The Sony VAIO CR series wraps an otherwise average thin-and-light-laptop in a colorful, personalized case.

Michelle Thatcher

Michelle Thatcher

Former Senior Associate Editor, Laptops

Tech expert Michelle Thatcher grew up surrounded by gadgets and sustained by Tex-Mex cuisine. Life in two major cities--first Chicago, then San Francisco--broadened her culinary horizons beyond meat and cheese, and she's since enjoyed nearly a decade of wining, dining, and cooking up and down the California coast. Though her gadget lust remains, the practicalities of her small kitchen dictate that single-function geegaws never stay around for long.

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On paper, the models in the Sony VAIO CR series look pretty much like any other thin-and-light laptop: they weigh 5.5 pounds, have 14.1-inch displays, and are stocked with the latest components. But a photograph reveals that these are not your typical laptops. With such case colors like sangria, cosmopolitan, dove, and indigo--not to mention optional matching mice and bags with custom engraving--the VAIO CR laptops are more like fashion accessories than everyday tools.

Starting price $1,140
Processor 1.8GHz to 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Memory Up to 4GB of 667MHz
Hard drive Up to 200GB at 5,400rpm
Graphics 200GB at 4,200rpm
Chipset Mobile Intel Express 965GM
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium
Windows Vista Business
Dimensions (wide x deep x thick) 13.2 x 9.8 x 1.3-2.7 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 14.1 inches
System weight 5.5 pounds
Category thin-and-light

Look inside any CR series laptop and you'll find the Intel's fresh Centrino Pro platform with a latest-generation Core 2 Duo processor, integrated Intel GMA X3100 graphics, and 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi. The remaining components are typical for a thin-and-light laptop: a 5,400rpm hard drive, in capacities up to 200GB, and 1GB of 667MHz RAM (expandable up to 4GB). Likewise, the VAIO CR series' ports and connections are mostly average for the category, though we appreciate the CR series' integrated 1.3-megapixel Webcam.

Sony VAIO CR series Average for thin-and-light category
Video VGA-out, S-video VGA-out, S-video
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, MemoryStick, SD card readers 3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader
Expansion ExpressCard/34 PC Card or ExpressCard
Networking modem, Ethernet,
802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi
modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth, optional WWAN
Optical drive CD-RW/DVD-ROM or DVD burner DVD burner

We expected the combination of Sony style and solid features to come at a price premium, but the CR series' $1,190 baseline configuration costs about the same as a similarly configured HP Pavilion dv2500t. You'll pay just a little less for the base configuration of that other high-style thin-and-light, the MacBook--but the Mac's screen measures 13.3 inches, and it's built on the previous-generation Intel platform. Style-conscious buyers who want an attractive laptop with a solid mix of components will most likely be happy with the Sony VAIO CR series.

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