Sony VAIO T Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (66,538)

The new Sony VAIO T series of notebooks carries on the Sony tradition of providing lots of functionality in a small and stylish package.  The new VAIO T replaces the old popular Sony VAIO TR series of laptops.  The Sony VAIO T150 I have been using comes in a light weight 3.04 lb package (including battery) and is certainly small enough and light enough to throw in a backpack and hardly notice you’re carrying it.  Small does not mean fewer features though; with a built-in multi-format DVD burner and good amount of media ports you can even call this a pint-sized multimedia notebook.

Sony VAIO T Series Notebook (view larger image)

Sony VAIO VGN-T150P Specs

  • Processor: Intel Pentium M Ultra Low Voltage 733 (1.10GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, Dothan processor)
  • Processor Front Side Bus Speed: 400MHz
  • Color Options: Midnight Blue or Burgundy Red
  • Wi-Fi: Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG (802.11 b/g)
  • Bluetooth: Integrated Bluetooth connectivity
  • Screen: 10.6″ WXGA (1280×768) with XBrite Technology
  • Hard Drive: 40GB (4200 RPM)
  • Memory: 512MB PC-2700 333MHz DDR (Expandable to 1GB)
  • Graphics Processor: Intel 855GME Chipset Integrated Graphics, 64MB (shared with main memory)
  • Optical Drive: DVD-RW multi format and CD-RW drive
  • Modem: Integrated V 90 model (RJ-11)
  • Ethernet: 10 BASE-T/100 BASE-TX Ethernet with RJ-45 interface
  • PC Card Slots: One PCMCIA Type II/Type I slot
  • USB: 2 USB 2.0 Ports
  • FireWire: 1 I.Link (IEEE 1394) Port
  • Media Card Slot: Memory Stick card reader built-in (supports memory stick only)
  • External Viewing: VGA Output Port
  • Pointing Device: Electro-static touchpad
  • Keyboard: 82 keys with 1.7mm stroke and 17mm pitch
  • Battery: Li-Ion with estimated life of 4.0 – 8.5 hours (standard battery)
  • Weight: 3.04lbs
  • Dimensions: 10.7″ x 1.34″ x 8.1″ (Width x Thickness x Depth)

Screen

The Sony VAIO T150 laptop screen has a good viewing angle (view larger image)

The LCD on the VAIO T150 is a 10.6″ diagonal widescreen format.  The resolution comes in at 1280 x 768 and the screen uses Sony’s XBrite technology.  The XBrite screen means there’s a glossy finish to the screen that provides for extra brightness.  This is particularly good for the display of vibrant colors and wide angles of viewing — so that the stranger on the plane next to you can easily view the movie you’re watching!  With such a small screen you’ll obviously be dealing with smaller text and using one application at a time is the best you can do given the limited real estate on the screen.  This is part of the parcel with any ultra-portable and not a knock against the VAIO T though.

The brightness and contrast of the VAIO T screen actually seems reduced from the TR series screen and it is definitely not as bright as the Dell Inspiron 700m screen I used a couple of months ago.  Don’t get me wrong, the screen is nice and easy to view, but I can definitely say it is not the best out there and given all the notebooks on the market today offering this extra bright screen, it falls short.  You can adjust the LCD brightness between 9 levels of brightness.  Dim the screen to save on battery life, crank it up for a great movie viewing experience.  You can use a utility called “Sony Notebook Setup” to adjust the brightness and select if you want the T150 to use Cinema Mode or Full-screen mode.

Sound

I certainly don’t expect much in sound performance from an ultraportable laptop.  But surprise, surprise, the VAIO T somehow blew me away with what it had to offer in terms of sound.  The actual built-in speakers are not spectacular; they can get pretty loud though if needed.  Volume control and mute buttons on the front of the VAIO T150 make for easy adjustment of volume; these buttons are much appreciated and are well placed and easy to use.

Sony VAIO Notebook Setup Utility allows for configuration of audio settings (view larger image)

I wasn’t really amazed by the sound until I put headphones on.  The headphone jack is located at the front of the notebook.  This is actually a very convenient location as one tends to sit in front of their notebook (I can’t think of an exception to this) and having the port right there in front of you and easy to see prevents fumbling around on the sides of the notebook.  Once plugged in with your headphones you might be surprised by the amount of bass you can actually generate from this laptop.  If you go into your “Sony Notebook Setup” utility and go to the “Bass Boost” tab you have the option of turning on/off the Bass and adjusting bass amount.  I kid you not, this notebook provided some of the best bass I’ve heard emitted from a laptop.

Performance

The VAIO T uses an ultra low voltage Pentium M processor.  The processor clocks in at 1.10GHz of speed and has 2MB of cache.  I’d estimate the processor can actually perform on par with a Pentium 4 2.0GHz processor – it’s not slow by any means.  The ultra low voltage processor used in this notebook is using the Dothan chipset and likely explains the fact performance seems better than other 1.10GHz machines I have used. 

In the past I’ve used an application named “Super Pi” to get a quick benchmark for processor speed compared to other laptops.  Super Pi simply calculates the number Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy; this calculation is slower or faster based on processor performance.  Following are numbers I got for the VAIO T and comparisons with other laptops:

Notebook and Processor Using Battery Plugged In
Compaq R3000T Celeron 2.8GHz 3m 3 s 3m 3s
Sony VAIO T150 Pentium M 1.10GHz 3m 0s  2m 55s
Sony GRT360 Pentium 4 2.8GHz 3m 19s 2m 5s
Fujitsu P5020 Pentium M 1.0GHz 5m 29s 3m 50s

The perceived performance of the VAIO T150 was good.  Meaning that while using the machine it did not choke on any of the basic applications I used such as Microsoft Word, Internet Explorer or Click to DVD.

Boot up had an adequate time, but it was certainly not the snappiest machine in the world for getting you up and running as fast as possible.  I timed the boot up and it took exactly 55 seconds after hitting the power button for me to see my Windows desktop and actually be able to use the T150.  The 4200 RPM hard drive slows things down a little, but this is a standard hard drive speed for notebooks.  Also, the slew of applications Sony loads onto the laptop that think they need to be in your start tray and running upon boot up slows down the whole process.  You could help boot up time by removing programs from startup (click Start > Run > and type “msconfig” to do this)

Design

The layout and design of a notebook has always been a forte for Sony.  The old TR series caught your eye due to its white coloring and small size.  With the Sony VAIO T series we now have a midnight blue color on the outside case, or you can even select a burgundy red so that you really get noticed.  The inside casing has adopted a dark-grey color now, which I like a lot.  It looks very professional and stylish.  I would even say this color combo of midnight blue and dark-grey is my favorite I’ve seen for any notebook – I’m not a huge fan of white casing myself so the Apple PowerBook look doesn’t hold much appeal for me.

The VAIO T150 weighs 3.04 lbs with the battery in and has dimensions of 10.7″ x 1.34″ x 8.1″ (Width x Thickness x Depth).  Put this notebook in your bag and you’ll barely notice the weight addition.  Now, it’s not as light as the paper-thin Sony VAIO X505, but the T150 includes an integrated DVD burner and that’s why the notebook is pushed out to 1.34″ of thickness with the lid down.  When the lid is up the thickness is about 1.0″.  Some might say that a true ultraportable should be thinner than the 1.34″ the VAIO T offers, but if you have an integrated DVD burner it’s tough to squish the keyboard area down much.  The battery is not flushed with the back of the laptop and sticks out a little, so this adds to the depth measurement.

Like lots of LED lights?  You’ll like the VAIO T then!

If you like LED lights, then you’ll like the VAIO T.  There are LED lights to indicate the status of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, battery, hard drive, caps lock, num lock, memory stick, volume mute status, power and one I can’t even figure out what it’s for.  In other words, there’s a lot of LEDs that can be lit up, and if you’re in a dark room this notebook will look particularly cool!

There are a nice amount of built-in hardware buttons too.  I’m a big fan of this.  You can quickly open up your DVD player application by pushing the “DVD” button at the back of the notebook.  Also built-in are Play/Pause, Stop, Previous, and Next buttons for controlling the DVD player.  At the front of the notebook are volume +/- buttons and a mute button.  Finally, a wireless slider button on the front left-side of the notebook allows you to easily turn wi-fi on and off.  The power button looks very nice, it is a transparent button on the hinge and emits a green glow when the notebook is powered.

Ports

The VAIO T150 gives you a good number of ports so you can expand upon this notebook and add accessories.

Sony VAIO T left-side (view larger image)

On the left side of the VAIO T we have a Memory stick reader slot, PCMCIA Type I / Type II card slot, FireWire (IEEE 1394) port, 2 USB 2.0 ports and VGA out port.

Sony VAIO T back-side (view larger image)

On the back side of the notebook we just have the input jack for the AC adapter, the battery takes up a lot of the real estate in this area.

Built-in hardware buttons on the VAIO T150 make DVD playing easy to control (view larger image)

On the top back of the notebook we have all of the DVD control buttons: DVD (launches WinDVD, this button can be configured to launch another application though), Play/Pause, Stop, Next, Previous.  Also on the top back is the Power button, the button only works if the screen is up so don’t worry about accidentally turning the notebook on with the screen down.

Sony VAIO T right-side (view larger image)

On the right-side of the notebook we have Ethernet and modem ports.  Sony put little flaps over these ports to keep the look of the notebook clean, great move.

The headphone jack and volume buttons can be seen at the front right corner

At the front of the notebook we have the microphone and headphones input jacks.  Smart place for the headphone jack in particular as this means it’s easy to access and gives you more slack on the headphone cord as opposed to having to curl it around to the side of the notebook.  Also on the front are buttons for volume +/-, mute and wireless radio on/off.

Heat

The VAIO T stayed cool when I was using it for typical office applications and just surfing the web or typing up things like this review.  However, when watching a DVD the bottom of the laptop got very warm to the point it was somewhat uncomfortable to have in your lap.  The VAIO T uses vents on the front, bottom and left-side to allow heat out, if these areas are covered in any way you’ll start to have trouble with the notebook getting too hot.

Noise

The VAIO T150 is whisper quiet, no loud hard drive and no loud fan.  End of story.

Wi-Fi

The T150 is a true Centrino machine as it uses a Pentium M chip and Intel branded internal wireless card.  Specifically the internal card is the Intel Pro/Wireless 2200BG.  You can use the internet for any access point broadcasting either an 802.11b or 802.11g signal.  Sony included an application called “VAIO Wireless Utility” to take you step by step through setting up a wireless network or running diagnostics on any wireless connection issues.  I had no problems with accessing the 802.11g router I have in my home and office.  The furthest I got from my router was about 90 feet and there was no problem connecting to it from that distance.

Software

Following is an overview of software you’ll get with the T150:

  • Microsoft XP Home / Professional
  • Click to DVD Software
  • DVGate Plus Software
  • SonicStage 2.1 Software
  • SonicStage Mastering Studio Software
  • PictureGear Studio Software
  • VAIO Media software
  • Intuit Quicken 2005 New User Edition
  • InterVideo WinDVD
  • Microsoft Works 8.0 – Word Processing, Spreadsheet, Calendar, Scheduling, Contact Management + Database
  • Microsoft Office 2003 60-day trial
  • Norton Internet Security + Antivirus 90-Day trial
  • Sony VAIO Update Software
  • Sony VAIO Recovery Wizard Software
  • AOL 9.0 90-day trial

Some of the included Sony software is good.  The Click to DVD software makes it especially easy to burn DVDs.  But then garbage such as AOL 9.0 and the trial edition software is a waste of hard drive space.  I wish Sony would supply recovery disks and get rid of wasting hard drive space by forcing a user to section off an area of hard drive for recovery files.  Although the hard drive on this machine is 40GB, there’s only 26GB left to use after all these programs and the OS are installed.  That’s probably still ample space for the average road warrior, but given the multimedia software and features this notebook provides you might be disappointed at having only 26GB to work with.

Warranty

The included warranty for the T150 is a 1 year limited warranty.  This means for 1-year you’ll get toll-free technical telephone assistance that is available 24/7.  For a complete rundown of Sony’s warranty guidelines go to http://www.sony.com/pcsupport.  Sony’s tech support has a mixed reputation from the word-of-mouth that I have heard, I have never used it or put them to the test so read and ask around in our forums if you want more insight into individual experiences.

Touchpad & Keyboard

The keyboard on the VAIO T150 is actually really quite good for an ultraportable.  I found it much easier to use than the keyboard for the Dell Inspiron 700m, the last smallish notebook I used.  I had no problem adjusting to this keyboard and never hit the wrong key due to it having a slightly smaller keyboard than what is standard.  It is in fact one of the most usable keyboards I’ve experienced on an ultraportable, second to only the IBM ThinkPad X40.  The PgUp and PgDn buttons require you to hold in the Fn button and hit the up or down arrow keys to work, but other than that all the necessary keys you’ll use most frequently are represented on the keyboard and are easy to get to.  Nice job Sony.

And then there’s the touchpad.  I’ve never come across a touchpad I really like, and it always seems that VAIO touchpad’s are particularly troublesome for me to use.  This was the case with the T150.  The touchpad is somewhat random in its responsiveness and the mouse buttons are just okay, they are not clunky but they can’t be pushed in all that far and are not highly responsive.

No Built-in Webcam?

Many will be disappointed that the built-in web cam does not show up in the VAIO T as it did in all of the VAIO TR series ultraportables.  I thought that was a cool feature that really made Sony stand out from the crowd with its ultraportables, but I’m not devastated to see it go.  In the end it was likely a feature that added to the cost of the notebook but was never really used a whole lot for anything practical.

Conclusion

Overall the VAIO T is another nice entry from Sony into the ultraportable market.  They haven’t really made any huge advancements, but rather have just provided a nicely designed and nicely featured notebook that’s worth a look if you’re dead set on getting a laptop that is easy to carry around and easy to use.  With a starting price of $2049.99 the VAIO T isn’t a basement bargain special, but you can usually expect to pay a little more with Sony.  So if you think the VAIO T150 looks like the laptop for you and that fits your need and lifestyle, then go for it!

Pricing and Availability

The VAIO T150 can be bought direct from Sony or you can purchase from several online retailers.


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