Sony VAIO GRT Review

by Reads (16,255)

The stylish Sony Vaio GRT is the perfect laptop for multimedia aficionados who don t travel much; or if they do–have masochistic tendencies.  This is said due to the fact the VAIO GRT weighs in at a porky 9.1 pounds with its battery in.  But we must remember that Sony never produced this laptop to be lugged around, the VAIO GRT series is a desktop replacement style notebook and designed to sit on your desk and provide you with all the power of a typical desktop machine.  But in addition to just being a desktop computer replacement, this multimedia machine will serve as a TV, TiVo and small stereo replacement.  Now that’s what I call all in one capability.


System Configuration of Review Unit:

  • Windows XP Professional
  • 2.8GHz Intel Pentium 4
  • 1GB DDR SDRAM 266MHz
  • Nvidia GeForceFX 5600 Go 64MB
  • IBM Travelstar 80GN 80GB 4,200rpm
  • 16.1 UXGA XBrite Screen

Sony VAIO GRT Overview

Visit your local Sony retailer or SonyStyle.com and you will find a multitude of Vaio portable computers, each has an intended use and each of these uses are for a different demographic. At the top of the heap size wise lies the GRT series–Sony s desktop replacement portable. Weaklings need not apply as the series can weigh in at a possible 10.9 lbs (including power supply) and includes one of the larger footprints on the market, so it is quite evident that the GRT is meant for a desktop and not your lap. The series produces a relatively small amount of heat thanks to the center-mounted CPU/memory and an extremely impressive cooling method not only keeps the notebook cool but allows the fans to spin at a lower RPM–or not at all–alleviating a common problem with desktop replacements — their noise. The key feature to this technology is a Sensor Triple Fan mechanism, which comprises three separate fans. Two fans draw in heat from above, below, and the sides, and disperse it via a rear heat fin surface and heat pipe. The 3rd fan focuses on cooling the memory. Each operates independently to promote optimal heat diffusion.



At the time of this writing the GRT series is currently topping out at a 3.2GHz P4 w/HT, 2 GB of PC2700 RAM, 64 MB Geforce FX 5600Go GPU, 80 GB Hard Drive, Dual Format DVDRW, 16.1 UXGA Screen, and an integrated TV tuner/AV input; leaving little room for want. The review unit represents a middle-of-the-road configuration that most readers would be interested in–although as previously mentioned if you don t need quite this much performance/amount of features or if you would like more, Sony allows you to configure a notebook to your needs. Also check out NotebookReview.com’s price finder for pre-configured GRT systems–it will save you time and money–something we can all appreciate.

Screen

Upon opening the unit I was greeted by a gargantuan 16.1 XBrite screen–one of the major selling points of the GRT series. Featuring a stunning UXGA (1600×1200) resolution, 600:1 contrast ratio, and a viewable area dwarfing that of a regular 17 CRT monitor; it s the main attraction of the GRT show–and show it did. Colors were extremely vibrant and accurately depicted, movies were a joy to take part in and–though try as I might–it did not exhibit any tearing whilst playing several rousing games of Unreal Tournament 2004 and Halo; a breath of fresh air compared to many other notebook LCD screens. It would appear that Sony hit a grand slam with this screen, notice I say appears though. In order to obtain that super high contrast ratio and equally high brightness rating Sony had to incorporate a hi-gloss plastic coating that reflects a fair amount of ambient light. Though this problem is helped somewhat by three layers of anti-reflective coating applied over the original layer, it still may bother some people enough to dismiss the GRT series as a whole. I would highly recommend going to your local store and eyeing one yourself before making the final purchase. That said, this reviewer didn t find it a problem and would imagine that most people would be under the same influence. Grand Slam? Nope? Home Run with two people on? Surely.

Speakers

The two speakers below the screen offer nice stereo separation and sound extremely clear but the lack of bass hurts–especially when watching DVDs or gaming on the go. A common complaint against notebooks as a whole. Pick up some headphones or a nice pair of external speakers if you anticipate using the laptop for its multimedia offerings.

Keyboard

The keyboard is extremely comfortable and has full size keys, a nice touch. Typing for long periods didn t hurt my wrists or give me carpal tunnel. Overall this is one of the better keyboards on the market.

I/O Ports

Because of its large size one would expect to see a plethora of input/output options, and indeed, from its two PCMCIA expansion slots to its three hi-speed USB 2.0 ports to its i-link fire-wire port–the whole family is here. Also included are a 10/100 network card, standard 56K modem, and an integrated mini PCI wireless b/g card for connecting to the internet or local network. Both the 10/100 and modem port are covered with a plastic plug when not in use–a special touch that this author appreciated. To handle TV out responsibilities Sony decided to forgo the mostly standard S-Video port and instead included a RCA video port–especially dissapointing on a high end laptop. At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be anything else on the computer, but upon further inspection one finds a hidden door (posing as a vent) that holds behind it a VGA out and parallel port. The purpose of the door? To hide the ugly looking ports. This notebook oozes style.

Software

Sony bundles a ton of software with the VAIO GRT series. You can choose Microsoft Windows XP Home or XP Professional Edition for the operating system. The productivity software includes Microsoft Money 2004 Standard, Microsoft Works, and Microsoft Encarta Online. You also get a long list of music, video, and photo applications. This is, after all, a multimedia computer.

Battery

Battery life is, for lack of better terminology–horrid. Lasting not quite one hour and twenty five minutes while performing basic tasks such as web browsing shows once again that this is a full-blooded desktop replacement computer. To be fair, other competitors to the GRT series offer the same awful battery performance.

Performance

What it lacks in battery power, it more than makes up for in application performance. Whether it is a presentation based in Powerpoint or you want to play the latest 3D game, the GRT series can run it at a fast clip. Below are a few benchmarks run out of the box at highest detail in both the application and in the advanced video properties, higher results would be acheived if these were set appropriately; however, for this review I wanted to show “out of the box” performance:







Conclusion

The Good:

  • Excellent performance
  • Solid, stylish design
  • Highly configurable
  • Optional DVD+-RW
  • Memory Stick reader
  • Bright, crisp screen with an exceptional viewing angle
  • Nice full size keyboard
  • Meticulous attention to detail

The Bad:

  • Heavy
  • Horrid battery performance
  • More susceptible to glare from ambient light sources
  • Middling speakers
  • Lackluster wireless performance from mini-PCI WIFI card
  • Lack of S-Video output

Overall, the Sony GRT series has a lot going for it–superb screen, fast performance, meticulous attention to detail, and many features not found on any other competing models. If you don t need your notebook to second as your traveling companion it deserves serious consideration. Highly recommended!


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