The Sony VAIO FE590 is a fully customizable 15.4" Core Duo based laptop. It comes with an optional motion eye camera, the choice between an nVidia 7400 Go graphics card or Intel 950 integrated graphics, Bluetooth, Core Duo processor, up to 2GB RAM, 160GB HD, and a DVD Burner.
The model being reviewed here features the following:
Reasons for Choosing:
Sony VAIO FE notebook (view larger image)
I needed a workhorse laptop that would be suitable for a wide range of applications both as an Audio Video (AV) centre and a laptop that as a student I could travel to and from university with. The VAIO FE is very light for its size and has a great look too it. In terms of battery life it gets close to four hours when I'm in lectures throughout the day and around 3 hours watching videos, it has a beautiful crystal clear screen which is fantastic for my 3D art as the colors stay true.
Price and Buying from Sony:
I live in Australia, but at the time I ordered the only way to get the VAIO FE customized was ordering directly via Sony Style USA. I paid $1,435 and received free delivery; I purchased an extra 1GB stick of RAM from NewEg.com as Sony charges prices that are simply extortionate for their RAM.
I feel the price I paid for the VAIO FE was a great deal, but sadly I got hit with another $300 fee from Australian customs for importing the laptop, and on the very same day the FE was released in Australia for $1,670 USD with the camera, nVidia 7400 Go card, DVD burner and 100GB hard drive, though it only had 512MB of ram and a 1.66GHz Core Duo, it was still a little annoying.
I first placed my order on the 23rd of February and was told it would be ready to ship within 5 days, the next day when I checked my order it said they were out of stock and would be until February 27th, by the 3rd of March it still said out of stock and wouldn't be in stock for another few days. By this point I had contacted Sony on several occasions to ask what was happening, they told me that if I wasn't satisfied with the delay I should cancel my order. Great customer service hey? On the 7th I received an email saying my new Sony had been shipped and 2 days later it turned up at my friend's house who then shipped it all the way to Australia for me.
My friend shipped it in the original packaging and while I had heard horror stories I wasn't expecting this, A big brown box turned up and inside was a smaller box with my laptop sticky taped to it and various accessories floating around in the packaging, I was expecting at least a bit of foam for protection but that must be stretching Sony's budget.
As of mid last year Sony no longer sends any software discs with their laptops, all drivers and other programs are installed on a hidden partition on the laptops hard drive. This means there is a massive amount of bloatware pre-installed and the registry was a bit of a mess too, something I don't expect in a new computer. As I chose to configure mine without a DVD burner my only option was to burn 9 separate CD's to create a full recovery set, instead of this I tried to use a program to burn the files over my network but instead it ended up destroying my recovery partition. Then, stupidly, I installed a fresh copy of Windows XP and thought I could get the drivers from the Sony site. As it happens, only two-thirds of the drivers you need to recover the VAIO FE to original manufacturer state are on the Sony support site, I went online and spoke to a Sony support person who just spoke in an endless loop suggesting the same things over and over even after I had said that wasn't possible. Having given up on Sony support I finally gave up and begged a few NotebookReview.com members into giving me the missing drivers.
Look, Design and Style:
Sony VAIO FE590 lid view (view large image)
Design wise the VAIO FE strongly resembles the older Pentium M based VAIO FS series. The VAIO FE has a magnesium lid and base while the palm rest is of a plastic construction. While many people described it to me as being white before I purchased it, upon receiving the laptop its look is most definitely grey. The lid is quite smooth feeling despite having a textured look to it. This notebook stays very cool, even with the laptop running for extended periods of time.
The design does have a few flaws; one of the vents on the base of the laptop is often covered by my legs and as such can get a bit warm. The ports on the side and the front of the laptop are very annoyingly positioned with the headphone and microphone sockets at the front and the remaining ports on the right. Another common problem with the design is the very loose battery. Unless the battery is locked in it will fall out quite regularly, even if you do not touch the release. Even when it is locked it rattles a fair bit. Overall the VAIO FE does look extremely good and has received numerous compliments from class mates and even my lecturers!
Front side view of VAIO FE590 (view large image)
Left side view of VAIO FE590 (view large image)
Sony VAIO FE right side view (view large image)
The boot up time is a bit of a joke on this model, the splash screen can take almost a minute from the time you press the power button to the time the Windows XP loading screen appears. Once that windows logo is up this laptop flies taking barely 30 seconds from then to loading your own programs. This is a perfect gaming laptop in my opinion because the screen is so brilliant and the GPU handles games like Black and White 2 and Battle of the gods with ease, even on high settings. I would recommend at least 1GB of RAM to improve performance and gaming as the GPU borrows a fair chunk of it. This unit has never crashed or stalled on me yet -- surprising given I run Windows.
The VAIO FE has 3 USB ports, firewire, VGA out, Ethernet, phone jack, s-video, microphone, headphones, Memory Stick DUO slot, Docking station port, and ExpressCard/34.
The Docking station port is on the bottom of the unit and has a very flimsy cover that is always coming open, the ExpressCard/34 port comes with a memory card adaptor that takes xD, SD, and MMC. An ExpressCard/54 slot would have been a lot more useful and in a 15.4" chassis I don't think it's unreasonable.
I tested the VAIO FE590 with 3D Mark05, PCMark05 and Super Pi.
The nVidia Go 7400 scored an 1,811 3DMark score on the stock settings, but I've gotten it to 1,950 3DMarks with overclocking, At first this score surprised me compared to the VAIO SZ or the Acer 5762 scores I've seen -- around 2000. According to Sony both laptops have the Go 7400 card and 128MB of VRAM, it wasn't until I had a bit of a snoop around that I discovered mine only has 64MB, pretty disappointing in my opinion.
|Notebook||3DMark 05 Results|
|Sony VAIO FE590 (1.83GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7400 128MB)||1,950 3D Marks|
|Apple MacBook Pro (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB||2866 3D Marks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60 Nvidia GeForce Go7800 GTX)||7,078 3DMarks|
|ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz, ATI X300 64MB graphics)||727 3DMarks|
|Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI Radeon Mobility x700 128 MB)||2,530 3D Marks|
|Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)||2,273 3DMarks|
|HP dv4000 (1.86GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB)||2,536 3D Marks|
|Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)||4,157 3DMarks|
As you can see the memory and the graphics card are the weakest points in this system I put this down to the high latency 533mhz ram and the small dedicated ram, Overall the system performs quite well though as displayed by PCMark05 scores.
|Sony VAIO FE590 (1.83GHz Core Duo)||3,427 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo)||3,487 PCMarks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60)||5,597 PCMarks|
|Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)||3,637 PCMarks|
|Panasonic ToughBook T4 (Intel 1.20GHz LV)||1,390 PCMarks|
|Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400)||3,646 PCMarks|
|Toshiba Satellite M70 (Pentium M 1.86GHz)||1,877 PCMarks|
Super Pi Results:
Here's how the VAIO FE590 stacks up to other laptops calculating Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy.
|Sony VAIO FE590 (1.83GHz Core Duo)||1m 25s|
|Alienware M770 (AMD Dual Core FX-60)||1m 23s|
|Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|IBM ThinkPad Z60m (2.0 GHz Pentium M)||1m 36s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M)||1m 48s|
|Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||1m 52s|
|Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||2m 10s|
|HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 39s|
|Asus V6Va (Pentium M 1.86 GHz)||1m 46s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
The graphics card automatically downclocks from its stock core of 450/350 to 100/110 while on battery, though through the new ATI Tool you can reset it back to its normal power, While playing games like Black and white 2 with the GPU back at full power I'm lucky to get 2 hours, though it can be as little as an hour and a half.
Underside and battery compartment view of VAIO FE590 (view large image)
Playing movies on mid brightness gets around the same but in a dark room the screen is still very nice to look at with the brightness all the way down, this gets around three hours.
The wifi is a major drain on this system and cuts the battery life by about 40 minutes. With wifi off and the screen brightness down while I type this in a lecture I get just under 4 hours of battery life still a fairly respectable result.
The screen on this machine is absolutely beautiful. It is the brightest I've ever seen, even when plugged in I have the screen brightness set to about 90% just to save on eye strain. The colors are very deep and vibrant and watching HDTV on it is incredible, almost like you could reach in and touch things. The screen is a bit of a battery hog though, with it turned up to full brightness don't expect more than 2-hours of battery, even when just idling. The viewing angle is great, the brighter the screen the better the angle. Colors stay true from nearly a 90' angle away from center. Oddly, when the brightness is set below maximum the back of the screen emits a very noticeable buzzing noise while the screen is on, it can only be heard when the back of the screen is faced towards you though.
I would recommend buying external speakers or a good set of headphones as the speakers are somewhat below par on this model. While they aren't tinny like some laptop speakers, there's no depth to the sound. The sound is loud enough to hear in a quiet room comfortably if there is any external source of noise you will be struggling to hear these.
Keyboard and Touchpad:
Keyboard and touchpad view of the FE590 (view large image)
I think this is a keyboard you will either love or hate, personally I love it and it's very comfortable to type on, but it does produce a noticeable clacking noise when typing. There is very little flex in the keyboard, but it is there. The keyboard layout is pretty standard, the keys are nice and large and where they should be. The VAIO FE also has 2 programmable keys called s1 and s2 above the keyboard, they can be set to launch a program or put the computer into hibernation or standby. There are volume control and mute buttons as well, when you press the FN key you can also toggle between an external and built in monitor or adjust the screen brightness.
The touchpad is very good, it's not too sensitive but at the same time it gives me fairly good control even in Photoshop and Poser, when you slide your finger along the right edge or bottom edge it allows you to scroll or you can click the left and right buttons for a scroll click.
The hard drive is very easy to get to and is hidden under a panel on the bottom left of the unit. The ram is a little tougher and will require a jeweler's screwdriver kit to get open, but once it is the chips themselves are very easy to replace. Just something to be aware of, while the chipset and CPU support 667MHz RAM, sadly the Sony Bios does not and it will just downclock to 533MHz. I have heard that the CPU is also quite easy to replace or swap once you have removed the necessary coverings.
Heat and Noise:
I leave my FE on overnight almost every night and it's silent 1 meter away from my bed and is only slightly warm even after being on for a 12 hour period. It's quite comfortable on your lap, and even when gaming the bottom doesn't get particularly hot. The CDRW/DVD-ROM is a little quirky; on some disks it makes an incredible racket and makes the entire laptop shake. This has only happened with 2 disks so far though.
Overall I'm extremely happy with this notebook as it's very powerful in every application I use it for. Despite its flaws I would definitely recommend this notebook if you're after something lightweight and with a great screen.
Pricing and Availability: The Sony VAIO FE590 can be purchased directly from SonyStyle.com or other retailers.
more than 100 focused websites providing quick access to a deep store of
news, advice and analysis about the technologies, products and processes crucial
to the jobs of IT pros.
All Rights Reserved, Copyright 2000 - 2013, TechTarget | Read our Privacy Statement