The Sony VAIO F is a high-end multimedia notebook. Our powerhouse test unit features an Intel Core i7 quad-core processor and Nvidia GT 425M graphics card. What's wrong with it? Read our review.
Our Sony VAIO F (VPCF136FM) review unit has the following specifications:
The specifications definitely place our VAIO F in the upper percentile in terms of performance vs. most 15.6/16/17.3-inch notebooks on the market. The GT 425M graphics card has more than enough power for the latest games. The only exception to the rule is the rather pokey 5400RPM hard drive; a 7200RPM model should be standard on a performance-oriented notebook.
Build and Design
The VAIO F has a run-of-the-mill look; the only notable physical features are the backlit keyboard and the green power button on the right side of the notebook. The F is constructed of all plastic and doesn't pretend otherwise. An all-plastic construction is not necessarily a bad thing, however; the VAIO F feels quite sturdy if a bit hollow. Gripping the chassis by the corners and twisting produces minimal movement in the chassis, which is what I like to see; this prevents the internal circuit boards from bending.
The display flexes easily when twisted by the corners. No ripples appear on the screen when pressure is applied from the back, which indicates there is a decent amount of protection. There are a number of buttons above the keyboard area; my favorite is the ?Display Off? button, which turns off and on the display instantly. The VAIO F is missing volume control buttons, which is strange given the multimedia focus of this machine.
Those looking to upgrade the VAIO F will find it relatively easy to do; there are separate compartments on the bottom for the RAM and hard drive. Both RAM slots are occupied in our test notebook.
Ports and Features
The VAIO F sports a solid array of useful input/output ports including eSATA, HDMI, and ExpressCard/34. It has two USB 3.0 on the right side but lacks DisplayPort. All picture descriptions are left to right.
Front: Status lights, wireless on/off switch, MagicGate reader, SD reader
Back: Battery pack
Left: AC power, Kensington lock slot, cooling exhaust vent, Ethernet, VGA, HDMI, combo eSATA/USB 2.0 port, ExpressCard/34 slot, IEEE 1394a mini-Firewire
Right: Optical out/headphone jack, microphone jack, 2x USB 3.0, optical drive, power button
Keyboard and Touchpad
The VAIO F has a full-size keyboard with separate numeric keypad. The backlighting is a convenient feature; it is light-sensitive and has several brightness levels depending on the amount of ambient light. The keyboard itself is chiclet-style, meaning there is more than usual spacing between the keys. The keys are square and flat-topped so it takes some getting used to.
The keys have a soft feel and are quiet. There is just the right amount of key travel ? the distance between pressed and non-pressed positions. There is no perceptible flex; it is easy to type quickly and accurately. The separate numeric keypad is very handy for rapid number entry. Overall the keyboard is a pleasure to use.
The touchpad has a smooth matte surface that facilitates finger movement; it works as expected. The touchpad buttons however are not so nice; they feel cheaply made and make loud clicks. Touchpad buttons should be quiet to avoid disturbing others.
Screen and Speakers
The VAIO F has a 16-inch display with a 900p (1600 x 900) resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio, and LED backlighting. The glossy surface means increased clarity but lots of reflections; avoid well-lit areas. The picture quality is average at best. The color is bland and appears washed out. Contrast is below average; the Command Prompt window looks slightly gray and not a deep dark black. Brightness is satisfactory.
Viewing angles are poor; tilting the display more than a dozen degrees off-center distorts the colors immediately. A multimedia notebook like the VAIO F should have a much better quality panel, especially considering this one has a Blu-ray player. The 1600 x 900 resolution is bare minimum for a 16/17.3-inch notebook; ideally it should have a 1080p (1920 x 1080) resolution to fully support Blu-ray playback.
The VAIO F has two stereo speakers positioned above the keyboard. They have a decent mix of mids and highs and sound A-OK for general listening. These speakers do not sound as tinny as most notebook speakers I test. There is very little bass; this notebook does not have a dedicated subwoofer.
Performance and Benchmarks
Performance is one of the VAIO F's strengths. An Intel Core i7 quad-core processor, Nvidia GT 425M graphics card, and 6GB of RAM are nothing to sneeze at. The 5400RPM hard drive is middle of the pack for performance; ideally a 7200RPM drive would come standard. Whether it be gaming of Adobe Photoshop, it is tough to find something this notebook can?t perform well in.
wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
PCMark Vantage measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark06 measures overall graphics performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark Vantage measures overall graphics performance (higher scores mean better performance):
CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test:
Heat and Noise
The VAIO F has a single fan that exhausts warm air out the left side of the chassis. The fan is nearly silent idling. The fan spools up quickly under load and is very noticeable; it can be heard in a room above minor background noise. The cooling system does a good job of keeping the VAIO F?s chassis cool; even after playing 3D games, the top and bottom of the notebook is barely warmer than idle. Overall it?s well designed, however, I wish it were quieter.
With the Windows 7 Balanced power profile active, 70% screen brightness, wireless active, and refreshing a web page every 60 seconds, the VAIO F lasted two hours, 42 minutes. This is an acceptable time for a desktop replacement notebook but isn't particularly impressive compared to the latest 15-inch, 16-inch and 17-inch multimedia notebooks.
Battery life test results (higher scores mean better battery life):
The Sony VAIO F is an overall well-rounded desktop replacement multimedia notebook. Highlights include excellent performance, a good keyboard, and a nice array of input/output ports. The biggest downside is the lackluster design, which is unusual for Sony; the VAIO F looks rather generic. The display is equally disappointing; it is washed out and dull. Lastly, the screen resolution is only 900p, not 1080p as it should be since this notebook has a Blu-ray player.
Overall we can recommend the VAIO F ? it is not a jack of all trades by any means but accomplishes most of what Sony designed it to do.