Sony VAIO FJ270 Review (pics, specs)

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by Mike Wheeler

Introduction:

The Sony VAIO VGN-FJ270/B is a thin and light “head turning” notebook. It is geared towards home/business use. The model being reviewed has a 1.86 GHz Intel Pentium M processor, 1 GB DDR2 RAM, a 100 GB hard-drive, a DVD-burner (DVD+R double layer/DVD+RW), a 14.1″ WXGA TFT with XBRITE-ECO technology, a web-cam/mic (Motion Eye), 802.11 b/g wireless, with Windows XP Pro edition. This laptop comes in pretty much every color in the Skittle’s rainbow, so you’re bound to find the perfect color match.

Reasons for buying:

I bought this laptop because I had an older Sony Vaio PCG-F480 that was bulky and needed serious upgrading. The Sony Vaio VGN-FJ270/B is also labeled on Sony’s website as “Windows Vista Compatible” so I felt it would be a safe investment. I’ve always liked the Sony Vaio line of laptops because they are sharp-looking and are powerful; they are not generic run-of-the-mill laptops at all. This being said, I really didn’t look into a similarly configured Lenovo, Acer, Dell, or HP notebooks.  I like Sony and as such prefer to go with a company I know.


Windows Vista task manager running on the VAIO FJ270 (view large image)

Sony VAIO FJ270 Specs

  • Processor: Intel Pentium M 1.86GHz
  • RAM: 1GB DDR2
  • Hard Drive: 100GB
  • Screen: 14.1″ WXGA XBrite-ECO (enhanced glossy screen)
  • Optical Drive: DVD-burner (DVD+R double layer/DVD+RW)
  • Wireless: 802.11 b/g
  • OS: Windows XP Pro
  • Built-in Web Cam

Where and How Purchased:

I bought this laptop from a friend of mine who is an authorized dealer. I was able to get a couple of hundred dollars off for this model, so it was a pretty sweet deal for me.

Build & Design:


VAIO FJ270 lid view (view large image)

The design of the notebook is really sleek. Every edge is rounded off. The exterior is black with the metallic “Vaio” icon and the inside (palm-rest area) is silver. When the screen is down, the laptop has a nice silver trim. Most of the case is made out of plastic, except for some of the bottom which is made out of some metal. Don’t get me wrong though, this case feels pretty solid. The hinges (plastic) are pretty well designed, with not a lot of wiggle room. The Vaio also comes with two large stickers on the palm-rest advertising the notebook and accessories in addition to the Windows XP and Centrino badges. They are pretty easy to take off, and don’t leave any residue behind. After taking the stickers off, the computer looks a lot cleaner.

Benchmarks

The Super Pi Results for this notebook, where the processor is forced to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy, were pretty good — but certainly behind Core Duo processor speeds:

Notebook Time
Sony VAIO FJ270 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 39s
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 3DMark05 results are what you’d expect from integrated graphics, not very good:

Notebook  3DMark 05 Results
Sony VAIO FJ270 (1.86 GHz Pentium M, Intel Integrated)  279 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


I also ran PCMark05, which yielded what seemed like a respectable score, but certainly below the Core Duo notebook performance of the latest notebooks:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Sony VAIO FJ270 (1.83GHz Core Duo) 2,063 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

 

Screen:

The screen is reminiscent of an Apple cinema display. It is a 14.1″ TFT with XBRITE-ECO technology which translates into a big, beautiful, shiny screen. I’m running on 1280×800 resolution and it looks sharp. The screen is glossy but I haven’t had any problems with glare yet. The backlighting looks pretty even all throughout the screen. To open the screen up, you have to use both hands, because the computer is so light, it will go up with the screen if you just use one hand. Basically, have one hand on the palm rest area holding it down, and one hand on the screen pushing it up.  

Speakers:

The speakers are pretty loud. Loud enough to the point where you can listen to music or watch a DVD from across a room. They are neatly located between the keyboard and hinges. Sony really went the extra mile this time, they designed the speaker holes so they transition perfectly from the main body of the laptop. The Sony Vaio FJ270/B uses “Realtek High Definition Audio” and it really does deliver on the “High Definition” part. Playing music on 100% volume is crystal clear with no distortions. But most importantly, the windows login jingle that I have been listening to since the beginning of time plays superb.

Heat and Noise:

Kudos to Sony, the fans are barely noticeable audibly. The graphics card fan in my desktop computer is louder than this whole unit. I have an old Dell notebook that sounds like a blow-drier when it gets hot. The bottom can get a little hot during use. On the lap it can get a little toasty, but not enough to give you 3rd degree burns or make you sterile (well, if you’re a guy). There is a copper heat sink inside visible on the right side of the notebook. The disk drive can get a little loud as it spins and makes a faint beeping noise as it reads disks. It’s not that bad, it’s kind of like “Sounds of the Rainforest”.

Keyboard and Touchpad:


Keyboard and touchpad view (view large image)

I’ve been using Vaios for a long time, and their keyboard has pretty much been the same layout throughout this time. The keyboard and touchpad show dust easily so you may want to do a quick once-over with a cloth or use those powerful lungs of yours to get the dust off. I’ve noticed no flex in the keyboard thus far. For my unit, the mouse buttons had to be broken-in. They took an abnormal amount of pressure to depress them, but after 24 hours, it was normal. The Vaio has 2 programmable buttons up top next to the power button labeled s1′ and s2′. Like many keyboards, the Vaio has function keys for volume, contrast, etc…


Looking across the top row of the VAIO FJ270 keyboard (view large image)

Input and Output Ports:

This list is a complete list of all the ports you’ll get on the VAIO FJ series notebook:

  •  3 USB 2.0 ports
  •  1 IEEE 1394 port
  •  1 VGA monitor port
  •  1 PCMCIA slot
  •  1 headphone jack
  •  1 microphone jack
  •  Port replicator connector
  •  Memory Stick media slot
  •  Memory Stick Duo
  •  56k modem
  •  RJ45 LAN (10/100)
  •  Sony Motion Eye (Webcam)
  •  Built-in microphone


Front side view of VAIO FJ270 (view large image)


Left side view of VAIO FJ270 (view large image)


Right side view of VAIO FJ270 (view large image)


Back side view of VAIO FJ270 (view large image)


Under side view of VAIO FJ270 (view large image)

Wireless:

The Sony Vaio FJ270/B uses Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG. It works pretty well and I am able to pick up other wireless networks down the street (+/-50meters away. The wireless can be turned on and off with a switch in the front of the computer located next to the indicators. 


Wireless indicator and switch (view large image)

Battery:

I was a little disappointed by the battery life. Being a thin and light laptop, I thought I would have 4.5+ hours of battery. In reality, there is only about 2.5-3 hours. I think the battery is a 6-cell, but there is no indication on the product website page or the actual battery. A problem that I am currently having is that the battery is a little “wobbly”. It probably won’t cause any problems, but I’m used to my batteries fitting in snugly. Sony offers a larger capacity battery for a whooping $300, if you act quickly there is a $75 mail-in rebate right now though. What constitutes a $300 dollar battery? According to Sony, the larger capacity battery “Provides one-and-a-half times the battery life over standard batteries.” I’d rather keep my $300, and spend it towards something more useful, like a Sony PS3 at the end of this year.

Operating System and Software:


Sony video chat application that’s included with the FJ to compliment the web-cam (view large image)

The original OS for this model was XP home edition. Naturally the computer comes preloaded with the OS and a few gigabytes of other programs. The list of software is taken straight from the Sony website:

Sony Original Software

  • Click to DVD – DVD Creation
  • DVgate Plus – Digital Video
  • SonicStage – Digital Music
  • VAIO Media – Network File Sharing
  • Image Converter – PSP Transfer
  • 60-minute Trial Version of Wheel of Fortune
  • 60-minute Trial Version of Jeopardy

Supplied Software:

  • Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition
  • Intuit Quicken 2006 New User Edition (previous Quicken users may require additional upgrade)
  • InterVideo WinDVD
  • Microsoft Works 8.5
  • Microsoft Office 2003 60-Day Trial (Student/ Teacher Edition)
  • Roxio DigitalMedia SE

Anti-Virus & Recovery Software:

  • Norton Internet Security 60-Day Subscription – Norton AntiVirus
  • TrendMicro Anti-Spyware 30-Day Trial
  • VAIO Security Center
  • VAIO Update software
  • VAIO Recovery Wizard software
  • VAIO Support Central

Internet Services:

  • AOL Online 180-Day Trial – New Users Only

Basically it is a load of trial software. SPOILER ALERT: Sony does not ship any disks with their notebook systems anymore. I spent 5 minutes examining every crevice of the box for some sort of CD. What this means: Sony has a program that will make a rescue disk by supplying your own burnable media. It uses 2 DVDs or some outrageous number like 6 or 7 CDs. In my particular case, after burning the first DVD, I would get a message saying that the disk did not burn correctly and that I needed to start over again. I ditched it all together, which I urge you not to do if you get this laptop. I ended up reformatting the hard-drive and putting XP Pro on there. I had about a list of 8 devices in Device Manager that needed drivers. I tried downloading the drivers from Sony, but they only had a few of the drivers I needed. One of the hardest drivers to find on the internet was the webcam driver. I finally ended up breaking down after a few days of sleep deprivation caused by stress to go on Sony and order a rescue disk for my computer for $25! Problem solved, no! The rescue disk provided by Sony didn’t have the driver for the webcam in it. The folder was empty! So I had to put the rescue disk back in and restore the original Sony image on there.

Afterwards, I went to system32/drivers and copied the folders there to a thumb disk. I reinstalled Windows XP Pro, and installed the drivers from the thumb disk. All this work for a mega pixel webcam.  I’m now proud to say that there are no more yellow exclamation marks in Device Manager anymore. As for the webcam, I recommend using the latest version of Windows Messenger which you need to download off of Microsoft (because they don’t contain the update on Windows Update) because it works pretty well. I had trouble with Skype and AIM triton web chat (both compatibility issues).

Windows Vista on the VAIO FJ:

It’s that time again, when Microsoft unveils a new product and manufacturers start labeling their products as being compatible. Luckily for me, I have really good friends. I have a friend who sold me this computer brand new for a good deal, a friend who has a copy of windows vista, and a friend who will donate his kidney to me in case anything ever happens.  I mentioned earlier that this laptop is labeled “Vista Ready” by Sony, so time for a test drive.

Vista ran smoother on the Vaio than on my Pentium 4 system with 512MB RAM- but with a catch. The catch is appearance/performance. Notice in the screenshots that there is no Aero-Glass but instead a pretty cool looking, less intensive GUI. It probably isn’t that big of a deal because most people probably don’t even know what Aero-Glass is to tell the truth. Vista’s infamous performance rating tool gave my computer a 1 rating (out of 5). My Pentium 4 system got a 3. What really kills the score is the “graphics” getting a 2.0 and the “gaming graphics” getting a 1.0. This is really just a number to me because the OS performs just as smoothly as a 5 (out of 5) would.   


Windows Vista performance screen shot (view large image)


Windows Vista system screen shot (view large image)

Pros:

  • Good performance
  • Nice design
  • Vista Ready
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • No included Recovery Disk
  • A lot of trial software included
  • So-so battery life (if you don’t feel like shelling out $300)
  • Screen smudges easily

Conclusion:

If you’re in the market for a single core Centrino that is good for home and business use, then get this laptop. Please don’t get this laptop if you plan on running games like Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, but you should get this laptop if you plan on running Solitaire at 90FPS (with HDR and AA). It is future proof, being able to run Windows Vista quite solidly, so that is another incentive. If you get this laptop, cherish it and welcome to the world-renown “Vaio-Users Club”; your official membership card should arrive in the mail in 4-6 weeks!


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