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Sony Vaio AW125J/H review: Sony Vaio AW125J/H

Sony Vaio AW125J/H

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
5 min read

We've become fast fans of the new 18-inch laptop design, which is quickly becoming our go-to choice for mobile home theater use. These new 18-inch displays differ from the 17-inch systems they aim to replace by offering a 16:9 aspect ratio, which matches that of HDTV screens and works perfectly with HD content. Most current laptop screens are 16:10, which leaves you with black bars on the top and bottom of your screen when viewing HDTV programs or Blu-ray movies.


Sony Vaio AW125J/H

The Good

Least expensive 18-inch Blu-ray laptop we've tested; big 16:9 screen is perfect for HD video content.

The Bad

Proprietary software and ports (including Memory Stick) may not be of interest; lacks the edge-to-edge glass of HP's 18-inch laptop.

The Bottom Line

Sony's Vaio AW125J/H is an aesthetically pleasing multimedia machine, and those familiar with Sony's high-end laptops will be surprised to find out it's also the cheapest 18-inch Blu-ray-equipped laptop we've tested.

Sony is known for high-end, visually pleasing, but expensive, systems. But, of the 18-inch laptops we've looked at so far, the fixed-configuration $1,849 Vaio AW125J/H was surprisingly the least expensive Blu-ray equipped model, beating out the HP HDX18 and the Acer Aspire 8920 by a few hundred dollars (the 18-inch Toshiba Qosmio G55 lacks even an optional Blu-ray drive). Sony also offers similar models (such as the Vaio AW170) that can be configured with up to 1TB of hard drive space and cost up to $3,299.

With substantially similar hardware to the competition, looking nicer and costing less make the Vaio AW125 a top contender in the 18-inch category.

The Vaio AW125 shares the overall Sony laptop design aesthetic, with a dark gray chassis, uncluttered keyboard tray, flat, widely spaced keys (similar to the ones found on MacBooks), and an oversized round hinge with the power button on one end and the AC adapter jack on the other. It's a minimalist, understated look, unlike the overly shiny Qosmio G55 or the metal-accented HP HDX18.

Above the keyboard sits a standard row of touch-sensitive media control buttons, but the actual volume controls have been wisely moved to a separate row of keys just above the number pad. That's a smart move, as touch-sensitive volume buttons don't always respond quickly enough (or are sensitive enough) for our tastes, and having the volume controls as Function-key alternates is just a hassle.

The 18.4-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,920x1,080 native resolution, which is the same as a 1080p HDTV display, making the Vaio AW125 perfect for Blu-ray or other HD content. We've gotten used to the look of edge-to-edge glass covering the entire display, as in the HDX18 or the new MacBooks, so we were disappointed not to find it in the Vaio.

Sony also loads plenty of proprietary software on the machine, including photo and video editing software and media playback software. In a bit of corporate synergy, there's a slot for a Sony Memory Stick (Sony's in-house flash memory cards), and also a Compact Flash slot, which pro photographers will appreciate (as many dSLR cameras use CF cards).

While the Vaio AW125 is a fixed-configuration system that ships with a 2.26 Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 CPU, our early review unit had a slightly faster 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9400. The real-world difference would be minimal, and another recent laptop with the P8400, the Alienware M17, had benchmark scores in the same ballpark, although not as fast as the T9400. With either CPU, the Vaio 125 matches up well with the other 18-inch laptops we've tested, including the HP HDX18 and the Acer 8920.

The 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT (also found in the HP HDX18 and Toshiba Qosmio G55-Q802) adds the graphics muscle needed for Blu-ray playback, as well as for some basic gaming--we got an acceptable 48 frames per second at 1,440x900 resolution in Unreal Tournament 3.

The Sony Vaio AW125 ran for 1 hour and 53 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, which isn't particularly impressive, even for a desktop replacement. Still, because large systems like this spend most of their time tethered to a single location, battery life isn't usually a big factor. Toshiba's Qosmio G55-Q802, however, seriously impressed with more then 3 hours in the same test.

Sony includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system, and support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and driver downloads. Extended warranties are an expensive add-on when purchased direct from Sony. For example, a three-year plan, which includes "Accidental Damage from Handling Protection," costs $349.

Multimedia Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio AW125J/H

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio AW125J/H

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio AW125J/H

Unreal Tournament 3 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,280x800, 0X AA, 0X AF  
Sony Vaio AW125J/H

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio AW125J/H

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Sony Vaio AW125J/H
Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit); 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9400; 4096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT; 320GB Hitachi 7,200rpm

Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9600; 3072MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT; 160GB Toshiba 7,200rpm

Acer Aspire 8920-6671
Windows Vista Ultimate Edition SP1; 2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9500; 4096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9650M GS; 320GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Toshiba Qosmio G55-Q802
Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7350; 4096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT; 250GB Seagate 5,400rpm (x2)


Sony Vaio AW125J/H

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 9Performance 7Support 5