Sony VAIO T350 Review (pics, specs)

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by Louie Tran, California USA

Quick Specs for Sony VAIO T350:

  • Intel 1.2Ghz Pentium M
  • 512MB DDR RAM
  • 60GB Hard Drive
  • Intel 855GME/64MB Shared Graphics Card
  • 802.11G Wireless
  • 2.4X DVDRW
  • EDGE Wireless by Cingular
  • Bluetooth

Sony VAIO T in the box (view larger image)

Sony VAIO T350 out of the box! (view larger image)

The Sony T series ultraportable notebook has always had something new upon each release. Hot off the heels in replacing their TR series, Sony redesigned the aesthetics and the T stopped trying to look like an Apple iBook and they took away the built in webcam. The darker (midnight blue chasis), yet still small and stylish T notebook is a much more serious workhorse than its predecessor with built in Bluetooth and more powerful hardware.

Each release of the T series notebook, there’s always something added. From the TR to the T150, they took away the webcam and added Bluetooth. From the T150, to the T250, they added a DVD-RW drive and then from the T250 to the T350, they added in EDGE wireless capabilities. There really isn’t much difference between the T250 and the T350 except for the EDGE feature and I can’t see the reason why someone would upgrade from the T250 to the T350. The built in EDGE (provided by Cingular for $80 a month) allows the user to be online just about anywhere without having to look for a hotspot. The average speed of the EDGE card runs up to 160kbps, but averages around 80-120kbps, which is about twice the speed of dialup. It’s really up to the user in how badly they need to be online, and there are alternatives to using the wireless EDGE card. The T350 has a small unobtrusive antenna attached to the side of the screen while the T250 does not. That’s about the only physical difference between the two.

Screenshot of T350 connecting to an EDGE network via the built-in EDGE modem (view larger image)

Design

Much like all the T series notebooks, the T350 is very light, weighing only 3lbs and very small with the dimensions of 10.7 x 8.1 x 1.3 inches. Unlike some notebooks at the same weight and size, Sony still manages to squeeze in a Dual Layer DVD burner, a PCMCIA port, and a memory stick reader. There are also three USB 2.0 ports, FireWire, VGA, headphone, mic, Ethernet, and modem ports too. Unfortunately there’s no S-video output, which would make it awesome to carry around and hook it to any TV or projector to watch any video file. I believe that the 10.6 inch screen is the smallest you can get on a notebook before it becomes too small and uncomfortable to use. Anything smaller then 10.6 inches will result in eyestrain (like the VAIO U750) but the T350’s screen is actually perfect for someone who is looking for the lightest practical notebook.

Sony VAIO T left side view (view larger image)

Sony VAIO T front right side view (view larger image)

Sony VAIO T keyboard and touchpad (view larger image)

Sony VAIO T hardware buttons (view larger image)

The First Few Hours…

Now that we’re done admiring the looks of the notebook, it’s time to open the screen and turn it on! Like all the newer Sony notebooks, the T350 has a beautiful Xbrite screen that makes anything displayed look absolutely stunning, even if the screen is only 10.6 inches. After initial setup, the first thing that I wanted to do was to see how well it plays video. I watched Return of the King on DVD and it looked amazing. What surprised me was that the built in speakers didn’t sound half bad. They were loud and clear, but the bass was weak. Then I loaded up some of my anime and the experience was just as enjoyable.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about the T350 is that you can safely and comfortably hold the notebook with one hand. For example, I could lie in bed and hold the notebook while watching some movies or anime on the thing without my arms and hands getting tired. And unlike the VAIO S460, this thing doesn’t generate ridiculous amounts of heat so you don’t have to worry about second degree burns 😉

The built in wireless card was really quick and easy to setup. I actually travel a lot and make stops at numerous places for my job so the built in EDGE card comes in real handy. It’s a lot easier to get cellular signal than it is to find free WIFI signals! Using the EDGE card was fast enough to browse through websites, but crawled and even sometimes dropped connection when trying to download MP3 files. So anyone thinking about getting the unlimited plan to download stuff off of Bit Torrent sites don’t even think about it. But to send e-mail, chat online, or lookup stuff online anywhere you are, it’s a godsend.

It’s hard to get over the fact that something so small is packed with 60GBs of space. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to conserving space on my iBook, which has 30GB and my Vaio U750, which has only 20GB. I don’t have to be so cautious with the T series because it’s packed with 60GB of hard drive space! So with that in mind, I could easily take this notebook anywhere on long trips and have my hundreds of anime episodes, music, and video files stored onto it without having to worry about running out of space. There’s also plenty of room as well for Adobe Premier and Photoshop to edit video and photos, which is what I did next. Even on the fast Centrino processor, it took a while for Photoshop 7.0 to load. However after loading, editing graphics was a good experience thanks to the Xbrite screen. As for Premier, thanks to the built in firewire, it was easy to stream in and edit video from my Digital Video camera making this an excellent companion for vacationers.

Sony VAIO T back side and left side view

If the Vaio T had a better videocard like the S460 or even the S360, this would be the ultimate ultraportable, but unfortunately it has an Intel shared graphics card instead. Intense 3D games such as Doom 3 and Unreal Tournament 2004 barely run on this system. World of Warcraft was playable and RTS games such as Warcraft 3 ran fine. Of course, the T series notebook wasn’t intended for gamers, but for professionals. I did a 3DMark 2001 benchmark on this and it crashed every time I got to the end of the test. I’m assuming that it can’t handle 3DMark 2001 or there is a slight chance that my review unit might have a problem. However, I ran 3DMark 2000 and it completed with the score of 2681, which is totally unacceptable if you plan to use this for the newer games.

For a $2000 notebook, it wouldn’t hurt to have a better videocard though. Perhaps the next release of the series will hopefully include a GeForce or a Radeon videocard. In fact, I’ll be satisfied if it was a mere Radeon 9200 with 32MB of dedicated RAM! Then we would have the perfect notebook.

Whether you love them or hate them, you have to admit that Sony makes pretty high quality gear. The Sony Vaio T350 is a work of art within itself with its excellent construction, beautiful screen, and portability. Not a lot is sacrificed for the size of this Vaio. The only thing that I wish it had was a better videocard, but hopefully Sony will implement that for the next notebook of this series. Also, a 1.5Ghz or faster Centrino processor would make it awesome

Overall Rating: 8/10

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