Earlier this year, Sony launched a new lineup of notebooks called the C series, primarily targeted at the youth and the urban population. This reflected in the choice of colours Sony chose, many of which had heavy fluorescent tones. This wasn’t the first colourful series for Sony. Their earlier EB series had a similar theme with bright bold colours and funky patterns. The new C series takes it one step further by introducing some cool lighting effects throughout the notebook. If that’s not enough to grab your attention, then the new bold colours definitely will.
Design and Build
Sony is notorious for sending gaudy coloured review units out and they’ve out done themselves this time. The unit they sent us was fluorescent red which is just too ‘out there’ for my taste or anyone I know for that matter. Thankfully you can choose between many other colours, including black. The outer shell of the notebook is made up primarily of translucent plastic, which makes it look more like a kid's toy than anything else. Also, when the light hits it, it appears as if there's neon backlighting around the edges and couple of other areas.
Translucent plastic is everywhere
The lid has a bit of flex, but applying pressure from the outside does not cause any ripple effect on the screen, which means the screen is protected well. The hinges are very sturdy and the lid can extend almost 180 degrees giving you very flexible viewing angles. Opening the lid, we have the similar translucent effect for the entire palm rest area and the trackpad. Just above the keyboard, we have three shortcut keys for VAIO Assist that lets you monitor the status of the notebook, WEB gives you quick access to IE and VAIO gives you a fancy gallery interface to view your photos. The stereo speakers are placed on either side of the buttons and face upwards so the sound is blocked even when placed on your lap.
USB 3.0 for faster data transfers
The ports on the left include the power connector, LAN jack, VGA, HDMI, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0. The other side houses the DVD burner, two more USB 2.0 ports and the microphone and headphone jack. The chiclet keyboard is backlit and the best part is that there is an ambient light sensor, so the backlighting automatically kicks in once the light is low. The card reader is placed in the front along with the status light and the Wi-Fi toggle switch. There are plenty of ventilation vents underneath for proper cooling. The hard drive compartment is easily accessible by just removing two screws.
The notebook may look like a toy, but it packs some serious horse power under all those flashing lights. Intel’s Sandy Bridge Core i5-2410M takes center stage, running at a stock speed of 2.3GHz with the ability to Turbo up to 2.9GHz. There’s a single 4GB DDR3 memory stick, so you can add another one yourself later. For storage, we have a 500GB Toshiba hard drive spinning at 7200rpm. The C series makes a decent gaming notebook as well, with AMD’s HD 6630M with dynamic switchable graphics between the onboard and the discrete card, similar to Nvidia’s Optimus. Sony has used dual graphics previously, but you had to manually hit a switch for that to work.
Keyboard has very good ergonomics
The 14-inch LED backlit screen sports a resolution of 1366x768, which is good enough for general and multimedia playback. The 1.3MP webcam also features Sony’s ‘Exmor’ video engine for a clearer picture. Sony has bundled a bunch of their own software utilities like PMB content editing and creation software, Microsoft Office Starter 2010, Evernote, VAIO Media Plus, VAIO Gate, Remote Play for the PS3, McAfee PC Security Center (trial version).
The Core i5 is a very capable performer for everyday tasks and copes well even under stress. In the chart below, I've compared it with the Asus gaming notebook just to see how much of a performance drop exists against the Core i7.
Speedy little notebook
Games fare pretty well, too. I was able to get good frame rates at the native resolution and with most of the settings cranked up to 'High' and a bit of Anti-Aliasing, as well.
Good gaming performance
General and Multimedia Usage
At 2.45kg, the VAIO C is not the lightest notebook on the block and you’ll definitely feel the weight in your backpack. That aside, it’s definitely one of the most ergonomic notebooks I’ve come across. The keyboard is a dream to use and the feedback of the keys are very good, which means very less fatigue during long typing sessions. The trackpad has a ribbed design and responds well to touch. The palm rest area is sufficiently wide even for large hands and the trackpad does not get in the way while typing, which is what I liked the most. Even while charging, the notebook only gets a bit warm, which is good. The speakers are loud and clear but, bass is almost non-existent.
Backlighting is even and automatically kicks in thanks to the ambient light sensor
This is one of the first notebooks I've come across which has an AMD Dynamically Switchable graphics card. The HD 6630M is a mainstream card that’s based on the older 5000 series architecture and is similar to the HD 5650M. The card supports DX11 and the new UVD3 video decoding engine. The Catalyst control panel features a new option called ‘Switchable Graphics’ that lets you configure which programs use the dedicated graphics card and the onboard one.
Option to select which graphics should be used
But like many AMD Radeon features, the implementation is not as polished as compared to Nvidia’s Optimus. For instance, the properties page only lets you configure the last two installed programs. There’s no way to see the entire list of programs or games in one go and configure them. It does give you an option to manually add an ‘exe’ file and set what graphics card it should use. If you're using a program that's not configured, a pop-up will appear asking you to choose which card you prefer. Instead of giving you the names of the two cards, you have to choose between 'Power Saving' and 'High Performance' modes.
Battery Eater Pro gave me battery life of 1hr and 30min, which again is an average for a 6-cell battery. Under regular use, you should easily manage 2.5-3hrs with ‘Power Saver Mode’ medium brightness levels. I ran this test forcing the notebook to use the onboard graphics. In Nvidia's Optimus technology, the discrete card shuts down completely, but this doesn't seem to be the case with AMD's offering.
At Rs. 55,990 for this model (VPCCA15FG), the VAIO C makes a good buy given the features and performance. Funky looks apart, it packs in some serious fire power under all the translucent, hippie lighting effects. Some of the highlights of this notebook include the auto switchable graphics, auto-backlighting of the keyboard, very comfortable and ergonomic keys coupled with good build quality. It can also handle DX10 games pretty well without compromising too much on quality.
Apart from the average battery life and the weight, there’s not much to complain about really. Now, if Sony would drop the price a little, it would be a great buy.
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