Medium-size entertainment laptops are a popular choice. They pack, or at least should pack, enough power to do justice to music, movies and games at home, yet are still portable enough to use on the move for more serious pursuits. On paper, Sony's new CW-series Vaio VPCCW1S1E certainly seems to have the specs to satisfy, but does it deliver the goods in practice?
Putrid in pink
There are five models in the CW series. They all have the same specification, differing only in the colour of their case. Sony supplied us with a garish pink model. The outer lid and large, raised wrist rest are finished in the same deep shade of pink, but the screen bezel and keyboard surround have a paler, pearly finish. If the colour were different, this would all be rather fetching.
The 14-inch chassis makes the VPCCW1S1E a good size for slipping into a bag, but its 2.4kg weight is at the upper end of what we'd consider suitable for carrying around all day.
Screens with 16:9 aspect ratios are fast becoming standard issue. The widescreen-movie-friendly shape makes sense on an entertainment laptop like the VPCCW1S1E, even though you have to sacrifice vertical pixels.
The glossy display does a good job with video, but the viewing angles are slightly too narrow for a few people to sit around the laptop, although perhaps that situation isn't likely to occur with a 14-inch screen anyway. One welcome touch is a button below the screen that turns off the display to save power when you're listening to music.
The usual Vaio keyboard is present and correct, and, as usual, is very good. It's full-width with full-size keys, but it's rather bendy. It's doesn't exhibit enough flex for you to notice it while typing, but there's more than we'd expect at this sort of price. We have no complaints about the multi-touch trackpad, though. It's a good size and works very well.
Processor performance is seldom an issue with any mid-range laptop, and the VPCCW1S1E is well-equipped with a 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7450 chip. That said, the machine's PCMark05 benchmark score of 4,871 is slightly lower than we expected. The same processor scored 5,407 in the Sony Vaio VGN-AW41MF/H, albeit when twinned with a slightly better graphics chip.
The VPCCW1S1E is no slouch when it comes to 3D graphics performance. Its Nvidia GeForce GT 230M chipset scored 6,164 in 3DMark06. This puts it near the top of the league in terms of general-purpose laptops, and even the most recent DirectX 10 games should run well at medium detail settings.
Small enough to use on the move, battery life is an important issue for a laptop like the VPCCW1S1E. It racked up 1 hour and 48 minutes in Battery Eater's intensive Classic test, and just under 4 hours in the less demanding Reader's test. That suggests a typical usage time of around 3 hours, which isn't amazing but is enough to get some work done. The pre-boot, Mozilla-based Web browser means you can stretch the battery still further if you just need to work online.
If your idea of a good all-round laptop includes 3D-gaming capability, the Sony Vaio VPCCW1S1E should be a very strong contender for your cash. It costs less than the similar HP Pavilion dv3-2230ea, but has dramatically better 3D graphics performance, and you won't miss the multi-touch screen.
Edited by Charles Kloet