Sony VAIO FW First Look

by Reads (87,826)

by Kevin O’Brien

The VAIO FW is a brand new Centrino 2 platform notebook from Sony, offering a much needed facelift, as well as a 16.4" widescreen. What sets this apart from other widescreen notebooks is the aspect ratio of the screen lets movie aficionados enjoy a video without ugly bars above and below the screen. This first look will give you a glimpse of what this notebook has to offer, in general use as well as what to expect when watching various Blu-ray titles.

Our Sony VAIO FW review model specifications:

  • Screen: glossy 16.4" 1600 x 900 display
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 (2.53GHz, 1066MHz FSB, 6MB Cache)
  • Memory: 4GB RAM
  • Storage: 320GB HDD (5400rpm)
  • Optical Drive: DVD+/-RW / BD-R DL
  • Wireless: 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon 3470 w/ 256MB
  • Built-in web camera
  • Battery: 4400mAh Li-Ion Battery
  • Dimensions: 15.12" x 1.14"-1.45" x 10.27" (38.4cm x 2.9-3.7cm x 26.1cm)
  • Weight: 6.83 lbs (3.1kg)
  • Retail Price: $2,149

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Build and Design

The fit and finish of the Sony VAIO FW is wonderful, and the overall design is beautiful. The notebook has a streamlined sculpted look, and when opened has a palmrest and keyboard surround that looks like the graceful sloping surface of a car hood. The surface starts out flat, has a small dip, and then gracefully slopes down to the screen hinges. From working day in and day out at a ThinkPad, it is much easier on the eyes to say the least.

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Build quality is excellent, with the overall chassis feeling rigid and sturdy. Although thin at the very edges of the palmrest, you can pick the notebook up from the corner with minimal flex from the chassis. Even the super thin screen shows that quite a bit of effort went into making a durable design, as you are able to man-handle and even punch the back of the LCD panel and no ripples or distortion shows on the display.

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I have to say that my first impression of the true HD screen format was one of hatred. Another odd format I would have to get used to, and more odd screen designations to remember. I figured it would be just another gimmick … but then I started to enjoy it. Outside of watching movies, the extra-wide wide screen is great for organizing many tasks on the screen, where a normal widescreen display just starts to feel crowded. Two documents side by side, a webpage next to a document, or even a webpage with my IM buddy list far off to the side. Of course it is nice for movies as well.

Movie Experience

True HD displays are basically what you have in your living room or TV room if you own an HDTV. 720P or 1080P screens are slightly shorter than what you usually find on a computer. For example on a WUXGA notebook has a resolution of 1920×1200, where as a Full HD 1080P screen is 1920×1080. This has to do with the way most movies are recorded, and in the end thinner or no bars at all showing up during a movie. Below I picked 3 Blu-ray titles from my collection, to give you a good idea of what you might expect to see on this screen format.

  • Chain Reaction (2.35:1): Almost fullscreen with 2 thin bars top and bottom that are about 1/2cm tall.

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  • Swordfish (2.40:1): Far from full widescreen, with almost 1 inch bars top and bottom.

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  • Open Season (1.85:1): Looks identical to the 2.35:1 ratio

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Ports and Features

Port selection on the Sony VAIO FW rates average, and one USB port less of perfection. Users have two video outputs (HDMI and VGA) for easy hookup to external monitors or your home theater HDTV. In some ways the design of the notebook hinders the port layout, as some curved locations which would be prime for an extra USB port end up being too small to work out. The ports and feature selection include the following:

  • 10/100/1000 LAN
  • Modem
  • VGA
  • HDMI
  • FireWire
  • Expresscard/34
  • MagicGate
  • SD-Card Reader
  • Headphone/Mic
  • 3 USB Ports

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System performance is one category that this notebook really shines. Even with a 5400rpm hard drive, the notebook performed quite well throughout various activities including watching Blu-ray movies, playing a few games, and installing applications. The Intel Centrino 2 platform no doubt had a hand in this, and gave us some impressive performance benchmarks. PCMark05 was into the 6,000 range and 3DMark06 was around 2,600.

Battery Life

Working away from a power outlet was not a fun activity with this configuration that included a 4400mAh battery. In the balanced profile with the screen brightness set to 50-60%, I was lucky if the battery gauge indicated more than 2 hours and 40 minutes. Watching a Blu-ray movie decreased the battery life further, putting me into the range of a movie, with enough time to safely shutdown once the film ended. One thing I can say though, if you have the option to select the extended battery, get it.

More To Come

As always, our First Look Review is merely intended to provide you with a first glimpse of a new notebook. Our full review is coming soon … stay tuned.



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