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Sony VAIO B review: Sony VAIO B

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MSRP: $1,300.00
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The Good Solid performance; quality keyboard; smart design; highly configurable; good support.

The Bad On the expensive side; lacks long battery life; fewer security options than on other systems we tested; no Bluetooth; warranty upgrades are pricey.

The Bottom Line The Sony VAIO VGN-B100B02 offers all the features and performance a business user needs, but it lags on battery life, and it isn't the cheapest option available.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.3 Overall

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With the VAIO VGN-B100B, Sony presents a nicely packaged thin-and-light with mobile businesspeople in mind. At 5.1 pounds (5.8 pounds with its small AC adapter), it's heavier than the Acer TravelMate 3200 and the featherweight Panasonic ToughBook Y2, but it's lighter than the IBM ThinkPad R51 and certainly portable enough for daily travelers. The VAIO VGN-B100B02 runs 12.6 inches wide, 10 inches deep, and 1.3 inches thick up front (though it's 1.9 inches thick at the hinge, giving it something of a big butt).

As with most things Sony, the VAIO VGN-B100B02 is well designed; we particularly like the clever cut-outs on either side that protect its ports. The firm and responsive keyboard has comfortable, well-sized keys and a good spacebar. Connectivity options include a 100Mbps Ethernet port, a V.92 modem, and an Intel Prio/Wireless 2200b/g Wi-Fi radio that has a middling indoor range of 95 feet. Unlike the TravelMate 3200, the VAIO VGN-B100B02 has no internal Bluetooth radio, but all of the essential ports are present, including a pair for USB 2.0, one for FireWire (a.k.a. Sony's iLink), microphone and headphone jacks, and a Type II PC Card slot. The Memory Stick Pro card reader is a nice touch, but we wish Sony would get onboard already with the more popular Secure Digital standard.

Our midrange test unit, priced somewhat high at $1,699 (as of January 2005), was equipped with a decent set of components for business use, including a 1.5GHz Pentium M processor, a 14.1-inch XGA display, 512MB of 333MHz RAM, a 60GB hard drive, and a combo DVD/CD-RW drive. Sony offers a range of configuration options, priced from $1,149 to $2,900.

Even with a middle-of-the-road speed Pentium M processor, the VAIO VGN-B100B02 proved a good performer in CNET Labs' tests. It sped past the similarly equipped IBM ThinkPad R51 and came in just behind the TravelMate 3200, which has a faster processor. Unfortunately, equipped with a 4,400mAh battery, the VAIO VGN-B100B02 lasted for a barely passable 2 hours, 55 minutes in our drain tests--a half-hour short of the TravelMate 3200 and more than an hour and a half less than the ThinkPad R51.

Securitywise, the VAIO VGN-B100B02 lacks both the ThinkPad T42's fingerprint scanner and the Fujitsu LifeBook S7010's digital combination lock. It does come with Norton Internet Security software, however, plus Windows XP Pro and a bundle of Sony utilities for setting up a wireless connection, managing power, and updating system software.

Sony backs the VAIO VGN-B100B02 with an industry-standard one-year warranty. If you travel overseas often, we recommend paying $49 for the international coverage. Upgrading to the corporate gold standard of three years of coverage costs $249--about a hundred dollars more than what many other vendors charge for three-year business warranties. Sony's Web site offers a wide assortment of support services, including tutorials, a thorough knowledge base, FAQs, software updates, and manual downloads. In our test call to Sony's 24/7 support hotline, a human came on the line after only 45 seconds and correctly answered our question. You can also send e-mail or have an online chat with a technician.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating  

Battery life  (Longer bars indicate longer battery life)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery life in minutes  

System configurations:

Acer TravelMate 3200
Windows XP Professional; 1.7GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Mobility Radeon 9700 64MB; Hitachi Travelstar 80GN 60GB 4,200rpm

IBM ThinkPad R51
Windows XP Professional; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 32MB; Fujitsu MHT2040HT 40GB 4,200rpm

Sony VAIO VGN-B100B
Windows XP Professional; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Intel 82852/82855 GM/GME 64MB; IBM Travelstar 80GN 60GB 4,200rpm

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