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Sony's on a mission to prove that big is still beautiful with its new E-series laptops. Available in both 15.5-inch and 17.3-inch varieties, these guys are no traveller's friend, but they do pack decent components. We recently fondled a 17.3-inch model, and here are our first impressions.

The first thing you'll notice about the E series laptops is the unusual ridged-diamond texture on the lid and wrist rest. The diamond effect is certainly eye-catching and helps to set the E series apart from run-of-the-mill 17-inchers.

The 15.5-inch model will be slightly more portable than the 17.3-inch version, but, as both machines weigh around 3kg, you probably won't want to travel too far with either of them -- unless you've attached your laptop to the back of an ox.

The E series is better suited to remaining static on your desk as a media machine. The 17.3-inch model's screen has a 1,600x900-pixel resolution and is great for watching movies. It's pleasingly bright and displays colours well. Blacks are pretty deep too, giving a rich contrast to high-definition video. The base model comes with a DVD drive, but you can get a Blu-ray player if you pay extra.

The keyboard makes use of isolated keys. They're raised slightly too high and spread slightly too wide for our tastes, so we didn't find it the most comfortable of keyboards to type on. There's a separate numeric keypad on the right-hand side, which is great if you're into your numbers.

There's a pretty standard selection of ports on offer: four USB 2.0 ports, a slot for Sony's Memory Stick Pro Duo memory cards, an SD card slot, VGA and HDMI sockets, mic and headphone ports, and an Ethernet jack. There's Bluetooth connectivity as well.

You can go online and configure the guts of your laptop, according to what you need it to do and the depth of your pockets. The base 17.3-inch model comes in at a not insubstantial £630, while the 15-incher starts at around £480.

With the base 17.3-inch model, you'll get a dual-core, 2GHz Intel Pentium B940 processor, paired with 4GB RAM. There's a 320GB hard drive in there too. The base model uses integrated Intel graphics, which won't be able to handle more intense games. If gaming is your thing, you should probably look at upgrading to a model with a dedicated graphics processor.

If you need serious power, then you can beef the E series up to include a dual-core, 2.3GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 6GB of RAM, a 1GB Nvidia GPU, a Blu-ray drive and a 640GB hard drive. That will cost you a cool grand or thereabouts.

We expect even the base model to deliver decent performance with media applications. It should be able to stream 1080p video smoothly, but we wouldn't suggest you try and do too many other things on it at the same time -- it'll probably mess up that high-definition video of kittens you're watching.

The E series should easily be able to cope with all manner of office applications, and even turn its hand to some photo and light video editing. We'll see what performance we can squeeze out of it when we get one in for a full review soon. In the meantime, why not click through our charming photo gallery?

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Look at it there, being all closed. Bravo!

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The isolated keys aren't that comfy to type on for a long time.

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It's a trackpad. This is where you slide your finger about to find pictures of cats.

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You can just about make out the strange, diamond pattern.

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The E series is considerably chunkier than our biro. That's an industry standard measuring tool, by the way.

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