Editors' note: This review initially misstated the type of optical drive in the Vaio FW270J/W. The laptop includes a DVD burner that reads Blu-ray discs.
When we reviewed the 16-inch Gateway MC7801u earlier this month, we bemoaned its lack of a Blu-ray drive and the absence of Centrino 2 components. The Sony Vaio FW270, which incorporates a similarly HD-friendly 16.4-inch display, does not have these shortcomings. Its optical drive reads Blu-ray discs, and its latest-generation Core 2 Duo P8400 processor produced solid performance and battery scores on our benchmarks. Add to that the Vaio FW270's lengthier battery life, lighter weight, and sleek, minimalist design, and you can easily rationalize paying $350 more for it than the Gateway.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$1,299|
|Processor||2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400|
|Memory||4GB at 800MHz|
|Hard drive||320GB at 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Intel GM45 Express|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD (integrated)|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WDH)||15.1 x 10.3 x 1.1-1.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||16.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.2/6.9 pounds|
While other models in the Vaio FW270 series feature a silver lid, this retail version offers a matte-finish, yet pearlescent, white lid with a large silver Vaio logo in the center. Opening the laptop reveals a silver interior and a sleek, minimalist design, both of which make the Sony Vaio FW270 the closest to a MacBook Pro you can get in the Windows world. Despite its 16.4-inch screen, the Vaio FW270 manages to keep both its weight and its footprint closer to a 15-inch system (such as the Vaio FZ180) than a 17-inch one. We felt unencumbered with it in tow on a trip to a coffee shop down the street.
Another way in which the Vaio FW270 reminds us of Apple's laptops is the keyboard. Featuring the same widely spaced pebble design found on the MacBook (and, admittedly, earlier Vaio laptops), the Vaio FW270's keyboard makes for very comfortable typing. The touch pad, too, glides smoothly and is easy to use. The only other element on the keyboard deck is a row of media control buttons above the board. (Unlike the recent trend of touch-sensitive media control buttons, these are of the old-fashioned click variety, which feels almost retro.) The button on the right, labeled AV Mode, launches an onscreen toolbar, which sits at the top of the screen and provides quick access to Sony's proprietary media playing software.
In our review of an earlier FW series laptop, we criticized Sony for placing a "Full HD 1080p" sticker on the wrist rest. To our dismay, the sticker is still in place, even though the 1,600x900 native resolution on the 16.4-inch wide-screen LCD display isn't truly 1080p. (Sony has explained the 1080p sticker by saying the system offers "full 1080 HD content when connected to a compatible HDTV.") Nevertheless, the FW270's 16:9 display is great for playing HD content (at 720p), provided you don't mind the screen's glossy and somewhat reflective finish.
|Sony Vaio FW270J/W||Average for thin-and-light category|
|Video||VGA, HDMI||VGA, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, Memory Stick slot, SD card reader||3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, SD card reader|
|Networking||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner with Blu-ray ROM||DVD burner|
With the Vaio FW270's high-def drive and HDMI output, you can use the laptop as a Blu-ray player for your HDTV, and the included ExpressCard/34 slot lets you add a TV tuner if you wish. Given this raft of entertainment-friendly features, we were a bit disappointed in the Vaio FW270's speakers, which produced somewhat treble sound. The included Dolby Sound Room software lets us boost the bass for more balanced sound quality, but music and movies still sounded best when the laptop was plugged into stereo speakers.
We tested the Sony Vaio FW270J/W, a retail-only fixed configuration based on the 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 processor, 4GB of 800MHz RAM (with 64-bit Windows Vista to take advantage of it) and integrated Intel graphics. When it came to our Multitasking benchmark, the Vaio FW270J/W trailed the Asus X83VM-X1 ($850), but fell in line with the similarly configured Toshiba Satellite E105-S1402 ($1,199) as well as the HP Pavilion dv3510 ($1,199), which is built on a previous-generation 2.0GHz Intel processor and slower RAM. On the other benchmarks, the Sony, Asus, and Toshiba systems posted nearly identical scores, with the HP trailing slightly behind. Numbers aside, the Sony Vaio FW270J/W offers solid performance for everyday computing and HD media consumption.
The Vaio FW140 ran for 3 hours and 4 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, which is longer than most of the recent 17-inch laptops we've looked at and 32 minutes longer than another recent 16-inch model, the Gateway MC7801u.
Sony backs the Vaio FW140 with an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty, even when purchased at a retail store. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and driver downloads.