the processor could be faster, with 4GB of RAM we expected this score to be a little higher. Still, it only just trails the aforementioned multimedia notebook, the HDX16.

Battery Life
DVD Playback
Toshiba Satellite E-105 210
Lenovo X301 117
VAIO FW270j 101
HP HDX 16 80
Asus G50 80

The FW270j only lasted an hour and forty-one minutes when viewing a Blu-ray disc. While this isn’t as long as we might like, it’s at least long enough to watch most movies in their entirety on a single charge. It should be noted that we viewed this Blu-ray disc on the VAIO’s default battery settings, which does not reduce the brightness, so it’s likely possible to squeeze a few extra minutes out of that time.
Regular Use Battery Life
ThinkPad T400 (Integrated) 334
Toshiba Satellite E-105 260
ThinkPad X301 235
VAIO FW270j 181
HP HDX 16 156

In regular usage the VAIO just edged past the three hour mark before running out of gas. It’s a little low, but it again is roughly comparable to the HDX.

Recharge time was 175 minutes, which is almost as long as it took to discharge it in the first place on casual use.

Real life usage (heat and noise)

The VAIO FW270j was generally easy and comfortable to use. The keyboard is spacious and the trackpad is smooth. The size and weight of the laptop felt comfortable resting on our lap. The FW270j ran cool and produced virtually no noise, even when actively playing a Blu-ray disc. Overall performance during casual use was generally snappy too. We generally had no complaints arising from our regular usage, and the coolness/quietness is actually downright impressive.

With an HDMI port, a Blu-ray player and a beautiful and brightly lit 16.4” 16:9 1600x900 HD display, the Sony VAIO FW270j is a laptop designed for multimedia and designed for it well. As good as media looks when played on it, the FW270j itself is no slouch. With a minimalist design featuring an all silver chassis and black pebble keyboard, this laptop is easy on the eyes. It packs an Intel Core 2 Due P8400 2.26GHz along with 4GB RAM and a 320GB HDD too, so it’s hardly limited to multimedia use. Although the weight is not excessive for the form factor it’s still a bit heavy to carry around, and the relatively low battery life will further incline you to keep this notebook close to home. Overall, the laptop was comfortable and easy to use, scoring slightly lower than expected in performance tests but scoring highly in style points to make up for it. Combine that with high end multimedia capabilities and a reasonable price, and you’ve got a laptop worth looking into.


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