Sony's VAIO laptops have always elevated form to the same level as function. With the thin-and-light C series, Sony is again heavily promoting the aesthetic qualities of its industrial design, calling the system a "functional fashion statement merging portability, power and style." The main selling point of this thin-and-light laptop may be aesthetics, but under the eye-catching paint job, the $ 1,550 Sony VAIO C150P/B offers a speedy Intel Core 2 Duo CPU in a in a sophisticated package that isn't much more expensive than the less photogenic competition.
It sounds like you're browsing the paint aisle at your local big-box home-improvement retailer, as laptops in the Sony VAIO C series are available in seashell white, blush pink, spring green, espresso black, and urban gray. Our review system is the fixed-configuration C150P/B, disappointingly available only in espresso black (we thought spring green would bring out the color of our eyes). It still looks very slick, with tapered edges and copper accents around the touch pad, and a subtle patterned texture on the wrist rests. The keyboard has totally flat keys, instead of the slightly concave ones you may be used to, but it was still comfortable and easy to use.
Measuring 13 inches wide, 9.3 inches deep, and 1.5 inches high, the VAIO C150 sits firmly in the thin-and-light category of laptops: small enough to carry around without much hassle but big enough to work on comfortably for long stretches. The C150 weighs 5 pounds (5.8 pounds with the A/C adapter), which is at the upper end of what we'd want to have in our shoulder bag for a daily commute or extensive traveling.
The 13.3-inch wide-screen LCD offers a nice 1,280x800 native resolution, giving you plenty of detail, but not so high the Web page text disappears. Sony uses its Xbrite technology in the screen, which the company claims gives you deeper blacks and richer colors. More important perhaps is the antireflective coating on the screen surface, which kept the display very readable--even in our brightly lit Labs.
The Sony VAIO C150P/B is a fixed-configuration system, offering a set list of components. Those components include a 1.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5500 CPU, a healthy 2GB of RAM, Intel 950 graphics, a DVD burner, and a 120GB 5,400rpm hard drive. If you're looking for different specs, Sony offers a customizable version of the system, the
We found a standard array of connections on the VAIO C150, including two USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire 400 port, modem and Ethernet jacks, headphone and mic jacks, an ExpressCard slot, and VGA and S-Video outputs for hooking up an external monitor. There's built-in wireless 802.11a/b/g for networking but no Bluetooth.
Compared to other similarly configured systems, the Sony VAIO C150 performed well on CNET Labs' Multitasking test, beating the Fujitsu LifeBook A6010 and the Gateway M255-E, even though the Gateway steps up the CPU to a 1.8GHz Core 2 Duo T5600. In our Photoshop CS2 test, the VAIO finished in a dead heat with even a high-end system, the Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV660, which has a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7200. Photoshop shows the importance of the memory subsystem: the Gateway had only 1GB of RAM, compared to 2GB in other systems, and it ended up in last place by a wide margin.
The VAIO C150 ran for 3 hours, 36 minutes on our MobileMark battery life test, using the included six-cell battery, which is toward the low end of acceptable for a system in its class. You can order an extended nine-cell battery for $299, but it will stick out slightly from the back of the system. Sony's batteries can be expensive (the standard six-cells are $199 on their own), but they are compatible across a large swath of the VAIO laptop line.
Sony backs the system with an industry-standard warranty: one year of free service, including free shipping both ways, and 24/7, toll-free telephone tech support. Sony offers several warranty extensions; a two-year plan with onsite service costs $150. The company's Web site provides a knowledge base, as well as driver downloads and e-mail support, and the Web site makes it fairly painless to drill down to the drivers for a specific model.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)