Sony VAIO G Series Review — Page 2

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Benchmarks for VGN-G11XN/B (Core Solo U1500)

Windows Vista Experience Index

Vista on a low powered computer doesn’t seem to be the best choice but these notebooks were manufactured at the time of Vista’s launch. Sony have subsequently made XP drivers available on request.


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The G11 scored 2.0 on the Windows Experience Index. The weak link was the desktop graphics with 2.0, followed by gaming graphics at 2.8 and the CPU at 2.9 while the HDD scored 3.9. Installing 2GB RAM raised the score to 2.1. For comparison, the Samsung Q35 which also has the GMA 950 scored 2.3. I prefer Vista without the eye candy, bells and whistles and, with those features suppressed, visual performance is quite acceptable.

SuperPi

No review is complete without a SuperPi result. SuperPi is often used as a test for raw CPU performance. The U1500 in the G11 needed 1 minute 46 seconds to complete the calculation to 2 million digits. This is in proportion to the clock speed compared with other Core series CPUs but is significantly faster than a 1.6GHz Pentium M or 1.6GHz mobile Pentium 4.

The table below compares the G11’s SuperPi score with some other notebooks

Notebook Time
Sony Vaio VGN-G11XN/B (1.33GHz Core Solo U1500) 1m 46s
Dell Latitude D830 (2.2GHz Core 2 Duo T7500, 800MHz FSB, 667MHz RAM) 0m 53s
Zepto 6024W (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 with 800MHz FSB and 667MHz RAM) 0m 59s
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200 with 667MHz FSB & memory speed) 1m 02s
Dell Vostro 1500 (Intel Core 2 Duo T5470 1.60GHz) 1m 16s
Samsung Q35 (1.83MHz Core 2 Duo T5600 with 667MHz FSB and 533MHz RAM) 1m 16s
Samsung R20 (1.73GHz T2250 with 533MHz FSB and memory speed) 1m 23s
Toshiba Satellite P205-S6287 (1.73 GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T5300) 1m 24s
Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo (T2300) with 533MHz memory speed) 1m 29s
Sony Vaio TZ90HS (1.2GHz Core 2 Duo ULV U7600) 1m 50s
HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz Turion 64×2 TL-52) 2m 05s
Fujitsu S6120 (Pentium M 1.6GHz) 2m 29s
Dell Inspiron 2650 (Pentium 4 Mobile 1.6GHz) 4m 05s

It has been suggested that SuperPi should be superseded by wPrime which is multi-threaded. The U1500completed the 32M calculation in 124.581s. This is much slower than we are used to seeing for the recent dual core CPUs and is about 10% slower than a 1.6GHz Pentium M CPU but almost twice the speed of a 1.6GHz mobile Pentium 4.


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Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Sony Vaio VGN-G11XN/B (1.33GHz Core Solo U1500) 124.581s
Zepto 6024W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 42.385s
Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500) 37.705s
Hewlett Packard DV6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 38.720s
Acer Travelmate 8204WLMi (Core Duo T2500 @ 2.0GHz) 42.947s
Samsung X60plus (Core 2 Duo T7200 @ 2.0GHz) 44.922s
Samsung Q35 (Core 2 Duo T5600 @ 1.83GHz) 46.274s
Panasonic Toughbook CF-30 (1.66GHz Core Duo L2400) 54.359s
Samsung R20 (Core Duo T2250 @ 1.73GHz) 47.563s
Fujitsu S6120 (Pentium M 1.6GHz) 113.705s
Dell Inspiron 2650 (Pentium 4 Mobile 1.6GHz) 231.714s

SiSoftware Sandra from http://www.sisoftware.co.uk/ is another software package which contains benchmarking modules and includes a database of test results.

The results graphs for the CPU tests are given below. These results show that the U1500 is slower than a 1.8GHz Pentium M and only slightly faster than a 1.6GHz Pentium 4.

SiSoftware Sandra CPU test results (view large image)

The G11’s memory performance is of interest because it uses the Intel 945GMS chipset with only one memory channel. Sandra shows that the memory bandwidth is about 2200MB/s (a result which is independent of the RAM module combinations) and this speed drops to about 2000MB/s if the memory frequency is dropped to 400MHz.


Sandra’s memory bandwidth test result (view large image)

 

PCMark05

The PCMark05 score for the VAIO G11 was 1,554 PCMarks. The table below compares the PCMark05 test result with some other notebooks. The result is in the same range as other notebooks with similar hardware. 

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Sony Vaio VGN-G11XN/B (1.33GHz Core Solo U1500) 1,554 PCMarks
Zepto 6024W (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and Intel X3100 GPU) 4,063 PCMarks
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700) 4,555 PCMarks
Samsung Q70 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and 8400M G GPU) 4.491 PCMarks
Samsung R20 (1.73GHz T2250 and ATI 1250M chipset / GPU) 3,498 PCMarks
Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo T2300, ATI X1400) 3,456 PCMarks
Samsung Q35 (1.83GHz Core 2 Duo T5600, Intel 945GM) 3,059 PCMarks
Lenovo Thinkpad R60 (1.66 Core Duo T2300E , Intel 950) 2,975 PCMarks
Sony Vaio TZ90HS (1.2GHz Core 2 Duo ULV U7600) 2,517 PCMarks
Sony Vaio TX850p (1.2GHz Core Solo) 1,428 PCMarks

The detailed PCMark05 test results for the VAIO G are:

3DMark05

The VAIO G11 managed a score of 357 3DMarks for 3DMark05. The test was run at 1024*768 resolution with no anti-aliasing. This result is significantly worse than for the Samsung Q35 which also has the Intel 945GM GPU and may reflect power-saving changes in the GMS chipset (the single channel memory access being one) which affect performance. The G11 is compared below with other results for notebooks with integrated graphics.

Notebook 3DMark05 Score
Sony Vaio VGN-G11XN/B (1.33GHz Core Solo U1500) 357 3DMarks
Samsung R20 (1.73GHz T2250 and ATI 1250M chipset / GPU) 1,151 3DMarks
Zepto 6024W (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and Intel X3100 GPU) 910 PCMarks
IBM Thinkpad T43 (1.86GHz Pentium M, Mobility Radeon X300) 727 3DMarks
Samsung Q35 (1.83GHz Core 2 Duo T5600, Intel 945GM) 447 3DMarks
Fujitsu C1320 (2GHz Pentium M, Intel 915GM) 410 3DMarks

 

3DMark06

The 3Dmark06 score for the G11 was 147 3DMarks. This test was run at 1024*768 with no anti-aliasing. This is better than for the Intel 945GM GPU in the Samsung Q35, perhaps because the benchmark on the latter would run at the higher 1280 x 768 resolution. The G11 is not designed for gaming beyond the occasional visit to Solitaire or similar strategy games. The G11 is compared below with other results for notebooks with integrated graphics.

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Sony Vaio VGN-G11XN/B (1.33GHz Core Solo U1500) 147 3D Marks
Zepto 6024W (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and Intel X3100 GPU) 561 PCMarks
Samsung R20 (1.73GHz T2250 and ATI 1250M chipset / GPU) 476 3DMarks
Samsung Q35 (1.83GHz Core 2 Duo T5600, Intel 945GM) 106 3DMarks

Cinebench

Cinebench is a good rendering benchmark tool based on the powerful 3D software, CINEMA 4D. Its rendering tasks can stress up to sixteen multiprocessors on the same computer. It is a free benchmarking tool, and can be found at http://www.cinebench.com. It has been recently updated from version 9.5 to 10 and I have included some results below for both versions. Cinebench also includes an OpenGL benchmark which will be of interest to those people who use software which uses OpenGL.


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Cinebench 9.5 Benchmark Sony VGN-G11 (1.33GHz Core Solo) Zepto 6024W (2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo) Samsung R20 (1.73GHz Core Duo) Samsung Q35 (1.83GHz Core 2 Duo)
Rendering (Single CPU) 193 CB-CPU 349 CB-CPU 256 CB-CPU 299 CB-CPU
Rendering (Multiple CPU) Not applicable 623 CB-CPU 474 CB-CPU 528 CB-CPU
Cinebench 10 Benchmark        
Rendering (Single CPU) 1156 CB-CPU 2116 CB-CPU 1520 CB-CPU  
Rendering (Multiple CPU) Not applicable 3903 CB-CPU 2851 CB-CPU  
OpenGL Benchmark 357 CB-CPU 711 CB-GFX 543 CB-CPU  

 

Battery, Power Supply and Cooling System

The interesting part of the G11 is the power management and whether the claimed 9 hours of operation away from a power socket is realistic.

The power supply is an impressively small and light 45W (16V, 2.8A) unit which has a 2 pin power connector. It’s shorter, but thicker, than my mobile phone. Sony kept the travel weight down by supplying a short (70cm) mains power lead. Fortunately, the low voltage lead is a more generous 1.9m. The PSU is efficient and does not heat up substantially during use. The PSU does not have a power light, but the there is one on the power plug.


The power light on the power plug (view large image)


The G11’s PSU alongside a Samsung 90W PSU on a CD case (for scale) (view large image)

The 6 cell battery is rated at 10.8V, 5.8AH, 61.64WHr which is the highest rating for a 6 cell battery that I have encountered.  The charging rate is only about 18W when the computer is on, but this probably helps the battery life. Sony’s specs give a minimum charging time (with the computer off) of just over 3 hours. So how does the battery perform? My first test was to have the computer on, but idle, in Vista’s Power Saver mode with the display on half brightness and no internet or wireless. Over about 20 minutes and using the supplied utility to turn off the power to the optical drive, the power drain dropped from about 10W to less than 6W which gave a forecast run time of over 10 hours. This is without using Sony’s more aggressive power management tweaks.


93% charge and forecast over 10 hours remaining! (view large image)

So what about real-life tests in use? First, my standard DVD playback test using the 3-hour Dances With Wolves. Starting with 80% charge and the display 2 notices below full brightness, there was 29% power remaining. This suggests that DVD playback of nearly 6 hours at usable brightness is feasible. The optical driver was actually only running for about 2 minutes in 20 minutes, so the DVD data must be cached in the RAM. However, there is one obstacle: The supplied WinDVD insists on shutting down when the battery charge drops below 15%! Perhaps Sony believe that G11 users should always have enough power remaining for a couple of hours of work. Another test has been to run the Prime95 torture test. This dropped the battery charge by 11% over 30 minutes, indicating potential to run the CPU on full load under battery for nearly 5 hours.

I haven’t actually tried to use the G11 for a full day on battery but the evidence points to 9 hours of light use with no wireless, etc, being achievable. Even if the true life is 7 or 8 hours, for most people that represents more than a full working day because of interruptions when the computer can sleep. Functions such as wireless internet and Bluetooth use power. My tests suggest that with these functioning then the battery time may be reduced to around 7 hours: 2 hours 20 minutes of editing this review with wireless and Bluetooth working reduced the battery charge by 30%.

What about heat and fan noise? Heat is not a problem with this notebook. The left side of the keyboard (over the CPU) gets warm but not uncomfortable. The underside and the palm rests stay cool and the highest CPU temperature I have observed (during the Prime95 torture test) was 69 C. However, the fan can become noisy when the CPU is under load. I suspect the underlying problem is that the limited space means a small fan which has to spin quickly although it is not blowing out much hot air. A “whirr” is more noticeable than a “roar” because of the higher frequency of the sound.

Warranty and Customer Support

Sony provide a one year return-to-base warranty as standard. This is two years in some European countries. On-site repair and extended warranties are available at extra cost. However, an extended warranty has to be registered within one month of the computer’s purchase, which is before any potential problems may become evident. I have not needed to contact Sony’s customer services. So far, everything has worked as I would expect.

Conclusions

If you need a lightweight notebook with easy-to-read display and all-day battery life then the G11 has to be on your shortlist. The single core CPU means that at times there is noticeable unresponsiveness. The new G21 with a dual core CPU will address this problem but at the expense or reduced battery time (the currently available information for the G21 says 7 hours).  If the price were lower this notebook would appear to many more people. As noted earlier, I only bought it because the price had been reduced.

Contrary to Sony’s information, this model is upgradable to 2GB RAM using a 2GB module. It also supports SDHC. However, my attempt to use an SDHC card for ReadyBoost was unsuccessful because the system said it was too slow although it is fine in another notebook. While Vista is a questionable choice for this hardware, it runs fine once the eye candy and other extras are disabled. So far, I’ve not had a single crash, which suggests mature drivers.

Overall, the G11 is a good example of how light a notebook can be made without losing serious functionality or battery life. If someone can add a couple of inches to the G11’s width to create a 14.1” widescreen notebook and drop in a dual core CPU, I can then dispose of my 14.1” Zepto. Although its 2.35kg is relatively light for the size range, it feels really heavy in comparison with the G11! Proof of the usability of the G11 is that this review was drafted on it.

Pros

  • Compact size, light weight but good construction quality
  • Excellent display
  • Impressive battery life
  • Reasonable hard disk capacity and speed for this form factor
  • Extremely small and light power supply
  • Built-in optical drive
  • Excellent attention to detail

Cons

  • Very slow CPU
  • Noisy fan when CPU is under load
  • Mediocre audio
  • Bouncy keyboard with small keys
  • High price
  • Limited port count


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