The Sony Vaio E is a new series, yet another line in what's become a massive and somewhat confusing collection of Sony laptops. The chief selling points for the Vaio E are its affordable pricing, multimedia features, and Intel Core i3 and i5 processors, along with an aggressive color scheme. We've reviewed and generally liked many of Sony's multimedia Vaios, especially recent ones, so we were eager to see what the E could add to the equation.
The Vaio E will be available in a variety of customizable configurations, but Sony is currently offering a set model for preorder that has a Core i3 processor, a 500GB hard drive, 4GB of RAM, and a DVD/CD burner. That preconfigured model, which is what we tested, is called the EB1JFX/B.
The E is large, clean, and boxy, offering up a big rectangular profile and an overall feel that's solid in the base but slightly flexy in the lid. The Vaio E is a budget machine, slotted below the Core i7 Vaio F, intended for people who want a large-screen laptop with enough speed to do most tasks well, but without spending top dollar. Based on its mix of features, power, and value, we're inclined to recommend it--although we're keenly aware of how boxy a laptop it is. At $799, it's a solid package while not being particularly inspiring. You probably won't regret buying one, but it's not a machine you're likely to boast about, either.
|Price as reviewed / starting price||$799 / $699|
|Processor||2.13 GHz Intel Core i3 M330|
|Memory||4GB, 1066 MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel Media Accelerator HD|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||14.6 x 9.8 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.5 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.7 / 6.4 pounds|
Sony's laptops seem to trend in two different directions: the ultracompact, and the very, very big. The Vaio E is certainly the latter, although not monstrously so: at nearly 6 pounds and with its long body, its bulk trends toward the side of desktop replacement, and might be a machine best left on the desk rather than taken on frequent trips. The Vaio E series comes in a number of bright and shockingly day-glow colors, including Iridescent Blue, Hibiscus Pink, and Caribbean Green, as well as the more mundane Lava Black, Gunmetal Black, and Coconut White. Our preproduction review unit came in an unavailable and unsexy matte silver, although the wide keyboard inside was clad in matte white, with the palm rest done up in a slightly sparkling shade of glossy Coconut White.
The raised chiclet keyboard, with a bonus number pad, extends completely edge to edge across the Vaio E's bottom half. Previous midrange Vaios tended to not have number pads, and though we're glad for the inclusion, the left-shifting of the keyboard and touch pad meant our left hand was hanging off the edge a bit while typing. Still, the Vaio E has a fantastic keyboard that might be one of the best we've ever used. Also excellent is the recessed touch pad, covered in a tactile textured surface that grips easily. It's very similar to the touch pad we loved so much in the Vaio NW series, which the E series replaces. Three dedicated buttons above the keyboard launch an Assist help program, a Web button for a fast instant-on Web browser for when the Vaio E isn't already booted into Windows 7, and a Vaio button that launches Sony's Media Gallery software, a decent music/photo/video organizer and slideshow maker.
The big, bright, glossy 16x9-pixel LED display on the Vaio EB1JFX/B measures 15.5 inches across, and looks somehow even larger when it's being used. The screen stretches across most of the upper lid with minimal bezel; its brightness and color quality was excellent to our eyes, and though the resolution at 1,366x768 pixels isn't full 1080p HD, we were able to open documents and windows side-by-side for multitasking, and thought that the screen offered very good real estate. The Vaio EB1JFX/B also has some very loud speakers, which we greatly appreciated. With good bass and treble, the E surprised us with TV-quality stereo speakers that are perfect for movie watching and video sharing.
|Sony Vaio VPC-EB1JFX/B||Average for category [Mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA and HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, 1 USB 2.0/eSATA, SD card reader, Memory Stick reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD/CD burner||DVD burner|
The Vaio E series has a design that's very similar to the new high-end F series, and shares a number of its advantages in terms of ports: a generous four USB ports including its eSATA combo, and an ExpressCard/34 slot. Bluetooth is also included.
Our fixed-configuration EB1JFX/B can be expanded up to 8GB of RAM, but there is an option on Sony's Vaio site to customize your own Vaio E--the price starts at $699, which includes a gunmetal black case and the same Core i3 processor we reviewed, with a slightly smaller hard drive. Sony charges a slightly absurd extra $50 for any other color option, plus $19.99 for an optional different-colored keyboard skin. The Vaio E series can be upgraded to a faster Core i3 or a 2.4 GHz Core i5 processor for an extra $50 or $100, respectively, and the options only continue from there, including the option to add a Blu-ray drive or Blu-ray burner for $70 or $150.
Though it may seem to a Core i-series newcomer that a Core i3 processor is a lesser CPU than a Core i5, abandon all those thoughts now. It does run programs and our benchmark tests slower than Intel's Core i5 processor, but it's a faster CPU overall than older Core 2 Duo laptops. The difference between a Core i3 and Core i5, by comparison of the Vaio EB1JFX/B and the Toshiba Satellite E205-S1904, which costs $100 more, is notable, but the multitasking capabilities of the Core i3 are closer to Core i5 level than Core 2 Duo level. Make sense? Basically, what we're saying is the Core i3 is certainly no slouch. We ran a DVD, streamed video, and worked on this review all the same time on the EB1JFX/B, all with practically no problems.
Though the Vaio EB1JFX/B has no dedicated graphics, its Intel Media Accelerator HD handles video playback perfectly well, and for anyone looking strictly for a media laptop, the Vaio E series is a strong consideration with its smooth video and large, bright screen. Casual games and Netbook-level games will still run fine--if you require a bit more muscle, Sony offers an option to add ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 graphics for an extra $50. If you don't need to play advanced games or work on large graphics-intensive projects, however, the EB1JFX/B will be plenty of computer for your needs.