Sony has been on the notebook circuit for a while now and we’ve seen some pretty cool notebooks from the Japanese hardware giant. The company recently overhauled some of their notebook series with newer hardware and some cosmetic upgrades. One thing we wish Sony did overhaul was the naming convention for their notebooks - today’s SCE14A15FNB from their E-series range doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. This new model belongs to their ‘Accent Series’ collection which adds different colour accents around the notebook, bezel, keys, etc. Sony hasn’t really refreshed the internals too much so let’s see if the added colour is enough to warrant a buy.
Take a quick look at the new Sony VAIO on video
A quick review of the new Sony VAIO notebook
Design and Build
The VAIO E-series is quite a chunky notebook but feels well-built and nicely put together. The fit and finish of the plastics are soft to touch, lending it a very comforting feel. Our review unit was black with red accents running along the bezel, sides and along the keys. The material is slightly reflective, so the colour really stands out when light hits it. The matte-finished back does a good job of keeping fingerprints at bay.
Everyone loves a good matte finish
In terms of connectivity, we have the DVD burner, two USB 2.0 ports along with a microphone and headphone jack towards the right, while the left houses two USB 3.0 ports along with VGA, LAN and HDMI; quite a good set of connectors for a 14-inch notebook. Inside, we are greeted by a spacious chiclet keyboard that’s backlit. The one thing different about this compared to other notebooks is that the backlight will fade off after a few seconds if you don’t use any of the keys. The display also has an ambient light sensor which adjusts the brightness according to ambient light, a small but thoughtful addition. The keys are incredibly comfortable to use, even for long typing sessions and are lit up perfectly.
A good set of connectors
There are a couple of shortcut buttons above the keys for launching the Sony Assist program, the browser and a ‘VAIO’ button that can be configured to open up their own media gallery. Overall, we do think that Sony has created yet another very well-designed notebook and the new colour trim will go down well with the youth. We wished it was a bit lighter as you’ll certainly feel the 2.3 kg on your back.
For whatever reason, Sony hasn’t upgraded the internals to the new Intel Ivy Bridge. This E-series notebook is powered by an Intel Core i5-2450M CPU based on Sandy Bridge running at 2.5 GHz with a Turbo frequency of 3.1 GHz. Besides this, we get 4 GB of RAM, which can be increased to 16 GB. For storage, we have a 640 GB hard drive and for graphics, we have an AMD Radeon HD 7670M with 1 GB of dedicated video memory. This was the same card used in the Toshiba L850, but Sony has also implemented ‘Switchable Graphics’, which lets the discrete graphics go idle when not needed; something Toshiba has neglected in their notebook.
The backlit keys are very comfortable
The higher resolution screen (1600 x 900) makes a big difference when it comes to applications, pictures, video and even reading text. Everything is a lot sharper and clearer and the brightness levels are more than adequate for outdoor usage. Software-wise, Sony bundles a lot of extra apps like a backup application; Dolby Home Theatre v4 audio enhancements and xLOUD for better sound; and PowerDVD, Adobe Flash, TriDef 3D Ignition and Media Gallery for multimedia. The E-series also ships with a matching keyboard skin and laser mouse.
The VAIO E puts up quite a good show despite having an older CPU. While it does take a beating when performing CPU-intensive tasks since it’s a dual-core, there doesn't seem to be too much of a difference when it comes to games. We recorded a very healthy framerate compared to other similarly-priced notebooks. Video encoding, however, fares a lot better on quad-core CPUs.
Good gaming performance
The left side of the notebook tends to get quite warm when the discrete card kicks in, and the hot air expelled from the vents on the side can get somewhat uncomfortable if you use the notebook on your lap for extended periods of time. After you install a software, the AMD utility automatically detects the type of application and selects the right GPU for it. In case it doesn’t show up on the list, you can manually add ‘EXE’ and assign it a card. The keyboard is very comfortable and the backlighting really helps in low light conditions. The speakers are placed above the keyboard and produce very decent audio quality. The audio fidelity is quite good for movies and music, although you'll want to wear headphones if you want to hear some bass.
Solid build and feel
Thanks to switchable graphics, we managed to get decent battery life in Battery Eater Pro. The Sony VAIO E-series lasted for 1 hour and 35 minutes - which is pretty good but could have been better if Sony would have gone with an Nvidia GPU. Under real world usage, you should be able to get about four hours of battery life.
Verdict and Price in India
The Sony VAIO SVE14A15FNB is priced at Rs.55,990, which puts it up against the Asus K55VM and the Toshiba L850 in terms of pricing. The latter two feature quad-core Ivy Bridge CPUs that do really well in tasks like video encoding, so if you do a lot of that, we recommend you pick the Asus K55VM over the Sony. However, the new E-series is very good for media playback, especially due to the higher resolution screen. It’s also a bit smaller, is more portable, has a much better keyboard that’s backlit, an ambient light sensor for the display, and great design and build quality. If you’re in the market for a good all-round multimedia notebook with good attention to detail, then the Sony SVE14A15FNB is one of the better options out there.
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